The Combative Continuum

As you journey through the world of self-defense you will ultimately discover that few combat systems are compatible. For example, you may have one stance you learned in martial arts and another you learned for knife, another for your pistol and another for your rifle.

Soon, your brain becomes jumbled and you have information overload. You would have trouble recalling any of these systems under normal circumstances, forget under combat stress!

We need to simplify the way we think about how we train.

We need one stance, any weapon.

We need one guard position.

We need to be able to access our weapon the same way and along the same line; stick, knife and gun.

Enter the Combative Continuum.

The Complete Arsenal

We have to build our system using the concept of the “Complete Arsenal” or in other words, ask yourself if ALL your skill sets (1)Empty Hand (2) Stick (3) Knife (4) Gun can “dovetail” into each other. You must always evaluate all facets of your training using this concept. The Combative mindset consist of simplicity and economy of motion. When we discuss empty hand strikes, we also talk about the elbow slash, because as you deliver a face smash, you are now “cocked” to slash with your opposite elbow. If we are talking about a stick, we discuss high and low line strikes, as a man cannot guard against both. With knife, we must understand the thrust is much more modular than the slash. With CQ Pistol, our footwork and how we present the weapon using our knife, can fold right into getting the gun into the fight in a clinch.

Part of the Combative process and arsenal concept is basing our tactics on an  understanding of the human anatomy. As we learn this, we find, especially with the knife, what tendons work what and which arteries when cut, can cause unconsciousness and death in under one minute. We find the location of certain organs, and the path bullets must travel to shut them down. This is also important because as this is a continuum, we must understand pain compliance techniques when less than lethal platforms are needed first ( a great example is the latest headline about the airline captain who flipped out in mid air). Learning a simple arm bar or wrist/finger lock could be helpful in subduing an unruly or troubled person.


Where most other “styles” are concerned, this is typically the most in-depth and complicated part of it. Not with the Combative Continuum. You will have one stance for all weapon systems. The catch is that you and you alone will be the one however to find it, nobody can teach you. It may take you some time to develop and find it: Don’t worry, you will!

Ask yourself these questions when selecting your stance:

  • Does my stance allow me to be as MOBILE as possible?

  • Does it allow ATTACK and COUNTER-ATTACK against any line of attack?

Don’t get freaked out by where to put your feet! The simplest way to look at this is your foot position should simply mimmick your natural gait. Take a stroll naturally and then suddenly stop, look down; that is your foot position. The same thing goes for dynamic movement off the line of attack with pistol or rifle, walk NORMALLY! Don’t “groucho” or “duck” walk.


When we talk about the presentation of the weapon, we automatically think guns, but let’s think a minute here and use the complete arsenal concept. How do we present an empty hand strike, such as a face smash? Consider stance, how we “load” into the strike with our lower body and hips and the dynamic of extension with our arm through the strike. All these things make up the “presentation” of your palm striking somebody’s grill. If we substitute the stick into this equation, you will see how alot of the same traits are present; in particular, the “loading” or “cocking” action done with your lower body and hips. This is a distinct reason why combatives was and still is so effective and still taught widely in the military. It was a simple, brutal, gross motor skill oriented platform that did not depend on alot of memorization, only instinct and aggression.

Carrying the Presentation modularity a bit farther, consider the knife and the gun. I am of course taking into consideration not everybody carries their fixed blade knives and pistols/revolvers in the same position I do, but be open minded here and consider the benefits. The late and great Bob Kasper, who IMO, is the best resource for Combative Knife technique, favored the ARC/IWB position (Abdominal Rear Cant, Inside the Waistband). The OWB option to this position is Horizonal carry, 11 o’clock,  OWB on the belt. Here, the knife is mounted horizontal on the belt, so as the arms hang down naturally, all that has to be done is the garment stripped and a quick cross draw. I favor a Benchmade CBK or Blackhawk Crucible Fixed Blade for this. For pistol, I favor the AIWB carry, or Appendix-Inside-the-Waistand. I find this position offers the quickest presentation and best concealment for even a mid size pistol. When using these two carry positions, one can have a very simple manual of arms to access either knife or gun. Ensure that you have a solid sheath and attachment point in these positions, so if you have to run or get in a tussle, they will stay put.

