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Knife Hands: Avoid These Common Grip Mistakes to Sharpen Your Edge-Weapon Skills

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Imagine the worst-case scenario. You’re in a fight for your life with a gangbanger who’s got a hold of your concealed carry gun. In the struggle, the gun is dropped and kicked clear of the fray. Immediately, you go for your backup weapon: a folding knife.
Unfortunately, you fumble the handle and drop the blade in front of the bad guy’s feet. What do you do now?

Don’t get stuck in that situation in the first place. If you deploy your CCW — be it a gun or a blade — too slowly, you could very well end up on the business end of your own defensive tool. One of the keys to preventing that is to avoid committing rookie knife grip mistakes. In the following pages, we take a sharper look at the different ways to handle your edged weapon and how not to lose your grip … or your life.

Mistake #1: Clueless About Grip Styles

Unless you’re Wolverine or Edward Scissorhands, there are actually a lot of different ways to grip a knife. That doesn’t mean they’re all correct. Some work well in theory but fall apart in practice. Why? Most of them require fine motor control that you won’t have during an adrenaline-inducing life-and-death scenario.

Instead, here are four grips that provide the greatest degree of traction without impeding your ability to stab, slice, or draw cut.

The Hammer Grip: Probably the oldest grip known to humans, it’s also known simply as the forward grip. This is achieved by grasping your edged weapon the same way you would, well, a hammer. Four fingers wrap around the handle while the thumb tucks tightly against the index finger.

This is one of the most common knife grips for good reason — it’s quite natural. Give a toddler a spork or a wiffleball bat, and there’s a good chance she’ll use a hammer grip to hold it.

It’s also the most secure grip. The space between the thumb and the index finger is the weakest link on any grip. Here, that space is minimized, ensuring the tightest grip.

The Thumb-Supported Grip: This grip is quite similar to the hammer grip, with one exception: Instead of tucking your thumb to the side, you place as much of your thumb as you can on the spine of the blade.

This gives you more leverage when employing slicing techniques and reduces the possibility of lateral blade movement. Plus, indexing your thumb on the spine gives you instant blade alignment, a tactile indicator of which way the cutting edge is pointing. Essentially, the blade becomes an extension of your thumb. It’s often used by those who practice Filipino combat arts like Kali and Escrima. This is why it’s also called the “Filipino grip.”

The drawback is that it shouldn’t be used for bigger blades, as the impact of a power cut can vibrate through your thumb or strain your wrist.

The Reverse Hammer Grip: The reverse hammer grip — also called the icepick grip — is another common grip because it’s quite intuitive. Like its forward hammer grip sibling, you just wrap your four fingers around the handle and tuck your thumb to the side — but this time the tip points downward. Then, you can rain down stabs like your name is Norman Bates.

The Reverse Thumb-Supported Grip: No surprise here. This one’s just like the Filipino grip, but in this case the tip points down while your thumb caps the butt-end or pommel of the handle.

When choosing a reverse grip, the reverse thumb-supported grip is more favorable than the icepick grip because capping the handle with your thumb prevents your hand from sliding if you stab something hard (e.g. bone). Otherwise, your fingers could continue their forward momentum onto the blade due to inertia or slipperiness (from blood or sweat).

Mistake 2: A Weak Grip

One of the most common mistakes committed by rookies is a loose grip. Whether it’s due to ignorance, a discipline issue, or just a lack of finger strength, a weak hold on your knife can leave you fatally vulnerable. When teaching knife combatives, we emphasize having what we like to call the “Grip of Death,” because if you lose your grip, you could very well die. Your attacker(s) could disarm you, or you could just accidentally drop it.

Don’t think it’ll ever happen to you? On many occasions, we’ve been able to dislodge training knives from students’ hands during demonstrations and even during the pressure testing of sparring sessions. It always ends with the students getting repeatedly “stabbed” as they try to flee or pick up their blunt blade.

Mistake 3: Right Grip, Wrong Knife (or Vice Versa)

Another common error we see amongst newbies and the ignorant is a grip that doesn’t work for the knife they’re carrying. Your weapon dictates your grip, not the other way around. Think about it. You wouldn’t want to hold a revolver the same way you hold an SBR.

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