It was a crisp spring day outside when I took my first edged and improvised weapons class. We started how most training classes do, with introductions and reasons for why we were there. It wasn’t but a few days earlier that a trip to the State Capitol building also meant I would have to go in unarmed. After carrying almost every day for the past two years, walking through the parking ramp and into the Capitol without my firearm left me feeling vulnerable. So when it was my turn to introduce myself I blurted out something like, “Because I want to become as familiar with carrying and using a knife defensively, as I do with my gun.” And there began my journey into the exciting, but often equivocal, world of edged weapons training.
If Napoleon Dynamite would have met Chad McBroom from Comprehensive Fighting Systems and learned some edged weapons skills instead of wishing he had nunchuck skills, the ladies would have been asking him to prom. Joking aside, sweet blade skills aren’t only for men and Chad is someone who wants to make edged weapon training less intimidating for women. After getting to know Chad over several months, I naturally I had questions for him about the subject, and by his responses you can tell he isn’t from the Rex Kwon Do school of martial arts.
Why should women consider edged weapons training?
There are a number of reasons that I recommend edged weapons training in general; however, when it comes to women in particular, the knife is a great equalizer. Although I’m not a fan of the show, there is a great line by Rachel McAdam’s knife-packing character Ani Bezzerides in True Detective: “The fundamental difference between the sexes is that one of them can kill the other with their bare hands. Man of any size lays his hands on me, he’s gonna bleed out in under a minute.”
It’s funny. I have women come to me all the time and say “I don’t want to learn all of that knife stuff. I just want to be able defend myself against a man who is much larger and stronger than me.” I tell them, “Okay, here’s a knife.” There seems to be this aversion to edged weapons training among most women, but it is actually quite ironic. You can train in Krav Maga or some other form of empty-hand self-defense, but those require a certain amount of physical power to be effective. The blade does not. That is what makes it the great equalizer that it is. At contact-range, there is no greater weapon than a knife.
From True Detective: Ani Bezzerides training with her war post.
Is there a particular style of knife that works better for women?
That’s a difficult question to answer. Generally speaking, I would say, no. There are a lot of things to consider when choosing a defensive knife (I use the term defensive to indicate that the dedicated purpose of the knife is for self-defense), but the most important thing is to choose a knife that fits well in your hand and carry it. I am a big advocate of the Wharncliffe-style knives because of their ability to cut deeply due to their blade geometry. That is usually what I recommend for a defensive blade.
The great thing is you’re not limited to just one knife either. It is a good idea to carry multiple blades in different locations on the body to ensure that you can always access at least one of them regardless of the scenario. For example, you might carry a tactical folder clipped to the inside of your front pocket on your dominant side, a medium sized fixed blade in an appendix sheath, and a small neck knife on a chain or clipped to the inside of your bra. This would give you a lot of options from various positions.
What are some things women should consider when purchasing a knife?
When it comes to knives, you typically get what you pay for. As a general rule, expect to pay at least $50 for a decent knife. There are some exceptions, but usually anything under that price range isn’t worth your time. Resist the temptation to go for the pretty, “girly” looking knives unless you have really done your homework. You’ll find a lot of these types of knives at the mall kiosks and gun shows. They are usually cheap junk and not worth your time or money. If it’s pretty and cost $12, run away.
There are some really great hideaway knives out there that are great for the ladies, too. For example, there is a company called Booby Trap Bras that makes sports bras with a built-in knife sheath that allows you to carry a small knife while out running or exercising. I have also been helping my friends over at Ace of Blades Apparel to develop a sweatshirt with a built-in, light-weight knife & sheath system. There are solutions to just about every carry concern if you look hard enough. I’m also always happy to answer specific questions from ladies looking to by a knife.
What other training would you recommend to supplement edged weapons skills?
I believe that if you are serious about self-preservation, then you should train in as many areas as possible. Firearms, Impact Weapons, Empty-Hand, Escape and Evasion, etc. You should never limit your training. Make sure you seek out instruction from competent and reputable instructors in those fields.
There seems to be some really quirky “instructors” out there. How do I know who is a reputable person to take training from?
Oh man, where do I begin? The truth is, there are probably more edged weapons instructors out there that you shouldn’t train with than ones you should. Since this field isn’t regulated in any way, you have to rely upon industry recognition, peer recognition, and professional recommendations/endorsements. Is the instructor recognized by leading companies in the field? Is the instructor respected and endorsed by a consensus of reputable peers (i.e. other reputable instructors)? Are there professional organizations (i.e. law enforcement agencies, military units, etc.) that have found value in what the instructor has to offer?
Sometimes you have to go with your gut instinct. Edged weapons training is complex, but it’s not difficult. That may seem contradictory, but the truth is the movements and principles are simple. The complexity comes with the increased ability to apply them. If the instructor has to convince you that what he is teaching works, then it doesn’t.
Do you have any recommendations on simple drills ladies can do at home to keep our skills sharp?
Absolutely! There are a number of solo drills that you can do to practice and hone your skills. One drill is what we call “shadow shanking,” which is similar to shadow boxing. It is a catchy name for practicing your cuts, stabs, footwork, and techniques in the air while visualizing what your opponent is doing. This is a great way to develop your movements.
Another excellent drill that I do all of the time is called “war post training.” Set up a solid wooden post or find a telephone pole or old dead tree and attack it with your blade. Practice cutting, stabbing, moving around it, hitting it with your checking hand (empty hand), etc. This develops your grip strength, power, and accuracy by giving you a solid target to strike against. You can paint lines and circles on it to give you visual targets to hit for even better accuracy training.
Finally, have your boyfriend, husband, or anyone you can use as a training partner (preferably a male who is bigger and stronger) and have them place you in different assault positions so you can practice getting to your knife from those positions. Some examples would be from a rear bear hug, a rear choke, pinned on the ground, arms trapped, etc. This gives you the opportunity to work out how you would get to your knife while helping you determine the best placement for your knives.
Make sure that you use a quality training knife when conducting any kind of training, not your live blade. It’s best if you can find a trainer that matches the knife you carry so that you can get the most out of your training. Most quality knife manufacturers offer aluminum training versions of their most popular knives, and most custom knife makers will make you a trainer to match their live blade if you ask. There are also several companies that make trainers to match popular knife styles.
Where can I find information on a Comprehensive Fighting Systems class?
You can visit my website at www.compfightsys.com to learn about my weekly classes in the Tucson area, as well as upcoming seminars and private training opportunities. There’s also a lot of resources on my website, such as links to articles that I have written on the topic of edged weapons and links to product reviews. You can also find Comprehensive Fighting Systems on Facebook and Instagram if you’re into social media.
I’ve recently begun working on a program that I call Bladed Babes to promote edged weapons training among the ladies. The idea is to educate women through training and provide resources that they will find particularly beneficial to their unique needs as women. This includes specialized product awareness like the Booby Trap Bra I mentioned earlier. I want women to realize that they don’t have to stop being beautiful, or feminine, or sexy to learn knife skills.
Do you ever travel out of state?
Yes. I do travel to conduct seminars at various training venues, which typically include martial arts studios, gun range facilities, and law enforcement training sites. I have a number of packaged courses that I have developed to deliver in seminar format. Anyone interested in hosting one of these courses can contact me through my website.
While the motivation for myself to seek and take training was very apparent to me, some of you might still be unsure how it would benefit you. Let me tell you…there are things that you think you will never need to know, that you may only need to know at one time in your life that could save your life, because you had that knowledge and training. You now have a solid resource to start your own edged weapons journey. If you value your life and your families lives, invest in training.