The Need and Selection of a Good Training Knife
USSA Staff Instructor
The selection of an every day carry knife is more complex than it would first seem. The first thing we need to examine is the reason we will carry this knife every day? Is it primarily a work tool? Is it a tool for self defense? If it is for self defense, is it a secondary option behind a legally licensed concealed carry handgun? Is it the primary tool for defense? At USSA, because we teach to “Win the Fight!” we are teaching for the worst case scenario. In this article, we will examine training for use of the knife for personal defense from serious physical harm or death.
The nature of criminal assault creates the criminal’s need to get close to us to gain the things that they want. The ability to get close to us without alerting us to their intent becomes their stock in trade. If they cannot do this, they cannot get paid. Therefore, criminals must become very skilled and adept at this tactic. We must first learn to identify the criminal assault as it is building (which is difficult given the amount of attention we must give to everyday tasks as we go throughout our lives.) Second, we must learn to access our tools in the middle of the storm of the criminal attack. This makes the ease of access to a fully functioning knife a thing of vital importance. How do we know that we can access the knife in this uncertain chaotic environment? Simple, we strive to train in an environment that most closely simulates this situation. This realistic training creates a need for a training knife as our training partners will not want to get stabbed/cut too often in our relentless pursuit of personal security.
Training blades come in a variety of shapes and sizes but certain criterion follow for the best of training experiences.
1. They are easily identifiable as training blades. This reduces loss of training partners (and blood) from accidental introduction of a live (sharp) blade into the training environment. All good training has protocols to prevent this from happening. At the courses at USSA, people often roll their eyes at getting patted down once again, but to date no one has been harmed from the introduction of an unsafe tool.
2. They are dull and without many protrusions: Good training knives are totally dull and do not have a substantial number of elaborate things protruding from the knife like complicated finger grooves that could produce another surface that could strike or cause injury from being caught in clothing or gear and keep you from releasing it in order to prevent harm.
3. They are durable: Good training knives are able to withstand impact of being dropped, fallen upon, stepped on, thrown, struck with another tool by accident or intentionally. All of these things can happen in realistic training.
4. They are able to be placed in a position that simulates closely our everyday carry. This will go a long way toward making our training more realistic. Placing our training tool in the place that we will have to access it in a realistic situation provides the best replication of the event. In other words, we don’t scrimmage basketball to get good at football, we do what best simulates football through drills and scrimmaging with football equipment. We need to simulate a criminal assault with the tools (or close approximations) that we will use to survive that criminal assault.
The best trainer is the blade that most closely simulates the blade that we are going to use. This would mean that a dedicated trainer manufactured by the company (or an authorized representative) would be ideal. Columbia River, Benchmade, and the Kabar TDI Knife all have production model trainers. Alternately we could have a trainer custom made that closely resembles the blade we carry. Apparently there is an unwritten rule that if a company makes a good mass production personal protection fixed blade then they make a sheath that is nearly useless for self protection. There are a few exceptions to this rule such as the tools from Shivworks, but in general, this seems to be the stance. There is a solution that is a good compromise. In-fight Weapons Access Kydex is a company owned and operated by USSA’s own Dave Pyle. Dave can design a sheath for our blade and could even design a trainer and training sheath for it. Dave’s work can be seen at In-fight Weapons Access Kydex or by contacting him through USSA.
Many people carry folders because of the convenience and sometimes the regulations of where they carry. Again finding the folder that is most like the knife you carry is important. Is the tip oriented to the floor or the ceiling when the knife is in your pocket? Is your carry knife wave-opening? Then your folding trainer should be set up the same way. The best way to assure the knife is set up in that manner is that it is manufactured by the company that makes your knife or it’s representative. Spyderco, BlackHawk, and Benchmade all make folding trainers. I feel auto-knives follow much the same rules for blade opening and carry orientation with the added problem that trainers seem to be less available for these models.
Because of the amount of impact and chaos that can come from high level simulation of criminal assault, there comes a need for tools that are more forgiving for the human body than even dull steel or aluminum. Rubber trainers are more forgiving but will bend in a knife grapple. They do provide a good amount of safety but at the cost of some validity if you are going to have hard contact with the possibility of wrestling over the knife. Nok Knives are one of the best knife shapes for hard contact out there. Cold Steel also produces some hard rubber knives that are pretty good as well. No-Lie Knives and Sharkee also produce some good products. No-Lie makes a knife that can is designed to take a marking compound to show the slashes. Sharkee is a fair product but is made of hard plastic, which is not much of an improvement over the metal knives.
There are a number of vendors that sell these knives. Even Amazon and eBay carry some of these trainers. Knifecenter.com seems to have some good deals on the Spyderco models. The best way is simply to do an Internet search for your carry knife and look to find the trainer or something similar enough in orientation and opening method. Training Blades (Nok and Sharkee knives) No-Lie Blades (No-Lie blades)
There are a number of carry knives out there, but to make it a good carry knife, we must be able to train for its use. This creates the need for a trainer that is safe and simulates the actual blade as much as possible. This will make our training pay the dividends that will allow us to “Win the Fight!”