Chinese Military Knife Fighting
by Dennis Rovere Understanding the "Big Picture" When students of the martial arts ask me about Chinese military knife combat, and/or close combat in general, their questions invariably revolve around "technique" or physical application. What grip is preferred? What type of knife is favored? How does this compare to other, more widely practiced arts? and so on. While such questions are valid and obviously important to the student who asks them, they none-the-less fall short in understanding the "big picture". Chinese military knife fighting is designed by practical people and employed in extreme circumstances. While physical application (cutting, thrusting, hooking, stance, etc.) is of paramount importance, it is only the first and most obvious step in overall mastery of knife combat. In order to be truly and consistently successful, one has to couple this physical ability with a clear understanding of the principles of the strategy of knife fighting. The notion of strategy operates at all levels and throughout all stages. From basic training to operations in the field, principles , whether implied or obvious, are always present. These principles must be adhered to in order to develop a realistic, effective means of offense and defense. While I am limited in this article by the amount of detail I can relate, I will try to give you, the reader, at least a preliminary understanding of what Chinese military knife strategy entails. o "One School" of Knife Fighting Some basic premises upon which Chinese military knife fighting techniques are developed from include: 1. Assume opponents are armed and highly trained. If they are unarmed or inexperienced so much the better. In war however, the likelihood of either occurring is virtually non-existent. Therefore, techniques should be effective against a variety of weapons - whether they be short ones (such as a fighting knife) or a long one (such as a rifle and bayonet), wielded by single or multiple skilled adversaries. 2. Techniques must be simple and effective. Since combat is a high stress situation, complicated movements are not easily recalled or performed. Additionally since soldiers operate under physically taxing circumstances (especially fatigue), any techniques requiring great expenditures of energy (such as high kicks or complicated throwing techniques) must be avoided.

From the Integrated Close Combat Forum http://kilogulf59.proboards80.com

knife combat stances tend to be more shallow and natural than their "classical" relatives. to paraphrase Mao Tse Tung and not Bruce Lee "absorb what is useful". (The military bodyguard instructors that I trained with in Beijing told me that having a background in competitive or performance wu shu would automatically disqualify you from entering their unit. Weapons have certain inherent characteristics that must be recognized and dealt with. all of these same instructors come to the unit with a minimum requirement and most often. Combat occurs under adverse conditions. 4. If your hand was 12 inches longer it would still not have the slashing capability of a knife. (This ability to use a variety of techniques is also apparent in the tactical shooting skills of the Chinese counter-terrorist unit of the People's Armed Police. Their repertoire of skills include its use in "silent killing". Military bodyguards follow the general rule: "draw the knife as a last resort".proboards80. fighting usually occurs in the rain. There is no "one school" of thought in Chinese military knife fighting. While the commandos on the other hand view the knife primarily as an offensive weapon. extensive "street experience". etc. This accomplishes two things: 1.) Deep stances. Depending upon the circumstance. Besides being at the previously mentioned point of exhaustion. It instills in the soldier an aggressive nature. Short low steps actually allow you more stability and speed in covering distance over rough terrain. Weapons are not simply extensions of the body. Certain units may emphasize particular applications.) 5. For example. cold. dry surfaces. Wu Jing training emphasizes defense and counter. position and method of shooting to the situation at hand. From the Integrated Close Combat Forum http://kilogulf59.com . Attack The primary direction of movement in knife combat is forward. Additionally. while good only on flat. Some of their applications even include the knife as a mechanism for restraint. (Remember: the hands probably are wet or covered with mud. snow. mud. Unproven "academic theory" and fancy techniques such as "flipping" the blade from forward to reverse grip and vice versa are strictly avoided. Therefore only battle tested techniques. but I have been taught both fighting and "silent killing" techniques using both forward and reverse grip. or for developing leg strength are often discouraged. Although "traditional" terms such as "horse stance" or "bow stance" are used. proven to work are taught and employed. uneven terrain. -. In the West the debate revolves around which stance and "method" of combat shooting is most effective.unless it is.2 3. I noted that soldiers from this unit were familiar with the complete range of shooting techniques.) When in Doubt. In China. they adapted the stance.

