Despite having a long background in FMA, Ka Abner is now mainly providing tactical training rather than martial arts instruction. In his words "this offers more freedom to express. martial arts tradition is good, but I want to emphasize what can actually be used." Many of his students have served in active combat in places like Afghanistan where his training has made the life-saving difference.
The topic was tactical knife, which included point up and point down grips, single knife versus double knife and empty hand applications of the techniques. It was an excellent seminar from a clearly high-level, very experienced instructor and I was very glad to be able to attend with a few of my senior students in tow.
It was also reassuring to see that while some details and subtleties always exist between styles, a lot of what he teaches looked familiar to us as students of Kali Majapahit. In accordance with the wishes of our founder, Punong Guro Fred Evrard, we rarely focus on lethal applications of knife versus knife combat (usually drilling knife defense instead of knife versus knife), the body positions and controls are similar to those we would use and designed to give us distance and safety from an opponent's weapon, while at the same time swiftly and decisively ending the encounter - usually through control of the head/neck.
While it is instinctive in FMA to cut in sweeping motions using length and reach of the wepon combined with compactness of the body, Ka Abner explains that he prefers the "c cut", where we seek to insert the point of the knife for the stab, and then rotate the wrist and cut in a letter c movement. This gives maximum blade contact and is the cleanest way to ensure maximum effectiveness of the stab and cut combination.
Using the Whole Body
Very much akin to Tai Chi, good FMA skills require us to use the force of the entire body.
This means making best use of the principles of extension and rotation, starting with keeping the spine straight and using it to drive momentum through the hip and shoulder axes. Of course it is important to keep balance by stepping to the balls of the feet rather than the heel and to adjust the body's position in relation to the opponent in order to take away their angles of attack and present our own.
Receiving with the Knife versus the empty hand
Many, many FMA drills involve blocking or parrying the incoming weapon hand with the empty hand. These are fine for developing reactions, and of course when we are unarmed. However, common sense requires that when we are armed we use the weapon first. Our weapon should remain between the opponent and ourselves as much as possible, and the most practical combat drills involve receiving the incoming weapon arm by contacting (striking/cutting/stabbing) it with our weapon arm. The FMA principles involved are "defanging the snake" and "attacking the attack".
Keeping It Short and Simple
We have all seen complex training patterns or "templates" as part of the FMA curriculum, especially when knives are involved. This usually means a series of progressing stabs/cuts at a variety of targets. Students end up memorizing sequences which sometimes have ten or more attacks, and often drill to execute these sequences in order as fast as possible. However, in practicality, professional operators have no time or energy for such memorization. Using the C cutting principle above, nearly any line can be lethal. Thus, Ka Abner divides broadly into high line (usually throat or brachial arterial line) and low line (including liver/spleen and femoral line).
Either target will immediately render the victim combat ineffective and there is no need to draw complicated diagrams or remember anything except the entries.
Ka Abner recommends training with a variety of sims of the everyday carry (EDC) weapon. This should include rubber, unsharpened plastic/carbon/nylon and unsharpened steel. These allow a variety of drills, and embed the muscle memory with the length and weight of our actual carry kit.
He trains with three deployment locations - front belt (in front of the hip) right and left sides, and small of the back. Front belt sheaths are hidden by suit jackets and make the weapon available to standard or cross-draws in point up or reverse grips. Small of the back offers optimal concealment but fast access and leverages the muscle memory for the belt holstered pistol draw from the rear hip position.
Many drills involve feeder/receiver with both partners taking turns to practice. Rather, Ka Abner's drills involve attack and defense for both partners, which lets training time for each be increased. Furthermore, he encourages training with good body mechanic for both partners so that useful muscle memory can be achieved in every drill.
This was an excellent seminar with a lot of useful and practical information for those interested in the type of training elite law enforcement and special forces troops receive in CQC.
Ka Abner's seminars are usually taught in a series of 6-hour sessions including knife (two sessions), karambit, impact weapons, tomahawk and machete. He also teaches combat pistol and shotgun. I recommend attending his seminars whenever you have the chance. You will not be disappointed.