Very likely the sternest test for any martial art/self defense system is how effective it is at defending you against a knife attack. Make no doubts an attacker with a knife has some very obvious advantages. It must be said that only a fool will ignore an opportunity to escape such as situation by running.
But events can change rapidly and for a self defense system to work in such circumstances requires that one moves away from technique style defense onto another level of working.
That new level requires that your conscious mind works in combination with your subconscious. Your subconscious mind is where you body’s own inherent capability for defending itself lies.
Some self defence systems make the mistake of programming the mind with an array of techniques, and the subconscious never really ‘functionalises’ this information so that it can be used and adapted on auto-pilot so to speak.
Systema works on the principle that the body’s own subconscious abilities can be bought to the fore, and defending against the knife becomes an issue of instinctive movement and reaction. Remember most knife attacks where the attacker means to do you harm, do not happen in the way they are shown in the movies or in some martial arts schools. There are simply too many variables to plan against, and too many things that can go wrong with any particular technique. Trying to adapt a direct frontal block technique learnt at green belt to block a randomly changing slashing movement of the blade is unlikely to be be the optimum solution.
We at Russian Martial Art GB teach knife defense as a natural part of our training. As the roots of this art lie with the Russian military it is not surprising that knife work is prevalent and it is not a bolt on or a separate part of the syllabus it is blended into everything we do.
Disclaimer : Never enter into learning any knife defense strategy and think you now have the upper hand. Most people survive fist fights to live another day, knife attacks are entirely different so either don’t be there in the first place or leave at the slightest opportunity. Reserve what you learn only to deal with very worst case scenarios.