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 The Sharp experience- edged weapons-Liverpool 2004

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PostSubject: The Sharp experience- edged weapons-Liverpool 2004   Sun 15 Jul 2007, 17:08

The Sharp Liverpool Experience. – Edged Weapon Defence.
Review by SlackBladder

Defying all precedent, I had arrived in Liverpool, found lodgings and eaten breakfast without incident. Today was going to be a good day.

On my approach to the YMCA, I was fortunate enough to be accosted by Alan Beckett and his training partner (whose name escapes me, sadly). It seems there is a “regulars” circuit on Dennis’s seminars and I gradually realised that the faces that do not fit are not invited back. Without exception, every person I meet at these gatherings have been guys of the A1 class. Utter gentlemen, the lot of them. If you, kind reader, ever attend one of these seminars nervous of the kind of people you may encounter, fear not. Actually, you ARE entitled to be afraid of the scars on the heads (all you shaven-headed louts!) and fearsomely trimmed facial hair (nod to Juggabubba ), but that is really just cosmetic. A friendlier, more affable bunch could not be found. At least, nobody who could be all that and STILL be capable of killing you ten different ways with each of their toes. By all means turn up, smile, shake hands, introduce yourself and soak up the raw knowledge. These are fun days. Hard days, yes, but still fun.

Anybody who does research on the question “who is Dennis Martin?” will appreciate the high quality of instruction that they can expect. The guy is a world leader in his field, yet we are only paying £30 for the privilege where others are forced to yield £600. How can this be? Let me reveal Dennis’s secret: Heating bills - he doesn’t pay them. The basement hall in which the Liverpool seminars are held is chilly. I half expect to see meat hooks hanging from the ceiling, its that cold. And so the day starts with a lecture on how fantastically dangerous the knife is. I’m a chap who has no need to write anything in the course of my working life. The last time I picked up a biro to write anything longer than my signature was when I was at school. Yet here I am, with cold fingers, struggling to read my own handwriting. My notes for this seminar are messy, but that does not detriment their worth.

With the miracle of technology (PowerPoint being chief among them), Den proceeded to talk us through the history of the knife as a tool and weapon, the stages of development and the science behind weapon. I’m not altogether sure if Dennis plots the little “sidetracks” he wanders into in the course of his presentations, but I can say that his knowledge of subsidiary information is just as thorough as the information he had planned on giving us. Fielding questions from the thirsty crowd with ease, we were left with an impression that Den’s seminars are rather like icebergs at sea: What you can see is impressive and dangerous as hell, but 90% is still under the surface, just waiting to be tapped. I venture that if Dennis were to give a 10 day seminar we’d still walk away with the impression that we were only scratching the surface.

Onward to the next topic of learning which was The Knife Fighter. The psychology of a person who uses a knife is just as important a piece of information as the attributes of a knife itself. I have deliberately avoided re-writing my complete notes because a) it is not my information and b) Dennis makes a living out of this kind if thing, not me. That aside, there is one piece of information which I felt was solid gold and worthy of repetition:

The threats a person makes are usually indicative of the kind of fighter they are. Adrenaline and its cerebral cousins reduces activity in higher-brain centres, thus reducing the capability to lie. Under the influence of high-stress, people become very truthful. Therefore, what a person says when enraged is a useful barometer of threat:

“I’m smash your face in” = Pugilist.
“I’ll tear your head off.” = Grappler.
“I’ll gouge out your ****ing eyes” = Nasty grappler.
“I’m gonna cut out your ****ing liver” = Knifeman.

See how this works? I was deeply impressed by multiple examples of this level of knowledge that you just cannot buy off the bookshelf. Seminars like this are worth more than £30, so get them while they’re hot!

Next on the agenda was “myths of knife defence.” Dennis explained why certain methods of knife defence were about as useful as a candyfloss stab-vest. Chief among the teachings here was the concept that the knife is never still, never fixed, always moving, always cutting. Therefore, defensive techniques that rely on a stationary knife are to be less than trusted.

We finished the lectures with case-studies of people who have successfully defended themselves against the edged weapon. I didn’t take notes at this point because I cannot write quick enough, but I wonder if Dennis might give us a few links to these stories or even a written account if he has one saved somewhere. The ones I was thinking of were Bob Hall; the female who fought off her rapist and the story about the two police officers who went up against the man who wouldn’t die. Unbelievable, some of this stuff.

Now that we were judged to be suitably knowledgeable on the topic of knives, we progressed to the section of the seminar where we learn how to use one. Dennis’s reason behind this being “you cannot destroy that which you cannot create." If we were to defend against a knife we should know what to expect from a knife fighter. We were introduced to the angles of attack: The #1 slash, the #2 slash and so on. I had seen this material online and was somewhat perplexed by it. I felt the system was too mechanical, too rigid and therefore all but useless. How wrong I was. The angles of attack are very fluid, very natural and JUST angles. I had thought that the system was about targeting, so I was very pleased to learn that the angles are just YOUR movement, not lines on the targets body. We did some of these drills and worked the wrinkles out of our technique. The next drill was simple, but for me the biggest learning experience of the day: You partner off with somebody and one of you stands still while the other practises his angles of attack on your body with a dummy knife. I thought that the most interesting part would go to the person holding the knife, but being the target opened up a whole new world of respect for edged weapons. As I stood upright and felt the training knife run across my torso, I was mentally checking off muscle groups and internal organs. One slash took out my deltoid, another thrust hammered straight into my liver, another slash and my hamstring was not strung anymore. Every single touch of the blade could have made my day very awkward indeed. It was frightening.

Den then moved on to the topic of knife defence. The system we were to shown was developed by a corrections officer in the USA to give his co-workers more than a slim chance against a felon with a shiv. The system is named G.U.N. - Grab, Undo, Neutralise. The basics ran thus: You see the knife. You shout “KNIFE!” whilst you grab the knife hand. You bring the knife hand toward your chest, locking it there. You knee the bad guy as hard as you can as fast as you can while screaming at him to drop the knife.
We all practised grabbing the knife hand, then we added the clinch, then the knee. For some reason, elbows work very well and happen naturally in this system. Den hadn’t mentioned the elbow during his tutorial until toward the end, but more than once I saw an elbow strike come my way and stop inches from my face, just as I was throwing them out of instinct also. The clinch that forms the UNDO portion of the system is a stable striking platform from which you can hand out serious damage and still retain control.
Some holes do exist, though. If you fumble the initial grab, you get stabbed. I got “cut” square in the throat and stabbed in the groin on at least a half a dozen occasions. Saying that, I was catching more than I was missing; this isn’t a complaint - just a thought. Training this system at full power is hard on the thumbs. My hands were not at full dexterity for another fortnight after this training!
The “proof of the pudding” was the test which Den subjected us to at the end of our training. We stood in a circle and Den moved around in the circle, stabbing or slashing at somebody at random. Everybody caught the knife, whether Den changed hands (passing the knife) or slashed, stabbed or anything else he could perform. The basic grab training had keyed our hand-eye co-ordination to be very sharp. My hands caught the knife hand without being told to; something I was most chuffed with!

All in all, it was a day well spent. My thanks to Dennis and the instructor team for making the day such a good one.
[Review by SlackBladder]
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