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Departments : Officer Survival

Learning the Finer Points of Attack Response

Defend yourself against knife threats using an offensive approach.

August 01, 1996  |  by Sgt. Kenneth Burner

Defend yourself against knife threats using an offensive approach.

You respond to a domestic violence call and you and your partner find yourselves in the living room of a small two-story house. The residence is located in a typical middle-class neighborhood. By the toys and other objects around the floor of the room, you know there are children liv­ing in the house. Although they are not visible, it is possible they are in an upstairs bedroom asleep. Your partner takes the woman into the kitchen, and you begin talking to the husband, who appears calm. Suddenly, he produces a knife and holds the point under your chin. He grabs your uniform shirt with his other hand and screams, "Move and I'll kill you."

This is one of several scenarios presented by John P. Kary of Ameri­can Combatives Inc. to prepare for a demon­stration of responses to high-level threats. The demonstration was organized for the newly formed West Virginia State Police tactical team to offer alternative responses to high-level threats (lethal or poten­tially lethal) that average officers might encounter in the day-to-day perfor­mance of their duties.

The solution to the above scenario, as pre­sented by Kary, demon­strates the principals of World War II era combatives as opposed to tradi­tional martial arts. Kary 's basic tech­niques are the same as those developed by Capt W. E. Fairbairn and Capt E. A. Sykes during their tenure with the Shanghai Municipal Police Force in the 1920s and '30s. The system is based on gross body movements,enabling someone who is attacked to perform under stress.

Kary enhanced the system by organiz­ing Fairbairn's strikes, as well as adding a few techniques of his own.

A former Marine and Vietnam War veteran, Kary served in Southeast Asia where he received the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry for his actions in close-quarter battle. He is currently National Director of the Gung Ho Chuan Association, which is an organi­zation of Marines and former Marines dedicated to World War II era close ­quarter combat training.

His training program differs from more traditional instruction in that its focus is offensive rather than defen­sive. For example, when a weapon is involved, the goal is to get beyond the muzzle of the firearm or the blade of the knife and attack the attacker. This offensive approach prevents a grap­pling situation over a weapon and instead diverts the attacker's attention to his own survival.

The Offensive Approach

The following technique will help you disarm an assailant who threatens you from the front with a knife under your chin.

Photo 1: Bring both hands up in between the assailant's arms. no higher than chest level.

Photo 2: Force the blade sideways by moving your arms outward. trapping the assailant's arm at the wrist or fore­arm area. Simultaneously jerk your head back, bend your knees and arch your back to avoid the blade's tip.

Photo 3: Push off with your left foot on the same side as your trapping, or left hand. As you grab the suspect's wrist with your left hand, push down while stepping for­ward in between the assailant's legs, smashing his face with your free hand. (A face smash is an open-handed strike that uses the open hand in a position very similar to holding a shot put. The action of the strike is performed by snapping the hand forward into the face. It is not a pushing motion, but snaps from the elbow.)

Photo 4: After executing several face smashes, apply vertical "ax" strikes with your hands alternating to the assailant's biceps and neck, causing him to release the knife. (An ax strike is a chopping motion perfOll1led with a snap. Hold your fingers fully extended and together, but not too rigidly. The thumb is held away from the hand in a semi-relaxed position.) The power of the ax strike comes from its speed and the body weight behind it.

Photo 5: After the assailant drops the knife, use your free hand to reach across and grip his trapped arm at the elbow joint.

Photo 6: Pull the assailant's elbow toward your chest, pushing your hand up the assailant's back as you spin him around into a handcuffing position.

Photo 7: Force the assailant's face down to the ground by placing your foot on the back of his knee and applying pressure forward and down. (Be careful with your part­ner's knee during training.)

Student Success

The real proof of a self-defense technique's effectiveness is not how well the instructor performs the technique, but how easily the tech­nique is taught to and retained by the average student.

As with any training method, competency lies in the application and retention of the technique. Your movements must be both fluid and quick. When practicing, begin slow, concentrating on hand placement and facial strikes.

Kary's method was tested during recent tactical training at the West Virginia State Police Academy by a class of city and county officers. It was also tested on a 17-year-old judo student. On both occa­sions, people of average ability learned the technique in less then 3 minutes.

 Perhaps the best person to testify to the program's effectiveness, how­ever, is Staff Sgt. Tom Smith, a for­mer Marine who was assigned to the Scout/Sniper Marine Corps Reserve Unit located on Long Island. Smith trained at American Combatives for six months, attend­ing classes twice a week. An inter-­service transfer to the Navy caused him to discontinue training. A few years passed, and Smith found him­self in SEAL training in California. During hand-to-hand combat train­ing, the instructor asked Smith if he had any prior training, to which he responded, "a little." The instructor then demonstrated a roundhouse punch that was to be countered. Smith immediately reverted to the cover-up technique he had learned at American Combatives. He pro­tected himself with face smashes and knee strikes to the instructor's groin, culminating in a face smash takedown. The instructor got up and said, "Thought you said you only had a little training!" Smith did not hesitate in responding to the attack.

Obviously, the techniques in this system are only appropriate for high­ level threat scenarios, and are certainly not to be used for low to mid-level resistance. They will however, see you through life-and-death situations.

First Sgt. Kenneth Burner is a certified defensive tactics instructor for the stale of West Virginia.

For additional information, contact American Combatives Inc. at:

Two Taft Place,

Albertson, NY 11507 Telephone: (516) 877-7878

This article is for supplemental information purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional training under a qual­ified instructor. The author, POLICE and/or American Combatives Inc. accept no liability whatsoever for injuries to persons or property resulting from the information pre­sented or implied in this article.


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