To use a knife, you must grip it. Not only is a proper grip important to you when using the knife, seeing the grip used by an attacker may give you some indication of the skill level of the attacker. There are four methods of gripping a knife. As with any fighting technique, each has its advantages and disadvantages.
- Fencer's Grip. In this grip, the knife handle is gripped between the thumb and forefinger, with the other fingers wrapped loosely around the handle, such as the way a fencer grips a foil. The handle is held loosely but is gripped tightly when attacking. Allows you to switch to a reverse grip quickly . Single edge knife is held with the edge facing downward, double edge knife is held with the edges facing horizontally. Blade is pointed toward the attacker. While this grip may be suitable for knives with small handles, it is unsuitable for knives with large grips. This grip allows the wrist to move the blade in many directions, make blade flips, provides maximum reach for the blade, and presents the weapon in a more threatening manner. It allows you to "shimmer" the blade, wiggling it quickly to make it reflect light to intimidate and confuse the opponent and make it difficult for the opponent to predict the movement of the knife. However, the grasp is not firm. If your hand is struck while using the fencer's grip, you may lose your grasp on the knife. The thumb may be injured if it slips down the blade or if the knife is forced backward. This is the grip used by "flashy" knife fighters.
- Ice-pick Grip. In this grip, the knife handle is held in a fist, with the blade pointing downward, similar to how you would hold an ice pick when using it to chip ice. Single edge knife is held with the edge facing outward, double edge knife is held with an edge facing outward. This grip enables deep blade penetration into soft body armor, heavy coats, or other protective clothing, however, when raising the knife for a downward strike, you telegraph your intentions, expose your chest area, and make it easy for your opponent to see the weapon. This grip does not provide for parrying or thrusting and it is easy to block a downward thrust. This is the grip used by many novices.
- Hammer Grip. Also known as the heaven or saber grip. This is the preferred grip of experts. In this grip, the knife handle is gripped in a fist such as you would hold a hammer. Blade is pointed upward. Single edge knife is held with the edge facing forward, double edge knife is held with an edge facing forward. The wrist is kept flexible but may be locked when needed. With this grip, the knife is less likely to be knocked from your grasp, and it permits the hand to punch or deliver butt-end knife strikes. The grip provides for deep penetration and power so the blade may easily cut through heavy clothing. Also, there is less likelihood of injury to the thumb, and the knife may be used for chopping, slashing, and especially thrusting techniques.
- Reverse Grip. The pakal knife fighting method uses the reverse grip. Pakal, in the Visayan dialect of the Philippines, means to rip. Similar to an animal’s claws, pakal movements are designed to pull in and tear apart flesh, not push it away. Most knife fighters want their edge facing the attacker so the attacker has to fight through the edge to get to them. They use knife thrusts to keep attackers away. While most pakal thrusts are a backward motion, forward thrusts are also used. However, because the blade faces backward, the reach of forward thrusts and the depth of penetration are limited. In pakal, thrusts are the primary attacking motion; any cutting, shearing, or tearing are considered secondary. When you push an attacker away, he or she will probably attack again. This constant disengagement and reengagement creates too many opportunities for something to go wrong. When you thrust forward, the attacker will usually step back to avoid or diminish the power of the strike, and then step back in for another attack. In pakal, if the attacker pulls back, he or she will move into the power of the strike. If the attacker does not pull back, the strike will still pull forward into the attacker. When people are cut, they tend to jerk away quickly, so if a preliminary cut is made on the way in for a backward thrust, it will cause the person to jerk backward into your thrust.