knife martial arts

6 Best Knife Martial Arts

I am in the world of martial arts for 15+ years, and knife fighting has always been an entertaining topic for me. Unfortunately, you will rarely see a martial art that teaches you to use a fixed blade knife or any kind of blade for self defense, as it is mostly not allowed.

I am aware that many of you would react in a self defense situation. For example, when a thief breaks into your home, you have to protect your property, and the use of knives for self defense would make sense. But in general, it is illegal in many states – for example, pepper spray gets the advantage for self defense purposes over fixed blades or a pocket clip.

A spray to the opponent’s eyes will temporarily disable your opponent and give you time to escape, but a knife to the stomach, leg, or body is considered “a deadly force”.

A knife fight is a deadly fight that might leave either of the fighters seriously injured or even worse. It is also used as a form of defense mechanism by some people in life-threatening situations. Knife fighting skills can protect you, but if and only if your life is at stake. Some states even ban the use of pocket knives due to their local laws, so if the police stop you in the street and find an illegal item, you might end up in prison.

But, some martial arts teach the use of knives, so let me tell you which they are, and everything else you need to know about them.

The most known knife fighting martial arts are:

  • Filipino Martial Arts (also known as Kali, Eskrima, or Arnis)
  • Marine Corps Martial Arts Programme (MCMAP)
  • Paranza Corta
  • Pencak Silat
  • Systema Spetsnaz
  • Tantojutsu

In the rest of the article, I will walk you through what knives are used for knife fighting, how steep is the learning curve, and everything else you might ask yourself about knife fighting martial arts.

What Martial Arts Use Knives?

Filipino Martial Arts

Also known as Kali, Eskrima, or Arnis, Filipino martial art is a fight that involves the use of a knife and other weapons like sticks.

In Filipino martial arts, the focus of the fighter is to disarm or trap the opponent by using the hand without a weapon. 

The art is traced to the Philippine-American war where the Moros (soldiers with weapons) decapitated and slashed many American soldiers.

Filipinos also used the Kali Eskrima to fight the Japanese in WWII. This martial art is one of the best for a defensive situation because you can disable your attacker in a split second.

MCMAP Knife Fighting

This martial art uses knives, as well as other weapons, including the hands as fighting instruments.

The program also involves a combination of martial arts like boxing, Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, wrestling, and others. MCMAP fighters are masters of using a knife for self defense – their close-range skills are out of this world.

Paranza Corta

This is an Italian fighting system, also known as Schema Di Siciliano. The stiletto blade is used in this knife fight.

This knife combat style is often associated with assassins, and it is more of a secretive fighting system. If you played Assassin’s Creed on your gaming console, you know what I’m talking about. A push dagger or a folding knife from behind to the opponent’s ribs or liver and the fight is over.

Pencak Silat

Silat is a general term for Southeast Asia’s martial arts that are indigenous to the Malay Archipelago.

It is one of the most effective and famous fighting systems, especially after the production of the movie ‘The Raid 2′.

It involves the use of different fighting styles and requires specific postures. Silat is one of the deadliest martial arts in the world. Silat experts can harm you badly with fixed blade knives in less than five seconds.

Systema Spetsnaz

This form of fighting involves hand-to-hand combat systems, arms training, and knife fighting.

It is a comprehensive fighting system that was developed in the 10th century to address realistic threats on battlefields in Russian Special Forces.

This combat system involves using a knife and the ability to hit their target three consecutive times from a six-foot distance. This is a military martial art for special forces, so a blade shape doesn’t matter – you will learn everything, from pocket knives to Bowie knives and an EDC knife for self defense.


The Japanese Samurai warriors are well-known for their tanto blades or short daggers and katana blades, but they weren’t very effective on the battlefield.

This led to the creation of the Tantojutsu fighting system. The system involves a mix of knife strikes and footwork, and the ability to throw accurately. Nowadays, it is considered an ancient martial art, but it is very popular in some parts of Japan.

What Is The Best Knife For Martial Arts?

Before choosing the best knife for martial art, you need to consider a few things like:

  • Ensuring the knife is easy to grip;
  • Choosing a knife that can be used for slashing and stabbing;
  • Avoiding all knives with finger grooves;
  • Choosing a stainless steel knife.

Avoid standard folding knives as the knife blade might fold when you need to use it. Also, avoid knives with spring blades as the internal spring may have a problem when you need it most. The structural makeup of a spring blade is also quite poor and might not work during a knife fight. I always favor durable steel models for self defense, but again, it depends on your fighting style and personal preference.

