Machetes and Mockery: The Two Unkindest Cuts

Which professionals do you consider least trustworthy? Car salesmen? Politicians? Telemarketers? Bloggers, maybe? Let me suggest a new addition to your list: you simply cannot trust a knife expert with no scars.

This is the consensus view among self-defense instructors: if you are attacked with a knife, you will get cut. You should expect to get cut. Your goal is not so much to avoid getting cut, but to avoid getting killed.

So next time you meet a self-defense expert, look at their arms. Do you see any knife scars? Have they even once tested their theories against a real, razor-sharp blade?

British raconteur and martial artist Chris Crudelli managed to find one Escrima teacher with sufficient courage to test himself—on camera, no less. Here is the footage, from the BBC documentary Kick Ass Miracles:

Yes, he failed the test, and nearly chopped his arm off in the bargain. I am not particularly surprised at this outcome. Nevertheless, I wish we had more self-defense instructors of his caliber, and fewer of the type who are so casually mocking him now.

Do these results prove the man to be a self-deluded idiot? I sure hope not, because if the rare martial artist who actually tests his theories is subsequently labeled delusional, what does that say about everyone else?

19 comments on “Machetes and Mockery: The Two Unkindest Cuts”

  1. Hi Chris,

    I think I understand where you’re coming from but I respectfully disagree with what you wrote here. I’ll do a counter-point on my blog in a bit.

    BTW, thanks for the way you commented on my blog; I’ll respond in kind. Like I mentioned in another post, it’s rare to see civil discussions like this on the internet. Usually it devolves into mudslinging matches. So thanks for that.

    Have a great weekend,

    Wim

  2. Interesting argument…
    is it not the equivalent of:
    “if you are attacked with a gun you will be shot, so the idea is not to avoid being shot but avoid being killed by being shot”

    Now I know that in most knife situations the wielder of the blade conceals the blade and those attacked often die before they know what hit them. Often knife encounter does not appear to be a knife encounter, any practical defense against knife must account for this and treat any all attacks as potentially involving an edged weapon.

    There is of course no end to delusion about chi and edged weapons.

  3. Wim, I look forward to your feedback.

    Josh, “You will get cut” is the consensus view. Does it sound more like CYA than revealed wisdom? Yes, I think it does. Rory Miller reported a different experience in his book Meditations on Violence.

    A gun is not equivalent here. The implications of closing the distance, and of running away are different for blade and bullet.

  4. I also appreciate the fact that he went to test his abilities on camera. I feel that ALL of the extranormal phenomena we see should be tested (although I will concede that even scientific testing has social influences, we’ve had that discussion before), and documented especially.

    I think there’s something to be said, however, about “common sense” and popular belief on something so dangerous. This is where the importance of “why” and “how” things works becomes important, not simply that the thing works under the current circumstances. The Wright brothers defied expectations and “common sense” because they understood the process they were studying and could explain the reason of how to escape gravity. I doubt that this man (or any number of extranormal specialists) could explain how they would “increase the protective capabilities” of their bodies.

  5. I was told by a man with nearly 20 years experience and a sheriff and over 8 years experience as a NYC officer that nearly all gun incidents occur within 10 feet and in dark conditions. I believe that the gun/knife analogy holds practical value. In both cases the victim has almost no chance to survive unscathed.

  6. My bad, I meant to write that the man who told me this information was a sheriff for over 20 years after being a NYC cop for nearly 10 years.

  7. Josh, if one is taken by surprise, there is nothing to be done. Otherwise, one has to implement the best strategy, regardless of the odds. And that strategy is different for different weapons, wouldn’t you agree?

  8. “There is of course no end to delusion about chi and edged weapons”~I agree. This gentleman’s tragic mishap was completely self created.
    “Which professionals do you consider least trustworthy? Car salesmen? Politicians? Telemarketers? Bloggers, maybe?”, based on this performance, I would add martial artists to the list. The exception given to those of us who are more interested in practice and less interested in sideshow performances.

  9. I feel that ALL of the extranormal phenomena we see should be tested (although I will concede that even scientific testing has social influences, we’ve had that discussion before), and documented especially.

    Thomas, why should they be tested and documented?

    The Wright brothers defied expectations and “common sense” because they understood the process they were studying and could explain the reason of how to escape gravity.

    Spoken like a true Monday-morning scientist, ha ha. Of course, everyone else could (and did) plausibly explain all the reasons why the Wrights would fail.

    In reality, the public responds to novel ideas thusly:

    1. “Crazy.”
    2. “Crazy.”
    3. “Crazy.”
    4. “Obvious.”

    Believe it or not, scientific testing begins around step 2. Subsequently, everyone else (including rival scientists) mounts a vigorous defense of common sense, while ignoring the new and inconvenient experimental results.

    You might take a look at newspaper editorials of the late 18th or early 19th centuries, immediately preceding (and following) one of these groundbreaking experiments. I guarantee someone called the Wrights delusional, and someone else claimed they were in league with the devil.

    This still happens today.

    I doubt that this man (or any number of extranormal specialists) could explain how they would “increase the protective capabilities” of their bodies.

    Have you tested this doubt, by asking any of them for an explanation? (If not, some might consider your doubts to be an example of self-delusion!)

    Actually, explanations are common. You can even find some in the TV series from which this video clip was extracted, IIRC.

