34 thoughts on “Dagger fighting: another point about icepick vs sabre grip

  1. River Styx Armory says:

    it's all fighting style and preference. I think how you hold a dagger will make slightly less of a difference compared to of you know how to fight. I imagine there were plenty of people in the previous centuries that bought knives "for personal defence" just like people buy guns today. and that, just like today, too many people back then thought that possession translated to knowledge or ability.

  2. Ryan Harms says:

    Matt, I really like your commentary on most subjects, but I feel it is a mistake to discuss power of the two grips being derived from the arm. Just like a punch, power with a short blade will be coming from the legs, hips, and core without winding back first. The strike more like coiled snake. The icepick seeks different targets, and while a powerful penetrator, requires it to come down in an arc in line with its pommel to strike true. Thus, in terms of reach, the saber grip is still better and powerful in this instance.

  3. smd883 says:

    Hi Matt
    Surely to be taken into consideration with either range is foot work, speed and timing along with range. The only constant is that combat constantly changes.
    Love your work Matt

  4. Lucas says:

    What about lunges. It seems like it would be much easier to lunge with a saber grip than with an icepick grip. So couldn't you get potentially more range from that as well.

  5. Norseman says:

    I'd say the sword grip is better, because:
    – The power difference doesn't seem much different. I tested it myself, albeit without a knife. The sword grip is also less hard on your shoulder when furiously repeating the movement.
    – It has better reach.
    – Even though it will wound the victim, they can still block a downward block with the bone of their arm. I'm not saying that blocking one such attack is easy, but it can be done. With your long dagger however, they'd most likely get their shoulder or skull gashed or tipped.
    – The sword grip can alternate between pinpointed stabs and slashes. Slashes can open gashes and leave the victim in either panic or work as a distraction. If it's a thicker blade like a sami knife it might even leave lethal wounds simply by slashing vulnerable areas.
    – Assuming the victim is unarmed, you're not going to need the blocking pros of the icepick grip.

  6. zgwynbleiddz says:

    Now i understand why icepick grip was popular in medieval ages – because armor. I have some practice in knife fighting and most instructors says that reach advantage is better than power – because today people don't wear armor and you don't need a lot of power to thrust or cut anybody (main target is armed hand to disarm, legs, head. Usualy naked places or not hard covered). Icepick grip with knife better when you fighting with unarmed person or persons, because you can hook their blocks and use your arms to block their hits as usual in box or another fight style.

  7. Joshua Lansell-Kenny says:

    6 inches could easily be the difference between them sidestepping your thrust and you seriously wounding them especially when you have to windup your thrust and hence telegraph your attack making a counter more likely

  8. witiwap86 says:

    You neglected one important factor for the saber grip. An upward thrust from the belly area tends to do much more damage on penetration. The belly thrust has a good chance at hitting the liver, spleen, pancreas, or intestines (or their blood supply). In a more catastrophic scenario the sabre grip thrust can even hit the heart, lung, or aorta. Any of this has a good chance at being lethal. The ice pick grip will tend to get caught up in the sternum or ribs, making the lethal stab a lot less likely.

  9. gomiville says:

    Regarding power with various grips: I don't remember where I saw it, but I once read an analysis of shank stabbing and knife-resistant armor for prison guards. They compiled various stabbing forces to create threshold protection standards. The weakest stab was the "straight jab" kind of sabre-grip-at-range stab. The strongest was the close-in icepick stab, either downward or to the side. The "up into the guts" stab from sabre grip was a close second, but not quite as powerful as the icepick. They used dummy blades, wielded by different people, into pressure sensors to create the average impact forces.

  10. Qiang Luo says:

    very educational video. personally i like ice pick grip when using regular combat knife or an ice pick itself. i would prefer sabre grip if the blade is longer than 9~10 inches, and the reach advantage can be quiet significant when cutting. i once fought with a long screw driver using ice pick grip but end up stabbed my own leg twice. i wasn't really skilled at that time. but frenzy swing with ice pick screw driver fended off the attackers and saved my ass.

  11. Jonobos says:

    The range of power thrusts is more or less the same in both point orientations. Maximum power is lost quite a bit before the point of lockout. That is just physics and biology. If you consider slashing range, only then does sabre grip have a reach advantage.

  12. kuntaosilat sweden says:

    i realy disagree that you need to bring the dagger back (with your hand) to generate a lot of power with the sabergrip. the solution is explosive footwork, something we use quite a lot. (btw i also use the icepick grip at times and agree it has merit.

  13. Julia Sooto says:

    while the literal reach of the blade in both grips has a difference of a few inches, which is quite a bit in my opinion, the difference between the reach of a potentially significant strike  (penetration and force) is even further. just because the blade can reach close to the same distance away from your body doesn't mean it can deliver a solid strike from a good angle at said distance. not to say i don't like the "ice pick" grip, but i do feel it's range is noticeably shorter.

  14. GuitarsRockForever says:

    I'm not expert, neither I actively practice any MA, but I do know something about MA.
    Sort of agree with Max Ejnar. In unarmored situation, sabre grip has advantages in:
    longer reach – 6 inch is alot in term of offensive, 
    Easier to stab – you can stab faster, and unarmored human doesn't have much against even a half decent stab. Also don't forget you can cover much more area with stab motion (pretty much anywhere). icepick grip limit to a mainly downward stab which is mainly aimed at upper body, you cannot really attach lower body.

    The real advantage of icepick grip is power, as you stated, it can deliver much more powerful attack. I also believe it offers better defensive moves, and possible cut better.

    Generally, using icepick grip effectively require more training.

    In certain country (not where I live), there used to be unwritten rule that offender holding a knife in icepick grip, police will shoot to kill without thinking; while in sabre grip, the offender may live. The spirit of the rule was, icepick grip indicates offender has training, while sabre grip may not.

  15. ovariosinflamados26 says:

    I practice Escrima and I've found that most times a saber grip beats an ice pick grip in knife sparring. I think that saber grip just offer's you a little bit more angles of attack. Although I've never sparred anyone wearing medieval armor though…

  16. GregTom2 says:

    The only situation where 6'' of reach added to your 30'' long arm is a relevant advantage is…
    When the other person has 6'' of reach added to their 30'' long arm.
    Basically, point up is the "paper" to the ice-pick's "rock" in a sort of rock-paper-scissor mechanic. (where the proverbial scissor would be any other weapon).
    But since most people interested in knife combat approach it with a "knife vs knife" point of view, they fail to notice the whole mechanic of it, and boldly state "paper wins every time at rock-paper-scissor".

  17. Ben Hover says:

    I have alot of respect for you and your fighting but I disagree with a few points you make here, first the importance of 6 inches more reach; if you were fighting someone (with your hand all the way back)and they went to stab you with the icepick grip and you stop thrusted 6 inches would make a huge differance. second the stab you illustrate fron the icepick grip which is only 6inches shorter; at that extension the stab is rather weak you cannot genetate the power you do with close stabs and in addition you are pitting your wrist in a slightly awkward, and definatly vounerable position if your blade was smacked upward or toward the inside it would be very hard to maintain hold of it.

    I agree however that with resistive material you (and your opponent) are likely to move into closer range to try to deliver the strongest thrusts possible and at that point the icepick grip has the advantage.

  18. Pradana P. M. says:

    Do medieval and Renaissance dagger treatises advocate fighting at maximum reach? I'm not getting that impression from Fiore or Paulus Kal — they might have one or two thrusts or slices at long range (and these are shown with the "sabre" grip) but, aside from that, the majority of their plays take place at a much shorter range where the advantage of the "sabre" grip is moot.

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