Fighting knives come in different types, and you need to familiarize yourself with them before you begin your knife fighting journey.

The different types of fighting knives are classified as:

  • ballistic blade knives,
  • makeshift knives,
  • gravity knives,
  • fixed blade,
  • lock blade,
  • and spring blade knives.

Some of the best knives for martial arts are:

Smith & Wesson

Smith & Wesson M&P

The blade of the Smith & Wesson M&P Knife is crafted from 7Cr17MoV High Carbon Stainless Steel, ensuring exceptional strength and durability. The black aluminum handle provides a comfortable grip and enhances the knife’s overall durability. Equipped with a pocket clip and ambidextrous thumb knobs, it allows for quick and easy access. The liner lock and finger guard offer added security, ensuring that the blade stays securely in place during use.

Best knife martial arts display a combat knife embodying best knife fighting styles and knife fighting martial arts techniques for ultimate skill.


  • Sturdiness and durability
  • Easy to open and operate with one hand
  • Sharpness and ability to maintain an edge


  • Lock mechanism may require manual adjustment
  • Large and bulky

Smith and Wesson M&P comes with a strong lock-back design, concealable fixed blade, special purpose tactical folder, and self-defense tool.

It comes with an ergonomic design and safety lock, thumb knobs, and assisted opening. It is a fantastic defensive tool in the jungle against predators.

The knife is made from high-quality materials that help it withstand rugged usage and remain durable for years.

Butterfly Training Knife

Moon Boat Butterfly Training Knife

Constructed with solid pin channel construction and designed for anti-impact performance, these butterfly knives are built to withstand rigorous training sessions.The handles of these butterfly knives feature a skeletonized design, reducing weight without compromising durability. This design allows for better maneuverability and control, enabling you to perform intricate flipping tricks with ease. Safety is paramount when practicing with butterfly knives, especially for beginners. The black butterfly training knife that is ideal for novice flippers to practice their skills, while the silver version is for more advanced techniques. These butterfly knives are designed with non-offensive blades, prioritizing safety during training.

Best knife martial arts capture best knife fighting methods, various fighting styles, and the role of knife fighters in these martial arts.


  • Affordable
  • Good value for beginners
  • Durable
  • Good weight and heft in the hand
  • Comfortable to hold, provides a satisfying flipping experience


  • The screws may tend to come loose with frequent flipping
  • The handles may become loose or misaligned after a short period of use

Moon Boat Butterfly Training Knife is very thick but designed to reduce weight. It is light and will not slip easily.

A long-lasting tail latch comes on the knife to help you keep it open or securely locked when closed.

It is designed to fit the hands of many users, and it’s great for outdoor activities too. It is one of the best knives for self defense when you learn to use it wisely and effectively.

Perfect Point Knife

Perfect Point Knife

The Perfect Point Knife features 3CR13 black stainless steel blades with assorted colored grinding lines. This premium material combination offers a perfect balance of hardness and corrosion resistance, ensuring that your knife maintains its sharpness and integrity over time. Dependability is a key feature of the Perfect Point Knife. The special features of the Perfect Point Knife include its black stainless steel blades and handles adorned with assorted colored grinding lines, adding a touch of style to its practical design.

Best knife martial arts image unveils the caliber of fighting knife usage within knife fighting martial arts, and effective knife fighting styles to master.


  • Lightweight and easy to handle.
  • Vibrant colors make it easier to see where the knives land


  • Small

Perfect Point Knife comes in a different collection of throwing knives and throwing stars of different sizes and shapes.

Master Cutlery makes the product and is one of the largest knife manufacturers in the U.S. It features steel blades and a black or silver handle.

It provides the user with a balanced throw each time, and the laser cut-out in each handle allows the user to tie a ribbon at the end.

There are many other types of knives used for knife combat, and I have tried a lot of them, but I find these three to be the best knife martial arts.

What Is Knife Fight Called?

The art of knife fighting is known as blade combat or knife combat.

Most knife fighting arts are learned by constant practice, using sparring encounters between two or more opponents to hone a practitioner’s physical skills and mental concentration.

In knife fighting, combat knives are used. Combat knives are designed explicitly for knife fighting and provide the user with a strong grip and comfort.

Knife fighting also involves different types of grips, including hammer grip, Filipino knife grip, ice pick grip, saber grip, etc. Of all these grips, hammer grip and ice grip are very important, and it has to be effectively learned for a fighter to excel in knife combat.

