Blade Drills: Perfecting the Snap Cut & Thrust

From the archives. ūüĎć


SOG Snarl

SOG Snarl

Lately I have been working on some drills with my small “hideout” waist-carried fixed blades: Benchmade CBK and SOG Snarl.

Benchmade CBK

Benchmade CBK

Training Notes:

  • Since both of these shivs have an unconventional grip (CBK is a syringe type, the Snarl a single-finger loop, raptor-claw design), striking is a bit more unorthodox than if I were using a standard blade with a conventional type grip.

  • The upside to these blade types is that RETENTION is not as big an issue as a conventional knife. No matter if your hands get wet from water, sweat or blood, the way the blade is gripped ensures a SOLID purchase.

  • ¬†Since I mainly carry these blades horizontal on my waist at around 10:30 to 11:00,(drawing with my right hand) I designed all my drills for that type of draw.

  • As I subscribe to the COMBATIVE school of defensive knife training, almost all of these movements are based on simple GROSS MOTOR functions with very little fine motor technique involved. (No complicated katas, etc.) Therefore, to fully maximize the tactical advantage these types of knives offer (which is Size and Speed) You must work to make the draw AND the first initial cut or thrust¬†ONE FLUID, QUICK MOTION.

  • The key word in these drills is “SNAP”, so remember that as you drill. Your goal is to quickly SNAP the blade OUT and INTO the Attacker before they know what hit them. Visualize a viper striking it’s prey.

A quick word about TARGETING. I know a lot of quality knife instructors out there teach to target the attackers ability to (1) WIELD or HOLD a weapon (tendons and nerves in arms/hands, etc.) and (2) their ability for movement (muscles and nerves in legs).

I believe that if I am having to use a knife to defend myself, things have gone VERY bad, and it has gone WAY past simply disarming or disabling the individual trying to kill me.

Simply put, when I train to defend myself with a knife or firearm, I train to NEUTRALIZE my attacker, not to DISABLE or WOUND.

Since a FIREARM and a KNIFE are  both considered LETHAL WEAPONS, WE NEED TO USE THEM AS SUCH, and have no qualms or remorse about it. I can guarantee you your enemy will not!

That being said, with these types of knives (small fixed blades), I train to target everything VITAL in the human body. With the carotid arteries in the neck being the primary and the eyes being the secondary.

Again, this is not to say these are our ONLY targets, but the ones we need to have in mind.

Remember: We are FIGHTING FOR OUR LIFE, so ANY SOLID STRIKE you can make with the blade and hurt the attacker is a GOOD STRIKE.


To Slash or Stab? That is the Question….

I get asked this question a lot and I really don’t have a direct answer. I guess the easiest answer is:¬†USE WHATEVER THE ATTACKER “GIVES” YOU!

If he opens himself up to a slash, do that; If you can do more damage with a thrust, then do that. The COMBATIVE MENTALITY is really one of Flexibility and Opportunity. This is what separates it from the more technique laden Filipino and oriental knife styles.

Remember that COMBATIVES stresses GROSS MOTOR MOVEMENTS,¬†and whether you choose to slash or stab,as long as you put POWER behind it, both techniques can benefit.¬†More to the point, despite prolific urban myths, there is also the issue of the AMOUNT OF DAMAGE that can be obtained with BOTH a¬†THRUST¬†and a SLASH.¬†Contrary to popular belief, small blades (like the ones I am using, both well under 3 inches) can penetrate human flesh and do massive amounts of damage just like a big 4″ blade can. How? The short answer is FLESH COMPRESSION (Visit Don Rearic’s Site to Learn More)¬†Human flesh, like the material in most bed mattresses, compresses when pressure is applied. This allows a very small blade to do cut through and do serious damage, if the targeting is correct. Now, does this mean, as some online mall-ninja’s have claimed, that I can stab you in the heart or liver with a small 2″ blade? No, but armed with this knowledge, the CO can definitely make serious cuts and thrust if need be and that is a HUGE benefit to the CO who, because of the legal restrictions of his particular state, cannot carry a large fixed blade or folder!

