Sorry for the slow response.
The issue of left vs. right has puzzled me for a while. After trying a number of different approaches, including hosting seminars for some well-respected FMA instructors just to pick their brains on this and a few other topics, I went back to the MBC concept of "Have a plan and work your plan." That, plus a deeper understanding of cutting peripheral nerves to stop specific limbs, was the inspiration for a sound approach to "mismatched leads." I wrote a "Street Smarts" column on this for Tactical Knives magazine a few issues ago. To save you the suspense, here's the text of that article:
Righty Versus Lefty: How Do Your Tactics Stack Up?
One aspect of knife tactics that doesn’t get much attention is the problem of “mismatched leads,” or “righty versus lefty.” Although many knife systems claim to address the problem effectively, few of them really do. Some take the easy way out, insisting that “nothing changes.” Typically, these systems don’t have enough depth to address any type of attack effectively. Others are on the other side of the spectrum, creating sophisticated asymmetrical patterns that require even more time, study, and practice than their already overcomplicated symmetrical tactics.
As an instructor, I struggled with this issue for years. Since the traditional Filipino arts that inspired my approach are usually right-hand biased, the easiest solution was to make lefties fight as righties or pair them together so they could do mirror-image but otherwise identical technique. However, from a combative perspective, this doesn’t do them much good. In-depth analysis of actual street attacks has consistently shows that lethal-force attacks are invariably gross-motor-skill events that involve forehand, downward, or upward actions. Backhand motions are rarely seen. Since 90-plus percent of the population is right handed, that means most attacks will come from—and target—the left side of your body.
In a self-defense context, the best tactic for right handers to use a knife is to assume a right lead and match an attacker’s right-handed swings with forehand cuts of your own, targeting the flexor tendons and muscles of his forearm to destroy his ability to grip his weapon. This tactic, known in the Filipino arts as “defanging the snake,” is easily learned, easily applied, and it works.
Now let’s assume that your attacker is left handed. Statistically and instinctively, he will still be attacking with forehand, gross-motor-skill movements, but now they will be targeting the right side of your body. Cutting the inside of his forearm now requires you to use backhand motions, which are slower and less powerful than matching forehand for forehand. The back-up protection of your left arm is also reduced since it is farther away from the problem. So what do you do?
In my system of Martial Blade Concepts (MBC), we have a saying: “Have a plan and work your plan.” What that means is that we always strive to have a single, well-conceived response sequence that enables us to defend against as many different types of attacks as possible. No matter what happens, we continue the sequence and adapt the potential of the movements to the reality of the situation. Let’s see how that works when we compare the same movements against both right and left-handed attacks.
Against a high right forehand strike (angle 1), the default MBC response is to lean back to evade while cutting with a high forehand to the attacker’s forearm. Allowing the arm to continue past, we then step in behind it, cutting the triceps muscle with a high backhand (angle 2) and check his elbow with our left hand. We then finish the sequence with a low forehand (angle 3) thrust-and-cut tactic known as a “comma cut,” which targets the attacker’s quadriceps muscle and destroys his ability to support weight on that leg. The sequence is therefore angle 1, angle 2, angle 3.
Now let’s assume a high left-handed forehand attack. We still evade and cut with an angle 1, but this time the cut targets the back of the attacker’s arm. Will it destroy his grip? Probably not. Is cutting him still a good idea? Definitely.
Once his arm has passed, we follow with an angle 2 to the triceps muscle and a left-handed check to the back of the elbow. Chambered for a low forehand, we execute an angle 3 comma cut, this time targeting the top of the hamstrings and the sciatic nerve, which controls important motor functions of the leg and foot. The result? We used the exact same sequence of motions to effectively defend against both a right-handed and a left-handed attack. We had a plan and worked that plan to achieve reliable, predictable stopping power in a self-defense situation.
The rest of the MBC system, as well as our defenses against other attacks (we only use five angles, rather than the traditional 12), follows this same principle and is therefore just as simple and effective. For military and law enforcement personnel with extremely limited training time (and for whom knife tactics are not a significant part of their applicable skills), the MBC system simplifies the solution even more, offering one basic technique that works against virtually any attack.
Training to protect yourself in the real world means devoting your time, effort, and brain cells to skills that apply in the situations that are most likely to happen. Ideally, your training will also apply in less common situations, like righty versus lefty. Have a plan and work your plan.
I hope this helps. There's more to the story, but I don't have time at the moment to address it. I will cover it in greate detail in an upcoming article I'm doing for Personal Defense Network. I'll post a link when it's up.
