Empty hand to knife or vice versa?



When training in an art such as American kenpo they stress training from empty hand to club to knife for example. I have been told that many FMA start with knife or club and then progress to empty hand.

Which would you prefer to do and why?
I personally feel that it is better to develop hand-to-hand skills first. You have to logically decide which weapon you are going to have with you most readily... Hopefully you have your hands with you everywhere you go, if you don't... How are you going to hold the knife, club, sword, tanfa, or staff?
If my experiences over the years are any indication, it seems that once a student gets involved with using a weapon they begin to rely upon that weapon forsaking all else. I've been in situations where I was attacked with knives, clubs, and chains and I managed to survive because the attackers helped me win the confrontation. How? By holding a weapon they told me exactly where the attack was going to originate... The hand holding the weapon. Granted that these were untrained assailants, but I've encountered the same thing when sparring with armed Black Belts. They had a huge tendancy to use the weapon exclusively even though they were far superior than I in hand-to-hand sparring skills.
The last issue is what I call the mentality of a weapon. I've discovered that an intelligent person will hesitate before using a weapon because of its potential to cause damage. Many wise self-defense experts teach their students to use a pepper-spray against attackers because they will find it much easier to spray the spray than to pull a trigger. However, the crook, who has experience, will not hesitate. Secondly, the spray is a lot safer on you if you lose the weapon and it is turned on you.
Knives are a very deadly weapon. The tip of a knife propelled by the simple force of your arm has more power than a bullet. Its a matter of physics. The power/momentum of a bullet is distributed over the area of its tip upon impact. Since a knife's tip is so miniscule the power/momentum is magnified and is able to do more damage. Because we all know this somewhere in the back of our minds a knife has a very huge intimidation factor which is why it is such a popular weapon. While there are many people who are able to threaten others with a knife, very few will actually want to use it on someone. A knife is a very personal weapon. You have to be relatively close to make a cut and it will most certainly draw blood. Most humans are naturally repulsed at seeing and smelling blood. I've been in a situation where I was armed with a knife and attacked by four armed individuals. Even though I was morally and legally entitled to use that knife, I couldn't bring myself to doing so. Maybe personal weakness or maybe I'm just a decent human being.
Blunt force trauma is the way to go. It is so much easier <mentally> to strike a person with a club or with your hands and feet than it would be to use a penetrating weapon. If you have it available, I would recommend using a club to thwart your opponent if you have the mental capacity to do so... but I would definately suggest that you learn how to use your hands and feet first because you never know when you might not have a weapon available.

Now, to look at it from the other angle. Lets say that your instructor is good enough to teach you how to not be reliant on the weapon if you are caught without it. I teach my white belts club drills as early as their second class because it teaches them how to relax and not be so stiff when throwing punches and open hand strikes. The two aspects of open hand and weapon training compliment and support each other if taught by a good instructor. But again, it doesn't do any good for you to learn how to use a weapon if you aren't taught how the skills translate and you don't have the weapon when you are attacked.

My two cents.
I think it depends on the way it's taught. I just started in my FMA training, but yes, the first thing they had me do was grab a stick. However, both of my instructors constantly show how the stick and knife techniques translate to empty hands. With that always happening, you eventually learn to see those things for yourself. So, in a way, you're learning weapons and weaponless fighting at the same time. I think I have a little help from previous training in other systems, though.

What I disagree with in non-FMA systems is when they teach knife defenses without first teaching students how to use a knife, outside of the attacks for the defenses. To truly understand how to defend against a blade, you have to know how to work a blade, to better understand the possibilities in knife defense.

But I'm biased now, so my answer probably isn't very fair :)

I would go with weapons first, than empty handed.

This is probably my Arnis practice showing, but I feel it's true. weapons give a better understanding, and by starting off with it it's easier to move over to weaponless training. But it's hard for most people to start with a weapon, because they have problems enough in just moving there arms and legs correct, therefor the slow approach.

Logically I think an art that contains weapons should start with them.

