Black Belt Magazine
in the jungle, and a United States Marine Corps infantryman
crouches in the grass. His M16 assault rifle, emptied of bullets,
lies somewhere in the thick underbrush, near the bodies of the
soldier's slain enemies. He is alone, and he is far from home,
behind enemy lines. Yet he is unafraid. He still has his knife,
and in close combat, that is all he needs.
According to Jim Advincula, a longtime U.S. Marine Corps knife
and close - combat instructor, basic knife-fighting techniques
are far more effective in close-combat situations than fancy
or advanced techniques. For the average grunt, simple is deadly.
Advincula's Oceanside, California martial arts school is located
near a military base, and the isshin-ryu karate and escrima
instructor is frequently called upon to teach UPS. servicemen
the finer points (excuse the pun) of knife fighting. Following
are some of the major principles Advincula covers with his trainees.
The first thing Advincula shows his knife-fighting students
is how to grip the weapon. The terrain and environment are rarely
ideal for close combat. Rain, mud or snow will make the handle
of a knife slippery and difficult to manage, and wearing gloves
only makes it more difficult to wield the weapon efficiently.
Therefore, it is necessary to select a simple, strong grip which
can be used in any situation. Close-combat instructors generally
teach four methods of grip- ping a knife:
grip. Some instructors advocate the use of the "reverse"
grip, with the knife held along the wrist. However, Advincula
claims this method limits your techniques and only allows
for slashing maneuvers, which are usually ineffective in
a close-combat situation because the blade doesn't penetrate
the target or generate much power.
Fencer's grip. Most instructors
teach the “fencer's” grip, in which the knife handle is
gripped firmly between the thumb and forefinger, with the
other fingers wrapped loosely around the handle. While this
grip may be suitable for small knives like a stiletto, it
isn't suitable for blades with large grips. If your hand
is hit during combat while employing the fencer's grip,
you can lose your grasp on the weapon.
Ice-pick grip. The "ice-pick"
grip enables deep penetration against soft body armor, heavy
clothing, or other protective outfits.. To achieve this
grip, simply hold the knife handle in a fist, with the blade
pointing down. There are drawbacks to this grip, however.
When raising the knife for a downward strike, you not only
telegraph your intentions and expose your chest area, but
you also make it easy for your opponent to see the weapon.
Moreover, the ice-pick grip does not provide parrying or
thrusting capability, and it is easier for the opponent
to block a knife strike delivered in this manner.
Hammer grip. The hammer
grip is preferred over all others. A knife held in this
fashion is less likely to be knocked from your grasp, and
can also be used in conjunction with a punch or to deliver
butt-end knife strikes. A hammer grip is achieved by grasping
the knife at the handle and forming a tight fist. Keep the
wrist flexible, as if using a hammer or hatchet. This enables
you to lock the wrist tightly when needed.
The hammer grip provides great penetration and power, allowing
the blade to easily cut through heavy clothing. There is also
less likelihood of injury to the user's thumb, unlike with the
fencer's grip. The hammer grip can be used for chopping, slashing,
and especially thrusting techniques.
Jim Advincula (left) demonstrates the
"triangle" stance, with his knife to the front and shield
hand covering his chest. This is the preferred knife-fighting
stance. Standing with the free hand forward (center)
rather than the knife hand, or using a reverse grip
(right) is not recommended.
After achieving an effective grip, the knife fighter must assume
an appropriate combat stance. Advincula teaches Marines to fight
from a basic "triangle" stance. Also known as the "fencer's"
stance, the triangle posture allows the knife fighter to move
in any direction at a moment's notice. This stance also allows
the practitioner maximum reach because his knife is held in
the hand nearest to the enemy.
Advincula teaches students to "hide" behind their knife; in
other words, keep the weapon between them and the opponent.
By keeping the knife pointed toward the enemy, you can attack
and/or block or parry any thrusts by the opponent. You can also
pull the weapon close to your body, leaving your free hand to
protect against an opponent's grabbing technique.
The knife fighter's free hand should be held close to the heart
or solar plexus to protect vital areas such as the heart and
throat. Should the enemy's blade get through your defenses,
your free hand will hopefully absorb the blade ra- ther than
one of your vital organs. This technique is taken from Filipino
escrima, in which the hand is used as a shield and is sacrificed,
if necessary. According to Advincula, the escrimador's credo
is: "You can cut my hand, but I will take your life!"
The knife fighter's "shield hand" can also be used to parry,
punch, fake a blow, throw objects, distract the opponent, or
assist balance in rough terrain. Marines are even taught to
grab the opponent's blade, if necessary. It should be noted
that your hand can't be cut unless the enemy is able to draw
his blade. By grabbing and attacking the opponent, you can prevent
him from drawing the weapon and cutting your hand.
Attacking the right targets is a key to effective knife fighting.
The objective is to neutralize the enemy as quickly as possible,
but this does not mean always attempting to strike vital points.
Since the enemy will generally be defending his vital points,
you should seek the most available target, be it the solar plexus,
back, neck, stomach, etc. Drawing first blood is a tremendous
psychological advantage. The more you strike your opponent-
regardless of where you hit him- the more he will bleed and
Advincula also teaches students to aim for the opponent's weapon-wielding
hand. By disabling the hand that holds his weapon, you neutralize
the threat to your safety and gain the advantage. If the enemy
has two weapons- say a pistol in one hand and a knife in the
other- zero in on the one that presents the most immediate danger
to your well-being.
The official motto of the U.S. Marine Corps is semper fidelis,
a Latin phrase meaning "always faithful." By practicing the
basic principles of close-combat knife fighting—proper grip,
balanced stance, accessible targets—you too can be assured that
your knife will always be "faithful," be it in the jungle, or
on the streets.
bottom There are four basic methods of gripping a knife: the
reverse grip (1), the fencer's grip (2), the ice pick grip (3)
and the hammer grip (4). The hammer grip is the preferred method
because you are less likely to lose your grasp of the weapon
and you can use the knife in combination with a punch. Caption
p59top Caption p.60 In the "shield hand" technique, the knife
fighter places (1) his free hand close to his heart or solar
plexus to protect vital areas from his opponent's Knife strikes.
Or, he can use the free hand to parry (2) an opponent's strike,
and then counterattack.