One aspect of knife tactics that doesn’t get much attention is the problem of “mismatched leads,” or “righty versus lefty.” Although many knife systems claim to address the problem effectively, few of them really do. Some take the easy way out, insisting that “nothing changes.” Typically, these systems don’t have enough depth to address any type of attack effectively. Others are on the other side of the spectrum, creating sophisticated asymmetrical patterns that require even more time, study, and practice than their already overcomplicated symmetrical tactics.

As an instructor, I struggled with this issue for years. Since the traditional Filipino arts that inspired my approach are usually right-hand biased, the easiest solution was to make lefties fight as righties or pair them together so they could do a mirror-image but otherwise identical technique. However, from a combative perspective, this doesn’t do them much good. In-depth analysis of actual street attacks has consistently shown that lethal-force attacks are invariably gross-motor-skill events that involve forehand, downward, or upward actions. Backhand motions are rarely seen. Since 90-plus percent of the population is right-handed, that means most attacks will come from—and target—the left side of your body.

The MBC Fight Plan
In a self-defense context, the best tactic for right-handers in using a knife is to assume a right lead and match an attacker’s right-handed swings with forehand cuts of your own, targeting the flexor tendons and muscles of his forearm to destroy his ability to grip his weapon. This tactic, known in the Filipino arts as “defanging the snake,” is easily learned, easily applied, and it works.

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