Have you ever used a hammer, a screwdriver and/or pliers? Is
this the way you would normally hold them while working on a
task? Probably not, you would naturally hold them with a firm
grip, wrapping all your fingers around the handles so you could
work securely without dropping them.
A knife is a tool, like a hammer, a screwdriver or pliers, however
when you use tools to work on a task, the task doesn’t resist your
efforts, neither does it fight back. However if you are using a knife
to defend your life, the person attacking you won’t just stand
there motionless, they are moving purposefully to exact extreme
harm on you, the risk of losing your knife is highly likely when
your fingers are extended off the knife handle.
Welcome to the Ministry of Silly Grips
For countless years the greatest myth perpetrated on the knife
community has been that keeping some fingers off of the handle
will afford you special tactical powers, it never will! Some will say,
the forefinger along side the blade with help you point the knife?
others say 2-3 fingers hanging off the blade will allow them to
hook around a body part or clothing - I say nonsense!
What first alerted me to the subject of dangerous knife grips was
when I was contacted by various law enforcement individuals
who had attended my knife seminars in the past. They told me
that during the aftermath of some gang fights (in different regions
around the country), officers would sometimes see parts or whole
fingers on the ground? When they took statements from several
gang members afterwards in local hospitals, they admitted using
fancy knife grips. There was clearly a causal nexus between the
way they held the knives and the loss of their fingers.
As a self-defense instructor, my students come from all fields:
military, law enforcement, security and civilians. They can’t afford
to learn stylistic knife defense, it has to be realistic. My immediate
concern is for the safety of my students and not fostering myths
about knife grips that may cause them harm - I leave that to
instructors who zealously feel the need to attract students to fill
Why would any Instructor ever consider teaching holding a small
knife in this manner? You can’t even cut a cake this way. Have
you ever tried to cut meat or half-cooked vegetables - you can’t?
How Did This Happen?
Some of this grip nonsense came from the West. In the 20th
century early knife practitioners often transitioned from fencing.
When holding a sword or sport foil/sabre the length of the handle
is much longer than a folder, the hand can easily stretch out more
and the thumb on top of the handle can easily come into play to
control the tip. Some swords and sport swords have a cross
guard to wrap your finger around. However the handle of a folder
is short, and without all fingers on board the knife can easily slip.
In SE Asia, I’m sure there was a similar evolution and mysticism
I’m sure had a great deal to do with it.
There Are Basically 4 Reasons Why These Grips Are Popular
1) But It Looks So Cool
When I first studied Arnis / Escrima (long before a few people
invented the name Kali), I often witnessed escrimadors deploy
these types of semi-fingerless grips. I was young, impressionable
and thought, oh there must be a special reason why knives are
held in this manner. It also looked so cool - it must be an insiders
secret. However, much later I discovered it was an affectation.
2) Some Experts Used These Grips — Others Followed
In psychology, this is called the “Bandwagon FX.” This is when a
trend or fad multiplies and is accepted the more they have been
adopted by others. That doesn’t mean it’s safe or worthy, it’s just
that most students don’t want to question their teachers.
3) But This is What My Teacher Taught Me
It’s not because the instructor had all this divine wisdom, he did it
because his teacher taught him this way, and his teacher’s
teacher, and so on and so on. Eventually this became codified as
“The Only Way.” It turned into a cult and no one questioned it.
4) It’s Embarrassing
Some instructors have taught these methods for years, and are
reluctant to reverse their teachings, either because they are
afraid of offending their instructors or because they promoted
this myth for years.
Can it work?
Anything is possible — however what a few highly accomplished
adepts of the knife can do should have no bearing on how it should
be taught, the primary responsibility is the safety of the students
and these methods should not be encouraged.
Many so-called experts absolutely don’t understand the anatomy of
the hand. They have told me countless times that I don’t truly
understand the significance behind the grips, and that there are
several reasons why they are used — don’t believe it, it’s all
superstitious and stylistic nonsense. How do I know? Because I
conferred with several hand surgeons, and they clearly explained
the science of how the hand works, and how it was designed to
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