Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Knife awareness seminar - bridging the gap between traditional and reality training...

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Last Sunday my husband and I attended a KEWAP seminar (Knife and Edged Weapons Awareness Programme).

I was interested in attending this course because I thought it offered something different to our usual karate training - a course focused on the practicalities of personal self-defence out on the street, specifically defending against attacks with knives and other edged weapons.

I was a little surprised that only a handful of us turned up for the course but that turned out to be a blessing in disguise because those of us that were there obviously had a lot of personal attention from the instructor. Also, as a small informal group, we were able to have a lot of useful discussion together about various aspects of personal protection.

The course was different in many ways to the usual kind of courses we do. To start with we wore ordinary outside clothes and kept our shoes on. Secondly, the practical training was interspersed with mini lectures and power point slides. I thought this format worked well as it gave the instructor a chance to educate us on a variety of issues such as self defence and the law – what you can and can’t do to defend yourself; awareness issues; how to assess developing situations; how to use the environment to create and manage distance and a discussion on different strategies one can use.

The instructor also showed us some slides of weapons that have been used in real fights. Did you know that there are gas-powered knives that force the blade in further and knives that are also guns that fire bullets at you as the blade goes in? I was quite staggered that such grisly weapons existed!

In between these short talks we did some practical knife defence training. We learnt about half a dozen different ways of disarming a knifeman depending on how he was attacking with the knife, including situations when you have your back to the wall. What struck me about these techniques was that though I hadn’t specifically done them before the principles of movement and technique that I have learnt in karate and kobudo were being directly applied in these self-defence moves.

I thought that we all picked up these techniques quickly because we already knew how to move, evade, block and apply locks. So, applying what we already knew to this new situation of knife defences was not too difficult, it was just a case of relaxing some of the more stylistic aspects of karate in order to be able to respond more intuitively and naturally.

A case in point was when we moved onto the topic of pre-emptive striking. The instructor told us that in order to strike quickly and without telegraphing the move first we shouldn’t pull back the punch first. This made sense but since we have trained to punch from the hip it was hard not to instinctively pull the punching arm back first before striking. However, after a few minutes practice of punching a focus mitt it was starting to feel more natural. The instructor emphasised the importance of using the hip thrust to add power to the punch so this was very much still a karate principle being employed.

Apparently my punches against the focus mitt in this way were quite hard but I know this is only because of the gyaku zuki training I have had. The standard karate training has helped me to build up strength, speed and power in my punching and this was not lost when the punching technique was varied to omit the pullback.

I sometimes feel that there is a gap between the defensive moves we learn as part of karate training and the self-defence moves in reality based training but I also feel that this gap shouldn’t exist – it can be bridged with thoughtful and intelligent training. I feel uncomfortable when I hear people say, “this is the art of karate but in real self-defence we do it this way”, as if they are completely different things. To me they are just flip sides of the same coin – not different coins.

On this KEWAP course I think the instructor helped to bridge this gap. We learnt a lot of new self-defence techniques – techniques that have been tried and tested in real situations but we were applying many of the principles we already knew from our classical karate training. The instructor even showed us how some bunkai from Pinan Shodan and Seipai can be used in knife defence scenarios.

Overall, I thought this was a great course, taught in a very effective way. It was informative, practical and enjoyable.

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6 comments:

Charles James said...

Hi, Sue:

Nicely done. The post is a good one. I wonder tho, did he actually lead in to the course by teaching that the best knife defense ever is to "not be there" or "to run in the other direction?"

The next two excerpts are taken out of your context for individually oriented comments to the subject of each.

We learnt about half a dozen different ways of disarming a knifeman depending on how he was attacking with the knife, including situations when you have your back to the wall.

I tend to believe that going straight to specific techniques vs. specific scenario's bypasses that this is first dangerous as hell, second that it does not address that in a knife fight no one wins and you cannot rely on specifics as knife fights are chaotic and finally third that your awareness and avoidance training must provide you a means to avoid a knife fight altogether. Now, my caveat for this comment is your post is not by any means complete and comprehensive as to what was taught. For all I know this guy did all this stuff.

The instructor told us that in order to strike quickly and without telegraphing the move first we shouldn’t pull back the punch first. This made sense but since we have trained to punch from the hip it was hard not to instinctively pull the punching arm back first before striking.

Punching from the hip is a fundamental teaching tool for beginners. A black belt must begin to adjust their practice and techniques to live up to the fundamental principle of martial systems - economic motion. You don't have to cock the weapon to get the appropriate power to do damage. Actually it is the body movement, alignment, etc. that creates power and devastating punches - loose explanation, read the book of martial power that explains the principles.

Note: This comment is based exclusively on the content of this post and does not take into consideration that this post is also not complete and comprehensive to he course taken. This goes for the excerpts and comments as well. I make my comments based on this and nothing more which means as we learn more about the course and situation we must be willing to adjust our comments, beliefs and perceptions.

SueC said...

Hi Charles, yes we did discuss things like not being there in the first place. In fact we talked a lot about avoidance and awareness issues including the colour code system i.e code white (no awareness) through to code yellow (aware), code orange (plan of action) to code red (taking action).

We interspersed the talks with some practical applications to break things up a bit so I think we left the workshop with a fairly balanced view of things theoretical and practical.

Thanks for your comment Charles.

Journeyman said...

Sounds like it was a good program. I'd love to know what techniques you were taught.

I agree that knife survival needs to have elements from avoiding to worst case scenarios, and everything in between to truly be of value. Great to hear there was a mix in content and method of delivery. I like how you said it was broken up with a mix of teaching styles and methods.

As far as punching, that's an interesting point. While I'm a big fan of a perfect punch, it's not as realistic in certain situations. You'd more likely get to use one effectively after you'd distracted with a less traditional punch.

Knife awareness seminar - right up my alley!

SueC said...

Journeyman, yes, it was an interesting and useful 'entry level' course. The techniques we learnt were fairly simple (for someone who's done some martial arts training at least)but effective.

I say this was entry level because the course was open to adults with no martial arts experience as well (though no one like that turned up). If they had turned up then I think it would have been a lot harder for the instructor to deal with. I wonder how wise it would be to try and teach martial artists and non-martial artists in the same class?

It would be nice to do more of these types of courses because one just isn't enough! I would quite like to be pressure tested more or be in a more realistic environment for instance. Still, it was sold as an 'awareness course' rather than a 'teach you how to be really skilled at knife defences' - so it was a start!

Ninja-Training said...

Totally agree with your quote about people saying "this is karate, but in real life we do it this way."

Charles James said...

SueC: Kewl, thanks for the response!

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