Knife in Combat, Part 2

by Stephen LaBounty

Okay, now that you have a basic idea of how I view the use of an edged weapon, let’s go into some more facts and ideas to get your mind right for this event we never want to happen.

You will note I haven’t really touched on the “defense” against a knife. The reason for this has multiple layers. First, the use of an edged weapon is empowering, falsely so most of the time, but still gives the wielder the feeling of power. Second, most persons believe they have a ‘knife’ defense intact via their own particular style, seminars they’ve attended, or lessons they’ve taken on occasion. That’s fine and can work, so I’ll keep most of my thoughts toward the use of the edged weapon.

When someone approaches me regarding learning how to use the knife I first ask if they are interested in a serious, prolonged study of the blade that would result in some sort of advancement. Most say yes, and then I tell them that I am not qualified to teach an entire program in the blade arts, and then recommend them to either the weapons Guru of the LaBounty family, Paul Silva, or if that is not possible, a variety of “Blade/Stick only” teachers. I have trained in most of the Filipino, and some of the Indonesian arts, at some time or another and still do when the teachers are available, but not to the receiving any more than a beginner rank.

When they say no, then I am able to show them how I use and defend against the blade and teach law enforcement officers and civilians who have no desire to study a structured system. This is true of Martial Artists as well who are working to increase their abilities in their system but want some knowledge of knife craft.

So I then give them the following lecture.
1) Our society has become more aggressive and violent, so we need to be better trained, more alert and ready for anything.
2) Ignore the drop in the murder rate. Medical science is preserving life on a higher-than-average rate than even five years ago. What one needs to look at is the aggravated assault rate, especially with weapons. These rates on police and civilians are exploding and are causing the prison population to expand four-fold.
3) The capacity of the American criminal to hurt, maim, kill has increased with the rise of drug use, alcohol abuse, and a variety of social problems.
4) Law Enforcement fatalities are on the rise as a whole. In one study by California Peace Officers Standards and Training, edged weapon assaults alone on Peace Officers was up by 62%.

So now the person has an idea what they will be possibly facing in an edged weapon assault, and how important the training I’m about to give them must be adhered to. Here, in very brief form is the beginning set of principles:

Stress Management:
In the beat of the heart, you can be faced with a situation that can render you helpless and even paralyzed. Imagine the psychological horror of being slashed, having the meat on your arm hacked and dangling, with incredibly debilitating pain, and the knowledge that the assailant is not through with his attack. Though this may have not in fact actually happened, it is the stress inducing scenario that begins the downfall of a possible success for you, and will have you reaching for “knife defense A” on some list somewhere. It is only through real time training, with real time tempo and assaults that you will ingrain your responses. Sterile and static training does have its place and is necessary, but any blade, or weapon for that matter, must raise the heart rate and get you as close to gross motor movement as possible. Through this type of dynamic training will your confidence be raised and the reaction time increased.

Survival Skills:
Ideally, your survival skills should be kept simple as possible. The technique should not be too complex, hence if you are not training in a structured blade art, don’t attempt disarms, ejections, captures and reversals. Once you’ve reached a level of competence, you can add those later. Basically, we are concerned with the response time of your technique, and that it is, in fact, a proper one for the situation. But even with that, we mustn’t assume that which works in practice will work in the field.

Dynamic Training Drills:
Now we begin to develop all those confidence building, practical and resourceful drills that become of our movement with or without stress. First off, what type of equipment will you be using? What is the proper grip(s)? What about footwork, stances, the off hand? What angles will be of most use? Pain management after being hit? How do we cover and then counter? What about the feet and hands of the attacker, how do I watch all of that? So then, the “real time” instruction begins. The student is given the suggestions to all of the above (and then some) and put through a series of slow motion walk through using different “what ifs?” All the mistakes are recorded and redone until a confidence is noted. Coaching points are reinforced and the student required to self correct to soft wire these points to the central nervous system for rapid muscle/motor response.

