March 22, 2024

Knives & Movies

Don’t get me wrong.  I love martial art and action films as much as anyone else does.  I loved John Wick 4 despite there being a 20 minute gun battle in Paris and not a single cop shows up.  We watch a movie and enter a world of make-believe, right?  That’s the whole point…it’s not supposed to be completely accurate.  

But there’s an incredible danger in all of it too.  Especially for self-defenders.  You see, movie action scenes are to self-defense what porn is to romance.  Feasting one’s eyes upon movie action porn is bound to have a deleterious impact upon one’s understanding and expectations of real-world violence.  The suspension of disbelief in order to enjoy a film shouldn’t mean a total divorce from all logic and reality. It shouldn’t be like talking to a politician about economics.

Well, when it comes to knives and movies (and TV shows) we’re definitely not seeing anything close to reality.  

Everyone who trains here at the Academy (in-house and our distance students) knows well our doctrines of the tactical folding knife.  They’ve been taught the brutal efficacy of the way of the blade.  But this is always done by first addressing the big ole elephant that’s sitting on the sofa eating all our snacks and that is the crazy bias against knives as a first line of defense.  

A steady stream of bad movie action has convinced us, with no critical analysis whatsoever, that knives are generally useless, like having suntan lotion in Alaska.  The damage to true knowledge is so great and so vast that we should take a look at what we call the big three.  

First, in nearly every movie/show one sees, the good guy is in a fight with the all-around menace bad-guy and he’s beating the menace.  There’s a little back and forth.  A punch scores here and there but eventually the good-guy’s skill begins to dominate and then…yes, and then…wait for it…the bad guy, after being knocked down one more time, pulls out a knife.  The camera is sure to show us weapon.  The bad-guy, who had the weapon the entire time but decided, despite being a bad guy, to fight fair, now figures that he must even the odds.  Being a tactical genius, the nefarious criminal-dude holds the knife out in front for all to see.  

The good guy sighs (see Dalton in Roadhouse…see Kelly Lynch in Roadhouse too…no wait…forget that…just stay on topic…focus, Jason, focus).  Then the criminal dude attacks by swinging the blade like a crazed toddler trying to water the garden with a hose.  He’s swinging and slashing and the good guy easily disarms him.  Then he thrashes him worse than before because, hey, he pulled a knife and that deserves a bigger beatdown, right?  

The fight was harder hand-to-hand than against the knife, for crying out loud.  Sure. That’s realistic.

Second, and this happens in virtually every film (see the aforementioned Roadhouse again, and don’t forget Kelly Lynch’s Elizabeth Clay…she was sort of gorgeous…forgive me, I was 19 when it came out…wait…focus!), the good guy gets cut.  As in slashed.  As in he’s bleeding.  But it’s no big deal.  In fact, it’s sort of a bad paper cut.  As in, it’s no more serious than stubbing one’s toe in the night on the way to the loo.  It’s merely an opportunity for the wardrobe people to rip the good-guy’s shirt and show off some abs!!  

This is, of course, unless Steven Seagal is the star.  The venerable Aikido master never gets cut.  Never.  If you even think he should, apologize immediately and throw yourself on the floor.  Hard.  Do it!  

Third and finally, we have the fact that in Hollywood the only people wielding knives are, yep, those nefarious bad dudes.  There are a few notable exceptions to this, of course, like Rambo and Crocodile Dundee. But those guys notwithstanding, the knife-wielder in Hollywood is almost always the sinister type rather than the hero.

So, what have we learned?  What’s been rammed into our subconscious as we sit there mindlessly chomping on overpriced, over-buttered, and over-large tubs of popcorn (enough to feed even Steven Seagal these days!)?  That knives are ineffectual in combat and that even if you cut the enemy, it’s likely only to make him angry.  Oh, and if you have a knife, it’s likely that you’re the bad-guy.  Good guys don’t carry knives.  

An old Greek fella, Socrates, famous for his appearance in that classic, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, once remarked that the unexamined life isn’t one worth living.  So true, that.  Well, it’s apropos here too.  The unexamined self-defense system is an accident waiting to happen.  The depiction of knives in Hollywood, if accepted uncritically, robs us of a tremendous self-defense tool.  

Tactical folding knives are better than concealed handguns for virtually all self-defense scenarios!  Yes, you read that right.  You’ve heard that vacuous line: don’t bring a knife to a gun fight, right?  Well, we aren’t talking about storming Normandy Beach.  We’re talking about a self-defender, trained and prepared, utilizing a small tactical folding knife, usually at distances within six feet against an attacker.  When you’re trained properly (and everything takes training) the blade has tremendous advantages over a handgun.  We detail them at length in my book (JKD’s Way of the Blade) but here’s a few to consider:

The knife doesn’t run out of ammo.  

The knife isn’t going to have a “friendly fire” accident.  How in blazes could you cut someone you didn’t intend to?

The knife is perfectly suited to counterattack the hands/limbs of the enemy, thereby neutralizing the threat without having to use lethal force.  

In the hands of a skilled operator, the knife is extraordinarily effective and virtually impossible to disarm.  Moreover and in contradistinction to Hollywood, a cut from a knife is serious business.  A snap-cut to the hand is quite likely to disable the attacker right then and there because that hand is now inoperable.  The criminal sort of needs that paw in order to do whatever nefarious bad-guy things he intended to do in the first place, right?  You see?  This is what we mean by movies obliterating our ability to think about self-defense realistically.  They show bad-guys getting shot by a Glock and literally getting knocked over, but knives merely scratch people.  It’s madness. It’s nonsense. It’s like my early 20’s. Wait…never mind that.

The point is that most of us think that knives are mere toys and won’t work for self-defense only because of this claptrap we’ve seen in movies.

So, don’t be fooled.  

Knives can be and are noble tools in the hands of a trained self-defender.  They’re extremely effective at exactly the range where self-defenders are forced to operate (close-range).  Get one and get good training.  

And go watch Bill & Ted again while you’re at it.  The time travel is more realistic than the fight scenes you see in movies.  And don’t bother with the new Roadhouse. It’s terrible. You’re welcome.

To learn the incomparable genius of self-defense with a small knife check out Sifu Jason’s “JKD’s Way of the Blade” on Amazon. If you already have a copy, buy another. Buy ten. He needs to put his son through college. Just saying.

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