Most people have only been exposed to the work of John Styers through the book “Cold Steel”.

It is important to remember that this book first and foremost describes a BASIC course of hand-to-hand combat instruction. Items covered in this system include bayonet, knife, stick, and unarmed combat. Styers developed this “system” for BASIC training.

The framework of all these methods remains CONSISTENT at all times. The fundamentals for using the bayonet, knife, unarmed combat, and even stick work are ALL the same.

Note in particular the “stance” used for bayonet, knife, and unarmed engagement. SAME posture. The “body” mechanics involved in all of the methods presented are, at their core, ALL similar. This in itself shows “genius”.

What we see in “Cold Steel” is NOT method STYERS! It is a “system” that STYERS developed for use in BASIC training. John Styers was a man of great knowledge and SKILL in various man to man combat.

Those who knew Styers personally have told us of his keen interest, knowledge, and proven skill in various methods of hand-to-hand combat. From the “French” style of bayonet fighting, to “Russian” knife fighting, to boxing, wrestling, jujitsu and of course “dirty” fighting.

In regards to STYERS’ knife work as shown in “Cold Steel”, it should also be considered that this was only a SMALL part of Styers’ overall skill and ability in KNIFE FIGHTING. Again, this was a BASIC TRAINING system!

Other sources show this quite demonstrably. The man was a MASTER in the handling of the sword.

Now the knife system taught in “Cold Steel” is excellent. The “problems” that are often cited by others have MUCH MORE to do with a lack of understanding of tactics and techniques as “they” present them, than any practical failure in the STYERS method.

IN THE METHOD ……………………………….

First, Styers was training men for COMBAT on the battlefield! NOT for a “duel”. He assumed (rightly) that in the so-called “fog” of war, men will revert to pure “animal” instinct and move directly to “kill”. Think about this! During the frenzy of actual combat, you and your enemy are REDUCED to knife fighting. Men are killing and being killed ALL AROUND THEM. YOUR natural SURVIVAL instinct will grab you by the throat. You will grip that knife as tightly as possible (your LIFE NOW depends on THIS ONE WEAPON) and MOVE DIRECTLY INTO THE KILL! (WASTE ANY TIME and someone else WILL KILL you) You are NOT going to “combat” or “duel”, you are going to KILL, survive and move on to your next threat or target. Styers KNEW what real “kill or be killed” combat was like. He realized that MOST men in this dire strait will instinctively grab their knife, either with a “soon” or “ice pick” grip or a “soft” type “hammer grip”. THEY WILL ATTACK with a determined KILLING intent. THAT IS THE BASIS of the Styers method!

Now the “elements” of the Styers method are based on the BODY position, the ARM position and the KNIFE position.

This is where so many “experts” get off track. Forget about any “technique”, lunge, cut or “whatever”. WITHOUT the BASIS of proper BODY, ARM and KNIFE position, all the “technique” in the world is meaningless!

Without a REAL understanding of Styers’ FUNDAMENTAL tactic and what MUST be done to make it EFFECTIVE, ALL OF THIS becomes NO MORE than two guys trying to slash and stab each other. THIS IS NOT what Styers envisioned.

As for the “meat and potatoes”:

1. Posture-

Whether you assume the “Styers” stance from a “classic” fencer’s pose, as demonstrated by Styers (for continuity) or simply move forward (front leg) back (real leg) one step, as long as your UPPER torso stays square and your body rests “spring-like” on your legs, you’re doing it right. BALANCE should rest on your center point and rear heel UP. Toes and KNEES pointing FORWARD!

KEY POINT: SQUARE body. ERECT torso. Pulled chin. Centered BALANCE. RAISED BACK HEEL.

2. Arm position-

Grab the KNIFE: Blade vertical to the ground. EXTENDED thumb down the back strap. Slight upward TILT or “cocking” of the blade.

Hand and arm with weapon: Pulled IN. Upper arm slightly BACK of vertical. Elbow tucked in, not far to the side. LOWER ARM raised in an EVEN plane with the THROAT/EYES of the opponent. The weapon hand MUST NOT break the lateral plane of the upper torso! THIS IS KEY!

Left hand: pulled in as if it were a hand with a weapon.


