Yeah I know. Another knife post. Sorry. On a kick. Will be over it soon.
I’ve seen several extremely squared-away guys, with extensive real-world experience, from units or organizations that I’d want to rescue a loved one, who have combat skills not to be screwed with, nonetheless recommend knives that have no real combat or self-defense value. These guys have world-class gun skills and tactics, yet they miss completely with the blade. What’s up?
I suspect it’s because they have never seen large numbers of their mates rely on the knife they are recommending for real. After all, a knife is a latch-ditch, belly-to-belly weapon to be accessed only after you plan, your teammates, your tactics, your support, your M4, and your handgun have all either failed or are not available. That doesn’t happen too often with world-class units.
Warriors these men are, and they seem to have fallen for the “very-serious/retro-cool/lost-age-of-the-warrior” appeal of the tanto or one of its variants (who can keep track of them all, each with its extremely subtle differences and distinctive name?). There are also some very serious life-long traditional martial artists with a pulpit out there pushing this design as the real warriors blade, but they are wrong — this is the 21st century, not the 13th.
Here’s how I’d demonstrate this. I’d ask these men to grasp their recommended tanto-style knife in their usual grip, and then stab a board, piece of plywood, or a wood post as hard as they could with nothing held back. I would hope they’d refuse, seeing that their hand would surely slip onto the blade and be sliced to the bone. That’s because knives of this sort have either no guard or choil, or a minimal one. See the picture below for one with none:
In contrast, modern knife-centric fighters who really know what they are (or were) doing always incorporate a guard (usually a half guard) or a deep choil in their knives. An excellent and favorite example is the Fred Perrin-designed Street Beat manufactured by Spydeco below:
Remember, in a dire situation where a knife is your best resort you’ll be summoning super strength, and your assailant’s bones, which you are likely to strike, are quite hard.
Real combat or defensive knives have choils or guards.
“But, but”, I hear you saying, “the tanto is designed to be used with bracing from the palm in the forward grip or the thumb in the reverse grip”. Yes, it is. But that renders it a stabbing weapon only, so the knife’s utility is halved, and it restricts your angles of attack, cutting that half at least in half again. So you wind up with at best 25% of a knife instead of 100% when a knife ain’t that much to begin with. That’s fine if the knife’s purpose is to penetrate light armor (which it largely was in the samurai era), but not suitable for last-chance, rolling around in the dirt with your enemy lethal combat, in which you are glad to find any target of opportunity to attack. Also, neither braced grip is instinctive nor easily made so, so you’ll likely not have it under the severe duress of the kind of situation that makes your knife your best current bet.
On the other hand, these knives make excellent assassin’s tools (that’s snark in case it’s not obvious, and so this post doesn’t come back to haunt me).