Next, the development of reactionary motor skills, done in slow motion still, where the student will have to react to this deadly force attack by his opponent. A variety of problems arise, deployment of his weapon, management of balance, defense and environment, but also the fact this person is kicking, punching, slashing and stabbing. This must be done statically and with speed as a non-issue. This student now begins to see the many forms of deadly force from a person not as well trained as he or she, but lethal none the less. In this scene, winning or losing isn’t the goal, proper technique and response is.

Next time: I’ll sum up the program and give you my recommendations on equipment and it’s care and use.

Knife in Combat

by Stephen LaBounty

I have been asked several times to comment on the use of a knife in combat, So here goes.

Both defensive and offense postures exist in a situation that utilizes an edged weapon, and yes, “edged weapon” is the proper term because it denotes both the cutting and the stabbing instrument.

As a police officer, I came upon many edged weapon assaults after the fact. Most were criminal assaults, but a few were defensive in nature, the victim using the nearest tool to fend off an attack that he/she believed would have resulted in great bodily injury. I have also seen several assaults in progress, one culminating in the death of the victim. It was in a jail house setting and was the result of one person carrying out the orders of a particular gang that he was a candidate for.

I remember that as the fight unfolded before me, I thought it would be mostly punches and posturing, and then the staff intervenes and everyone saves face. But when I saw the homemade shank (which is the most dangerous weapon statistically, due to its stabbing-only nature), I admit to being completely surprised. I hesitated long enough for the assailant to stab his victim at least five or six times. The delay of my partner and I was a human reaction to actual forebrain (animal instinct solely) and intimately brutal aggression on another human being at a very close, interpersonal range. During the after-action hearing, where we were interviewed in regards to the killing, one of the investigators point blank asked me this question: “Who did the search of this person?” (not our arrest in the first place) and “You could’ve stopped it early on, couldn’t you?” No, was my answer and we did stop it, but too late.

The other two were a bar fight and a fight at a New Year’s party. In those scenarios I acted much quicker and the damage to the victims (who began the incident) was minimal. Now that I have hopefully brought you into an edged weapon scenario frame of mind, I wish to posit some facts.

First, with the proper conditioning and in the proper circumstances, almost anyone can kill another. However, it is against our nature to actually “stab” someone to death. Therefore, it would be safe to say that in order to do so, one must be in great fear, or great insanity, causing the loss of the thinking and rational brain, and embracing the animal instinctive “de-humanizing” of the intended victim.

Second, from my experience most martial artists work in a static and sterile environment, and though they practice movement they are not exposed to the actual “feel”, “smell” and “screams” of the person being stabbed. Yes, there is a definite smell, and the screams, plus the bulging eyes trying to move away from what is perceived as imminent, and sometimes actual, death.

Third, as we practice, not using training tools to feel the stab or the slash as the knife in our hand makes contact, many get a sense of great power often to a point of being indestructible, which is delusional at best. The psychological toll of seeing flesh ripped (maybe your own) is rarely considered. In any edged weapon encounter, regardless of your weapon, or lack of one, you will fight alone, maybe for a short period until you actually begin to dominate the situation but it will be just you and he/them. Realize there will be blood and it may be yours. There will be pain, and you might feel it. And without a doubt, there will be great fear, and it will paralyze you, eventually.

I remember once getting a call of an assault with a knife. When I came upon the victim who was cut, I thought he was in the throes of an epileptic seizure due to his uncontrollable shaking. He was in such great fear that he lost all sense of control and had to be sedated at the ER. To this day I remember the look of sheer panic in his eyes, the paleness of his skin, and though safe at that moment, he was still thinking he was to die. It probably hasn’t left him yet.

Until you look in the eyes of the person you are about to mix it up with; until you’ve heard the cries of the wounded or dying; until you can bring yourself to put down someone who is exactly like you; until you have worked that out in your mind, soul and heart, lay the knife down for a while. If you cannot, then practice by all means. But speak to the Cops, Paramedics, ER nurses, Physicians and get your mind set in order. I love the blade, but know there is a lot more to wielding it than talk, posturing, and open-ended motor skills.

