When I first started training in knife tactics in the mid-1970’s there was little information available on reverse-grip tactics. Most of the WWII manuals made minor reference to it as a surprise tactic or a supposed assassination tactic (Col. Applegate’s famed “Backhand Assassin’s Trick). Without much to go on, I focused on standard-grip tactics.

When Michael Echanis’ notorious “Black Book” (Knife Fighting and Knife Throwing for Combat) was released, I quickly ordered a copy and, with the help of some like-minded training partners in my martial arts club, diligently practiced the techniques it described. I was particularly interested in Echanis’ reverse-grip tactics and hoped to use them as a basis for really evaluating the benefits of that grip and rounding out my knowledge of knife fighting. Unfortunately, I was sorely disappointed. Although that book remains a landmark work in published materials on knife tactics, most of its techniques are extremely complicated and difficult to do against a motivated attacker. Frustrated, I returned my focus to standard grip, but never lost my curiosity for functional reverse-grip methods.

Years later, shortly after establishing the video production department at Paladin Press, my friend Jeff Loffer of Cutlery Shoppe sent me a Gryphon M-10 boot knife and a VHS copy of James Keating’s video on the use of that knife in reverse grip, titled Drawpoint. I had been following Keating’s work for several years and had corresponded with him while I was stationed in Thailand. As one of the pioneers of openly sharing knife tactics with the public, I had—and still have—great respect for him. I was therefore eager to see his “take” on reverse-grip methods.

Not surprisingly, I learned a lot from Keating’s Drawpoint video and even convinced him to re-shoot the intro so Paladin could offer it as Reverse-Grip Knife Fighting. His later volumes, Drawpoint 2 and 3, dug even deeper into the training drills and fighting methods of reverse-grip, inspired largely by Keating’s knowledge and study of Pekiti-Tirsia Kali and other Filipino methods. Using Keating’s excellent videos as a template, my training partners and I diligently explored reverse-grip tactics and soon developed a sound skill set.

As the Martial Blade Concepts (MBC) system evolved and I learned more about the realities of knife stopping power, I changed MBC’s tactics to focus intently on the rapid physical incapacitation of an attacker. Through biomechanical targeting and a parallel focus on targeting the peripheral nervous system, MBC’s standard-grip tactics achieve immediate, predictable incapacitation of an attacker. Unfortunately, this targeting system—and its approach to stopping power—did not translate well to MBC’s reverse-grip tactics, which closely paralleled those of the traditional Filipino martial arts.

In 2010, frustrated with the disconnect between MBC’s standard and reverse-grip systems, I took a hard look and the physiological potential of reverse-grip movements and began changing their focus and application. With the help of my private students and instructors, I redesigned the reverse-grip system to maintain its core movements and training drills, while changing the tactics of its combative application to be more consistent with MBC’s focus on stopping power. I also took a critical look at the way I presented reverse-grip skills in the video Mastering Fighting Folders and decided to streamline and simplify the system to make it easier to learn and apply.

I shared the revised reverse-grip system through seminars and my annual training camp and the response from students was extremely positive. I therefore decided to formally document the new approach and teaching method with an instructional video. The result was Martial Blade Concepts Volume 5. In simple terms, it represents the current state of the art as far as MBC’s approach to reverse grip. To provide a frame of reference, it contrasts traditional Filipino methods with the new MBC approach and explains in detail why lethal force does not equate to stopping power. It also highlights the shortcomings of traditional reverse-grip tactics when they are applied in modern self-defense—especially in cold climates against attackers wearing heavy clothing.

Martial Blade Concepts Volume 5 presents a complete course in MBC’s reverse-grip curriculum and should provide significant food for thought for practitioners of any reverse-grip method. It makes Mastering Fighting Folders obsolete and provides an up-to-date reference for students of the MBC curriculum and anyone interested in a practical, logical approach to reverse-grip knife skills.

Stay safe,

Michael D. Janich