Rotational Movement of Kung Fu and The Ballet of the Knife
                                                                                             By J. Keating

There are numerous interpretations of the way a knife is to be employed for purposes of personal protection. One often overlooked or sometimes scoffed at is the move where the knifeman spins, twirls and rotates around the target. Probably because it is a hi-risk, un-practical manuever, an advanced play for any knife expert. But, there are instances where rotational movement about the central axis might come in handy. Let's explore that path of thought a little bit shall we ?

I'd bet that many of you remember when the villian / sissy swordsman cut up Rob Roy in the film. That was a well done display of turning, cutting, spinning actions within the quadrants of the combative circle. He would spin, dissolving the powerful blows Rob Roy was lobbing at him. And with each dissolve-turn he'd savagely cut and draw blood. It looked aloof, arrogant and above the fray. A deadly ballet recreated on the silver screen with fair degree of accuracy. Yes, perhaps watching again will add further dimension to these observations of mine. Hey, learn where and when you can, knowledge is power these days.

In the early days of knife combatives when things were more vague Mike Echanis put forth the ridiculously large whirling motions from the then popular Hwa Rang Do. Much of that is now history and few pursue that line of combat these days. It's practical aspects are minimal at best. But they did demonstrate the concept nicely.There is also mention of spinning, whirling actions that were once part of the knife fighting culture from Mexico. In John Gilbey's book tongue in cheek book "Secret Fighting Arts of the World" he talk's about the Mexican spinning knife methods a little.

And let us not forget the spinning actions made famous in the Boxer Rebellion by the Masters of the Bagua knife methods. When famous bagua boxers such as Chang Chao Tung and Ma Gui defeated foreign fighters from Russia, Japan, and Germany in challenge matches, they made the art of ba gua zhang respected throughout China. The exploits of various ba gua boxers during the Boxer Rebellion of 1900 also enhanced the martial reputation of the art.  Kung fu has many turning, rotational motions in their base of stances and footwork. The linear arts of Japan and Korea have fewer examples to compare to,
but doubtless they exist.

In situations where one is confronted by numerous adversaries rotational movement can assist in your overall pattern of domination. Snapping from one to the other, clockwise, then counter-clockwise, it gives you the hit and run mind & mechanics. This also keeps you in motion, providing little substance for the enemy to strike upon. Turning, rotating, spinning - all the same idea generally. In Fence there is the volt and demi-volt, the rapid change of direction that looks so unusual. (Demi-Volte. A turning or rotation of the fencers body around a vertical axis). ...It works ! Full turns and half turns and reversals make up the genre of spins.

Perhaps another example using a machete as our weapon of choice might be the three part florete of Kali being done while rotating on the balls of the feet. Wow, talk about a deadly set ! This rotational, multi-directional web of steel protects you on six fronts with a mere two steps! As you can see, rotational motion w/ edged weapons is not uncommon at the higher levels of understanding.
It is not part of a basic knife/survival equation.

If you either fall or are pushed to the ground then you must use your knife there. Barrel rolling (kind of like Jim Brown's aerial body block?) on the ground is also a spinning method.
Like a Bacalhau, you rotate upon your axis and roll, cutting legs and feet. Yeah, like a razor sharp breakdancer that's out to maim and lame, heh heh. This is also (sometimes) useful in situations of total darkness or when blinded. Similar to the advice they give if you catch on fire, drop and roll ! Exactly ! Now, do the same (slow at first) - drop and roll and this time, cut ! Maintain motion, do not stop, if you hit something immediately repel away from it, lashing out as you do.

My own rotational methods of knife use are truly unique and advanced unto their own. I aquired these from the days when Mr. Harris would visit my Walla Walla studio for days and we would just train day and night. What he shared in those sessions was nothing short of amazing. That was late eighties and early ninties. It has taken this long for many of those elements to come unto my me, to be fully under my my dominion. It is a slick, but quite challening methodology to aspire to, using physical motion, signals and the even rarer reverse signals. Patience a pre-requisite - Jason Gibbs (visit red lotus), whom I have tutored and trained with for many years has learned some of this style from me. He has done well with it. It has added grace to his existing power. Over six two and weighing in over 350 lbs he moves as smooth as a well oiled, invisble phantom when he plays his close quarter rotational games.
A testament to his hard work and to the method's validity.

In the high art of Tai Chi Chuan, the grand ultimate fist, mother root system of all martial arts it is admonished to "spin like a wheel" or to "revolve like a cyclinder". To "use four ounces to upset a thousand pounds" requires a level of sensitivity beyond most men's ability. And also requires a rotating energy, with perfect timing that creates a void into which the opponent ultimately falls. It is then you take the advantage. I would advise you to study the Tai Chi classics and learn the lessons they contain.

I wouldn't guide you wrong, trust me - there are secrets in those verses. (Some day, you must come to visit me, alone, let us examine each aspect of the classics and their meanings-applications. In person I can show you and give you the cross-references to both kung fu and the knife so you get the value of this "gift" the classics provide us when they are understood properly.)

Perhaps you can study up, the Tai Chi Chuan Classics I refer to are found here: http://www.northatlanticbooks.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780913028636

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THANX for READING - Stay Sharp !