Context and timing. Real attacks versus sparring artifacts. One of the common patterns of shanking works from a handshake. The bad guy shakes your hand on some pretext and then pulls you in as he stabs you about in the armpit. I don’t usually teach knife defense for a number of reasons, if you know me, you know the reasons. But if you have certain jobs I’m willing to show you what I know under the assumption that you will think for yourself, adapt, and take responsibility for your own survival.
The best defense I’ve found for the handshake shanking is structural. Very quick. One of the students said, “But all I need to do to defeat the defense is let go.”
Absolutely right. That’s all you need. But that would predicate on a threat, with full lethal intent, grabbing your hand of his own volition and for his own purposes who is savagely using that hand to yank you onto the tip of the knife…and that threat halfway through this fully committed action sensing that you have a defense, sensing that you are applying the defense, completely aborting his own committed action AND doing the one thing that monkeys almost never do under stress– open their clenched hands.
Yes, there is a simple counter and no, you will never, ever encounter it in the field.
There are a lot of things, especially in traditional martial arts, that work great for real situations but are difficult or suck in sparring. The hip and shoulder throws in judo are hard to get and involve turning your back on the opponent, but in real life people jump on your back. Karate’s x-blocks are all but useless in sparring, but they are a godsend when something unexpected and shiny suddenly arcs towards your belly– a big, gross-motor move that covers a lot of area and gives you a lot of close-range options.
There is stuff that works under close-range assault, and there are options that only work with sparring timing and distance. Do not, ever, confuse the two.