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Piper System Blade Combatives



Piper System Blade Combatives


The name Piper System and the unique method of blade combat that uses the name are the creations of Nigel February. Nigel, his students and his designated representatives are the only Piper System exponents. The Piper System is a study of Cape Town and South African knife combatives assembled and organized into a structure, much like a Martial Art, over a period of years. Lloyd De Jongh added extensive additional research and created a learning format for the material in conjunction with Erik Petermann and Jason Williams.

Piper was created to save lives... our own. We were afraid of the skills that our violent criminal element possessed - which we had extreme difficulty coping with utilizing the numerous Western and Asian approaches to Martial Arts we had collectively learned. This fear was widely prevalent, and we found that many were very interested in learning what we knew. Many individuals have since added useful contributions to the pool of knowledge.

Before collecting all the various gang and street methods into the organized system called Piper, it was just called Cape Town knife fighting. Different areas and different gangs had various styles and only a few techniques - but nothing as complete as Piper existed. A typical knifer had a couple of techniques and no conception that there was a discernible underlying method involved. This wasn’t a Martial Art with a syllabus. Gangs therefore had a group of individuals each with one or two of their own and some general, borrowed techniques - their method having a particular regional style and an overall African ‘flavor’. Piper was about painstakingly collecting all of those individual techniques and styles of movement into categories that we Martial Artists could relate to, then compiling a complete system for the edged, blunt, improvised weapons and the empty hand method called Form Style.
The blade is a primary weapon, empty hand methods can be considered an adjunct.

N.B. Before we continue, in the interests of clearing up some common misunderstandings, we want to make it clear that:

  • Piper is NOT a Zulu system. It is not ‘Zulu knife fighting’ - there is no such thing. Zulus are not indigenous to and live far from the Western Cape, the Xhosa-dominated province in which Nigel and Lloyd grew up.

  • Gangsters and convicts in Cape Town do not acknowledge a preexisting system of knife combat - in all our interviews they are unaware of such a thing, and they will have no knowledge of a Piper System because it is our creation.

Piper System Blade CombativesWhat is the Piper System?
It begins with a group of martial artists training in a garage one night. I had been doing a lengthy study of criminal psychology
& strategy, however I lacked a cohesive understanding of the physical tactics & weapons (knives, clubs and machetes) involved. A chance question to Nigel elicited a response which has caused something of a controversy around the world. We have studied the way criminals in our country have used knives in the commission of crimes (to mug, murder, rape and intimidate). This is the opposite side of the coin to what & why martial artists study knives. What we learned about how criminals use knives conflicted with the way martial artists view, utilize & are taught knife skills.

Many have searched for the holy grail in the blade arts, for that elusive ‘truth’ in edged weapons combat. Some feel they have found it in the training hall, they call themselves ‘knife fighters’. Others have found their truth - and are grateful to merely label themselves survivors. Then there are those who have found a deeper truth in blade combat - we call them murderers, thugs, muggers, rapists, gangsters and convicts.

We’ve codified the various seemingly unrelated, random methods that our proficient criminal elements employ into a system, a system which Nigel named Piper. For a description of the origin behind the name, please see his blog post “Piper - the origin of a name”, or view his video interview.

The method that we call Piper sends people to morgues and emergency wards as we speak - it teaches the truth of edged weapons combat as we experience it in our corner of the globe, a place where knives are a daily threat, where communities have lived with fear for years. The system with a style of movement, deceptiveness, viciousness and an application that is radically different to anything in “Martial Arts” - its origin is not based on stylistic imperatives, but on criminal requirements.

We are willing to teach this truth of bladed combat and assault, if you can open your mind to it. Are you prepared to be challenged, to question what you may have been taught about bladed combat?

Piper System Blade CombativesWhat makes Piper different?
1. The Piper System is based on current combative methods. It is a means of utilizing and surviving knives and other improvised weapons. It is real. It kills people. It is almost completely focused on offense. There are defensive strategies, but even those use the same offensive techniques.

2. Piper is chaos, with a blade. Unpredictable constant motion means your enemy has trouble pinning you down. Being difficult to pin you down visually, it becomes extremely difficult to do so physically.

3. Piper is a knife system that is not adapted from a sword, machete or stick system. Piper movement is far more versatile than typical Western/Filipino knife methods and it does not employ easily intercepted and parried techniques.

4. Piper is a South African knife system, thus it possesses an African movement flavor. The audio/visual/tactile fakes and distractions (clicks, stomps, clapping, slapping your body) redirect attention in often fatal ways. Being an expression of primal, raw emotion through its body mechanics, there is no detectable rhythm.

