Top 3 Martial Arts for Edge Weapons & Knife Defense

Authur: Manny OG

Knife fighting is a subject that has been covered in many books, articles, and videos over the years. There are many different styles of this art and science developed in countries and among cultures around the world. I am definitely no expert on this subject, neither do I consider myself an authority on knife fighting in any way. However, I have been the victim of mugging many years ago, in which I was robbed of some valuables, my experience in Taekwondo and Karate didn’t help, not when these guys were armed with machetes. African muggers are no joke. The idea of swinging a hook kick and losing a limb in the process was not on the table. This was one of the catalysts that pushed me to seek the art that would cover all areas of self-defense, especially using sharp and blunt weapons in close quarter situations. Now I wish knew then what I know now.
During my search for the ultimate weaponised martial art, I came across many styles and ideologies but only three of them stood out;


Silat is a broad term that encompasses a number of fighting arts from the Malay Archipelago. It is mostly used by Malay-speakers throughout Southeast Asia, the art is officially called Pencak silat in Indonesia. Primarily a Javanese term, other names include silek (the Minang pronunciation of silat), penca (used in West Java), main-po or maen po (in the lower speech of Sundanese), and gayong or gayung (used in parts of Malaysia and Sumatra).
Silat encompasses grappling, empty hand and blade strategies, which usually involves rapid movements and strikes to joints, arteries and most vital organs of the body.  Unlike most martial arts, in Silat the face or head is not always the primary target. It is very useful and effective in close quarter combat scenarios especially when bladed weapons are involved, and one of the most common knife in Silat is the Kerambit (of Karambit) a small, sickle-shaped knife that resembles the claw of a tiger. It is extremely effective in close-quarters and it’s finger ring means it’s almost impossible to disarm.

There is also the “Keris”, a snake-tongue shaped knife often used as a ceremonial knife and worn by a groom at weddings. Many believe the Keris (or “Kris”) has magic powers. That is has a spiritual essence called a “Jinn” (quite literally a “Genie”) that resides within it. Another interesting fact about the Keris is they used to be forged with poison to ensure that any cut would be lethal.

Filipino Martial Arts

Otherwise known as FMA, it incorporates elements from both Western and Eastern Martial Arts, the most popular forms of which are known as Arnis, Eskrima, and Kali. The intrinsic need for self-preservation was the genesis of these systems. Throughout the ages, invaders and evolving local conflict imposed new dynamics for combat in the islands now making up the Philippines. The Filipino people developed battle skills as a direct result of an appreciation of their ever-changing circumstances. This art was recently made more popular by the Bourne movies.

Much more similar to Silat as the Philipines, Malaysia, and Indonesia share culture, arts, and close boundaries, the FMA involves headbutts, finger-locking, grappling, wrestling, slapping and also bladed weapons and sticks. In fact, FMA utilizes same weapons as Silat. More recently, it is regarded as more weapon based than Silat and very few empty hand techniques so much that if you happen to be at any FMA school all you see is mostly bladed and stick weapons training. This gives the idea that it will be suitable for close quarters as well. Another major difference is that Silat uses mostly low fluid movements while FMA practitioners are more on their feet than knees.

Wing Chun

Another style to consider and one that I think is very useful in knife fighting and defense is Wing Chun. Made popular by Bruce Lee, this is a concept-based Chinese martial art and form of self-defense utilizing both striking and grappling while specializing in close-range combat. Contrary to popular belief there is kicks and weapons as well in Wing Chun, however, the sort of weapons most commonly practiced in Wing Chun are not your everyday carry type. Bringing Wing Chun on this list might make you wonder, “what is Manny talking about?”. Just have an open mind and hear me out. This is from my own personal training experience.

As mentioned, Wing Chun is close-range combat based style, it involves the use of fluid motion and sticky hands. You never see a Wing Chun fighter throwing long range attacks or defense. Now imagine a sticky hand technique performed with blades, most likely a tanto blade or karambit. I practice most Wing Chun moves and techniques with a blade (training blade) in hand, and I discovered it can well serve for close quarter knife fighting. If you do not practice it, watch people who do and imagine them with short blades in their hands.

Looking at these styles, I believe they go hand in hand and do compliment each other in certain ways, for me at least.

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