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Shocknife Realistic Knife Training

Written by Kevin Davis

Over the last few years, tremendous inroads have been made in preparing our law enforcement officers and military for the violence they may face. From the early days of cotton ball training we have progressed to the use of paintball and now to Simunition® and AirSoft®.

Training equipment and tools that allow a strong confrontation simulation or force on force training have allowed our trainees to face performance-diminishing stress while still being safe. Yes, even when conducted in a safe way, confrontation simulation may bruise or cause the trainee pain; however, this discomfort pales in comparison to the risk of death or permanent injury in a real incident if the officer’s training has failed to properly prepare him for up close and extremely violent encounters.

Edged weapon defense needs to be properly developed as well. Whether you are assigned as a corrections officer and face homemade shanks, a wildlife enforcement officer dealing with hunting knifes, a police officer facing everything from a kitchen steak knife to a street thug armed with a balisong, or a soldier possibly facing a bayonet or entrenching tool, you must train to defeat whatever edged weapon threat comes your way.

Training knives have been manufactured or improvised over the years to assist in learning edged weapon defense. From wooden tent pegs to modern plastic and rubber, trainers all have their place. Attempts to bring marking technology into play have helped. These training knives can be marked with chalk, lipstick, or red paint to allow the instructor to give his students feedback. After a simulated edged weapon attack, the success of the defense can be easily demonstrated by the amount of red paint slashed across the trainee.

This training with lipstick knives can have tremendous value but falls short of the real stress inflicted by the firearms using marking cartridges. After all, where is the prospect of pain? Some serious Filipino martial arts players have attempted to induce a stress reaction by sparring with bundles of lit incense rods or actual live blade sparring. Certainly the prospect of getting burned or cut would induce such a reaction, but the potential for permanent injury is too great. What then can an instructor do to properly train and simulate edged weapon defense?

A Shocking Solution

I am a full-time defensive tactics instructor, a Filipino martial artist, and an edged weapon aficionado, so testing a new training knife would be a piece-of-cake, right? Wrong. When Shocknife®, based in Winnipeg, Canada, sent me their training knife to evaluate, I had reservations. Upon opening the case and inserting a 9 volt battery, I touched the actuator button. At that point I thought, “this ain’t gonna be fun!”

You see, the Shocknife® shocks or more accurately, when dragged across the skin, has the ability to simulate a cut in the form of a shock. When the adjustment screw is set at its highest, the Shocknife® produces a hum or growl and an electrical arc similar to a stun gun or Taser®.

I had a flashback to years ago when, armed with a stun gun, I arced the device in front of a mental patient who was off his meds and acting out. The subject stated, “Man, you ain’t gonna electrocute me! That ain’t right! I wouldn’t do that to you!” And yet, there I was standing in my own living room, experiencing a fight or flight reflex about dragging this training blade across my skin.

A Sympathetic Nervous System Reaction

What I was experiencing then and there was the body’s reaction to the prospect of pain. I was going from a normal state of Homeostasis (which is defined as a balance between low level forms of arousal and the higher levels) to a Sympathetic Nervous System reaction. Simply put, I was going into a mild state of fight or flight.

I felt my heart rate quicken, I knew my blood pressure was up, my hands were shaking a little, and I had a serious second thought about dragging this sparking and growling blade across my skin. Cool. That’s exactly what the Shocknife® was designed to induce.

Whether you have been hit with cattle prods, stun guns, or the Taser® as I and most DT instructors have, the first time you fire up the Shocknife® you are going to experience some stress. And so will your students. After basic training on edged weapon defense skills are learned and practiced, an instructor can “kick it up a notch” and expose his students to the Shocknife®.

The fear of getting touch/shocked will induce a mild state of fight or flight, insure that the students respect the blade, and inoculate them to the possibility that in the middle of an assault by a knife armed suspect you can’t stop despite the pain of a cut, you must keep going and win the encounter. This is a great benefit of the Shocknife®.

Design and Construction

According to Rory Bochinski of Shocknife® the concept is the brainchild of Canadian law enforcement officer, SWAT cop, and defensive tactics instructor Jeff Quail. Quail had the idea about three years ago and partnered with Rory to bring the design to fruition.

The Shocknife® is constructed of high quality ABS Polycarbonate. The ABS design is strong and durable with the most robust electronic components used as well. The rubber hilt was designed to protect trainee’s hands from impact with the hard Polycarbonate.

The electronics are powered by a simple 9 volt battery. Rory Bochinski advises that, “the Shocknife® training knife has a potentiometer (Shock Adjustment Screw), which allows the user to adjust the level of shock received. Shocknife’s maximum setting produces a shock with a maximum of 7500 volts and under 1 milliamp (.00075 AMPS). The shock is a localized shock with a gap space of only 1/8th of an inch. This means the electricity will not travel throughout the body.” When set on the maximum level, the Shocknife has just ¼ the amps of the modern Taser®.

I tested a prototype version of the Shocknife in an effort to assure reliability and insure that proper function refinements are being made in the full production version. Aside from these minor changes, the basic design and concept of the Shocknife® are good to go. Each Shocknife® comes in a shockproof carrying case (no pun intended). A basic package is one knife/case. A knife fighter’s package consists of two knives/case and an academy package consists of ten knives. Check with Shocknife® for suggested retail prices.

The Shocking Truth

All I had to do was call my fellow DT instructor, Filipino martial arts player and Jiu Jitsu Master, Doug Woodhall, to get a willing participant to spar with the Shocknife®. He agreed with me that the concept was a valid one and worth the investment. We have banged each other with an assortment of metal and plastic training knives over the years, but when Woodhall armed with the Shocknife® attacked, I made sure that I kept the blade well away from not only by body, but my arms as well.

Although I was wearing a long sleeve T-shirt, the “shock” for some reason was greater than bare skin. The knife works through clothing like uniform shirts and even blue jeans, but will not penetrate Kevlar. This fear of being “cut” is exactly what the makers intended; it adds truth to the training.

Yes, marking knives have their place, but the feedback comes later after the attack is over when you look at your arms and see the paint. With the Shocknife® the feedback is instantaneous, you know right away when you’ve been “cut” and despite the pain, you keep going.

Woodhall and I put the Shocknife® through its paces and found that it performed as designed and intended. Law enforcement, military, and corrections trainers will benefit from this advancement in edged weapon training. Kudos to Bochinski and Quail for developing the Shocknife®. Serious instructors and trainers will find the value of its use just like we latched on marking cartridges in realistic firearms training.

The pain of a “cut” will soon pass, but the lessons of the Shocknife® will last…and that is the shocking truth in training that we are all after.

Kevin R. Davis is a full-time law enforcement officer assigned to the training bureau. A 23-year veteran of law enforcement, he was a Team leader and lead instructor of his agency’s SWAT Team. He was a personal student of the late Master Mike Inay in the Filipino art of Inayan Eskrima. Kevin welcomes your comments at kd1@advancedtacticalconcepts.com or visit his website at www.advancedtacticalconcepts.com.

Published in Tactical Response, Nov/Dec 2005

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