Meeting the Grand Senior Master

It was sometime in 1962. After class, Al and Jim Tracy were talking about going to see their teacher Ed Parker at a tournament at San Francisco State. The host of the tourney was Nishiyama Sensei and Mr. & Mrs. Parker were to be in attendance. I believe that the Senior Grand Master was there to observe how the tournament was run, in anticipation of organizing his first International Karate Championships the following year.

Classmates Ray Burton, Bob Gobbi and I went to the gym, watched our very first Karate tournament, and more importantly, got our very first opportunity to see Ed Parker, author of the book “Kenpo Karate” and “Secrets of Chinese Karate,” and the shadowy master of our teachers.

The first thing I remember about SGM was his presence. He had control of the gymnasium (from my perspective anyway), was young, fit, and looked ready for anything. Mrs. Parker was beautiful, sort of a cross between movie stars Dorothy Lamour and Hedy Lamar, and held her own in the crowd. I remember that though she gave way to her husband when the martial arts were being discussed, she wasn’t shy about giving her opinion on other subjects.

I had three black tips on my belt and felt like the proverbial star gazer wearing a bowling shirt that said “Joe Lunchpail,” but I wanted to shake his hand and introduce myself. I finally did as he made his way to the bathroom. I actually planned my ambush half an hour earlier and the plan worked. “Ed!” I said, “I’m Steve LaBounty, a student of Steve Fox’s and the Tracy brothers.” His reply, accompanied by a big smile, was simply “Hey [you have to put a Hawaiian/pidgin accent to that word], I’m Ed Pawkah, good to meet ya.”

For me, and for most, those words began a lifelong search for the next move, form, book, movie and so on. He launched many famous martial artists’ careers through the IKC, and gave them a stage to be seen, to perform, to learn, and to excel. He gave us a system that is subject to it’s own principles; Prefix, suffix, delete, add, insert, re-arrange, etc. This system, like any great body of work, is influenced by societal changes, human understanding and development and our desire to create. This was built into his system, it had to be.

I am still his devoted student and could not have such a site without him. This site is dedicated to his memory and brilliance, but mostly to his teaching, from which I am still learning even to this day.

From “Ed” to “Senior Grand Master,” his smile and his friendship and mastery continues to inspire and evoke and I am thankful for it.

My First Sparring

“So, stand like this, punch with your front hand, kick with your front leg, and don’t turn towards your opponent or he’ll kick you in the groin.” This ominous warning fell upon compliant ears, since I was a young, unmarried man who thought having a family some day would be a good thing.

If you can envision us, having the hand position of the Universal block, standing in a side horse and using only the front side, you might have a chuckle. But after a time, we were allowed to bring the back leg and hand around to add to our repertoire of weapons, though the power was a bit suspect.

Having been taken to the local Y.M.C.A. as a youngster, and being enrolled in the boxing program, I had a big problem with putting my right hand back, seemingly behind my back. But the boxing program didn’t allow for groin kicks or punches, well, not visibly anyway, so I heeded the warning from my classmates.

One night at sparring, after a poorly executed front leg wheel kick, which was slapped off to the side, rather easily if the truth be told, by my classmate Paul Olivas, I made a discovery. With my back turned to the much faster opponent, I landed on my kicking leg, rapidly looked over my opposite shoulder and shot a rear kick in Paul’s direction, which caught him mid-belly with a thump. I thought I had just invented a secret and deadly weapon that would bring me much acclaim. Now, after many years of being kicked with the same kick many times, and finding out to my great dismay that the kick had been around about one thousand years, I retreated into obscurity with my kick between my legs.

Al Tracy wanted us to improve our sparring. He didn’t feel it was up to the type of fighting he had been raised on in Pasadena. We had a visitor from Southern California named Dion Steckler (forgive spelling if incorrect) Dion was a Brown Belt under the SGM and came up to fight us. There we learned the rear leg wheel kick, side kick, spin kick, scoop kick (at a time when most wore no protection), and subsequent hand follow-ups off these kicks. We learned a series of blocks with the fighting lesson: the face block, testicle block, caved-in rib cage block, bent-shins sweep, and so on. But, our teachers told us the best way to get good is fight someone better than your self.

