Gripping and grip fighting are an extremely important part of fighting where the hands are not gloved, or only partially gloved to allow gripping. This includes gi and no gi based sports as well as self-defense. Non striking grappling sports begin the first phase of engagement and entanglement with grip fighting, whether that is wrestling, Judo, or Jiu Jitsu. Integrated fighting systems such as MMA, Combat Sambo, and others engage in grip contests during the clinch phase, and any self-defense system will be forced to use gripping as part of its methodology.

It all starts with good grips!

There are two elements to grip fighting at the basic level. One, establishing effective grips, and breaking grips. These need to both be trained and trained together in what most grappling sports would call “hand fighting”. Learning to establish and keep effective grips will also allow us to understand how best to break these grips.

In today’s article I want to discuss how gripping and grip fighting affect our approach to edged weapons. Again, there are two elements here. One, using a grip to employ an edged weapon, and using a grip to defend an edged weapon. Additionally, grip fighting training should be employed to both defeat an offensive grip, and to overcome a defensive grip. This will allow for very dynamic sparring and will improve overall training effectiveness.

Want to live? Learn to hold on!

In an edged weapons encounter where we find ourselves without an edged weapon (knife), we will be best served by achieving what I call a “2 on 1” grip, applying the grip to the hand holding the edged weapon. I break these down into 2 types: One, Hand grips (wrist and elbow), and Arm Grips (arm hugs and clinches). All the grips I use and teach are pressure tested grips, which follow very basic and effective principles.

In any grip with the hand, the weak spot will be where the fingers meet, not at the palm (image below). This means that the effective escape is through this weak spot.


This means that in our 2 on 1 hand grip should aim to prevent the exploitation of this weakness by making sure our thumbs overlap which places our palms at opposite sides of the arm we are gripping. There are two methods of doing this on the wrist, one with thumbs up (1) and one with thumbs down (2). These grips have numerous combat uses, but here they serve to control an edged weapon. These grips allow us to apply downward or upward force, and to transition to other grips or positions effectively.

Thumbs Up Grip
Thumbs Down Grip

The operating principle in these two grips are the same for all grips, the palms face each other. So, in our third grip from the “Hand Grips” we see the wrist and elbow grip (image below). This grip adheres to our ‘opposite palms’ principle, and specifically allows us to control recoil and initiate and outside arm drag without repositioning our hands.

Wrist and Elbow (opposite palm principle)

Know where you need to go. Behind the knife!

The next grip is an ‘Arm Grip’ which gives us a two hands on one position. This position is known in wrestling as the “Russian Tie” (image below). This is a terminal position in the edged weapons flow in training, it achieves two principles of edged weapons combatives: One, a two-on-one arm grip. Two, it places us BEHIND the knife. Being behind the knife is one of the most important principles of edged weapons combatives. We need to use our grips as well as arm drags and footwork to achieve this position, it is best if we can also get total control of the knife hand as well.

The ‘Russian Tie’ Arm Grip. (Note we still have ‘opposite palms’)

Our last grip is an ‘Arm Grip’ and is the arm drag position (image below). This is an intermediary position which allows us to drag the attacker’s arm, achieve a back control position, placing us behind the knife with potential two-on-one control. This intermediary position also fulfills our principle of ‘opposite palms’.

The Arm Drag ‘A’ grip. (There are other arm drag grips)

Simple principles make it easy to do.

The principles of edged weapons combatives are simple: One, establish a two-on-one grip with opposite palms. Two, get behind the knife. From here we can diverge into different scenarios involving counter weapon deployment, striking, throwing, takedowns, and grappling. However, if we do not control the knife and get behind it, then all our efforts to deploy weapons, strike, or grapple will involve us being stabbed or slashed with the weapon. I have intentionally left out trapping techniques and positions as these are not grips per-se and will deal with them in a later post.

Remember, ALL self-defense should be principle based with technical roots in well established and pressure tested source systems. Rote memorization of static ‘techniques’ disconnected from a broader dynamic approach to violence will leave you unable to adapt to ever changing attacks and environments. So make sure you develop a similar approach to the above to deal with realistic threats, and train them to failure repeatedly.

How to Survive a Knife Attack!

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