Hammer grip is often used in both long and mid-range combat, involving thrusting and slashing movements.

On the other hand, the ice pick grip is used in tight areas whereby the fighters have limited space to fight. Angular stabbing movements and tight slashing can be used in this form of knife combat.

Knife combat also involves different engagement ranges such as long-range, mid-range, and close quarter (CQC) knife combat which is usually determined by the place and condition.

How Hard Is To Learn One Of Knife Martial Arts?

Just like in every potentially deadly art form, knife fighting isn’t something you’d learn over a few YouTube videos and Bruce Lee movies.

It’s a very dangerous proposition, and you need to be sure that’s a path you’d wish to take before you get to the real business.

To master knife fighting you need to first of all work on your physical conditioning, hand-to-eye coordination, and most importantly your reflexes.

Following this, you will enroll at a proper dojo that has a registered knife fighting martial arts instructor.

Once you’ve trained for a while, come out victorious in a couple of sparring matches, and gained the trust of your sensei; it’s only then that you’ll be certified ready for a real knife fight. Remember, carrying knives around the street could lead to a prison sentence, depending on the state laws, only do it in a registered dojo!

Is Knife Fighting Real?

Yes, and no. In a few cases they are, but you’ll have to get some proper Asian movies as those are the purists and real masters of the majority of knife fighting martial arts fighting techniques.

In most cases, however, the movie’s depictions of knife fighting are made believable and filled with extra effects to capture the viewers’ imagination as well as attention.

If you want to see the pros at it, you should visit a dojo, take permission from the sensei and feast your eyes on real poetry in motion.

A master could harm your vital organs in a dangerous situation very quickly, but again, trying it in real life is a very bad idea due to knife laws, unless your life is at stake. Movies are pretty much unreal, visit experts and judge on your own.

Are Knife Fights Legal?

Pulling a knife on a person is considered an act of aggression. Depending on the knife, you might also need a license to carry a concealed weapon.

Knife fighting is a brutal act that could send someone to a city morgue, and unless somebody threatens your life, you shouldn’t even think about it. Never pull out a knife to threaten somebody because you’ll end up in prison – do it only when you’re legally and morally justified to use it. You and your opponent are very likely to get cut in a blade fight.

Sport is something different, it happens in a controlled environment with protective gear, and you’ll hardly hurt yourself.

I am a big fan of tactical knives for self defense – they are not too long and it is easy to manipulate. Plus, these models are very hard to counter.

My favorite top 3 picks are Spyderco Dragonfly 2 Lightweight Signature Knife, Fox Karambit 478 Folding Linerlock Knife, and Spyderco Matriarch 2 Lightweight Knife with Emerson Opener.

Again, my main criterion is the ease of use. Karambit demands a different grip and advanced skill sets, while even a beginner could use a fixed blade knife with a proper training session. Ask yourself the question “What kind of knife am I looking for” and think of your priorities. Answer it and you’ll easily discover the perfect model for yourself.

Unmasking the Intricacies of A Self Defense Knife

A self-defense knife is a short blade that can help you defend against robbers or other aggressors in a life-threatening situation. Due to knife laws, in many states, a short blade that cannot easily penetrate vital organs should be fine, but again, it depends from state to state. Mostly you will need a license to carry this item.

A self defense knife is very important when somebody wants to rob you and tries to intimidate you for no reason. When you’re attacked by a group of bullies or armed thugs, you’ll have to defend yourself. A good, skillful fighter could defend himself easily against aggressors. Now let’s discuss the good and bad sides.

First, if police stop you in the street and finds an illegal item, you might go to prison. Another negative aspect, once you defend, you might harm an attacker badly, and sometimes the law will not be on your side.

But a good thing is – you can always protect your property and teach bullies a lesson. When somebody points a gun at you or harasses you to give him money, he doesn’t care about you or your feelings. Especially when he’s under the influence – self defense knife could really help you against those types of people.

Short-blade knife, like a karambit, is excellent for close-range combat, but you can’t throw it at your opponent. On the other hand, long blades are very handy for self defense, but you’ll need a deep carry clip for your safety – it might cut you and you cannot store it easily in your bag.

