Aikido and the Knife

If you haven’t read my previous rant on the knife work in Aikido, I suggest you start here. That piece was an attempt to get some some answers from my Aikido community. The few answers that I got, I didn’t like. And by that I mean since writing the last piece, I went to the dojo and went over the ways some things are usually done, and the suggestions I received. I was not a happy camper. Especially since I have the Filipino Martial Arts perspective on it. In my opinion, the way the knife is addressed in Kali is a wake up call to Aikidoka. Currently, I don’t have detail to detail specific knife practice in Kali. Also, I don’t think it’s safe to try to learn or teach anything about martial arts without a live instructor. That being said, I will share what I think will be a useful start.

Let’s begin by realizing that the head and body aren’t the only intended targets. Quite simply, anywhere you are cut, you are going to suffer. This is important to understand because some of the Tantodori I have been taught, and most of the Tantodori I have seen, offer the hands and arms up for slicing practice. The way the arms and hands are used show little concern for or knowledge of how a knife fighter will try to hurt you. This shows a lack of knife fighting experience. What? An Aikidoka needs to understand knife fighting in order to do Tantodori? Of course. Most Aikido systems already prove this by example: We practice sword on sword to know the nature of the sword fighter, and staff on staff for the same reason. Then we practice sword and staff taking. So yes, something is missing.

Here is an article about a man who attempted to tackle a knife wielding person. Look at this picture of his arm:

So we know that a skilled knife fighter can beat you by cutting you pretty much anywhere.

Some system of knife on knife practice that relates directly to Tantodori must be practiced. It has to happen. It will foster an awareness on the matter that can’t be done otherwise. I’m not sure who said it, but it was a famous Kali instructor who said “If you can’t fight knife to knife, what makes you think you can face the knife bare handed?” Well spoken. Almost anything would be better than the nothing that is knife on knife practice in Aikido. Here are some factors to consider:

How are the knives held? Point up or point down? Edge up in or edge out? Single knife versus single knife? Double knife versus double? Both partners standing?

The ideas could go on and on. I think the easiest way to start is to establish a striking pattern with the knife, in the same way the FMA does. This diagram comes from the Military Combatives Manual, and is the same numbering system used in many FMA.

Now we already have a wider range to deal with instead of just Munetsuki and Yokomenuchi. What also has to happen is the idea of the attack combination. As I have said before, slashing the knife back and forth is a common and effective attack that can be done without training by anyone. So, it needs to be addressed in our Tantodori.

Allow me to backtrack a bit. I think it’s odd that in Aikido, we practice Kumitachi, and Kumijo, but we don’t pick up a weapon at all to go against the knife. You would think that there would be a ton of “Aiki Jo Versus the Dagger” DVDs out there. I’m going to make one right now and sell it to you!

Okay, I’m going to back to the dojo. I’ll let you know what I come up with. In the meantime – Cheers.


22 Responses to Aikido and the Knife

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hey Autrelle,

    Did you read what I sent you? We handle “Psyco Stabs” and “Slashes” regularly. Also one of my senseis Nishimoto Sensei liked the knife held back along the wrist. It is much different to handle. My advanced students are getting pretty good at handling them. I don’t advocate anyone going to “test” them for real. I think that would be stupid!! And, if you do that, you deserve to get stabbed.

    Elizabeth has brought in an interesting attack knife that looks like a parrot’s beak that is sharpened on both sides and has a twirling ring for a finger on one end. There is only one thought of someone carrying this type of knife, and it is purely to attack people. We are going to develop take-aways for this knife.

    I will be stressing to people that this person does not deserve the “We don’t injure people.” response. I tell her that the Ai Ki in this case is for the good of the rest of society. The person who is carrying this knife should be seriously debilitated so he has a long time to consider the error of his ways.

    I don’t see any reason to learn knife to knife techniques. How many people in society carry a knife of any size. Not many in America. Therefore, it is better to focus on how to handle the armed attack when you are disarmed.

    And the knife against a sword or jo is just stupid on the part of the knife attacker. The knife attacker is so out ranged that the knife attacker’s chance at successfully disabling someone carrying a longer range weapon is probably less than 5% or 5 out of 100 attacks. The knife attacker will loose OFTEN.

