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Reverse Edge Tactics

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A Primer on Deploying Your EDC Knife Effectively

Photos by Ramon Purcell

The concepts shown here are for illustrative purposes only. Seek professional training from a reputable instructor before attempting any techniques discussed or shown in this story.

If you’re like most pistol-packing, tac-light-toting, CONCEALMENT readers, then your weekly Instagram pocket-dump photo will likely contain a knife, plus a few other “necessities.” I dare say, we’d all be shocked if you didn’t have a knife or two (or three) as part of your EDC kit.

The presence of a knife in your kit shows that you try to be prepared for anything. It’s a useful tool for daily tasks, as well as a formidable weapon that can be used to defend against an assault on your life. Whether it’s your first lethal line of defense or a secondary weapon, the effectiveness of your blade only goes as far as your training. Should the need to use it arise, you must have a plan of action already in place — a system that offers immediate access and efficient employment of your knife.

In my experience of researching, training, and teaching the use of edged weapons, I’ve found that the use of the knife in a reverse-edge configuration is the most effective method when it comes to straightforward, no-nonsense, close-quarters combat. A basic understanding of reverse-edge theory, strategies, and mechanics, as presented here, will place you ahead of the power curve and help you make it home to your family if you should ever have to resort to your knife as a means of defense.

Reverse-Edge Origins
The word pikal is a Visayan dialect word that literally means “to rip.” In the tribal fighting arts of the Philippines, this name is generally used to describe the method of holding a knife in a reverse grip (aka icepick grip) with the edge inverted, facing toward the user. Though not unique to the Filipino blade arts, the art of Kali (particularly the Pekiti Tirsia system) has been most widely credited for the introduction of this unorthodox use of the knife.

Over the past several years, a few well-recognized edged weapons experts, including James Keating, Craig Douglas, and Scott Babb, have brought reverse-edge knife fighting tactics to the forefront of modern combatives through their own highly developed, reverse-edge-based curriculums. By all accounts, the purpose of using a reverse-edge methodology is exclusively for close-quarters confrontations, where cutting away from your adversary is the primary objective.

reverse knife grip fixed blade knife

A Time and Place
Reverse-edge tactics are generally not the tools of choice if you’re engaged in a knife-versus-knife scenario at medium to long range (aka a duel), which is the reason this method is often frowned upon by edged-weapon practitioners. Most systemized knife training is conducted in a dueling format, where two equally matched practitioners square off and practice attacks, defenses, and counters against each other. In this format, using a knife in reverse edge, especially with a reverse grip, is less than ideal because of the amount of reach forfeited and the loss of the protective “fence” created by having the edge between you and your opponent.

This dueling style of training is great for attribute development, but seldom mimics real-world knife encounters. The advantages of a reverse-edge shine through when you’re within grappling range of an adversary who’s trying to control your limbs, choke you out, or reach for your gun. The large pulling muscles of the posterior chain power the cutting movements, offering a significant advantage in the clinch where mobility is limited.

Knife Selection
Knife selection is a key element to effective reverse-edge utilization. Most knives are designed for edge-outward use, which is reflected in their ergonomics. Gripping a knife handle designed for conventional use can be quite awkward and uncomfortable. Choosing a knife specifically designed for reverse-edge use is typically your best option; however, several conventional knives on the market lend themselves well to reverse-edge utilization.

Look for a knife that can be held comfortably with the edge facing toward you in both a forward grip and a reverse grip. Something with a neutral grip design will typically suffice. The one advantage of choosing a conventional knife suitable for reverse-edge work is that your functionality is quadrupled because you’ve four possible gripping configurations.

Next, you must decide whether to go with a fixed blade or folder. At contact range, the ability to deploy your knife quickly and efficiently is of the highest importance. A concealable fixed-blade knife is always your best option when it comes to reliability and efficiency because it eliminates the mechanical manipulation required to bring a folding knife into play, but it’s no secret tactical folding knives offer the distinct advantages of practicality and convenience, making them the default option for most EDC’ers.

clinch knife

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