- Weapons are "easier" to learn, in that you can be almost immediately more effective with a weapon than with your bare hands;

- Weapons teach proper distance and timing quicker than empty hand techniques do, frequently (depending on the weapon) the weapon is an equalizer for things such as reach differences;

Obviously those two comments above only apply to hand-to-hand weapons and not firearms or other missile weapons; with ranged weapons the techniques do not readily apply to the empty handed curriculum of the martial art being taught.

I study both Aikido and FMA, and in Aikido if weapons are covered at all they are usually covered in "advanced" classes. I think the FMA approach is more logical. It probably helps that the FMA study weapons that are a little more immediately applicable to modern living situations.

It was my impression that it's common to start with barehand training and then move to weapons because the weapon is supposed to be like an extension of yourself, not some foreign object in your hands. If you can't control your own body and limbs properly, how would you be able to use a weapon properly? I thought that was why you'd do barehand training first. You learn all the basics, stances, movements, etc. so that you can do them well and don't really have to think about them. Once you know how your own body works, you could then start training with a weapon. I guess I'm going mainly from a CMA perspective since all the training I've had is in long fist kung fu and tai chi and most of what I've read/heard about is in those areas as well. But that's how I understood it -- work barehanded first and learn how your body works so that when you take a weapon it will be an extension of you and not something foreign.
I like the FMA style of teaching weapons first. IMO, this helps you to be more aware of how your body moves. It also helps your awareness of things like distancing and timing, which are very important. If you can face the end of an escrima stick flying at you at 150 mph, then parrying an opponent's jab seems mundane by comparison.
When I started out I studied karate and empty hands first made a lot of sense.

Now I practice arnis and weapons first seems perfectly logical.

I don't think you could get the karate body mechanics with a weapons-first approach. Of course, iaido teaches excellent body mechanics with a weapons-only approach so maybe one could still get that "snappiness" to their movement through the bo. Overall, though, I like the FMA approach.
I believe it boils down to the style of martial art. I was trained with weapons as I progresses through the ranks but the open hand material always took the forefront. We were taught we were learning the weapons material so that we could better learn to understand the weapon and its limitations.

Later I realized many schools use weapons work to entice students and as a reward system for good work.

Since the FMA appear to be more traditionally combat oriented than American Kenpo in which I train, I would have to say it all comes down to what you are studying.
I think one of the greatest benefits to be gained by training with weapons first is a better understanding of range. I thought I had range down pretty good, until I took up the FMA. I was so very wrong.

Coming from a traditional Japanese/Okinawan-based system background, I can understand the philosophy of training with weapons later on, using the weapons as an extension of the body. However, I find the FMA approach to be just as valid. By studying motion rather than technique, it's a simple matter to change or even remove a weapon, and still be effective.

After having studied both ways, I much prefer the FMA approach. However, they seem to be more weapon oriented systems, so it's logical to progress that way. Also, for the most part, the FMA weapons can be something still in use today or something that has a modern day counterpart. I find it unlikely that I'd have to face someone with my nunchaku or sai. A knife or my ASP baton is a more likely scenario.

stopping before I babble
Originally posted by Cthulhu

What I disagree with in non-FMA systems is when they teach knife defenses without first teaching students how to use a knife, outside of the attacks for the defenses. To truly understand how to defend against a blade, you have to know how to work a blade, to better understand the possibilities in knife defense.

But I'm biased now, so my answer probably isn't very fair :)

I am with you on that. I think Most schools have it backwards as far as knife defense goes. Use of the weapon should predicate the learning of the defense of the same weapon.
They should be taught at the same time just like offense/defense with hands and feet are taught at the same time. The problem is there aren't as many knife fighter schools as there are hand/foot art schools. FMA notwithstanding.

GEne Gabel
I think it is the responsibility of the instructors of non-FMA systems to look into a more realistic study of the knife (and other weapons) so that they can better present their own system's defenses to their students.

Sort of related: I've noticed a large group of aiki people in the FCS system, and we added a new one after my instructors did a free seminar in this area. I don't know if it's the realistic weapons training, the flow, or just the contrast of the FMA with aiki systems.