One of the longstanding controversies in the world of knife tactics is the argument concerning standard grip versus reverse grip. Standard grip can be expressed in many specific ways, including the hammer grip, saber grip, foil grip and others. For the sake of simplicity, however, let’s just consider it in general terms as any grip that has the blade extending from the thumb side of the hand. Reverse, or “ice-pick,” grip also has its variations, but generally considered it is any grip in which the blade extends from the little-finger side of the hand.

In simple terms, standard grip allows you greater reach and a broader set of body mechanics, while reverse grip offers powerful downward stabbing tactics and the ability to hook and trap with the blade. Critics of the reverse grip typically dismiss it because its shorter range and power-oriented mechanics do not work well in a sparring context. While that’s certainly true, in my opinion it’s also largely irrelevant, since sparring and self-defense are not the same thing. If you’re being attacked, your assailant has clearly defined the terms of your relationship and your job is to stay alive by stopping him. If you choose to do so by holding your knife in reverse grip, you must make the commitment to fight at close range. End of argument.

When developing my system of defensive knife use, Martial Blade Concepts (MBC), I focused primarily on standard-grip tactics because they support the system’s focus on achieving stopping power by targeting key muscles, tendons and nerves. And though I trained diligently using traditional Filipino reverse-grip methods, I struggled to make their applications consistent with MBC’s targeting methodology. After years of analysis and experimentation, I finally developed a reverse-grip system that effectively combined the advantages of reverse-grip mechanics with the rapid incapacitation of the MBC targeting system. And one of the core elements of this system is the Filipino tactics of palisut—the action of hooking and “passing” the attacker’s arm.

For more on this check out the May 2013 Issue of Tactical Knives!

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