Training knives: Which ones are better?

The book has a section on safety because as fun as training is most people still must be able to at least crawl into work the next day. Eye protection is a good idea and I recommend finding good one, but this post is about training knives.

There are all kinds of training knives illustrated in the book. You have foam, rubber, plastic, wood, metal and even knives that give a shock. I also recommend a home-made version that I’ll get to in a moment.

In a training knife, we are looking to simulate (safely) a real blade and a real attack.

Any softer substance training knife can bend which real knives doesn’t.

Hard plastic or wood doesn’t bend but it doesn’t have the visual or the contact feel of a real knife like a metal trainer does.

Hard training knives can still do damage (not just hurt – actual damage) which is like a real knife but what you don’t want when training.

So, which do you use. Depends on what you are doing.

In the Learning Zone I like to use the old rubber tanto knives. They bend but are stiff enough to simulate the feel of a knife in your hand and are annoying but safe to be stabbed with, so you know when you fail but are not injured. Safe is important because you’re learning and mistakes are expected.

In the Conditioning Zone when you are using slow motion drills a hard plastic, wood or metal (I like Metal) trainer can be safely used because at the reduced speed you are going safe enough to still fully stab with them and they do not bend. Just as you can elbow through your partner’s head slowly but safely, you can stab them slowing and safely.

Once you begin to add speed and begin to shift from the Conditioning Zone to the Testing Zone I like to use a home made safe fake trainer. I take an old gi belt and fold it over once or twice to the desired length and then wrap it in tape. The tape gives it enough stiffness to use as a fake knife but it still folds when you drive it into your partner’s body.

There is one reason I think a faker safer training knife is important in the Testing Zone, but that reason has two results.

I demonstrate this now by taking a super metal trainer Chris McKaskell made for me and a gi belt trainer.

I have one person take the metal trainer and I get a very nice expensive hand pad of theirs and ask if they would want to sewing machine stab the metal trainer into the pad as real as they can. I’ve put a little Delica training folder an inch into an old phone book.

If they care about the expensive pad they say no way because they will destroy it. So, then I ask if they would drive that same trainer as real as they can into their partner’s torso. If they are sane they say no to that to.

You see if you are truly attacking with a solid trainer and stabbing your partner but at the end of training and multiple stabs they are NOT standing there holding all kinds of sore and damaged body parts then you never actually attacked them. They were never in real danger and therefore can never truly know if their defence was successful.

The second reason is that people like to succeed and that is a useful thing in knife defence. I demonstrate this asking one person to step out of the room while I ask another person to take that metal trainer and sewing machine stab the same pad BUT this time I tell them to stab just to the pad and not into it so the pad is not damaged. I ask them to sewing machine stab 20 times. Anywhere from the 8th to 15th stab I rotate and pull the pad away as they stab. Because they are not stabbing into the pad they continue to stab without changing their action or position.

Now I bring the other person back in and hand them the fake gi belt trainer and ask them to really sewing machine stab the pad twenty time. Because they can actually stab the pad when they stab they really make contact. Again, between the 8th and 15th stab I rotate and pull the pad away as they stab. Because they are actually stabbing their thrust changes. Because they really want that contact the pad they follow and extend farther than before (sometimes even with a slight stumble forward). Sometimes a little and sometimes a lot. Because they follow the pad and I’ve rotate I am now beside them and can cup their elbow as they stab which has an interesting effect.

What this means is because the more real training knife is still dangerous the attacks with the faker training knife are more real. You will know when you fail because there is intent to contact and because there is intent to contact when the person moves they will follow and that changes everything in knife defence because of the opportunity for you to use that to achieve a superior strategic position.

When I taught at the Alberta Peace officer’s 2017 Annual Conference one officer said” Hell, I know he is going to move, I see him moving AND I still can’t stop stabbing.”

Some will say the harder training knives are more real and therefore better but just ask how many times they broke a partner’s ribs with them….

Now some martial blade training focuses on cuts and counter cuts and that needs a blade that does not bend to train. But cuts with a metal trainer can hurt and bruise but rarely do damage like a stab with one. So, a caveat is what is the purpose of the drill and pick the right tool for the task.

Just my thoughts.