5. Piper is highly individualized. No two exponents look the same in motion, even though using the same core movements.

6. Due to its evolutionary, battle-tested nature, what didn’t work has been quite literally killed off. The knife is a primary weapon, not an adjunct to other weapons.

7. Piper is all about your INTENT. In certain S.E. Asian systems such as Kuntao Silat, students are taught to visualize themselves as a ferocious animal. The gang member who uses Cape Town knife fighting is already highly predatory. The knife is not to make him a cool “Martial Arts Knife Fighter”, it is a tool - it produces money, status, women, respect - and kills his enemies. It hurts those he hates and despises and saves his life. His knife is used to threaten, to intimidate and to perforate. He starts off with a mindset that “martial artists” will never reach (which is as it should be, martial artists are not violent criminals). It is necessary that martial artists realize that this IS Piper.

8. The knife is not an extension of your hand. It is an extension of your will. The knife is a means to express your INTENT to enforce your desire or cause harm regardless of laws or civilization. Due to this element, fear and a proper respect for the blade as a lethal weapon is present amongst those who study Piper.

9. Piper practice is done with real knives. The knives most commonly used are the Okapi and the Sable, cheap locally made blades. Sparring is done with these blades, stopping just short of targets. This keeps it real and reminds you of the intent, the fear and harm that would be present in a real-life confrontation. Real criminals don’t practice with rubber knives.

10. Piper is NOT taught to non-Martial Artists. It is, however, taught regardless of race, color or creed. It is a bona-fide vicious, deadly, brutal system. Knowing only a few of the methods and strategies will supercharge your combative arsenal. However, remember that you have neither the viciousness or deadly intent of the criminal who kills and maims with a blade; nor the formative experiences of seeing people knifed. Making it into a Martial Art does cage the beast, but doesn’t quite tame it.


The Zulu and the birth of Piper
The Zulu influence with regard to combat spread to other tribes in the south. Shaka's methods were evolutionary & dynamic, but he was a power-hungry, fanatical tyrant who instilled fear in his followers and ruled with an iron fist. Quite naturally, some of the Impi escaped and sought refuge amongst the tribes further south. After Shaka’s murder, things started to turn for the Zulu. Even the Zulu capital changed location. From this we learn 2 things: 1. migration 2. interchange of ideas.

The infamous and feared prison Numbers gangs were created by Nongaloza Mathebula, in 1912. He was called the fighting general of the 28s prison gang. It is believed that this man founded the original gang lore, which would later spill onto our streets (For an academic paper on what is still closely guarded knowledge, see Jonny Steinberg’s paper, Nongaloza’s Children). It is at this point in history that the Piper timeline begins, not before that. By now the Xhosa, Basotho, Cape Malay, Khoi and San offshoots, Tswana and Indian ethnic groups all more or less knew the way the Zulus moved in combat (it should be noted that there is no difference between Zulu, Xhosa, Shangaan, Ndebele and Swazi stick fighting), and had combined them with their own fighting principles. Historically, it is Shaka, not the Zulus, who redefined Southern African tribal warfare - as much as the founders of the Piper System made the study of the culture of prison/street knifings more accessible to those affected by crime.


Piper System Blade CombativesThe proponents of the Piper System don’t like knives. Yes, you read that right. The system was designed from the ground up to counter knife violence. Also, as people with firsthand experience of the grisly reality of knife assaults, all the swashbuckling romanticism of blades is forever gone.

Knife fighting is a dangerous and unforgiving endeavor that no one in his or her right mind would ever engage in willingly. Even those who are adept in the use of the blade may emerge victorious and still sustain life-ending injuries in an actual knife fight. That being said, cultivating skill with the blade can greatly increase your odds for survival should you ever have to engage in knife combat.


Master Guardian Andreas GarifalouMaster Guardian Andreas Garifalou

Master Guardian Andreas Garifallou

Master Guardian Andreas Garifallou




You can know the truth,
and the truth will make you fear



Okapi Knife

The Okapi Knife

The Piper System is designed around a specific weapon, the Okapi, which is a cheap folding knife common to African gangs, the weapon dictates your technique... This style is a classic example of adapting one’s technique to suit the unique characteristics of the weapon in use.

1. The Okapi has a dull edge. To adjust to this fact, the style features thrusting motions, with the knife held in ice pick grip.

2. The Okapi has a cheap locking mechanism. To adjust to this trait of the weapon, it is held edge inward, so that if the blades collapses out of the locked position, the wielder’s fingers are not trapped.

3. The Okapi is small and dull. Because it cannot cause the damage of a machete or larger sharper edge with just a single blow to say, the forearm, the style targets only vital areas.

4. The Okapi is wielded by gang members, attacking as a pack. Training against multiple opponents is a must.


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Piper System Blade Combatives Athens Greece