Combat knives are weapons that are designed for maximum efficacy in the hands of a trained knife fighter. Learning how to use one of these weapons properly can take a lot of time and effort, and it often involves unlearning the idea that a knife is a fencing or duelling weapon. Knife fighters are taught grips, stances, attacks and defences, and in many cases their preconceived notions about knives--including that they are useless against opponents armed with guns--are shown to be false.
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The primary candidates for knife combat training--covering both how to fight with knives and protect against them--are military personnel and police officers in basic training. Civilians may learn combat knife tactics through courses taught by independent schools or martial arts classes that focus on practical weaponry and tactics. Military personnel and law enforcement officers focus on deadly force and practical knife fighting and defence. Martial arts students learn to use knives in styles that fit well with other martial forms but may not be the most practical. Private schools run the gamut, but they tend to focus more on the practical applications that are taught in military and paramilitary combat knife courses.
A variety of blades may be considered combat knives. The kukri, a thick, curved blade from India is technically a combat knife that was used by the Ghurkas, Nepalese fighters who supported British troops in World War II. The Marine Corps fighting knife is a straight blade patterned on hunting knives that troops use for fighting but is also a utility knife that can be used for practical tasks and has a hilt sturdy enough to pound tent stakes. The Bowie Knife, generally considered too big for knife fighting, can be a deadly weapon in the hands of someone trained to use it and is favoured by survivalists. British soldiers, particularly those in the SAS, have long favoured stilettos--long, narrow knives that are better suited to stabbing than slashing.
Fighting with a knife is brutal and harsh, and it's meant to do damage to your opponent in ways that will end the fight and, often, your opponent's life. This means that the knife is used to either cripple the enemy through slashing important body parts or killing him quickly, usually with a deadly thrust. Knife fighting isn't for the squeamish, and knife wounds are deep, bloody and painful. Many fighting knives are designed to cause or to be used in such a way as to cause maximum internal damage.
The human body has a number of weak spots that can be targeted by a knife fighter. To cripple the opponent you slash the wrist or elbow, cutting deep into the tendons and also any arteries or veins nearby. To cripple a leg, you slash the back of the knee or ankle. Killing blows vary depending on the type of knife used. Kukris are best used to slit a throat because of the knife's curved blade. Bayonets and other knives that are meant for stabbing should be thrust into the opponent's belly and twisted, then pulled free, causing maximum internal damage. Combat knife training shows you where and how to strike for maximum effect.
Combat knife training includes defence as well as offence. You learn the proper positions to stand in, and the proper way to grip your knife. You learn that a lead arm or hand can be used to grab or deflect an opponents attack, leaving him open to attack. You may also learn to use a coat or other item to catch an opponent's knife and deflect it away. The goal of defence is to open up your opponent without taking as few defensive wounds as possible, or by taking wounds that will do your body minimum damage.
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