    Tom Huffman Aikido of Gainesville, Florida

  2. Autrelle says:

    Well put Sensei. I would like to see some of your tantodori work on your Youtube series. Thank you for your input.

  3. Hi Autrelle
    Very breifly, we practice a series of “games” which basically use various practice “knives” of different lengths. Most of these are simply bits of wood! The key to this is getting used to dealing with the extended mai-ai or reach of the opponent and also the exaggerated speed in which the end of a longer lever travels. A good trick is to cover the end of the “knife” with lipstick – even young, fit and mobile students get “nicked” about one attack in 4. We have a few Tanto tori clips on you tube but I always stress that realistically Aikido knife technique are more about mai-ai and zanshin anything else.

  4. autrelle says:

    My Kali teacher let me film a few sequences and gave me permission to put them on the internet. I’m going to post them as stills, with explanatory text, and then I’ll post the video. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Flintstone says:

    Hi Autrelle,
    Will love to watch the stills and the video. How can we reach them?

  6. autrelle says:

    The stills are (so far) in the .pdf in the sidebar called GOKYO. Some of the video is on the post NEWEST TRIBE-K VIDEO.

  7. I must say, I can not agree with you in 100%, but it’s just my opinion, which could be very wrong.
    p.s. You have a very good template for your blog. Where have you got it from?

  8. autrelle says:

    Hey there – this is one of the templates provided by WordPress. It’s called “The Journalist.”

    What are you ideas about Aikido and knife work?

  9. Mike says:

    So…. “knife that looks like a parrot’s beak that is sharpened on both sides and has a twirling ring for a finger on one end. There is only one thought of someone carrying this type of knife, and it is purely to attack people”.

    This is a kerambit that you describe. How can any instructor worth his salt not even recognize this popular knife?

    It is used in variation by every culture on earth to pluck the stems of crops. Some in Indonesia have a ring.

    Oh, the large things on the street outside are called ‘Cars’.

    Pros carry the kerambit because it is HUMANE. You cant stab with it and thrusts kill. It can be lethal but offers CONTROL and highly targeted minimum force options.

    It can also cut a seat belt from a crash victim and then strip clothes from them for medical attention. All without a point scratching them. Also why its useful around inflatable boats.

    Climbers and boat folk like it because it can reach for a rope and bring it over. Civilian uses for your ‘Attack’ knife. The only ‘bad’ knife is the one held by an idiot.

    The ring is for retention and deployment to an extended position. Not ‘Twirling’.

    Oh… You are going to develop ‘take aways’ for this are you? Good luck with that.

    But stay that ignorant. Our Kali class gets a lot of ex Aki students because of folk like you. Keep ’em coming.

    As for: “I don’t see any reason to learn knife to knife techniques. How many people in society carry a knife of any size. Not many in America”.

    Do you live in a cave?

    The so called tactical knife craze has revitalized an entire industry. They sell like hot cakes and are carried. By the good guys. A lot of them.

    If they dont have their knife – other improvised tools will be used in the same way.

    Stick to your classical. Its elegant and I love it. But it aint a combative art.

    • devtouch says:

      it’s called “Karambit” use by the kali practitioner or FMA …. some way i practice it by the way i am also aikidoka and nidan .

  10. autrelle says:

    Hey there Mike. On a distant approach, I would say “be nice.” Not every culture is exposed to everything. On a personal note, I would say “you had better be nice” as Mr. Huffman is a dear friend and instructor to me, who is not only the nicest guy you’d ever meet, but for sure someone that you would not want to fight at all, ever. I would say it with a smile too. I really liked your input though, aside from all that, really great words, my friend!

  11. Alain says:

    Old thread, I know, what a pompous guy this Mike is. Mike, my friend, you need no knives: just talk for one minute and everyone will run.

  12. autrelle says:

    @Alain: LOL – thanks for the post brother!

  13. fatoldguywhousedtodomartialarts says:

    Randori with magic markers will show you exactly how effective your knife defenses are. Worth scrubbing the mats for that lesson.

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