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Scott Shaw Knife
Taekwondo: Defending Against Weapons

By Scott Shaw

At the heart of Taekwondo is an exacting system of self-defense. Throughout the evolution of this art, the practicalities of self-defense have been continually refined and redesigned in order to make the Taekwondo practitioner more competent and confident in whatever type of physical altercation he may encounter.

Taekwondo is a linear, hard-style, system of self-defense. This is to say that all of its techniques are designed around the principle of directly encountering any form of assault.

Linear combat does not mean that there are not circular movements in Taekwondo. It simply dictates that every technique, both offensive and defensive, is designed to encounter an attacker in the most direct and efficient manner possible. Whereas the Korean art of Hapkido uses deflection of an opponent’s energy as its primary method of self-defense, Taekwondo, on the other hand, uses forceful blocks, powerful strikes, and immediate counter attacks as its primary methodology of self-defense. Thereby, making it a hard-style system of self-defense.

Weapon Defense
With the growing proliferation of violent crime in our streets, and the use of the weapons that are often times directly linked to these crimes, the Taekwondo practitioner must learn to effectively defend him or herself against the onslaught of a weapons attack. The Taekwondo practitioner understands that the key element of weapon self-defense is to discard any technique that is too elaborate to be truly effective on the streets. To this end, though it is true that in Taekwondo dojangs and in Taekwondo demonstrations, weapon self-defense techniques are often times very elaborate and visually interesting to watch. It is understood, however, that these exaggerated techniques possess little effectiveness when actually attempting to defend against a weapon-wielding opponent on the street. With this understanding as a basis, the ever-advancing Taekwondo practitioner focuses his or her training upon weapon self-defense techniques that have been proven to be effective on the street.

The issue of guns is often the first question brought up in self-defense. Guns are no doubt the most dangerous of all weapons now commonly found on the street. If your attacker possesses a gun, and is at any distance from you, the best thing you can do is run. For the speed a bullet travels, and the likelihood of it having the ability to fatally injure you, is too great a risk to ever take a chance against an adversary who is truly willing to use his weapon.

When the opponent possesses a gun and is in close proximity to your body, however, there are certain basic self-defense techniques that can be used to protect yourself. Remember, the squeezing of a trigger is so fast and so deadly, you must be sure your life is ultimately in danger and the assailant is not simply after your money or jewelry, which is replaceable, before you put any self-defense into action.

The quickest and simplest way to defend against a gun from a frontal attack, in close proximity to your body, is to simply rapidly deflect it with an in-to-out forearm block and then quickly strike the opponent with a devastating blow such as a palm strike under his nose. By defending against the gun in this fashion, even if the trigger is pulled, your deflection will have been rapid enough to cause the bullet fly off into the air.

This type of simplistic gun defense and immediate following through with a powerful counter strike is effective if the assailant is closely in front of you or if he holds a gun directly to your back, from the rear. In each case you know the exact location of the weapon, and thus, this defense can be effective.

The Knife
The knife, as a common weapon on the streets, has long been documented. Every martial art style has devised its own individual methods to deal with the knife’s oncoming blade. The various styles of martial arts, including Taekwondo, have devised elaborate methods for you to move in rapidly and catch the arm of your opponent before he launches an attack at you. Attempting to intercept a knife, however, is not an effective method of self-defense for three reasons. First of all, the arm of an opponent generally moves too fast for you to be sure that in any instant you will have the ability to reach in and catch it with the hopes of then performing some elaborate self-defense technique and ultimately disarming your attacker. Secondarily, do not believe that the avid street fighter does not have the ability to see your hands moving in towards him in order to catch his arm. In fact, if you do attempt to grab his arm, all he has to do is slightly move. With this, your grab will have missed and you will have left yourself prone to being attacked by the knife. The third problem with attempting to catch your opponent’s knife holding arm is, even if you can accomplish this feat, he will not remain in one position allowing you to control him and perform whatever type of self-defense technique you have planned. Inevitability, he will simply shift the knife in his hand and cut you. Though this cut may inflict less damage than the straight-ahead assault of his knife, none-the-less, getting cut is not to your advantage.

It is also not a good idea to rapidly move in towards your knife-wielding opponent with the hope of defeating him with a powerful punch or kick. Many Taekwondo stylists can kick a hanging bag with extreme power. They believe this power is all they need on the street. They are wrong. To an opponent who possesses a knife, any movement that you make, as stylized as it may be, allows him the ability to stab you as you move in towards him.

Knowing the prerequisites of what not to do, the advancing practitioner of Taekwondo then learns what style of techniques are actually beneficial in defense against the knife. This is where true weapon self-defense training begins.

The Forward Attack
If you should encounter a forward stabbing knife attack head-on, your primary form of self-defense should be avoidance. No matter what form of counter attack you choose to launch once the oncoming blade has been moved away from its path towards your body, it must be avoided first before any further maneuvering can successfully be accomplished.

The assailant whom possesses a knife inevitably will attempt to stab you with it. Whether or not he moves it around in an effort to confuse you, as is often the case in street combat, is irrelevant, for sooner or later the blade will be launched at you.

