Knife in a Fight: Systema Real Body & Mind Training.February 28, 2013 by Scott Meredith
One day many years ago, a good friend of mine who worked for years as a corrections officer with the most dangerous inmates in a notoriously rough facility, and who knew of my interest in esoteric martial arts, took me aside with a smile and offered to give me "a lesson in how the real world works".
He then demonstrated on me physically a dozen different prison knife killings that he had either observed or cleaned up after. The setup, the attack, the follow-through. Though he was a cheerful guy and it was all done with a smile, it was one of the most horrifying experiences of my life because I had no idea what was happening in any of the attacks. They came out of nowhere, I saw nothing, and all I felt was the total BAD INTENTIONS as his pseudo-blade (just a stick, because to him we were just playing around) impacted me over and over within less than a second.
These attacks were so incredibly sneaky in setup, yet so natural in action that, cheesy as it may sound, I hesitate even to write them up in case somebody picks up on it and does it to somebody for real. From that moment to now, I have had nothing but absolute fear and loathing on the subject of real world knife attacks.
But so what? After all, he was a corrections pro demonstrating a very specialized situation, right? Shank attacks at close quarters in a crowded, more or less locked down venue. No relevance to your life, as you aren't in prison and don't plan on going. But what I took away from it was that people who really know what they're doing, in prison or not, would go at you exactly as he'd shown. So now we get to KNIFE IN A FIGHT (I'll abbreviate it 'KIF' in this article), a new Russian Martial Art training video by Systema master instructor Vladimir Vasiliev.
I've watched many knife defense videos and done lots of edged weapon related training. But nobody hit my hot button, from my experience above, until in the introduction section of KIF, I heard Vladimir say:
"If you see a knife in his hand, lots of people have suggestions - to run away, grab, do something like that. Perfect, that's good - but sometimes the problem is that you didn't see the knife. Then it's already too late. When people start to stab you, it will be too late to run - or maybe you can, but not too far. You need to understand both how the knife came into his hand, and why you didn't see it."
Though I couldn't have articulated it so technically, that's a perfect statement of my feelings after undergoing the demonstration described in my opening. KIF is geared to the most realistic, most difficult, most frightening, most professional scenario. Why couldn't I see the attack? Why was I utterly unable to react?
KIF contains dozens of exercises clearly described, thoroughly and awesomely demonstrated, that will lead the viewer to an understanding of this horrifying topic that is far deeper than any other teaching material I've seen. Everything is laser-focused on how to develop the acute sensitivity that is your first and last defense and really your only salvation in a knife attack carried out with serious intent.
Vladimir's body effortlessly expresses that quality of extreme sensitivity in every one of the demo segments, but rather than hot-dog to impress (though it does), Vladimir always treats the demonstrations as his real-time teaching platform. He makes his crucial training commentary in the action context of unscripted movement. So the core integrated elements of this extremely fast, close, secretive, and subtle work (both attack and defense must be jointly understood to master the topic) are separately teased out for isolated inspection, and then reassembled in later drills.
Systema overall is an integrated method of full body/mind training and KIF reflects that. In my past Systema education, I've done some similar knife defense work in Toronto and Moscow sessions, but always in the broader context of Systema movement and combative principles in general. The beauty of KIF is that all the relevant work is collected in a seamlessly focused whole for the first time. I could go on and on listing the many dozens of KIF's training exercises, but that would miss the forest for the trees. You need to hear Vlad's real time commentary as he simultaneously presents the drills and demonstrates the work. It all adds up to the greatest contribution to the scariest topic in all martial arts, and I'm not kidding - experiencing a knife attack by a committed street-wise attacker is in fact THE scariest scenario that martial arts purports to deal with. KIF is the first program that really delivers. I have no doubt that KIF will end up actually saving people's lives who would otherwise die in such attacks.