Incorrect foot placement.

Lean over or towards the opponent.

Chin/Head PUSHED out.

EXTENDED and/or OPEN GUN HAND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Knife LEVEL with the ground and NOT POINTED at the opponent’s EYES/THROAT!

Offhand OPEN to the side.

Now the WHYs make this method Succeed or FAIL.

First, try this experiment (THIS IS SOMETHING YOU MUST DO). Don’t even talk about this “method” if you HAVE NOT honestly followed this example:


EXTEND to FULL arm’s length with shoulder “twisted” in for added reach.

Tell your training partner to STAND AWAY from the weapon to a RANGE where you feel in “SAFE” fighting range. Somebody measure that distance.

BRING your weapon arm to 3/4 extension and repeat. Somebody measure that distance.

PULL FURTHER IN to a 90 degree half bent position and repeat.

NOW pull the gun back to your hip and do it all over again.

COMPARE the measurements at each “distance”. MOST people WILL STAY pretty consistent on the ACTUAL “measured” safe distance from the nose of the gun. THEY WILL ALMOST always MOVE as YOUR arm moves back, BUT the “measured” distance remains very close between ALL given positions.

THAT is the KEY for Styers.

Extend the arm and knife all the way OUT. Your partner keeps that critical zone of safety FROM the tip of your blade very real and sharp. COULD you EASILY cut or push it from that position? Not precisely. A committed BODY lunge or step is all you could do to close the “gap.” Too slow.

NOW-Push that arm ALL the way in so that it just breaks the lateral plane of the body. AGAIN, your training partner will DEFINITELY have a tendency to HOLD the measured distance from the safety zone, but it WILL MOVE. The actual measured distance between it and the tip will vary little. Your safe zone is STILL your safe zone.

What HAS changed is your ABILITY TO REACH IT in the fastest and NOT telegraphed way.

FROM arm RETRACTED, SQUARE TORSO, and BALANCED stance, you can execute the fastest, cobra-like attacks or counterattacks with a large amount of RANGE.

ANY position BESIDES this, taken by your enemy, will put YOU at a SERIOUS disadvantage. He will almost ALWAYS offer you something, while YOU will offer NOTHING.

Your range and speed will be affected by YOUR position. Your range and speed will be UPGRADED by YOURS.

IMPORTANCE of BLADE POSITION: Keep the tip of the blade POINTED at the indicated angle. BECAUSE? At that angle it is MUCH more difficult for the opponent to gauge the size and length of your blade. It may seem like a MINOR “point”, but in a real KNIFE fight I WILL USE anything that CAN give me an advantage.


ALL you REALLY need is a push, a quick cut (DO NOT use the rear quick cut with this!), a “stop bump”, and the “manual cut”. The step over and stab are also useful.

If “In-Quartata and Passata-soto” are NOT comfortable for you, DO NOT use them! Since BOTH of these moves ARE MEANT as “defensive” counters against an OVER committed attack, they are NOT required.

The FIVE moves mentioned above are MORE than enough. PRACTICE advancing, retreating, and flanking left and right. Personally, I do NOT train the “back” quick slash in the “quick slash” because I know of an incident in an actual fight where the knife came loose from the grip on the “return” when the target reflexively raised their shoulder after taking the first cut to the temple and right eyes. This is the story I’ve heard, so I won’t comment further.

GOALS: As far as “goals” go… well, the BEST real-world advice I can offer is to simply GO FOR THE MEAT! If you see skin, TAKE ADVANTAGE!

Fingers, hands, wrists, throat/neck and face. The “step over and stab” MUST be reserved for the coup de grace.

John Styer’s influence was really BROUGHT AFTER WWII. His methods were developed during the Korean War era, long after his discharge from the USMC.

And……………………His job as a FLAG salesman is what put him in touch with military and military bases ALL OVER the country!

There are more anecdotes and more information, but this is enough for now.

I always get a “kick” when guys throw out different methods and/or ideas out of control. Then when I ask them to “show me” they get it ALL WRONG! Of course it looks like SHIT. BECAUSE YOU ARE DOING IT LIKE SHIT!

Ok, I hope some of you have some useful ideas.

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