Leave it to Steve Perry to come up with interesting questions about South African knife skills
Steve made this comment to the post I did on the Piper System blog. I thought that the questions were important enough that I pulled the comment out so that no one will miss it.
Before I answer though, I want to make sure that I am clear on a couple of things.
First, I don't speak for Piper System. I have not trained in the system, I am not a member of the system. Nigel, Lloyd and Jason do a good job of speaking for themselves and I am really happy that they are developing ways to do that more publicly. I am however also happy to call them friends, and because of my own experiences I have enough background in SA-Knife to understand what they are saying.
Second, I am not an expert in South African knife fighting.
I have however followed a parallel path, in that I studied Cape style knife methods while I was living in Africa. I learned from two African fellows who grew up in Cape Town and learned what they knew on the streets. They told me that they were only "average" in their skills and there were people who would take them "while reading a newspaper". Never the less I found their skills to be formidable, and I am considered not entirely unskilled with a knife. I was only able to study with them for about six months (though it was a very interesting six months). The guys I learned from just did what they did. They had no system or theories, no set of principals, it was all "hands on" material of the "learn by doing" sort.
That being said, I will presume to answer as a neutral, but informed, party.
Steve Perry speaks in green:
Hmm. Sounds from the tone at the blog that the Piper guy are getting a lot of flak. Understandable, given that we all tend to think our arts are the cat's pajamas, else we'd be training in something else, but I still see promise.
Indeed. Think back to the sort of flack they got on the Animal list, only quicker and perhaps with a bit more venom.
As I like to point out in situations like this, there is a time lag of one generation between the time that a new scientific theorem is proven and the time that it is generally accepted. People just don't like to deal with paradigm shifts. Remember Einstein never accepted Quantum theory, the British medical community tried to pillory Dr. Lister for suggesting that people would be better off if doctors washed their hands from time to time. History has demonstrated over and over that the majority is uncomfortable with new ideas and just want things to be comfortably the same. You are one of the rare ones who enjoys new information, much more often the novel is perceived as a threat.
My knifefighter Mourn in the Flex wasn't too impressed, but he'd seen the stuff before and was an adept with a blade on his own, so that's understandable, too.
Morn was at the top of his game, and a thinking man's fighter. I am positive he made sure he understood what he was up against in regard to any martial art he might encounter.
Which brings up a point -- excuse the word play -- how well do you think Piper stacks up against somebody else also using an art that came out of the jungle in the last generation or two? I mean, I'm not the expert at flaying, but at least some of the stuff Piper shows on the two vids I've seen doesn't really look that unfamiliar -- elbows in, closing, level changes, arms tight. And I believe that if slash came to stab and I had my knife, they wouldn't be walking away any faster than I would when the cutting was done.
while I hesitate to speculate without knowing something about the art in question, I have to say that in general Piper will do well against anything I have run across. That doesn't mean that it is unbeatable, just that it has some interesting things going for it.
there are some things that are going to be familiar, as you mention above, and there are some things that are unfamiliar. Those are found in the rhythms and in the way the movements are chained together.
Not talking about a gifted player, but as a system -- do you think that Piper is intrinsically superior to say, FMA or silat? I give 'em the mean-streets and intent, and a "do" isn't a "jutsu;" still, I don't see that the Piper guy has it all over the silat guy to the point that he wins every time.I don't think you are missing anything, though you may be being a bit too general.
Am I missing something?
I will speak to Silat as I am most familiar with that.
In my opinion, there are some Silat players in the States that would fare well against Cape style knife, but many would not.
I don't know if you noticed that when I was up at the welding shop, Guru Plinck and I spent a bit of time over in one corner. We were going over the ideas he had come up with to deal with Cape knife work. To be totally honest, and at the risk of offending some people, he is the first Silat player I have run across in the States who had come up with something I thought was workable. I do suspect that Bobbe might have something up his sleeve that would be useful, but these have been, in my experience the exceptions rather than the rule.
There are a couple of things that make Piper different enough that it is quite dangerous to people who have not examined it with an open mind.
First, to put it bluntly, Africans tend to be less inhibited about hurting, maiming and killing someone than most of us in the West. Africans tend to go from "mellow" to "kill you right now" without hitting any if the intermediate steps that you or I might pass through. For instance, one of the first things I learned about the Maasai is that they would not hesitate in the slightest to kill you if you crossed the line with them. There were absolutely no inhibitions that you would find here in most people. The willingness to do violence without having to justify it gives one an edge, at least in Africa.
The second thing that gives Cape knife an edge (no pun intended) is the use of African polyrhythms in movement. One of the hallmarks of this kind of rhythm is that it has an unpredictable quality. If you listen to someone like Mamaday Kita playing with group of drummers, there will come a point where he starts riffing. When he does he will be completely unpredictable (in the sense that you won't know when he will add beats, or in what patterns) but he will still be completely within the rhythm of the group.
Cape knife has that same quality. So if someone can't adapt to the seeming chaotic nature of that style of movement, it can be unfortunate.
That being said, no one wins every time. I don't think the Piper guys think that this is the case in any event. But they know that they have a very effective system, and it is based on rhythms and ways of chaining movement that we are unfamiliar with in the West.
In recent days I have seen people examine 1 minute 26 seconds of movement and then leap to judgment as to a whole system. This worries me.
On the other hand a very few others gave long thought to that 7 minute tape and came up with ways to counter what they saw. Like Mourn, they are a thinking man's fighter.
So I guess the answer is that if someone is flexible, willing to think outside the box, and can adapt on the fly, they will do well when the meet the unknown. If someone puts more credit in their preconceptions than in to actual reality, and is unwilling to let anything new into their thinking, they will not.
And of course I could be completely wrong about all this.
South Africa Knife
Cape Knife Fighting