Quest For The Best Self Defense Knives: Factors To Consider

Many factors affect the choice of your best knife for self defense. I will focus on the most important parameters that should help you pick your perfect model:

  • Size – too big a knife is hard to carry and it might be illegal, but small fixed blade knives are easy to store inside the pocket.
  • The handle – I know many guys who prefer a wooden over durable steel or metal handle, claiming it is easier to manipulate. But it depends on your personal preference.
  • The design – someone prefers curved knives for self defense because they are very hard to defend, even when somebody blocks your attack, you could easily cut his hand or veins. On the other hand, fighters who like slipping forward and aggressive feints and footwork will probably give an advantage to the straight blade shape.
  • The ease of use – too heavy knife is not ok, you might need a lot of time to counter or put it out of your pocket or a deep carry clip. A light model is always better in critical situations, but again, the best knives are the ones that fit your needs.
  • Fighting style – close-range fighters like smaller blades that are more suitable inside the pocket, while real experts like throwing knives or fighting long-range.

Navigating the Law: Is It Legal To Carry A Knife For Self Defense?

Well, it depends from state to state. Somewhere you’ll have to obtain a special license, while in some areas of the world, a hunting knife for self defense is pretty much fine to carry. It all depends on the country, state, or city, so I am advising you to check those laws carefully.

For example, different jurisdictions could lead to different laws. One state might legalize making knives, while the other could allow only the specific length of the blade for self defense. It is crucial to understand self-defense rights and to respect the law at the same time.

Please check the laws on official websites or ask people employed in the service. Knowledge is beneficial, make sure to read all the rules and regulations before purchasing your model. The knife makes your life easier or harder, depending on the local laws and rules.

The Bottom Line

As you can see, there are a lot of martial arts that use knives, and I have told you about the most famous ones.

Even though they can be dangerous, they also train you how to defend yourself with a knife, as well as against knife attacks.

It is now all on you, are you ready to learn martial arts that use knives, and to choose the one that suits you best or the one that you have somewhere near your place.

Frequently Asked Questions about Best Knife Martial Arts

Is knife fighting a sport?

Yes, there is an athletic competition based on real knife combat. It is called a Knife Fighting Competition. Yet, it provides a medium for competitors, plus the tournament has a clear rule set and referees. But the fighter’s protection comes first.

Special padded vests are mandatory, and fighters are allowed to test their skills with special combat knives (light-up knives that flash blue or red when making contact).

In the tournament, nobody cares whether you like a reverse grip or a forward grip, it is all about winning your opponent via points. But you are not allowed to use deadly force, plus the main referee will check the equipment of both opponents before the bout starts. This is a sports competition, not a real-life combat.

The Marines teach the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, which includes club and knife-fighting techniques.

Yet, proficiency in these “dirty fighting” skills isn’t much of a priority, they are mainly focused on knives for self defense and hand-to-hand manipulations and defensive maneuvers. But more experienced marines are pretty skillful with automatic knives and all other kinds of blades.

Navy seals are all about tactical knives. They are trained to take their opponent off distance, but the use of a knife for self defense is mandatory if it comes to close-range combat. They have special training that teaches them to defend themselves with knives or weapons of opportunity.

For example, Ontario 497 Mark 3 Navy Fixed Blade Knife is one of their favorite choices, but again, it depends on the unit and orders. Seal Team 6, who take part in combats all around the most dangerous regions of the world, like Fox RCST01 R.C.S.T. Folgore.

Yes, you can learn to use an automatic knife or any other tool for self defense, but you must visit a registered dojo and train with experts. You cannot learn it from YouTube or movies, it is pretty much unrealistic, plus the majority of tutorials are unreal.

Someone needs to show you hold to hold the blade, which is the accurate position of the little finger, how to carry it and get ready for the battle, how to evade and counter a dangerous trike etc. Some blades are designed primarily for self defense, while others could make serious close quarters damage.

Someone needs to teach you the difference between forward grips and reverse grips. Which is the best self defense knife? Should I give an advantage to a cold steel blade or not? Pros will answer, just visit a real professional and push your knife defense to the next level!

Vladimir Vladisavljevic has been training in the art of kickboxing for over seven years, holds a Taekwondo black belt, and has a master's degree in sports and physical education. He's also a huge mixed martial arts fan. He's a big deal in Bulgaria as a mixed martial arts commentator, analyst, and podcaster.
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Vladimir Vladisavljevic

Vladimir Vladisavljevic has a master's degree in sports and physical education. He has been training in kickboxing for over seven years and holds a Taekwondo black belt. He's also a huge mixed martial arts fan. Vladimir is a big deal in Bulgaria as a mixed martial arts commentator, analyst, and podcaster. He was known as The Bulgarian Cowboy in the Western world. In addition, he has a YouTube channel where he talks about his love of esports, one of the fastest-growing fields in the world. Our testing and reviewing method.
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