  10. I’m curious about what “Monday-morning scientist” means. I take it that it’s not very flattering?

    You know I believe in the scientific method, thorough testing and documenting is what allows us to understand the new phenomena, and regardless of naysayers, it is my belief that those novel, inconvenient results do make themselves known and quite popular. As you can see, we do take advantage of the Wright brothers’ work, silicon computer chips, rock music, and other things quite unpopular in their day.

    Debate is the only way to solidify results and justify results. Struggle is what yields progress. Rather than shy from it, why not embrace it? Without the arguments resulting from their work, I don’t think the Wright brothers would have developed the technologies that they did. Furthermore, I think the Wright brothers’ secrecy regarding their research (somewhat a parallel to esoteric energy training?) contributed to the unfavorable and, more importantly, lack of response they received at the time. Silence, to me, is the most dangerous critic.

    You are correct, I haven’t tested my doubt in detail, nor have I documented any research into the matter. However, as this is a casual discussion, I believe casual research is also in order. Even the infamous John Chang seemed to have trouble explaining just how his abilities worked, and watching Crudelli’s first series, the explanations for kiai-blasts were choppy, at best. Watching the exploits of Dillman does yield explanations, but each is more absurd than the last. This is the reason for my interest in the research into these paranormal phenomena. I do believe legitimate abilities exist, thanks in no small part to this site, but there needs to be research to separate the real from the false. How long did people purchase snake-oil tonics before medical research began providing real medecine to the general public? Yes, explanations are common, but I would prefer explanations that can be tested and repeated and studied, rather than simply given and forgotten.

  11. one has to implement the best strategy, regardless of the odds. And that strategy is different for different weapons, wouldn’t you agree?
    Yes, in general I agree.
    It strikes me as a tricky topic though.
    Combat that is entered into seems ill comparable to combat that one finds oneself in suddenly. While it is true that both entail “kill or be killed” it seems that what is generally true for one situation does not always apply to others.

    In terms of knife fighting I think that options in general are limited by foreknowledge and that a surprise attack often entails the same limitations regardless of weapon, though the details are bound to vary.

  12. A Monday-morning scientist is one who evaluates history’s winners with the benefit of hindsight, and declares their theory and approach were sound. It is easy to predict what already happened, harder to know what happens next–especially if one is waiting for someone else to make it happen.

  13. Of course it’s easier to talk about things in hindsight, but drawing from history we can also see trends and patterns among those that have advanced the field of science. I think using the scientific method and experimentation has been a fairly successful trend, so it’s fair to say using it today would continue to yield results. Am I mistaken in that regard?

    We make the best decisions we can with the information we have available. I’m not waiting for someone else to make it happen, I’ve been cut before and so have many people; it’s a simple conclusion to draw that hacking yourself with a sword will result in injury. If we’re fancying this man a scientist or experimenter, then yes, his hypothesis was that he would be unharmed, and he was proven wrong. Rather than simply trying it again, wouldn’t it be wiser to go over the incident and find what went wrong? If he really has done it before, than we can assume that something unexpected occurred during this particular trial, and correcting that would lead to more successful results. Is there anything I’ve gotten wrong?

  14. Hi Josh,

    The statistics you posted are ones I’m familiar with — gunfights occurring within 10 feet being the most frequent.

    But you’re missing part of the equation. That statistic is usually cited alongside another one which mentions the extremely high “rate of miss” that trained marksmen have in such situations.

    Nonetheless, I don’t plan on being shot at any time soon 🙂

  15. Yes, only in the world of fighting, self defense and cqb are there so many experts. Empirical research has been done by so few. Theoretical debates are like trying to understand the kinesology of a cat by an autopsy.

    Here’s an article on state of things in the self defense world. http://ezinearticles.com/?id=2747936

    Good luck in your endeavors to learn the truth.

    Christophe Clugston

  16. Wim, Chris, Steve and Scott have all commented on this on their blogs so I’m feeling kind of triangulated.

    About the incident in the videos- straight up, he believed in magic and the magic failed. If you honestly believe that smoke and praying and facing the four directions can keep steel from cutting flesh, it will fail most of the time. On the other hand, it may give you the courage to get in there and try. Ghost shirts didn’t really stop bullets, but the courage gave a few early victories.

    You can admire the courage to test your convictions in public and filmed. I admire the courage myself. Nine times out of ten, or more, when these are televised they are outrageously faked. This man had the balls to do it for real… and, for real, he sliced himself.

    This is the bad part- he didn’t make this shit up. Someone taught him that magic could protect his flesh from steel. He believed and he tested it. There are hundreds who believe it without testing it. The courage to test is great, necessary. The other believers who only believe, without testing, are not only equally likely to get slaughtered, but he knows it now and they don’t.

    As for this piece, “If you are ever in a knife fight you will get cut.” Or whatever variation. The two schools of thought on this are
    1)that being told you will get cut prepares you, so tell the they will get cut; or
    2) Fear of getting cut will paralyze the students, so tell them it will be okay.

    Both are lies. I do my best never to lie to my students. If I were to pool all the encounters of my close friends it would run something like 14-1, fifteen knife encounters between four of us and only one has even been scratched… but you know what? Much more than scratched and you aren’t adding to the data pool because you’re busy becoming fertilizer. I don’t teach children so I don’t have to treat students like children. I don’t have to lie to them. You might get cut. You might not. Whatever happens you keep moving until you are safe. THAT is what you practice. Keep moving until you are safe. The rest is philosophy, stuff you can talk about over beers later.

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