Knives for Personal Protection: Introducing Pikal (Reverse Grip Edge In)

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Author’s preface: This article was written several years ago, and represents just one aspect of the total package of self-defense. I still believe in the efficiency of this method, but do not want to give the impression that this is the one answer to edged weapons conflict. That being said, please enjoy this article, as not much is written on this particular subject. This will be the first in a series of articles on the subject of knife use in personal protection. – Terry

In this article, I will be discussing the use of the knife in “Pikal” or reverse grip, primarily with the edge facing in, as opposed to facing out.

Before discussing the actual usage, methodology, and reasons, here’s a little background information on this method may be in order.

The first widely examined use of the knife with edge-in was done by Master at Arms James Keating on his 3 volume Drawpoint series of instructional videos.  In Drawpoint Vol. 1, he teaches the thrust from a forward of the hip waist carry, with the edge facing inward.  He then flows into rotary picking, and in subsequent volumes, expands it into slash & thrust and Palasut drills, taken from Filipino Martial Arts.

So, now that we have some background, the why’s need to be answered.

Note from Daisy: The excellent information in this article is a starting point for learning to use a knife for self-defense. I strongly advise readers to seek professional training before you rely on an unfamiliar weapon or technique in a life-or-death situation.

Why would you hold the knife with the edge toward you?

The first question always asked is why do you hold the knife with the edge toward you and not the enemy?

This knife is designed to be held with the edge-in.

The answer is both simple, and deep.  The way our bodies work, we are stronger pulling then we are when pushing, which means our rips and cuts will be stronger.  Another reason is it allows for a ripping out and cut after the thrust.  RGEI (reverse grip edge in) is primarily a thrusting method. The shearing cuts and rips are used to clear obstructions, such as arms, out of the way to continue thrusting.

RGEI works as a reactive application of force, and it is uniquely applicable to close combat due to the use of gross body mechanics, in every facet, from the draw to the sewing machine like thrusting.  All these actions rely on gross body movement, which due to adrenaline and stress are the easiest, and most likely to succeed in a combative self-defense situation.

We draw the knife in a convulsive, full grip manner when using a fixed blade.  The wrist is locked, and the knife moves immediately from draw to thrust without any chambering or preparatory movements.

Simultaneously when drawing the knife while responding to an attack, we use our off, or live hand, as our defense, warding and clearing to make room for the knife to do its job.  If the attacker we are defending against happens to block our counter-attack, we hook and shear his arm out of the way.

By having the edge of the knife in, towards us, this creates a situation where we have de-fanged the snake, and also made a new opening to launch our next series of thrusts if required.  A very important thing to remember is that none of this occurs in a vacuum. We must never forget to fully integrate our other weapons available, such as using our live hand to punch and create openings and distractions for the thrusts and shears to be effective.

Additional Resource: Learn how to survive a knife attack here.

The knife can be used as a trapping method.

Another reason this method is effective is the possibility of using the knife as a trapping method.

By the edge biting into the arm, it is effectively neutralized, and easier to manipulate, if the opportunity arises.

Finally, one of the best reasons for studying RGEI is the transferability of the skills to non-edged tools.  Using this methodology, since it relies on the point of the weapon, not the edge, you have a “software” downloaded in your brain that will operate with any handheld blunt weapon, such as a closed folding knife, pocket stick, pen or marker, cell phone, eyeglass case, the list is endless.

The only difference would be the kind of damage done.  With the knife, you will create thrusting wounds, with a blunt object, you will be making blunt force trauma on the attacker.

Photo from Conflict Manager Magazine

This method requires overwhelming aggressiveness.

This is not a passive, stand back and react method, it requires rapid and overwhelming aggressiveness to overcome an attacker who has initiated a criminal assault, has the advantage of surprise, and presents a big enough threat to merit potentially lethal force.

Additional Resource: Learn about the brutal reality of combat here.

