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The Mind in the Art of Knife Fighting


Renegade Wing Chun, Todd Taganashi

Knife combat situations are extremely high-stress scenarios. Just the mere sight of a sharp blade in the hands of an individual who is bent on your destruction is enough to cause paralyzing fear in some men. There is no cowardice in fear, but you must not let this fear control you. Through training you develop skills and gain confidence in your technique, and that will help to minimize your fears. But, if you have never faced a hostile opponent’s sharp blade, you can easily underestimate the effect that the element of fear can have on your individual mindset. When engaged in a real world “fight for your life” knife fight, you will undergo certain psychological and physiological changes. As the element of fear sets in you will be overwhelmed by feelings of nervous anxiety and anticipation, your heart will start to beat at an accelerated rate, and you will get an intense adrenaline rush. Depending on your mind set, these variables can set in to play a definitive emotional reaction. This is commonly referred to as the “fight or flight” syndrome.

As a Knife Fighter, you must learn to master the element of fear in combat. The best technique that I know to control your fear while engaged in battle is slow and deliberate breathing. This is a tried-and-true method used by elite martial artist for centuries. In this technique you curl your tongue and press it against the roof of your mouth and breathe through your nose and exhale slowly deeply through the mouth. If you find yourself out of breath or flustered, use the same breathing technique except inhale through and exhale through your mouth making a low almost silent “ahh” sound.

Some will try to tell you that the best method of defense and offense in knife combat is the “Berserker Method”, an all out frenzy of violent aggressive movement. While that might  be an effective method of dealing with a low level or unskilled opponent it could lead to burning yourself out prematurely. Or in worse the case scenario “Going from the frying pan directly into the fire.” Without the skill to back it up most experts will agree your chance of survival is not good. On the other hand at the advanced level which we hope to acquire as a Martial Artist or “Knife Fighter” our goal is to remain calm both physically and mentally.

Although sparring with blunt knives is a good method of training a knife fighter to perfect his combat technique. There are many drawbacks to this as well. The true “fear of death” emotional response cannot be recreated in a friendly sparring match with your training partner. The big problem here is that after continuously practicing “safe sparring” a kind of nonchalant attitude sets in. Since there is no real danger of getting hurt, many martial artist develop this sort of kamikaze attitude towards knife fighting. I have seen knife sparring matches that would have literally been over in the first 3 seconds. Yet the combatants keep on fighting as if they were going to just suck up the pain of that slash across their face or thrust to the stomach. Without getting to graphic the body goes into shock, your vision becomes burry, yu begin to feel week and dizzy. Death is not far away.

So then how does one go about develop the ability to control the mind and fear under such hostile conditions? Do you have to face life or death combat on a daily basis?  My advice is that you learn to control your fear by taking up an extreme sport like mountain climbing, skydiving, or race car driving where controlling your fear is an ever present and crucial element. In this way you can experience real life fear and learn to deal with it in a way that no other set up training scenario could ever accomplish.

After all that is said and done, you will still never know how you will react until you see the flash of steel coming at you from a stranger on a dark stormy night. At that moment you will realize the true importance of “The Mind in the Art of Knife Fighting.”

© Copyright Todd Taganashi 2017