Making Room

In his book “Sting of the Scorpion” by Bob Kasper (an excellent read and reference book for the combative knife student) Kasper tells why having a toolbox of practical unarmed combatives that doevtails into the knife platform is so important. “Chances are, you won’t be able to draw before the assault. Based on old school jujitsu, the curricula emphasized ‘atemi-wazi’, or vital area striking with various hands and foot weapons. These techniques are geared for in-close fighting and will get someone off you in a hurry and allow you to draw your weapon.” This dovetails into the gun as well; OC and empty hand or improvised weapon strikes to gain room between you and the attacker so you can access and use the weapon.

The standard “Reactionary Gap” that is taught to Police and Security personnel is recognized as 21 feet or 7 yards..I have never been a fan of this teaching, as I find it impractical and unrealistic. In a perfect world, we would like to keep people at twice this distance, but you simply cannot do it. We have to get close to people in our everyday way around it. The only way to prepare for this is to always carry OC and have a simple set of strikes and kicks to make distance. The best mentality is always be prepared to strike and get off the line of attack, gaining enough distance to present a weapon into the fight.

The Vertical Shield

The vertical shield can also be called a “Default Position”, simply because it should be the format your entire body follows (along with your stance) when attacked or you feel threatened in any way. The Shield covers vital parts of your left side with your weak hand, which is the side of your body likely to be attacked in a head-on assault.

There are several shield positions promoted currently, but the one I use is a hybrid of Bob Kasper (“Sting of the Scorpion”pp.31)

“Place the fingertips of your “non dominant” hand (not weak hand, as you do not have any body part that is weak, just one you don’t use as much as the other!) lightly on your left cheekbone (right if you are left handed). Then take your left elbow and pull it into your torso until your biceps are lightly touching your pectorals. This hand/arm position not only shields the vital areas on the left side, but it also withdraws the limb out of harms way.”

The hybrid of this shield switches from guarding your vital’s with your arm and elbow (in a knife situation) to protecting the head. All you do is instead of resting your fingertips on your left cheek, moving the left hand up to where you are lightly grabbing the back of your head. This forms an elbow guard which will protect you from getting knocked out. Not saying you won’t take some licks, but it will keep you on your feet until you can pump fist, steel or lead into the attacker.

Linear Line Concept

A linear line is simply a straight line from your hand to the target, this applies to empty hands stikes, the knife thrust and full extension with the pistol. The path to target, no matter the weapon, is the same. Linear strikes with empty hand are akin to the jab, palm strike and face smash. With the knife, they are harder to see than say a hooking attack and they also more accurate and strike deeper. The key is a linear attack does not telegraph it’s intent, it is a quick strike; imagine a cobra striking it’s prey. The rule to remember is that if you can punch the target, you can execute a knife thrust. In his excellent WW2 Combatives book, Arwrology, Dr. Martin Perrigard states there are two primary things to aim at to make a stab wound quickly fatal; (1) Large Arteries (2) Major Organs. This goes back to understanding the human anatomy to make our tactics and strikes as effective as possible.

Linear lines with the pistol deal with executing a full extension toward the target when it is APPLICABLE. This is always dependent on your proximity to target. When there is plenty of distance, having full extension gives you better balance and recoil control. That being said, a good portion of your handgun drills need to be firing from compressed ready or a compressed position of some type, as you never want to give your attacker a chance to lay hands on the weapon in close quarter situations.

Stay Alert, Armed and Dangerous!

Remember: While you are reading this, your enemy is training!

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  1. Pingback: Civilian Operator 101: Training with the Knife for Counter-Terrorism | The Tactical Hermit

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