Knife Fighting 101: Weak Hand Deployment Part 1

Rob “Filo” Cabrera is a great friend and practitioner of every imaginable martial arts program out there. Filo is one of the most dangerous men I know, but you wouldn’t know it by speaking with him. His knife skills are unmatched, and his blade work has produced knives found all over the world, from special forces operation groups to the average Joe next door. Humble in all walks of life, Filo gives us the first installment of a four-part series about the weak-hand deployment of a knife while utilizing a strong-hand firearm. ~ KJ

To get the full picture, you’ve got to understand the “why.” Why should I carry a knife weak side? Why should I practice weak-side blade deployment? Why is this methodology right for me? Understand that most of us have this idea that the weak side is, I'm right-handed, and I'm going to deploy with my left. Another thing to make clear is that there are left-handed people out there that the right hand is also their weak side. We tend to leave them out. We run into this quite a bit in Pilipino (spelling?) martial arts. Where we’ll run a seminar and applications where we’ll be doing left-handed development, and there'll be a left-handed person there, and we must change our teaching methodology. So, I want to make it clear that this is across all borders, whether you run weak-side deployment from left or right. 

Two is one, and one is none. God gave you two hands, and if you are not able to use them properly – or if you lose one - therefore, you have nothing. That is at the main emphasis of this series. This can be spread out in so many ways that you can be taught and explained in a lot of different scenarios, but that's what it boils down to. Nature provided you with two hands, so if one goes away, you have a backup.

So, this idea that we're going to go ahead and train one-handed and continue to train one-handed and not exercise the second hand sits us at a disadvantage with the whole concept that two is one and one is none. We want to begin to understand the dangers of not having a weak-hand development or at least a perceivable percentage of application of the use of the non-primary hand, which is our secondary weapon. We need to understand this before we begin to wrap our heads around this journey is right off the bat the practitioner and the person trying to make these changes must realize that they have been either right or left-hand dominant their entire life. We've had a whole lifetime to train that dominant hand. They must give themselves adequate time to be able to understand that their weak-hand development is going to have to begin at a very, very elementary level. 

We have a tendency to be incredibly impatient. That's why most people quit left-hand development immediately, and that's the time when I begin to instruct individuals in left-hand engagement. One of the first things that I do is tell them, "Listen, let's go ahead and take a couple of the training classes to go ahead and get our head wrapped around what we're trying to do here. We have a whiteboard at the training facility, and I ask them to write their name with their left hand if they are right hand dominant and vice versa if they are left-hand dominant I ask them to write their name right-handed. The frustration begins immediately.

It’s okay to get frustrated. They see the mountain they’re going to climb. With the application of the Kaizen thought process, the student must understand that growth comes from incremental change. Each incremental step leads to a benchmark location that they can then jump from again and begin incrementally growing. So, the first thing we start is writing your name with your non-dominant hand. That's how it starts, and what we do for the next couple of weeks are other incremental exercises that begin to develop that non-dominant hand. However, it all begins with the writing systems. 

In most Martial systems, calligraphy is directly linked to swordplay or any combat. It is strongly encouraged, specifically in most Asian systems, that there is a strong connection between calligraphy and swordplay or any weapons work. There is a direct correlation between the two, and that's where I learned to teach students to work Power comes from understanding. Rob "Filo" Cabrera demonstrates tomahawk striking against a cinder block. with their weak hand.

You ask, “Rob, how does all this apply?” It all applies because the idea that you're going to jump from being able to be right-hand dominant to functioning with little effort with your non-dominant hand immediately is a fallacy. We must temper our expectations and set realistic expectations from the start. 

The incremental change starts with high functioning drills, and I progress to more Martial skills, predominantly out of Filipino Martial arts. In Filipino Martial Arts, several exercises lend themselves to developing right- or left-handed dexterity. Not so much right or left-hand dominance, but the right and left-hand intricate, independent operation but working together. Well, most people say that's difficult to learn. You're absolutely correct. It basically boils down to the yin and yang principle, where two opposing forces are working for the good of the unity. This is what you have with this weak-hand development. The right hand must be able to do what it should do, but in cases, if they should be able to work together. For instance, this idea of being able to do something with my right hand to be able to augment and provide an applicable situation for me to execute something with the non-dominant hand.

So, we go back to the fundamentals, calligraphy. In periods, we go back to writing our name with our non-dominant hand. The student sees incremental progress in their name writing. Many times, we begin on the whiteboard and move to a notebook, so they see the growth. As their higher-hand development begins to grow. We bounce between longhand and sticks because there's range deprivation between the two. Sticks can be blended. We basically start with sticks and blend into an open hand by applying some sort of strip or application where one of us is disarmed, and we are playing the open hand game.

As these progress, we move further and further with more complex hand applications. Once we get where the practitioner is comfortable with this idea that the left hand is functioning with the right hand is 100% of the target and my left-hand functioning with 15 to 20% proficiency. So, we begin to blend in this idea that different body angles present themselves, different for a non-dominant hand position compared to a dominant hand position based on your footwork. What we refer to as your low line footwork, or your low line body application applies to a combatant. This changes the game because there's a lot of angles that will present themselves based on the fact that you are a right-handed striker. Now you’ve given yourself more dexterity with the left hand. You get different angles of attack because of this. Most attackers are used to dealing with right-handed dominant individuals and not used to fending off attacks with the non-dominant hand. You possess the element of surprise. ~ Filo