Whether you prefer to call it reverse grip, “ice-pick” grip, “earth” grip, or something else, gripping a knife with the blade extending from the little-finger side of the hand requires a different set of body mechanics than gripping it in a standard grip (i.e., with the blade extending from the thumb-side of the hand). To some, the reverse grip and the tactics associated with it represent the pinnacle of knife fighting technique. To others, it is a waste of time that sacrifices range and functionality.
When I first got involved in knife training, my opinion of the reverse grip was based primarily on what I read of it in WWII-era close-combat manuals. In Col. Rex Applegate’s classic Kill or Get Killed, he describes the grip as the “slash attack” grip and characterizes it primarily as a tactic for surprise assaults rather than a fully capable combative knife grip.
Years later, when I began training in the FMA (Filipino martial arts), I began to understand the advantages of the reverse grip and the contexts in which it is most functional. Research into the traditional use of this grip in the European fighting arts and other Asian blade systems also helped put the grip into a more objective perspective. With that in mind, let’s examine the advantages and disadvantages of this approach to knife tactics.