By Gavin Coleman
Polarising as this opinion may be, few may realise that Ironside Edge Works was born in an attempt to answer this very question.
In 2016 while journeying with my brother Schalk Holloway on our quest to answer some questions we had surrounding edge and point use in self defence, we exposed ourselves to thousands of reps in unscripted scenarios and countless hours of real world incident footage in our research. While we were at that point trying to systematise a combative solution to the ultra violent ambush scenario, it also became quite apparent that tool selection plays a vital role.
This experiment we underwent would eventually become The Maul. A book widely acclaimed in the combatives industry as a study which, I believe, was the first of its type to approach combatives with so much of its foundation backed by scientific research. It highlighted some voids in what we were seeing in the industry as well. Chiefly that there is a huge difference between a violent ambush and a duel, and not enough people were focussed on the former. While a failed ambush can become a duel, the ambush itself must first be dealt with – and that is unfortunately where a large percentage of fatal incidents occur. The Maul taught us that dealing with the ambush has to be the priority, it is the worst case scenario and failure to prepare for it with adequate programming in your methodology is a mistake.
For me personally this also required me to look heavily at the tools. At that time I was a full-time instructor, earning little and in training most of my days. The study we undertook required me to have a fixed blade defensive knife and training knife. Things that were at the time out of my reach financially. I was gifted a Pikal training knife by my brother Schalk, and I could at least train. However, my mind soon started thinking of this tool itself and how, if possible, it could be made more adept at dealing with the problem we were trying to solve.
We had established for ourselves at this point that the best edged weapon for dealing with the ambush was the Pikal knife. There is a ton of literature on these knives now, and in the early 2000’s it had already been introduced to the community by notable instructors like Craig Douglas and Terry Trahan. So, it was definitely not a new concept. But for us the Pikal answered our questions.
From the Philippines to the World…
A brief history for those who are uninitiated. The Pikal is a style of knife that has its origins on the Philippines. Most likely a tool with its roots in agriculture, it is a type of knife that is specifically held in reverse grip – that is, tip down. With the edge facing the user. This is an unorthodox arrangement, and many new comers to this style of knife always exclaim “why is the knife backwards?”. But once you begin to understand its usage you see it for what it is – a really devastatingly powerful edge and point tool that doesn’t require a complex methodology for its user. More specifically for us, the reverse grip nature of the Pikal means it is ideal for close combat – and that also means the ambush.
What makes it so ideal? It’s relatively well known even in other methodologies that the reverse grip is preferred for an opponent who is very close in proximity to you. The often entangled combat that comes from the ambush scenario simply doesn’t allow for much movement. Big swinging cuts and fast darting thrusts are what happens in a duel, not an entangled ambush. So having a knife that is specifically designed for reverse grip is ideal.
The next factor is the inward facing edge. This is what makes it so devastating, and it comes from both the user’s biomechanics and the opponent’s natural flinch response. Biomechanically speaking, it’s much easier for us to generate power by pulling. So simply extending your arm, stabbing in, and then pulling back against that edge will generate massive tissue damage. A deep wound channel that cleaves through any soft tissues, blood vessels and potentially ligaments. It’s a blade that can end the incident quickly, merely though the biomechanics damage it imparts on the opponent. It also uses the opponent’s natural flinch response against them. A natural reaction to an incoming stab will be to pull away from it. By doing so when that blade penetrates flesh, the opponent would be pulling into that reverse edge, causing massive soft tissue trauma to himself even if the user didn’t follow through with the ripping motion. It’s a combination of knife orientation and blade configuration that simply put, requires very little of the user to inflict massive damage on their attacker. Unlike more complex methodology that is built around tools like the Karambit for example, the Pikal user can be proficient within a matter of months. This too makes it ideal for someone who is concerned with violent edged weapon ambush scenarios.
It was this idea, coupled with the discoveries made during the Maul’s development that lead me to design the Shrike. It took around 16 different drawings and mock ups before a first version had been settled on, and 5 full generations to take the design to where it is now. In my opinion the ultimate defensive EDC knife, and what I still carry daily.
Crafting the Ultimate Pikal…
What makes it the ultimate defensive EDC in my humble opinion is the overall size, ergonomics, blade shape and tip orientation. The size is just right. Many people like blades longer than 3”, however this blade length is just about right to do the required damage in penetration. Especially through more exposed targets like the neck and throat. Major blood vessels and the chest cavity will all be accessible with a 3” blade on most human beings. A blade length of this size is also generally small enough to be easily conceal carried for most people – its not too cumbersome and can also be quickly accessed.
The ergonomics are another aspect which has seen the most evolution. The handle shope on the Gen 5 Shrike is something I’m quite proud of as a designer. It fits most adult male hand’s like a glove – and yes its slightly too big for some, and slightly too small for others, but for the average guy out there its just right – and that’s who its aimed at. The handle also has no snag points, and fits almost entirely within the clenched hand – meaning there’s little to no parts of the handle to catch on clothing or get hung up when stripping your knife hand free from a clench. Which happens A LOT in entangled fights.
Lastly the blade shape and tip orientation is classic Pikal. The point is aligned with the knuckles and it makes understanding where the point is very easy. You don’t need to adjust your wrist to ensure the tip is aligned well for the stab, it requires less thinking and bandwidth, which in the high pressure of an ambush is what you want – simplicity is always better than complexity in this case.
Ok, so calling this article “The Ultimate Defensive EDC Knife” is a little clickbait, I will admit.
No matter what knife or tool you are depending on, the hardware is only as good as the software driving it. You are nothing without practice and training. However, having tools that increase your odds of success are also a valid component.
Ironside Edge Works, my career as a knife makers was literally born from the Shrike and other’s seeing it and wanting one of their own. It’s probably my proudest achievement. Knowing I’ve put a tool in people’s hands that they rely on in life or death encounters is both a heavy responsibility, but also a privilege.
I know our work has been carried by civilians and professionals alike. It’s been used by SORT Teams in South Africa, and on the vests of soldier’s in the middle east, as well as many places in between. It’s a truly tested design that can be carried with confidence by those wanting to put the odds in their favour should the nightmare scenario occur.