Monday, 21 July 2014

Slash and Thrust by John Sanchez

                When I first started this blog I expected that I would be writing more book reviews than I have done. The problem is, many martial arts books are somewhat lacking in content. The reason I wrote my first book was to address many of the points that I did not feel were adequately covered. Hence it is very hard to review a book such as “Slash and Thrust” without making the point that my own work does a better job at covering the techniques of defensive knife use or throwing objects in self-defence.

                Back in the days when I was a regular on a knife throwing forum John Sanchez’s book “Slash and Thrust” would sometimes be mentioned. This was usually due to the short section on throwing weapons in the book and in particular a weapon Sanchez called the “Irish Dart”. Years ago I flipped through a friend’s copy of the book, but I admit we were mainly interested in the throwing section at the end. Recently another friend commented that he intended to brush up on his knife techniques by rereading his copy of Slash and Thrust. I decided to finally treat myself to a cheap second hand copy.

                According to the blurb “Until Slash and Thrust, no book ever presented a complete, practical knife fighter’s training program. This classic covers choosing the martial knife, quick-kill strikes, footwork, deceptive movements and using such exotic weapons as the shuriken, shaken, Irish dart, chakram and Chinese cloth dart.” Quite a big claim for a small book of only 68-72 pages!

Having now read the book properly, my impression is of an inflatable structure that tries to look substantial but has very little content. For example, Sanchez notes that there are a number of different footwork techniques used in various martial arts and then states he favours “natural footwork”. That sounds very logical, wise and sensible, but once you examine the statement you realize it has very little actual meaning or content. The footwork he goes on to describe involves moving with the knees bent. While this is a good technique, it is not what I would describe as natural. The book has a number of statements or references that seem to be placed there mainly for the effect of making it seem more learned or insightful than it actually is. In its handful of pages Sanchez uses the phrase “common sense” at least four times. Readers will be aware that this is a fiction and any use should be treated with scepticism. Sanchez also describes thrusting with a kukri as “at best, awkward”, which makes me seriously doubt that he has ever handled one.

There is a section on carrying techniques where Sanchez advocates carrying a belt knife inclined with the edge up. He makes an argument that because the hand is inverted and turned palm out to draw from this position it is better defended. In fact this would expose the more vulnerable area of the inner forearm with its nerves, blood vessels and tendons. It also ignores that if the enemy is within attacking range you should be defending rather than attempting to draw a weapon.

The book does have some points of interest, but it was easy to overlook these among the padding. You may pick up a tip or two, and one or two good points are made but there is no way that this should be used as your main source of instruction. It gives little glimpses rather than a comprehensive view. Occasionally he refers back to some ideas “already described” but these were in fact detailed very briefly. Areas such as the guard posture could have been described better and would have benefited from an illustration. There is an illustration of useful target areas, but important information such as that there is a high probability that attacking through the ribs can cause a blade to jam or be lost is not mentioned.

Sanchez suggests a number of books to consult for further study. “Paradoxes of Defence” by George Silver is mentioned a number of times. I have mentioned Silver’s works on these pages and in my books too. Silver is worth a read but his comments on knife fighting techniques are only a few paragraphs long. Also, Sanchez fails to mention that Silver’s discussion of actual techniques are in his related work “Brief Instructions upon my Paradoxes of Defence”. Musashi’sBook of Five Rings” is also suggested for reading. Referencing this book was quite common in the 80s. This contains some techniques for sword use. I don’t recall any knife relevant stuff in the book, but it has been a while since I read it so will give Sanchez the benefit of the doubt there. “Cold Steel” by John Styers is another suggestion. This is an interesting book providing you understand it was built on the ideas of Drexel-Biddle, whose knife fighting ideas were heavily influenced by sword-fighting techniques. The last suggestion was Cassidy’s “Complete Book of Knife fighting” See here for my review on that book. It is an interesting read but I would be very cautious on trying its techniques in a real encounter!

As I have mentioned, there is a brief section on a variety of throwing weapons. Sanchez admits that there may be situations when there is no other option but to throw a weapon and briefly describes a number of historical examples of hand thrown weapons. His explanation of how to throw knives and shuriken is reasonable if a little inaccurate on a few points. Contrary to the claims of some reviews, the section on throwing weapons does not take up a third of the book. It is just a handful of pages.  
                For alternate information on self-defence, see my books.