SURVIVING INSIDE THE KILL ZONE
CQB TRAINING INCLUDES SKILL WORK WITH EDGED WEAPONS
CQB training includes skill work with edged weapons.
In modern society, many people carry a pocketknife. The largest growing segment of the cutlery industry over the past 20 years has been the development of the tactical knife. While the primary usage of such a knife is basic cutting chores such as opening boxes and cutting rope, most users of these knives choose them as a last-ditch self-defense tool if needed.
Edged weapons have always been the primary arms used in close-quarters combat. The basic fundamentals of edged weapon combat have remained unchanged for thousands of years. The introduction of firearms for self-defense and the rise and popularity of unarmed martial arts for sport and self-defense, however, has made many of these principles drop from common usage.
Ernest Emerson, chief executive officer of Harbor City, Calif.-based Emerson Knives, is an accomplished martial artist and one of the pioneers of the tactical folding knife. He is a student of historical hand-to-hand combat and sums up the reality of edged weapons fighting: "The closest thing to an absolute that I can draw from my study of historical individual combat with edged weapons is that every time one man lived, another man had to die."
He offers close-quarter combat courses several times a year at his facility in Southern California as well as other venues on the East Coast and in the Midwest.
The “gym” inside the knife factory functions as a full time jiu-jitsu training gym seven days a week for Gracie Jiu-jitsu, and Royce Gracie himself used it as his training facility for his last rematch with Ken Shamrock in a Bellator Match in 2015.
Train for Sociopaths
Emerson’s training is more than just basic fighting. It is about developing a mindset. He drives this point home by informing his students to train for facing a sociopath.
A sociopath may be a gang member whose crew is moving into position to ambush a victim, or he may be a prisoner attempting an escape on a transport detail, but he is out there and sooner or later you will have to face him. When it becomes apparent that your attacker does not have one iota of respect for you, Emerson teaches the best way to combat this threat is to, “become a sociopath yourself.”
What he means by that can be summed up in four words: “Respond with bad intent.” It is more than just a logo used for Emerson’s Knife Company, but a mantra used by fighters from Mike Tyson to the UFC’S Shane Carwin. “You must throw all of your punches with bad intent and be fully committed to defeating your enemy.”
Responding with bad intent means being fully committed to defeating the attacker, and the most effective way to do that is to know which area of the body to attack.
“Knife sparring or back-and-forth dueling is a sure way to get killed,” Emerson said. “Don’t cross no-man's lands more than once. Knife fighting is confusing to most. It’s not knife fighting; it’s fighting with knives. Never forget that you still possess all of your other weapons – fists feet, knees, elbows, head butts and teeth. Don’t use the knife as your only weapon."
Angles of Attack
Emerson points out that all knife
fighting is based on angles of attack and knowledge of how the human body responds to those attacks. "Defend against the angle of attack, not the technique,” he said. “You cannot react faster than the attacker can act. In order to incapacitate another human being, you have to know how the physical body functions. And the key word is incapacitate, because just causing pain may inconvenience but it will not incapacitate. You have far more to fear from a deadly man than from a deadly weapon. Destroy the man: that is your only goal. You must be willing to do anything needed when a deadly weapon comes into play. You cannot move fast enough to track the weapon. No one can.”
Some of the key areas to target are the eyes, the legs, the throat, armpits and buttocks. If a fighter cannot see he will find it hard to fight. The neck and throat make prime targets as they can cut off oxygen and blood to the brain. The legs and the buttocks provide stability. Attack these areas and the opponent should go to the ground.
These concepts are further explored by bridging the gap with your assailant.
Inside the Kill Zone
Bridging the gap means closing with your attacker and getting “inside the kill zone,” as Emerson calls it. The ideal way to do this in what would never be an ideal situation is to throw your hands up to protect your face and thrust your arms forward and up along with your hips as the attacker moves in. The advantage is that you have just stepped inside his area of effectiveness, making him less effective.
As your hands go up and toward the attacker and you move in, do not think of it as a blocking technique. The outer sides of the arms may offer more protection should the blade strike, but if you are struck, you will be cut. The idea is to get in as close as possible to take the attacker’s advantage of reach away from him.
If the bad guy is armed with a pool cue, stick, pipe or a blunt trauma weapon, there may be less risk associated with grabbing it or attempting a disarm. However, do not ever attempt to directly disarm a charging attacker armed with a blade.
“Any disarms that are successful are opportunity moments,” Emerson said. “Never ‘go for a disarm.’ A disarm happens by chance, only when it presents itself in the middle of combat. If it is there, you take it but never automatically go for it.”
Some instructors claim to teach their students how to take a knife or a pistol away from an attacker in mid attack. It can be done in a controlled environment such as a gym. However, unless you are a martial artist who practices that move constantly for hours a day, for days on end, for many years, with opponents of all sizes and levels of ability, it will not work on the street against someone determined to end your life.
“YOU MUST THROW ALL OF YOUR PUNCHES WITH BAD INTENT AND BE FULLY COMMITTED TO DEFEATING YOUR ENEMY.”
The endcap to every Emerson course is to fight Emerson himself or one of his instructors, all of whom are highly trained fighters and martial artists. As a participant of several of these courses, the author has witnessed a transformation among many of the students from their first step on the mat to the “final battle” segment.
Of course that is not always an easy journey, as some students do not complete the course due to sustained injuries, family emergencies and the like. It is not like the washout rate at BUDS training, but Emerson said he has seen people drop from the class for various reasons, usually one or two students on each day, but it is enough to remind you that this course is not an easy one.
Nineteenth century frontier lawman Wyatt Earp is often credited with giving the following pearl of wisdom when it comes to surviving a gunfight: “Don’t show up for one.” Emerson agrees when it comes to being confronted by a violent attacker.
“Do not stay and fight,” he said. “At the earliest moment, you must escape. To stay and fight is to greatly increase the odds that you will die.”
More than just a martial arts class or tactical training course, a spiritual transformation takes place in the form of mindset. You may not unlock the secrets to the universe or answer man’s search for faith, but you will never look at a self-defense scenario the same way again, be it hand-to-hand, with edged weapons or even using a firearm. TW