AAR of Chris Fry’s Practical Folding Knive Course (Abridged Tac-Con Version)

When I started writing the Dressed to Kill series (which you should totally check out if you haven’t already), I had folks messaging me asking for my opinions on alternative (deadly) force options in dress clothes. Many asked about blades; and why not? They’re a lot slimmer than firearms, easier to carry, and generally more socially accepted depending on what part of the country you’re in. I mean, when was the last time seeing a knife clipped to someone’s pocket raised an alarm for you? Plus it’s just flat out easier. You can have a shiny new pocket knife from a quality manufacturer from Amazon on your doorstep in 2 days! So lots of people go that route of clicking a few buttons, unboxing their new toy, and dropping it in their pocket without giving it any real further thought.

When I’ve had conversations with friends about folding knives for defensive use, the general response is much like Antonio Banderas’ comment in Mask of Zorro when Anthony Hopkins inquired as to his knowledge of sword fighting:

Well, there’s a little more to it than that. And Chris’ block at Tac-Con really highlights all the pros, cons, and considerations that you should be aware of if a folding knife is going to be part of your defensive tool set.

I took Chris Fry’s course for 2 main reasons: 1) there are places where it’s flat out illegal to carry a fixed blade knife and 2) I stopped carrying a folder after taking ECQC because I realized that with my current skill set a folder didn’t do me any good. 

Chris gave us a brief synopsis of his background, not mil, not LE, just a regular dude. He’d had enough run-ins with knives that he wanted to codify this material where he focuses on practical knife work (as opposed to technical knife work like in EWO, or tactical knife work like from “Spartan”). 

One thing that he harped on constantly was that “a folding knife is a broken knife”. The point of that is that you’re starting out behind the curve in even more of a deficit because, unlike a firearm, fixed blade knife, impact weapon, or even OC, once you get the folding knife out you still have to deploy the blade! This is why the controls (deployment & locking mechanisms), positioning, and deployment are ultra critical because the knife will be its least secure when you’re trying to deploy the blade. 

Chris goes in depth on knife anatomy, making sure you’ve got a strong understanding of what to look for. The nice thing is that his methodology is pretty universal. Even if you’re stuck in some crummy border town, where the only knife you can get your hands on is a gas station special, his approach to access & deployment works (as long as the blade lock holds up).

Like all good tactical courses, Chris’ material has acronyms! To draw the knife, all you have to do is STAB!:

  • Slap your pocket with an open hand, fingers splayed (no knife hand, ironically)
  • Tuck, driving your thumb behind the knife into your pocket
  • Access the knife by drawing your elbow straight up like you would in a strong-side pistol draw, keeping everything in tight to the body
  • Brace the meat of your hand (hammer grip) against your hip bone. As the situation allows, deploy the blade using either the push or flick methods that Chris prefers.

Once the blade is out, then it’s easy right? Not exactly. One thing that I appreciate about Chris’ approach is that his techniques address one of the biggest concerns of defensive knife use: you’re going to get the other guy’s blood on you.

Chris teaches targeting “the face and the fork”, meaning the junction where the legs meet the trunk of the body. The reasons for this are as follows:

  • The face is targeted the same way that a boxer uses a jab. The idea being that humans don’t like stuff in their face, the same way the eye jab is taught in ECQC. The natural reaction is to recoil from that action. If someone is going to advance through that, they’re highly motivated and their intentions are pretty clear. 
  • The fork houses more major arteries, and Chris suggests that someone “will know a lot faster that they’ve been stabbed” in that region as opposed to the trunk of the body where you always hear “I thought I was being punched”. The fork has the added benefit of directing any spray downwards more than outwards, so it reduced the risk of getting your attacker’s blood in your eyes/mouth/etc. 

Due to the limited time there wasn’t a whole lot of focus put into the MUC portion, with the understanding that MUC can be practiced independently, and more readily than the physical aspects. And for that reason, we went right into drills. We paired up, and worked on assaulting each other and defending. We were going light only about 10% intensity, and even that was challenging to get the knife out. 

Shamelessly stealing the Short Barreled Shepherd’s 3×3 Model for AARs, here’s the breakdown:

The top 3 things covered in the class:

  1. Knife anatomy, what to look for in an effective defensive folder
  2. Preferred targeting: face & fork
  3. In Fight Weapon Access: STAB!

The top 3 things I learned from the class:

  1. “Knife jab” thrown almost like a boxer’s cross
  2. Slapping the pocket increases your chances of deploying the knife (splayed fingers find it)
  3. Knifeup.org great resource for when I travel within the country

Top 3 things I’ll do differently:

  1. Honestly, this class just cemented a lot of information that I already had, and just makes it easier for me to articulate my choices. I’m still carrying a fixed blade wherever I can. 
  2. Maybe practice my draw a little more?…….maybe?

One thought on “AAR of Chris Fry’s Practical Folding Knive Course (Abridged Tac-Con Version)

  1. This is a good review… thanks for posting it. Mirrors my notes from the same class! I was partnered with a 20 year Hopkido instructor for the drills… that outweighed me and was taller than me by a good margin. It was an awesome learning experience, but I was sore afterwards! Good stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

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