A side note about these two blades I am using. The CBK, being a “Push Dagger” is much more suited by design for thrust (stabs) than cuts (slashing), while the Snarl can do both, but is really more well suited for slashing. Despite this, I still train for both types of attacks: THRUST and SLASH. I highly recommend you do the same and never “pigeonhole” a blade for only one type of attack. This mentality will keep you flexible and ready to adapt on your feet.

Equipment for Drills

I highly recommend you DO NOT use a partner in these drills, as the risk for injury is way too high. Instead, try the following:

  • Reduced Meat. Go to the “bargain” or “reduced price” section in your local supermarket meat department. Look for any cuts of meat that are thick, say at least an inch or two. Roast are great, but flank steak will work just as well. Take the meat and wrap it in seran plastic wrap and then cover it with some denim or an old shirt.

  • Gloves. Anytime I train or work with knives, I wear a pair of kevlar-cut proof gloves. These are the same gloves I use when skinning fish or game. We never intend to cut ourselves, but it happens. Smart training is about controlling the risk as much as possible, but still staying as realistic as possible at the same time. Now, will we be wearing kevlar gloves during a fight on the street? probably not, but then again, we won’t be wearing hearing protection when we have to use a gun on the street either; never excuse safety for realism guys, that is stupidity!

  • More Safety. I mentioned about not having any partners for this, but also before you start, make sure no unfortunate soul wanders into your “ZONE OF ATTACK” during your drills! This includes any curious children, wives, even pets. If you are like me, you get into your own “mental zone” during training and the rest of the world kind of fades away, make sure you prepare for this.



1. Back-Hand SNAP-CUT

This drill requires fluidity of motion in harmonizing your DRAW (Presentation) and the first¬†CUT together. The goal is to go straight from the sheath into the attackers flesh. For this particular drill, I visualize the attackers neck, and slashing the throat ear to ear. The draw stroke and strike come together as your elbow is coming from a 90 degree bend into a straight line to the target. Really strive to “snap” the strike through,¬†not just into the target.

2. Back-Hand SNAP-THRUST

Same ideal as above but with a thrust or stab. You will want to visualize your target area (carotid in neck) before you draw and then in one motion go from sheath to flesh. Also practice doing multiple strikes.

3. Over-Hand SNAP-CUT

Now this is where your draw and strike are going to have a moment of pause in between when you “LOAD”¬†for the strike as you slash forward. Again, visualize your target and cut through them, not just into them.

4. Over-Hand SNAP-THRUST

This is where targets of opportunity we talked about come into play. Don’t be afraid to mix up your target areas..if the neck is open to you, go for it, if the chest is open, go for it. Remember, with over-hand, you have more time to “RELOAD” your strike, so don’t hold back.

5. Combinations

Just like with boxing, once we have developed a certain punch, we need to join it with another punch to give it more lethality and flexibility. With the back-hand strikes, a cut then thrust, with the over-hand, a thrust with a follow-up cut. Use your imagination and find what works best for you. Keep in mind, you ALWAYS want to utilize SPEED and SURPRISE.

Final Thoughts:

  • Be prepared in ALL of these drills to find the best way to “reload” your strike in the event of a miss. Misses will happen, so plan for it.

  • Pay attention to your footwork, just like with empty-hand combative striking, using our body weight to give our strikes more force is just as relevant with knife work. Never fail to make ¬†your SNAP Cut or Thrust an EXPLOSIVE movement.

  • MOVE YOUR FEET! No fight happens in a vacuum, and despite what Hollywood shows us, nobody stands still in a lethal encounter. As I have discussed before the Combative Continuum allows us to use the same type of footwork, regardless of the weapon in our hand.

  • Remember the fluidity of the Combative Continuum. If you are carrying a handgun and a knife, there may be situations where the knife is used simply to gain distance on your attacker so you can draw your gun OR you may have to use combative striking to gain distance to draw either one. There are no set rules, so drill for them all.

Train Hard, Stay Aware, Stay Armed and Stay Dangerous!