The aggressiveness of this method is obvious from the default defensive posture, which is forward-facing, and the forward drive instilled through the thrusting action.

I would recommend anyone interested in an easy to learn, quick to apply, easy to retain, and highly effective method of self-protection to pursue this path. You won’t be disappointed.

About Terry

Terry Trahan has been a long term martial artist and teacher of personal protection, as well as an author for numerous publications. His experiences from being a gang member, enforcer, protection specialist, and bouncer have given his teachings a strong bent towards the practical. Fighting his way out of extreme poverty and some unsavory environs also gives him insight into survival and everyday life not often commented on. He can be contacted at terry.trahan at gmail.com

Terry Trahan

Terry Trahan

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  • It was funny, in the Marines, they told us to do everything to NOT get in hand to hand combat.
    Then they taught us hand to hand combat.

    They said the same about getting into a knife fight.
    Then they taught us about knife fighting, using that same grip.

    • Instead of relying on soundbites that don’t make you think in a realistic manner, and that has been disproved thousands of times, both in real world confrontations and thousands of training evolutions, try to look at it holistically. There is not gun fight, knife fight, grappling, boxing. There is fight, and each aspect fits somewhere in the overall picture.
      It might also help to remember a guerrilla fighter saying;
      A rock will get me a knife
      A knife will get me a pistol
      A pistol will get me a rifle
      A rifle will get me whatever I need.

      Violence is a large world, nobody knows it all, but we can be more realistic, listen to others with different experiences, and learn to survive.

      • Well said Mr. Trahan.

        In this day and age, no one knows when a bar room argument will turn into knife or gun fight (many times one sided).
        Or in some instances, mass knifing or shooting.
        Yahoos using trucks or vehicles to run people down, that is a really scary one.

      • “Soundbites.”

        I realize you are talking your book. However, truth may be succinct but it is not a sound bite.

        I have no idea where you live, but knife attacks are rare in the US. Gun violence is common.

        Now, if you live in a western country that has been overrun by Moslems, then knife attacks are common.

        However, it is not my karma to live in such a place.

        People who get attacked on the street are not practicing situation awareness.

        I am an old man now, and I have traveled in some unsavory circles and walked dangerous streets.

        I have never been attacked, because I do not represent myself as a victim, and I walk and talk with the street cred acquired through many life changing situations.

        If you honestly think you are going to give a newbie a knife and briefly train him in the techniques, and give him the courage to carry out those techniques in a moment of greatest danger when adrenaline is surging and the hand is shaking, then you are doing a disservice.

        Real life is not a movie. Knife defense in martial arts classes will get you killed on the street.

      • “Never bring a gun to a knife fight.”

        Lol. I can only assume you are making a joke.

        A gun stops a knife fight, and any other form of attack.

        • Not if you have to draw said gun on a determined attacker who already has a knife in his hand at close range. Not just some punk waving a knife around. You are talking about a 9mm channel that has to be pointed at something vial. Versus a (X) long pointed blade moving within the entire range of motion of the human arm. Maybe you’re better trained than me, but I’ve always been able to bring a blade into EFFECTIVE action faster than a gun.

        • “A gun stops a knife fight, and any other form of attack”

          Not even close. That sounds great, but it’s not true.
          Do CQB force on force, launched within 1-2 arms distance. You cannot draw and fire before someone singers you like a wet pin cushion. I’ve seen it in person several times in training, (And also surveillance cam videos) with different skill levels from expert to amateur. Unless you’re trained AND good AND fast with hands from go, you’re getting slashed and perforated with a determined attacker swinging a blade. Even with rookies, it’s faster and more reliable to hand-on the attacking knife and wrestle to control it, or possibly to draw and present a knife than gun. If you block a knife, you still get the blade. If you block a muzzle, that gun’s often harmless for seconds if not longer.