Conscious Avoidance
At the heart of Taekwondo’s self-defense is, “Conscious Avoidance.” Taekwondo theory of Conscious Avoidance witnesses you move in a pattern that does not allow an attacking opponent to gain or maintain control over the conflict. This is to say that the Taekwondo practitioner never allows himself or herself to be dominated by the aggressive movements of their adversary. Instead, the moment an altercation has begun, the Taekwondo practitioner immediately begins to take control over the confrontation by subtly controlling the attacking motion of the aggressor by taking no defensive action at all. If the attacker advances in an aggressive forward posture, simple step back. If they lunge in towards you, simple side-step the attack. With this form of initial self-defense, no forceful block is necessary and the weapon-wielding opponent will expend all of his energy. Where their attack has missed is the moment when the Taekwondo practitioner then launches into a powerful counter attack.

Counter Attack
The primary advanced Taekwondo knife avoidance technique, used for a stabbing assault, is to rapidly side-step the forward thrust of the knife and then immediately counter attack with a powerful offensive technique such as a palm strike to the nose or a front kick to the knee. This counter attack must be made immediately, or your opponent will have the time necessary to deliver a secondary attack with his knife.

The Slashing Attack
The second form of attack a knife-wielding opponent commonly utilizes, is the side-to-side slashing attack. For this style of knife attack, avoidance is also a useful tool.

An effective knife deflection technique against a side-to-side slashing attack witnesses you slightly stepping back, allowing the slashing knife to pass by you. At this point, you must immediately take control of your opponent’s knife holding arm. To do this, you must rapidly close in on him and shove his arm tightly into his body by taking control over his outer elbow. Then, you must immediately launch a powerful yet simple counter strike, such as a circle hand to his throat.

In all knife avoidance techniques it is important that you never grab your opponent’s hand or arm in such a manner that it will allow your opponent to come back and easily cut you. This is generally accomplished by never locking yourself into a deflection technique so tightly you cannot quickly and effectively move out away from it and onto another.

Encountering the Knife
At times, there is no alternative but to take control over the knife-wielding arm of your opponent. If this is the situation, the moment you block any oncoming attack, you must immediately powerfully counterstrike your opponent to a debilitating location. This must be done to stun your opponent to the degree that they may be knocked out or thrown to the ground. For example, an opponent attacks you with an outside knife slash. You would intercept his arm in mid swing and then, immediately, deliver a palm hand strike to his nose. This strike may completely debilitate him. Or, he may be sent to the ground by taking control over his knife holding arm, sending it behind himself, as he thrown to the ground.

Taekwondo Knife Fighting Rules
Each knife fighting attack is defined by its own set of circumstance. For this reason, no one can tell you exactly what to do. Therefore, you must utilize judgment of which defense is best in any given knife assault situation. There are, however, three rules to knife self-defense:

1. Knife avoidance is always preferable to directly encounter a knife.

Once a knife attack has been avoided, your opponent’s knife wielding arm must be held in check so it cannot immediately launch a secondary attack on you.

3. Any avoidance and arm check must be rapidly followed by a strong and debilitating counter attack to protect you from your assailant launching further assaults on you.

The Club
The third style of weapon that is commonly used on the street is that of a pipe, chain, club, or other similar elongated striking object that is used to hit your body. Though these weapons differ slightly in their make up, to defend against them, you use similar techniques.

There are two primary methods of dealing with the club type weapon. The first is to deflect its onslaught as described with that of the knife. The second is to directly block its oncoming strike and then follow through with the appropriate technique to end your assailant’s further advances.

Avoidance of the club type weapon is very effective. In the case of the club or the chain it is even more effective than that of the knife. This is due to the fact that the motion of this type of weapon cannot easily be altered and its make-up does not allow its user to simply shift its impact point and cut you.

As these weapons are generally swung, simple avoidance is accomplished by simply stepping out of the way of whatever impact point your attacker is attempting to strike on your body and then powerfully counter attacking. No doubt one of the most effective avoidance techniques against the club or chain is, once it is launched in a side-to-side assault, simply step back allowing the force created by the weapon’s swing to carry the arm of your opponent. Then, instantly, you counter strike with a powerful kick, such as a hook kick to your opponent’s head.

At times it may be necessary to directly block the oncoming strike of a club. This is quite easily accomplished simply by intercepting your opponent’s arm in mid strike positioning. The most appropriate time to block his club-striking arm is as close to its beginning point as possible. By impacting it early in its swing, not only has his striking arm not had the time to develop much velocity but your arm will not be easily injured in the block, as well.

The Taekwondo block against the club type weapons should be focused at your opponent’s mid forearm. At this focus point, not only is your opponent most susceptible to an effective block, but by blocking with a cross arm block, this allows you to have a certain amount of range of extra movement and compensation if your assailant moves his technique slightly.

To attempt to simply catch your opponent’s strike with your hand is generally a mistake. First of all, your hand is much smaller than your forearm. If you miss that initial catch, the club will strike you. Secondarily, if you do, in fact, catch the attack of the oncoming club, what do you do then? By catching and then holding your opponent’s arm or wrist gives him several advantages in the confrontation. He can effectively strike you with his other hand or kick you with his knees or legs -- while you struggle with his weapon holding arm, attempting to keep him from hitting you with the club.

By blocking the club attack with a cross arm block, you can easily launch into an appropriate counter striking technique, such as a front kick to his groin.

As there can be no hard and fast rule as to what defensive technique will work best for you against the attempted strike of a club, pipe, stick, or chain. The only way any advancing Taekwondo practitioner can develop the appropriate eye to hand coordination necessary to be effective in the defense against weapons is to practice with partners in a controlled environment. The key element to making this type of partner training effective is to not allow any block to work, unless it truly blocks the attack. From this, you, as an advanced practitioner of Taekwondo, will raise your self-defense skills to new levels of excellence.

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