Training with live, sharpened blades is useless.  There.  I said it.

It is a needless act of bravado that carries so much risk that even the slightest deviation from agreed upon rule sets can result in serious permanent injury.
Those who practice with live blades will typically defend it in two ways.  One is to cite realism.  That in real life, there will be no training blades.  The second way they defend it is to cite that it creates a healthy fear for the blade.  Both arguments are ridiculous and without merit.

Filipino Kali Training | LIVE BLADES at Taos, New Mexico

After an exhaustive search online, there appears to be no good example of live blade drilling. None.  There are no live blade drills that match the intensity, energy and intent of drilling with training knives.  None.  Zero.  It doesn’t exist.  What you will find are highly choreographed and consensual exchanges moving at unrealistic speeds and with no intensity whatsoever.  In short, it isn’t very realistic.

Knife defense is arguably simple, but it certainly isn’t easy.  It requires hard work.  It requires intensity, intent, directness and aggression.  They are unpredictable and uncomfortable.  They are devoid of art.  Adding the element of a live blade under these parameters is not only pointless, it is downright dangerous.  It immediately removes all other components of realistic training: intensity, aggression, intent and unpredictability…and the slightest deviation from a mutual understanding (choreography) can lead to a dramatic and immediate stoppage to training…possibly forever.

Remember that we are talking about training, not fighting.  Training with live blades is like taking your gun from the range and having a mock shootout in the forest with your friends…with real bullets.  Here’s what you’re actually doing: You stop trying your best to kill one another and begin trying your best not to.  Live blade training under any sort of self-defense context is silly bravado.  Nothing more.  It is quite like saying “Hey, point that loaded gun at me so that I have a healthy fear of it.” — Ridiculous.  You want a healthy fear of the blade?  Take a sharp knife, cut something with it, then imagine that thing is you.  Its like saying “Go run in traffic so you have a healthy fear of cars.”  Silly.

There is one silver lining to live blade training and it is under the umbrella of artistic performance.  Solo flow drills with live knives, machetes and bolos adds to the delight of your audience in the same way circus acts thrill us with death defying feats of bravery.  For the sake of artistic performance, live blade training may have its place.

Live Blade Flow : Double Machetes ( Kali / Arnis / Eskrima )

To recap, live blade training removes the necessary components in knife defense realism.  It offers a very high risk of injury that will lead to training stoppage and potentially a hefty hospital bill.  Those who do it…and convince others to do it are doing so irresponsibly and for the wrong reasons.  If they are doing it under the context of some warrior rite of passage, kindly remind them to stop pretending they are a tribal elder in some remote jungle village…and get yourself back into some honest training.

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