by the same token. throwing. side stepping or stepping backwards more often than not causes you to lose any advantage you may have for a successful counter.) Curve your stomach to create additional distance from his blade to you. Developing Strategy and Technique The most fundamental method of developing strategy and proper technique is through practicing knife combat forms. Now having said this it is important to understand that this does not mean disregarding your opponent completely and blindly charging in. turn your blade towards your opponent and stab him in the shoulder or neck.section of the body or. The general rule here is: "if you draw the knife. Continue to step in.3 2. curving the mid. Respond by moving into an "empty stance" (i.3. Additionally.1. etc. (Figure 1.) Immediately step forward and allow your blade to continue forward.com . secondary to actual slashing or thrusting. combatants are taught how to "withdraw" the body -. attack". The general rule of thumb is "when in doubt. often with the addition of a hooking technique that carries the knife past your body. Since our opponent is (most likely) armed. The pressure you exert when cutting will cause your knife to slip around and hook his wrist. (Figure 1. a combination of both. punches. At the very least. locking. However. kicks. It allows you to close distance. Many readers may dismiss this notion claiming that forms are useless patterns of movement that have no relation to actual combat. move inside the opponent's range and seize the initiative. These same withdrawing techniques can be employed in empty hand defense against a low thrust. To do so would be both stupid and dangerous. a sharp strike causes the adversary to pause -. in both instances. distance is gained without allowing the opponent the opportunity of stepping in.) Use your knife and left hand to direct opponent's blade away from your body. (lead with) or use the knife". the defense is immediately followed by a lethal counter.) Use the Knife Strikes. Intent here is to cripple.e.2. While that may From the Integrated Close Combat Forum http://kilogulf59. unnecessarily exposing a limb to a series of rapid cuts and thrusts is an invitation to disaster.giving you a momentary lapse in the action in which to deliver your counter. To compensate for the fact that distance is sometimes required between you and your opponent. virtually always takes the form of a strike. They are however. "Checking" when used. (Figure 1. Example 1: An opponent attempts a mid section thrust.proboards80. In both instances. are all used in conjunction with the knife.either through an empty stance. Execute a reverse cut to the opponent's arm. break or damage the opponent in some way. trapping. shift weight to back leg and move lead foot back.

) Respond by first lifting your chin up and back. The military knife forms teach proper stance and footwork.) immediately after you move your head.com . how to disrupt the opponent's center line. All of these skills contribute to your ability to "set the opponent up" and defeat him. or engaging the opponent in a certain way will cause him to respond in a manner that is predictable. etc. it is not the case here. (Figure 2.) As he begins to pull his knife back (either to disengage or attack you again) apply pressure to his arm-. correct angles of attack and defense. multiple or combinations of techniques.causing it to collapse. timing. Check his arm with your free hand and stab him in the solar plexus.4 be their experience. positioning of the blade.1. Military knife fighters realize that standing. moving. how to drop your body weight when slashing.proboards80.) (The reaction of him From the Integrated Close Combat Forum http://kilogulf59. (Figure 2.2. use your knife to hook his hand and weapon. (The pressure he exerts against your chin will cause the knife to move up.3. (Figure 2. Such knowledge of human nature and subconscious physical response makes trapping and defeating your adversary a much easier task. Example 1A Example 2: Example 1B Example 1C The opponent holds a knife to your throat or under your chin.

Respond by stepping in and using a rising block (with knife in reverse grip) to cut his arm.proboards80.1. This motion couples with your forward motion to actually help you complete your counter.) The combination of cut and punch should cause him to drop the knife and lurch his body forward. (Figure 3.) Example 2A Example 3: Example 2B Example 2C Opponent executes a high thrust to the head.5 being hooked causes the opponent to pull back. continue to step in and use a reverse slash to From the Integrated Close Combat Forum http://kilogulf59. Regardless of whether the knife drops or not.com . Immediately follow this with a vertical punch to the ribs.

) This slash will bring his head down . more often than not.2.proboards80.) From here either deliver a finishing blow or hold him prisoner.com . Because the battlefield is the last "testing ground" or more realistically the final "proving ground". (Figure 3. much time is spent "free sparring" putting applications and combinations to work in a relatively unstructured environment. (Figure 3. From the Integrated Close Combat Forum http://kilogulf59.) Example 3A Example 3B Example 3C Example 3D Sharpen Your Skill But Don't Dull Your Senses Training does not end with mastery of the forms or in the practice of prearranged applications. (Figure 3. Knowing that someone is not trying too hard to hurt you may cause you to be sloppy and/or complacent. help dull the senses. sweep his lead foot.3. Such repetitive drills may sharpen skills but if practiced in isolation they.6 cut his neck. and bring him to the ground.4. It is through this progression in training and the clear understanding and application of technique and strategy! that makes the Chinese military knife fighter "better than we expected". Now that he is completely off balance. Anticipation of what you know is coming (this is the drill!) can lead the knife fighter to react too soon.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful