Back to Back Backcutting
(A Brief Word on the Masterstroke of the Comtech Knifefighters)
                                                      By J. A. Keating

Ah, the dreaded and deadly motion known as the "backcut" is our topic today. While every aspect and motion of using a knife in your personal defense is viable, there is one motion which stands out over all others. That motion is called the backcut and it is often associated with the particular edged weapon known as the bowie knife. I am going to share some random thoughts on this action with you. Let's see where it takes us. Although, the motion of the backcut can be done with any weapon, including canes and swords, it is the bowie knife that truly adds the dash of awe to this dynamic action. This is due to the bowies deadly design. It is part weight displacement and part configuration that makes the bowie such a devastating weapon. But, alas the secrets of a bowie knife's design must wait for another time. The subtle secrets of swinging the great bowie in a tight prescribed arc is what is at stake here. In particular the BACKCUT. The backcut motion is much like casting a small rock net for fishing purposes. Or another analogy might be tossing a lariat. With a knife one makes a brisk, slightly overhand snap at the wrist to complete a backcut motion. It's really not all that difficult. Let me explain in greater detail about the pro's and con's of backcutting.

You see this enveloping action of "tossing a net" over your adversary is a clever way to describe to you whats really being done when a backcut occurs. Think about it for a moment, a backcut traverses a line that few other strokes follow. By that I mean how it transcibes it's arc. Yes, it can follow a variety of lines or angles. Many people only think the backcut may be done on he downward diagonal (#1 ) plane. Humbug... limited thinking is all that is. Hmm, so questions still arise, how is it done and more importantly, why is it done in such a manner?

Ok, here's the scoop amigos! Nearly every cut and blow that is commonly encountered in knife fighting, knife training and tactical knife defense are done in a repelling manner. The cut in effect "knocks" the opponent away from you. The backcut works on the opposite line! The backcut does not repel, it impels! And in saying that I'll remind you that more things in nature follow this path than not. Meaning a backcut is a "catspaw" motion. A viscious swipe that is part tear, part puncture and all pain! The action comes back toward you in it's path. You must allow for this to happen, move your body and legs aside, clear a path by using proper footwork. A backcut is a "whole-body" action, not just something done with the arms.

Knowing how to articulate the limbs and your body in conjunction with your footwork greatly adds to the backcuts power and deception. Backcuts are ideal motions when you seem to be in an inopportune position. And Bang! Outta nowhere comes this short-arc, blindingly fast, super powerful and unsuspected action! And through it all you remain protected and always ready to move thanks to this prime action of close quarter superiority.


When an adversary attempts to cut you, often one is taught to counter the move by cutting the attackers weapon bearing limb. This is called "defanging the snake" in some methods of knife play. It works well and follows a path of common sense and tactical opportunity. But in doing so your own hand also becomes subject to the same damaging cut. If you instead use a backcut your hand is automatically protected. In one case the hand leads and in the other case where a backcut is employed it is steel which leads and that is what you want. That is instant, automatic success with a minimization of threat to you merely via proper blade alignment. Plus doubling your speed, power & deception as well!

It is favored because of this deceptiveness. Yes, containing a definite "trick-phase" which throws off the adversaries sense of timing the backcut often does it's damage totally unseen by the opponent. It is felt, not seen, it is that elusive and it is this quality that has become it's deadly trademark. A well delivered backcut encompasses both defense and attack in one. Thats unique unto itself, eh? When the backcut needs a back up, a helper or an aid to cause a tactical distraction; it calls upon the timed thrust. It spans distance with deceit, footwork and elastic use of the torso. The thrust opens the gates for the backcut to enter or vice versa. The powerful flip of the wrist on delivery of the backcut causes torque and moves your knife / hand / arm connection into another, safer space. (keep that elbow slghtly bowed upward too) Without spatial awareness and relativity to act upon, the enemy becomes lost. This in turn breeds fear and panic, a backcutter stays calm, he plans his work, then works his plan. The backcut comes in from an angle few suspect, like a jet fighter emerging from the sun, it is hard to see. And once it is seen, it is even harder to get out of it's way. An even mix of backcutting and well placed, well timed thrusts make for a simple, yet effective defensive profile that even a busy person can maintain. The well executed backcut takes advantage of natural "blindspots" as does the timed thrust. In fact, much like a bird in flight, a swiftly done frontal thrust can slip into a backcut with no telegraphing at all. The backcut not only strikes it's target 99% of the time, but it also removes the guard and any other attempts toward combativeness. They "git bit" good!

A Multi-Stroke Action

Many people think that there is only one backcut. This is both true and yet not entirely accurate either. Indeed the backcut is always done with the swag of the bowie knife. And it is always reticulated. So in that sense, one action does dominate. But when using the backcut action one can apply it on any of the diagonal, horizontal or vertical planes of motion. This aspect flings open the doors to creativity and offers us a wide array of options on how to make the backcut into a technique that can answer any attack, any time. To get even more sophisticated one must seek out my own Comtech Bowie Knife training. In this training you are shown how backcuts work in pairs or teams. This simple, yet very critical aspect of bowie knife / backcutting combat can bring victory to your door. Remember, properly done backcuts will always work in pairs. It is via this double-up method that one can immediately begin gaining the upper hand in a fight or sparring match. There are eight backcuts taught in my Comtech Bowie methodology. They follow a "logic chain". They work in harmony for your defense. (Survival is primary, bringing harm to others is secondary to survival). In my method of knife play the knife is cast as a lifesaving tool. Not as a weapon of destruction. An old saying goes thusly: "One sword keeps another in it's sheath". And so it is today! Knowing about personal defense and security just makes sense.

Perhaps the most widely known of the pair attacks is the diagonal line lead-in combined with the horizontal line abdomen attack. Playing the shortened arc and changing it's line rapidly turbocharges the double-up attack using a spiralling action as an elevator to access targets which the adversary considers to be "safe".
Ha ha ! It is those "he'll never hit me here" attitudes that eventually do get them hit, often at the final bell. Two short, semi-circular, whipping actions done with your bowie knife and the deed will be done. From there, back away and use distance as your weapon. They will bleed out, run away or stop fighting....

Another surprising  aspect about the backcut action is its incredible ability to generate massive power in a very brief amount of space and time.  Think of it this way, give me the "thumbs up" sign, ok, now as swiftly as you can give the "thumbs down" sign (turn your thumb from upright to pointed at the floor). In essence, there is the backcut, you have just performed one of the quickest actions the human body can make. Within this simple roll-over motion is the principle of torque and combined with the weight of your bowie knife (inertia) you create a vortex of edged energy that is nothing less than awesome in its science and horrific in its effect. (keep that elbow bowed a little dammit) Ideal fighting fare for those knife men with limited time to practice! High Performance Hijinx !

A backcut can be a snapped strike (hit and pull back) (witik) or it can be driven through the target. (Lobtik) Each action has its place. I prefer to use snapping backcuts when I employ a folder instead of a fixed bladed bowie knife. In such an instance the folder is held edge up. The blade cannot close then by accident. It is then rolled in backcut fashion using the primary edge to strike with (versus the false edge or backside of the blade as with the bowie knife).


Other than with the Bowie knife and within my own Comtech curriculum of training the backcut is rarely seen. It exists today mainly in the study of classical saber fencing. This art is found on many of todays most elite college campuses masquerading as a sport. Foil and epee do not employ the backcut, only the saber does. One may look therein to discover more about the backcut if the desire to learn so leads you . Since my inclusion of the backcut into the public domain of combative awareness their have been many pretenders who have come forth. Each claiming to have the "right" way of doing a backcut. Ha Ha ! Largely lost in their own illusion of grandeur, the now deem themselves fit to mislead others down their dismal trail of bumbling, frontiersman style mayhem. But, the realm of the knife is like fire, it is self cleansing. La Kaa La Raa La Muu, "Through fire, all things are renewed" this is known. And the fire always comes.....

The Backcut is worthy and wicked of your attentions. It turns the tides of terrible situations. It makes you master and madman all in one fell swoop of the blade.
Train intelligently, safely and responsibily..... Fight hard, humanely and maturely. Thanx !

J. A. Keating
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