The Fairbairn-Sykes-Applegate (FSA) Knife Fighting is the basic knife fighting system taught to the British Empire and American military, OSS and SOE during WWII. William Ewart Fairbairn and Eric Anthony Sykes also invented the famous British commando dagger — “Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife” — and Rex Applegate and Fairbairn, designed a fighting knife — the less famous Boker Applegate-Fairbairn knife. The system is still held in high esteem in some quarters because of their expertise in other areas of close-quarter battle, but the problem with their method was none of them were experienced knife fighters.
The cardinal rule of knife fighting is to avoid the point of the enemy’s dagger, but the Fairbairn, Sykes, and Applegate method ignores that. Their knife fighting tactics were abysmal. As well as ignoring concepts like tempo, misura and velocità, Fairbairn dismisses the need for any stance or guard. Whereas Applegate advocates adopting cinghiale porta di ferro larga – knife held in the right hand at the right hip with the left foot and left hand forward.
This a terrible knife fighting guard. It leaves your front, left flank and rear only guarded by your empty left hand, telegraphs your attacks, and you can attack the enemy at close range — (misura stretta). If your enemy is in the same guard and you fatally stab him, he’s still likely to stab you right back. If you’re lucky he’ll let you share the ambulance.
Trying to parry a dagger thrust at close range is a good way to get a free ride in an ambulance. The best way to parry a dagger thrust is to move out of it’s range and parry it when it falls short, when it travelling at less velocity. But even then it dangerous to parry a dagger with an empty hand, and has to be done with force. It’s better to parry blade on blade, or to use a stab to the enemy’s hand as a stop hit. Parrying the enemy’s forearm or wrist with your dagger might cut them but still leaves you vulnerable to their attack. You might sever his radial or ulnar artery but if he might stab you in the Jacobs. Not a good trade off.
The FSA method also overemphases slashing, but stabbing is a lot more effective. A slash requires a much longer range of motion, and requires two movements, whereas a stab only requires one. It also needs to be travelling at a much greater velocity to inflict serious damage. Another problem with the FSA method is the Fairbairn “timetable of death”, trying to sever the enemy’s arteries is fine if he is standing still like a mug, but when he’s moving about with a dagger that he wants to stick in you — forget about it! Targets need to be accessible. Most people usually stab to the stomach and slash to the face, but these are the best protected targets. Stabbing someone in the throat, Jacobs, arse, thigh, or foot, is a lot easier and will end a fight.