Kali Majapahit system is built on a rotating curriculum that changes every 3 months. In each class we do at least 3 different subsystems including single/double sticks, empty hand/knife defense, boxing/kickboxing. This variety allows us to stay fresh and current with a wide variety of material.
In this cycle we are working on knife defense as one of the sub-systems. Knife defense is always a tricky subject since in reality the outcome can vary based on a lot of factors including the amount of time the fight itself lasts (longer is worse). For background, I began to look at statistics compiled from actual knife attacks including those on the street and in prisons ("shankings").
Of about 1,000 recorded knife attacks, they have a lot in common, but rarely seem to follow the common angles of attack (angle 1 and angle 2) that are taught in most FMA styles - even less the kinds of attacks shown in other arts like Aikido/jujitsu/karate/hapkido and so on. In a majority of cases the attacks lasted less than 20 seconds and involved the attacker using their free hand to grab or hit while the weapon stabbed repeatedly at different angles like a sewing machine. It was obvious that no one of any skill level could successfully block all the attacks since some assailants were able to deliver more than 50 stabs in a 20 second span. In many cases, attacks were delivered from the back or a blind angle and involved multiple attackers. These are all very low percentage survival situations for the victim, regardless of training, strongly suggesting "unfair" fights where the odds are heavily in favor of the attacker(s).
Those victims that survived seemed to have a few things in common:
1) Determine early that a knife/weapon is involved (many did not even know they had been stabbed until afterward)
2) Secure the weapon hand
3) Protect the vital organs (limit stabs to the outside of extremeties)
4) Deliver successive attacks back to the assailant as quickly as possible
This got me thinking that a lot of the flowing styles of knife control/disarms are great for training but may be very hard to execute under pressure on the street, particularly if the knife is not seen beforehand.
In our R.E.D. training, we emphasize alertness/awareness and keeping a protective space around us at all times, which I believe is critical. The most successful fight is the one you avoid.
Secondly, I am becoming a believer that the first hit tends to decide the fight, especially if the first hit is a decisive one (delivered with force and intent). In short, the first best hit wins in a majority of cases - knife or not.
In other posts I have discussed the importance of atemi ("striking") in traditional Japanese arts I studied, and as time goes on I am further convinced of the need to develop very fast, hard-hitting striking as a key to surviving violent encounters. In order to be the one who walks away, you must get to the opponent first - delivering maximum impact repeatedly until the situation is resolved, overwhelming the opponent until they can be controlled.
From an ethical standpoint, these strikes need not be injurious hits (a strong slap to the face can be disruptive as well) but they must necessarily be forceful enough to disrupt the attacker's concentration and switch them from offense to defense, where they can be kept until overwhelmed/subdued.
In "Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere", Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook's seminal study of Aikido, they write about the "Unified Power of Attack" or UPA as a combination of physical, mental and technical elements that form an attack. It is this UPA which must be disrupted for us to survive an encounter. The sooner we can do this, the better our chances.
To me, this means that effective training must involve lots of hitting practice. That practice needs to be from positions of stability both stationary and in motion, and delivered with good body mechanics (engagement of the hips/core, rotation of the shoulders, arm extension, focus). I think it is also good to spend a lot of time not just on reaction drilling, but also hitting the heavy bag and conditioning the arms and body to delivering impact. I personally find the the more I hit, the harder I hit since I become accustomed to transferring my maximum energy into the bag every time.
For all encounters, a good rule is to "Get there First with the Most".