Thank you very much for the reply Mr. Janich! That does help, and it does make sense. I will be working the techniques as described. One thing that has been good about being a lefty and learning your system is that I have been working right handed as well, and being ambidextrous would be a good skill to have.
Thank you again for the reply, I am truly grateful.
Wow, reviving an old thread! If this is inappropriate please move my post with my apologies.
Originally Posted by Michael Janich
I have been working with the video now for a couple of weeks and have been working it exclusively left-handed. Perhaps I’m too stubborn but that is how I carry and wield a knife so I want to make it work. Pretty much following the philosophy of “make it your own”. I thoroughly “get” and appreciate the concepts so I am left with implementing them into a training regimen.
My solo drills are, obviously, different in kind, from the drills in the DVD but I think they remain true to the concept. At least I have a planJ I am, of course, open to any advice and correction from, well… just about anyone.
The principle that has been most useful to me so far has been “getting to the outside.” I find that wielding a knife left-handed for self-defense requires more emphasis on footwork, at least for me pivots aren’t enough. This is because I am still defending against predominately right handed attackers, coming at me at a high/low angle 1 or 5. The same-sided defense is interesting because I have to angle step to the outside while executing a slap parry with my knife hand, followed almost instantly with a check parry with the outside of my live hand. [The knife hand parry can actually be a cut but I feel it is slower because I have to maintain an extremely tight (tense) grip so I don’t have the knife knocked from my hand. Yes? No? ] From here the defense flows naturally as described in Michael’s post with one difference: cut to the bicep, cut to the triceps, check the elbow, crouch and cut to the quad and finally comma cut to the hamstring. That is where my visualization leads me. Am I too far off base?
Then, of course, flowing into an Angle 2, which is the mirror image of the defense shown in the video. Of course, being new to all of this, my movements do not flow and are a little herky-jerky but I am seeking advice as to ways to, not only round off the edges, but to stay true to the principles of MBC while making adjustments.
Sounds like you are working a plan! On the 1 coming in, you can always just avoid the arm, step in and follow it, cut with a 1 to the tricep, followed by the check and down to the sciatic.
On the 5, you could shoot the live hand down to the outside of the incoming arm, rotate out of the way slightly and make a 1 or 3 to the bicep. Bring it right back with a 4. etc. Like Mike says, it's concepts, it can bridge into many other things! You could always wrap the arm after the cut! Lots of fun!
Thanks, John! I was over-complicating it I like your approach better- it is smoother, faster and also re-chambers my knife for the following angled defense while training the flow.
Originally Posted by John McCreery
I have found that while solo work is great, it is no substitute for partner work. The fear, of course, is improper grasp of the concepts. I can already see that I am going to have to make it out to one of your knife classes!
Mr. Janich has put together a great program that flows very well. Sounds like you are feeling how things flow together! We may be bringing a class up your way! There seems to be some interest. Look forward to meeting you!
Congrats on your progress in your training!
On the angle 5, rather than parrying with the knife hand, focus on using the live hand. Against a low right thrust (defending lefty), hammer down with your right forearm to deflect the thrust to your right. As you curl your right arm under the wrist/forearm to control it, cut down with your knife on the bicep or triceps. At the bottom of that cut, stab and comma cut the quad or sciatic--whichever presents itself best.
The same thing works on the high angle 5, you just have to move it farther to get to the same place.
Also, check out the article I wrote on the DeCuerdas technique--a one-size-fits-all defense--in "Combat Arms" magazine. It's from Intermedia and is on the newsstands now.
Keep up the great work!
Thanks, Mike! Question on the comma cut: for a lefty, a true comma cut is a backhand, perhaps less intrinically powerful as a forehand strike, but it seems OK because I am stepping through the technique, driving with my hips. Is there a physiological reason to stick to the forehand cut, in essence performing a "backwards" comma? I can think of some tactical reasons to go one way or the other but each is dependant on the dynamics of the situation. Sorry for all the questions; I just need to come out to a seminar or two:)
The comma cut is based on the turning motion of your hand and will always be most powerful when you go from palm down to palm up on a forehand cut. Backhand cuts will never be as strong. If you're a lefty targeting an attacker's right leg and the front of the quad isn't easily accessible, stick high on the back of the leg and target the sciatic nerve.
Originally Posted by quiller
Thanks, Mike. I will incorporate it into my practice. I also managed to pick up Combat Arms magazine and have only had time to skim your article on the De Cuerdas technique. I look forward to studying it in more detail. Fascinating stuff!