Here’s another look at an older review: “Put ‘em down, Take ‘em out ! Knife fighting techniques from Folsom prison” by Don Pentecost. I re-read this book and only slightly added things to the review.
Knife fighting has been a topic of debate for a long time. Many people, especially in the Martial arts, claim to teach techniques that work against the blade. Unfortunately, few instructors seem to have ever been in a knife fight. As a result, their techniques are sometimes very peculiar. I was intrigued by the book title, as the author seemed to offer experience from a place where cutting and stabbing is part of daily life. So it was with high interest that I read this book.
Mr. Pentecost starts his book by making some clear comments : Determination is more important than technique, be in the right mind set and learn to control adrenaline and fear. As a starting point on knife fighting, there are worse things to be said.
He goes on to kill off some popular myths concerning the use of knives in real encounters: Leading with the knife, facing off, the paralyzed arm, etc. All of these points are very important and the author explains clearly why these are myths. Pointing this out might seem useless to more experienced practitioners, but keep in mind that most people get their information on violence through television and movies. Unfortunately, these media offer a distorted view of reality and the repetitive effect of it will only reinforce this information on those who don’t have real fighting experience.
Chapter 3 covers offensive techniques. Don describes the different types of grips, proper stance, 2 and 3-step attack patterns, targets and more. All of these topics are approached in a no-nonsensical manner and the explanations are brief and ad rem. Some of the best advise on self defense I have ever heard is given here : «In a life-threatening situation, get whatever you can, when you can, as many times as you can. » Food for thought.
The fourth chapter deals with defending against knife attacks. Mr. Pentcost first gives a list of basic principles. These range from prevention and awareness to protecting your back and effective movement. After this another list is offered concerning proper stance. The rest of this chapter deals with grabbing, grappling, trapping and a very nice description on what (not) to do when attacked by multiple opponents.
The last chapter explains some ways of training and preparing for real life encounters. Some of the issues covered are mental training, footwork and breath control.
I only have a couple of issues with this book:
- First of all, the author sometimes seems to present his views as an absolute truth, instead of as a general rule.
- Second, Mr. Pentecost strongly opposes training in the Martial arts to learn self defense. He leaves no doubt as to his feelings towards these arts. I find this to be generalizing an otherwise very true statement. Many Martial arts teachers have very little of value to offer in regard to self defense. This is often so because they lack experience or are more focused towards other aspects (sports, health, etc.). But to claim that they are all worthless is an exaggeration in my opinion.
- Keep in mind this book was first published in 1988 and the world has changed a lot since then. We now have an entire industry, Reality Based Martial Arts, focusing solely on self defense. I think Mr. Pentecost would be much more comfortable with their take on knife fighting as opposed to what he probably saw being taught in the 1980’s and before.
- The author states in the beginning that he won’t discuss the incidents he has witnessed or participated in in Folsom prison. He states this isn’t done by those who have served time there. I both understand and respect that. But then there is little need for putting it in the title. Perhaps some more information on how these techniques are different from others might have been in order. As it is, Folsom is mentioned only once, in the beginning of the book.
This book is a very good starting point if you want to learn more about what happens during a knife attack. It is not the ultimate work on this subject, but it offers some sound, basic advise. The information is presented in a clear and factual manner. No flowery descriptions, just the information. Perhaps that’s a pity, as the book is rather small in the end (about 55 pages).
If you’re looking for some solid info on the realities of knife techniques, get this one. This book is a classic work and a lot of authors and teachers have used it as a reference point. As such, it has become a collector’s item and isn’t easy to get brand new. Follow the link here below to start looking for a used copy; they’re much cheaper.
No problems whatsoever on this front. The lay out is clear and the pictures are of good quality.
Buy it here: