Rob, Charlie and I attended a series of two knife defense seminars in Brisbane run by Steffen Messerschmidt who is a Phillipino martial
artist from IKAEF- international kali eskrima and arnis federation. Stefan
is also a jujutsu and Jeet Kune do instructor with lots of other
experience. Stefan runs a natural medicine practice on the southside.
Stefan was a plain talking friendly instructor with extremely fluid
movement showing a hint of what lies beneath ;)
Stefan began the seminar with a few home truths about knife self defence.
1/ the best knife fighter in the world will get cut no matter how
inexperienced his opponent is
2/ if you see a knife and you have a chance to get away then do so...do not
3/ If you have to hand over your wallet to avoid an attack ..do so, money
is replacable your life is not.
The knife techniques evolved from the philipines where this was the
prefered method of combat and hence fighting systems evolved in a survival
of the fittest manner,similar to the samurai arts of japan. The key
difference between the aikido knife techniques and philiphino is that since
little armour worn outside of feudal japan, attacks no longer need to be
committed armour piercing strikes but can be light, fast slashes that
gradually defeat the opponent throgh limb paralysis adn bleeding.
In order to learn knife defense you need to learn to be a knife fighter and
so the seminar began with attacking drills prior to learning to defend with
a knife and finally then open hand knife defence and disarming. All of the
drills are done with a partner and flow continually so that the attacker
after awhile becomes defender and then becomes the attacker again - 'the
flow' is emphasised and the drills are a lot of fun.
Aikido hanmi is very similar to the knife defence/fighting stance except
that the wrists face the attacker so as to present no major arteries or
tendons as targets.
Knife taking techniques emphase taking balance, using the attackers knife
against them to 'encourage' them to let go, and avoidance of handling the
knife yourself so as to leave no finger prints on the knife. Also during
knife taking you will get cut! Knife grips heaven(conventional) and earth
(icepick) were practiced systametically and a variety of practice knives
were available to practice with. Stefan favours blunt steel practice knives
(with handles) as it increases awareness of when you are touching the blade
and they get you use to the feel and visual impact of real knives.
The disarms are built on taking the 'mouse' - the fleshy part of the palm
beneath the thumb (the 'tail') with your fingers and using the elbow down
to tegatana part of your other arm to move/break the thumb to effect the
disarm. The setup up for these disarms was similar (if not identical) to
gokyo, kotegaeshi and reverse sankyo.
Again at the seminar it was encouraging to see that the framework of aiki
was a good basis for learning about the knife. Whilst there are difference
in footwork and what hand goes where and at what time, its easily adapted
to and aikido principles of blending and flowing are useful as well.
For all you aiki-bikers out there it was encouraging/sobering to see
Stefan practing his art in the abscence of an elbow joint (from a biking
incident) wearing an impressive looking brace.
At the beginning of the knife defence seminar, I thought it was more like boxing than aikido, in that the moves were very decisive and there were standard defence moves that were adapted to different situations (remembering that as it was a seminar, we didn't get to see all the art offered). And for us participants, our defence was quite stilted. However, watching Stefan, it was easy to see how the principles of aikido are in every art. He was at every moment "relaxed completely", while our defences where very 'thinking' and stiff, his were soft, and while I never once heard him say "move from the one point and extend ki", it was exactly what he was doing, and he had some very nice unbendable arm defences. As Danny mentioned earlier, we were in our comfort zone when it came to the disarming techniques, with only small variations to koteroshi, sankyo and nikyo.
The major differences were (in my opinion) due to the extra length that the knife gives the arm. i.e. the irimi movements were not as close as that which occurs in aikido. I also had some problems with the (icepick) yokomonuchi type strike, where I automatically went to put on the ikkyo wristlock, whereby Stefan, actually wanted something else.
I too thought the seminar was very good. Stefan was a very nice and open instructor. I was really surprised when at the end of the day he reran through all that we had learnt, and it was heaps!!!
NOTE; Charlie and I had to be seperated for practicing a little to vigorously during the seminar