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Knife Sparring?
Jerry and Nate Want to Know Why Since Knife Duels are so Unusual
“Question came up while training: why do we spar with knives if mutual combat with them is so rare.”
-Jerry and Nate

Jerry, this is a good question.
The short answer is you don't want to spar full speed with sticks or fists often because it hurts too much. That paper knife is not going to crack your ulna or radial bone.
It also applies to why do we wrestle, why box, why stick-practice, when survival combat is probably going to be asymmetrical. In any given empty hand encounter one person should strike and the other grapple, yet we practice symmetrically to box or wrestle. We have specific developmental goals, beginning with general principals and sliding specific to the knife.
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Empathy
Developing the ability to use the weapon or method as offensive and deffensive at the same time grants you method empathy with your opponent. If you are using the knife to stab your partner while he is doing the same with you, it will enable you get to work on being stabbed and not being stabbed at the same time in a way that is not staged but spontaneous on the mechanical level of the stroke and beat. So, not only do you get three levels of prep: offensive, defense and integration at once, you get micro-scenario conditioning. For this reason, when you score an inward cut on Nate, try it again so that he can develop his counter.
With disparity of force being the crux issue to surviving legally against the machine once we have defended ourselves, you will have some situations where you can use a knife and some where you cannot. Some situations may put you in threat by a knife and the ability to deal with a partner in a sparring setting as his hectic mirror image will develop your potential for empathy with unarmed men you might have to drive from your house with a knife and with the man that my rob you with a knife.
Realism
Drilling knife defense methods, because of our mutual desire to make it work, missuses our sympathy for each other and we tend to—within 30 seconds—alter our attacker behavior to help the partner succeed. All knife defense drills are bullshit at this level, unless we want to get hurt...
Safety
When we have rejected sparring and sympathetic drills and we have the “bad guy” go for it, we have suffered injury as the intensity is all the way up. To prevent scenario training injury, we can help the defender make it work and warp it that way or we could spar and give each partner a constant option of defending in free form. This helps with spontanaity and cuts down on injuries at the same time.
The other thing is, we progress so much faster using the weapon than defending empty handed against it, realistic full speed attack drills shut down defense in one session, making every scenario a virtual mock slaughter—until someone gets hurt. Then, if you back off and lunge in stupidly to play the role of a less skilled-attacker, you can get hurt—and I have. Sparring is a lot safer than full speed drills for both parties. The other reason why we do knife fighting as the only full speed sparring set is it is the safest to train and represents the nastiest possible situation—two jerks with knives. Also, the knife as a weapon has no more range than the fist, the grabbing hand, a bottle, a brick and other common hand tools that might be employed by or against you.
Tactile Sensitivity
The worst thing that can happen to you in a street encounter is to get stabbed—even worse than getting shot as shooting victims die less often than stabbing victims because you are still right there getting stabbed again and his stab has not alerted the police like a gunshot. Being close enough to touch your partner and trying to avoid being touched is a great skill. Touch sparring without knives is useful in this to, just practice touching with the finger tips and not being touched. However, you will get finger injuries. The knife training with a collapsible blade is safer than full speed touch sparring or playing tag and develops the same sense of proximate time and measure. Stick sparring is the skill we use to develop the ability to use the stick, defend against it and also to vacate knife range, which is another sphere of tactile sensitivity or Time and Measure that overlaps with the knife range. Safety comes in here, too, as you learn how to move and avoid contact and make contact at boxing range without getting punched in the nose.
The unique aspect of knife dueling, as opposed to boxing, kick-boxing, stick-fighting and grappling, is that you cannot use the knife to defend against the knife. If I punch at your face, you can raise your hand and safe your nose. If I stab at your face and you raise your hand, I transfix your hand and then draw the blade out causing a possibly lethal exsanguination channel. if I swing a bat at your head you could raise your umbrella and block it. But if I slash at your throat with a knife, no other knife is long enough to block my short blade—it is like shooting an arrow with an arrow. You have to move in a knife fight, which will help you in any survival situation, especially when outnumbered.
Yesterday, a man in your area, with BJJ experience, and wearing a handgun, was beaten down by four Bantus in his driveway, the BJJ useless and his gun a ticket to prison which he opted not to use, taking the beating rather than being the next Z-man.
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Jerry, for many reasons, the knife is the unique penultimate training tool in a sparring situation which does minimal damage in training compared to other weapons ,while representing the worst possible weapon encounter in real situations and generalizing the best to anti-grappling and anti-punching situations. If I can stab you I can grab you and/or punch you. Knife sparring teaches you how to avoid strokes with hands and weapons smaller than the forearm as well as avoiding the lead hand grab, which is one of the most common forms of initial aggression in a clothed society.
Think of knife sparring as a bridge between stick-fighting, boxing and grappling in terms of time and measure, without the heavier impact. The point of it is to log hundreds of hours trying to touch each other without getting touched. Such arts as boxing and grappling and stick-fighting accept contact. The grappler lets himself be grabbed. The boxer is trained to trade punches as is the stick fighter strokes. There is no sense to trading slashes with blades. Keeping that in mind as your sparring guide, that the goal is to cut or stab and not be cut or stabbed, will prepare you better for dealing with a syringe or broken bottle in the hands of some tweaker, than any martial art out there.
Good luck.
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