  • This grip is a tool in the toolbox. FMA is a good type to learn. When practicing make sure you are using rubber, wood covered foam or suitable training knives. Wear eye pro no matter how hot n steamy it gets.
    Books, videos etc are great but nothing beats real instructor guided training, footwork and sweat.
    Once this is learned move into Combatives where you combine knife, gun, mma using EDC style gear. Once you start having to fight and grapple for space to draw and start to work then this grip from the draw will make sense more than just standing there.

  • Depends if you have a concealed carry and I am withing 20 feet of you and I have knife out …. I will win 99 percent of time. Can close it so fast you can’t draw and shoot.

    Also as selco says it about willingness to do the deed, guy with a knife can easy kill a man with fire arm even a rifle if they are not willing to instantly kill in a confrontation.

    For those who have not had the mental safeties of killing removed before it takes precious seconds to make that decision… a second and a half 20 feet away knife man kills you before you can think your way through it.

  • The comments are very telling in who’s training and not.
    Kinda like that guy who’s always at the gun counter talking but always seems to be missing the day when we shoot competition.
    You don’t go because (insert excuse). You go not because you think you’ll win or be the best but because you want to give your best on that day.
    Same reason for hitting the gym at 0400 before work. It’s not so one can be better than everyone else its so that one can be their best when “it” happens.
    There’s no sense in commenting when you aren’t doing it. Kinda like the lady at work telling everyone bout the latest fad diet every week but doesn’t use the free work gym ever.

    • Well said Matt in OK.
      Had a co-worker who was big on name dropping, this is the best, I only carry that. Could quote you all kinds of numbers.
      And man was he a great shot . . . at 100yrds, sitting at a concrete bench, with a lead sled. Never seen him shoot in any other position.

  • If you think you want to engage in a knife fight, consider a kukri or khukuri design knife. The blades are shaped in such as way as to be weight forward for chopping off those offending body parts your assailant may expose while stabbing at you. While several of mine were made in Nepal, and purchased on eBay, I recommend anyone wanting one of these that isn’t fairly expert at sharpening knives to buy an American made version–ideally from Cold Steel, as mine came out of the box literally sharp enough for shaving. This knife is best used for slashing/chopping, and long enough to keep you out of the assailant’s reach. If you buy an import, expect to spend time learning to sharpen it with a whetstone, as they’re always dull, in spite of advertised claims. Do not buy an import that weighs more than about one pound–some makers offer larger, heavier blades but unless you train hard with it, it will prove too heavy for you to be quick. If you can get one that is advertised as the same carried by Gurkha soldiers, you’ll do fine. ATTACH a lanyard for your wrist–it’s weight makes it possible for it to be knocked from your hand in combat.

  • Instinctively I don’t like the RGEI. Under extreme stress an inexperienced person like myself runs the very real risk of missing a (defensive or agressive) strike and stabbing/slashing himself. I read this article fast a couple of times but did not see any mention of this real hazard. Non-reverse grip would be the way for me.

    • Norm, you didn’t read it wrong. There is precious little by way explanation of how a person might successfully utilize such a grip.

      I read it, and realize I was letting my imagination fill in a lot of blanks.

      This grip (I’m calling it the Norman Bates) could hook/puncture/rip an arm thrown up in defense of a Psycho-shower attack, you can intuitively understand how the blade could work even on a blocked attack.

      Would you really want to get your primary arm that high? It leaves one half of your chest/abdomen completely exposed. I can see why the author would explain it as a ‘maximum aggression’ move. You’d have to go full berzerker for it to succeed barring spending 1/2 your life training the technique.

      I’m not a hater. If this technique works for you, big ups. IMO, there isn’t really more than a inkling of a nugget of information passed in this article.

  • I don’t buy it at all. Using this method means you have to get closer to your opponent so he can knee you in the nuts or whatever easier! Hope to never need to find out but if the occasion ever arises I won’t use this tactic.

    • If your attacker never gets close enough to kick your nuts (using your example), then you never have to learn ANY knife weapons usage. But how realistic is that? To be able to keep all attackers in the real world from touching you?

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