Then Al Tracy arranged a workout with a local Kyokushinkai and Ju-Jutsu teacher named Duke Moore who had a school on Market Street in San Francisco. Ah! our first encounter with another style. We were ready to defend the system and unleash our new-found prowess. Problem was, the Japanese Karateka felt the same way and had one direction: forward and with great speed and power. They also mostly used front kick, reverse punch and, once in close, swept. Having come from a Judo background, I could handle the sweeps. But it was at that time I abandoned the side horse, universal-block stance. I raised my hands and jabbed and crossed every time they moved. My rib cage was stoved in and black and blue for several weeks, but I learned a valuable lesson in the martial arts. NEVER think you have the “secret” stuff. It doesn’t exist.

I look at the tremendous talent out there today, fighters, forms persons, weapons persons and so on. We’ve come a long way since ’62 but it was in the “iron mill” of that time that my spirit was developed. Nowadays, the practitioners have added athleticism and multiple strikes. If they seek out the “iron worker” teachers, they will be some of the most well-developed and formidable warriors out there. Some are already there and are raising up a new breed of men and women Kenpoists. I’m just thankful I can see it all happening…

Explanation of the Crest

First, the three lines of the patch represent the various stages of learning and progressing. The first is the embryonic stage, the very raw beginning where the students first steps within the art are realized. The second is the mechanical stage, where the art is performed as it was learned, by rote and the reaction of this stage is much the same. Higher than the embryonic, but not quite at the next level. The third level is the sophisticated. While this does not denote mastery, it does have the comfort of understanding the project before the student, and the fact that this is but a journey to mastery.

Secondly, the broken circle. Similar to a Mandala, a symbol that represents the birth and rebirth of all things, this circle is important to the student for here lies the mastery of the art. Knowing the beginning again, but with sophistication and spiritual awareness and waiting for his/her rebirth in the art.

The colors represent the levels that the student attains while in the art and it becomes part of their life as well. The Reddish brown of the bottom part is the earth and fire of the beginning student. Raw and forged with many strokes of the teachers hammer. Impetuous and anxious, full of wild energy with no form.

As the student progresses, the blue adds the softness and flexibility to the art that is needed to understand the components of battle.

Passing the symbol of mastery, the color blue becomes dominant as the student reaches the ‘heavenly’ mind of the warrior. Once here, he/she is ready for rebirth now understanding that there is no end, that the circle never closes, it only provides new and fresh students to continue it’s existence.

Health & Training

As an herbalist, practitioner of acupressure and other forms of health and healing, I will give you my opinion on what has worked for me and for others.

Also, I will give you the latest nutritional news that I have gleaned from my own experience, articles and seminars, and conversations with physicians, chiropractors, physical therapists, and other healers.

Disclaimer: I am NOT a credentialed health care provider, this section is intended to share only my and others’ personal experiences. DO NOT rely on this information to treat yourself for any illness or health issue, consult your personal physician or health care provider.

Functional Filipino Swords












I am offering a new sword in my Merchandise section: The Captain’s Sword, by the Canute Family. Take a look; it’s a terrific blade.
I am also now offering a line of functional Filipino Swords. These are actually handmade in the Philippines, and are considered a “hot item” by the vendor, meaning they are selling very well. I’ve had to wait several weeks to get the few I have, but am assured by CAS Iberia that the backlog will soon disappear. For now I will only carry the Kris, Bolo and Barong. Later I may add some short daggers. These are beautiful pieces with Kamagong, Molave, and Ingim woods for handles and scabbards.In the near future, I will be selling folding knives by Benchmade, Buck/Tarani/Strider, Boker, Columbia River, Spyderco and if available, Emerson. I have most of these in stock but need a couple of back up pieces so the wait is cut down. If you have a knife in mind contact me before you buy, I can order most major brands.


A word on Japanese Katanas:
Due to the popular movies “Last Samurai”, “Kill Bill I & II”, the Hanwei Katanas have been severely backordered. I’ve been told this week that stock is starting to appear, though if I put an order in it will still be about 2 weeks to get here. By mid-summer, the back order will be eliminated and the supply will be good.Many will be happy to know I’ve finally got my Seminars page updated. I hope to see many of you this summer!In spirit..