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Misunderstood knife defence

When we practice with dummy-knives in the EWTO, there is frequently a misunder-standing. Many outsiders, and even students,   who only see the exercises without hearing the accompanying explanation think that these exercises are to practice defences against         attacks with edged weapons.
But this is not the case!
Anybody who has seriously examined the subject will know that if unarmed, the chances of success against a knife are low if the opponent is skilled in its use, or even if he only waves it around wildly and aggressively.

A knife defence is always fraught with considerable risks!

In the event of a confrontation, the opponent should be put out of action right away, so that he is incapable of using a weapon. If it is possible to avoid a conflict involving an edged weapon, this is definitely the best course of action. If it is not possible, e.g. for reasons of space or because another person is under threat and must be protected, the best recourse is to longer objects such as an umbrella, chair etc. Even briefcases, lamps, laptops, ashtrays, beer mugs etc. are better than nothing.

Training the “Big 7 capabilities”

Although defending against attacks with bladed weapons is not ourprimary aim when training with practice-knives, this training has many advantages which we definitely do not want to ignore. The purpose is not to practice individual techniques, but rather functionalmovement in general.

During his scientific research, GM Prof. Keith R. Kernspecht has identified what he calls the “Big 7 capabilities”. These are necessary to mount an effective defence in a serious encounter.
The following aspects are trained for:

1. Attentiveness
 Suppleness, flexibility
 Physical unity
 Perception (specifically by the “muscular sense”)
6. Timing & distance assessment
 Fighting spirit

The experienced EWTO master/teacher/instructor knows numerous exercises suited to the relevant level of training which will improve the above capabilities. Blunt dummy-knives are used during training.

Some explanations of how these different attributes are furthered

1. Attentiveness

Practicing with edged weapons, even if they are blunt, heightens attentiveness. Hits are perceived more obviously. For advanced students the exercises can be intensified by using so-called “shock-knives”. These deliver a small electric shock when the blade touches (Note: these are prohibited e.g. in Germany, to be used only in e.g. Austria and other countries where they are permitted). These increase the level of attentiveness rather significantly …

2. Suppleness, flexibility

The distances encountered in traditional WingTsun change. The student now needs to move more on every physical axis (lean forward, lean back, shift the bodyweight in all directions, pivot). The importance of moving the body becomes clear to the student, as his arm only accompanies the opponent’s arm. For many it is only this practice with weapons that teaches them to move their body skilfully to remove the target. This movement potential considerably improves their unarmed WingTsun.

3. Balance

Rapid movement to remove oneself as the target requires a highly developed sense of balance. The “Big 7 capabilities” are all inter-related, and without good balance, effective movements for the purpose of self-defence are not possible.

4. Physical unity (coordination)

Some take physical unity in WingTsun only to mean the simultaneity of defence and attack. Physical unity is much more than this, however. Many students only give their initial attention to the arms, for example, rather than moving their arms and body in harmony with their balance.

5. Perception

Perception is also known as the “interaction of the senses”, as weapons training first trains the eyes and then the sense of touch. But primarily it improves attentiveness more than the senses!

6. Timing and distance assessment

Timing includes the correct responses to distance, speed and rhythm. It is particularly important when a weapon is involved! The defence must not be too early, otherwise the opponent will follow the target or the defending arm. If it comes too late, the attack will succeed. Timing is also of decisive importance when counter-attacking.

7. Fighting spirit

Especially in the case of advanced students, the exercises become more demanding, functional and rapid. This in turn heightens fighting spirit.

The student’s WingTsun is improved, and with it the self-defence capability

All the above attributes are necessary in weaponless WingTsun to improve the student’s self-defence capability, and they are outstandingly enhanced by practicing with dummy-knives.

The chances of survival are increased

The above exercises are not primarily intended as defences against bladed weapons, however we must not neglect the question of “attacks with bladed weapons” either. Even if this is a touchy subject, the EWTO does not shirk its responsibility and has developed programmes in which the student is confronted with the problem of defending against a weapon, and specifically a bladed weapon.

Students who constantly practice with a bladed weapon and are at some time attacked with one will have a better chance of survival. They will respond better than somebody who has no experience of movement when a weapon is involved. The risk of being injured is nonetheless high, but the seriousness of such injury will probably be less, and the opponent more likely prevented from causing further damage.

Assessing the dangerousness of the situation is very important. The use of improvised weapons in such emergencies is another aspect of these programmes.
It is essential to back up such classes with scenario and stress training, so as to improve the chances in the event of a real attack.
Text: Dr. Oliver König