There is often this assumption that learning an edged weapon Art equates to the ability to be able to defend yourself with one on the street, and so, because I teach sword dueling, I get inquiries about teaching 'knife defense' or 'self defense with knife'.
Sometimes this means the person is interested in learning how to defend themselves against an attacker with a knife, but more often than not it means the person wants to learn how to use a knife to defend themselves
I think that smaller folks, and women in particular understand that size and weight matter, and that they are generally at a huge disadvantage against a larger attacker trying to do them harm. Logically they then look towards the blade as a potential equalizer.
I'm guessing that the picture in their heads of how this altercation will go down, presupposes some kind of threat, which they then counter by drawing the knife and because of it, stop the attack.
Though this is possible - Sonny had stories of pulling a blade when threatened, and dissuading the attacker just by flourishing it and showing his obvious skill and ability to use it - it rarely takes into account why this attack happened, or how it probably would (with little/no time to draw a blade) ... let alone how a knife works. How lethal strikes with a blade are rarely stopping strikes in the sense that the attacker may not bleed out for a long time, or even know they are hurt. Or that a non lethal cut may, or may not, dissuade an attacker.
This picture also does not address the surprise generally associated with an assault, or the other end of the spectrum, that a knife drawn mid fight is rarely even noticed ....
It also never imagines the repercussions, legal and emotional, of taking life.
I understand all this, and I guess because of it, do not feel comfortable saying that what I teach is 'self defense'. I have actually come to believe that there are no sure or easy solutions, and though I firmly believe every person has the right to defend themselves, I leave this area to those more qualified, and willing, to address those issues directly.
Thing is, and here's the part that makes it difficult to just say 'NO' ... I think the Visayan style dueling, and the method I learned, ARE useful in self defense, just in a bigger sense - Understanding people, psychology, space, safety, threat.
Working with edged weapons is perhaps one of the only ways to bring to the fore the necessity of skills APART from strength and power (which are also necessary for self defense of course), and as an added bonus, shiny metal has a fascinating way of connecting to our 'lower brains', creating authentic emotions and reactions beneath out logical fore brain's ability to fully control.
So Visayan style dueling can help with your people watching skills, learning about human tendencies, recognizing deceit and charm, and how to play them and use them to your own benefit.
It can help you become familiar with edged weapons - replacing panic, fear, or just being blase, with respect and precision.
It can help with becoming familiar with personal freezes and tendencies, and how to focus and control them.
Working in a chaotic, fast moving, fluid, situation, it can help you learn to understand range and possibility, time and escape.
All these can help build awareness, and the physical and mental adaptability necessary to improve your odds of protecting yourself from harm, experiencing why it is best not to be there in the first place, but if so, how to create chances to get away.
That's what I think training has given me, and this, I am more than happy to pass on.
I've talked before about Sonny's first rule - Don't get hit, and perhaps how this idea has been misunderstood somewhat. But I think it is a very important piece of the thinking behind the system, and underlies all that is mounted on top, and really why his method and real life self defense have something in common.
Sonny talked about how there was no 'art' to killing, or using a knife on another person. It really involved no skill or effort, given the opportunity and right psychological head space.
He also said that there was no skill, or art, to dying ... that too was far too easy.
MUCH harder is his thinking was to get away, especially from a disadvantageous situation.
And that's really where the Art is, the Art of Getting Away - The Art of Living.