Scott Babb Interview | Libre Fighting Systems

Scott Babb Founder of Libre Fighting Systems
Hi Scott could you start by telling us a bit about yourself and how you got involved with the martial arts?

I was the smallest kid in a bad neighborhood and I couldn't run very fast. If I had been a better runner I'd probably be coaching track right now. But since that wasn't an option, I needed to get toughened up. I really saw martial arts as the solution to all my problems. I was timid and insecure. I needed direction. Later in life I became disillusioned with the martial arts. I saw the cult-like mentality. People dressing alike, speaking in unison, bowing and groveling to "masters" who were seen as infallible. Believing people had powers that bordered on the supernatural. Reciting creeds. Paying homage to unseen men and etherial institutions. Even as a kid that never sat right with me. As my eyes began to open I saw that the industry was filled with liars and con men. That a lot of prominent players clearly were mentally unbalanced. I had a crisis of faith, I guess you could say. Ultimately, that lead me to create something outside the established order.

Libre fighting is your method, why this name and how did it get started?

I named my school "The Libre Fighting Academy.". Libre means "free". I wanted something free of politics and dogma. It was never meant to be the name of a system. When people asked what style we did, my reply would be "this is just the way I do it." Later, people labeled it Libre Fighting. Which is as good a name as any, I suppose. The concept behind Libre was to create a system based around how knives are used in western culture. Small knives (pocket knives), close quarters, confined spaces. Fast, brutal, violent. No dueling. That meant examining actually knife attacks and creating a response to that.

Why do you train more with knives than empty hand?

That's what people primarily come to me for. I also teach street boxing, some filipino empty hands, and stick work. But people seek me out for knife, so that's generally what you see. I don't teach things that I don't feel I'm expert in. For example, I don't teach grappling. Not because I don't feel it has a place, I just don't think I'm well versed enough to train others in it. I'd rather refer students to experts in fields I'm not expert in myself.

Can the techniques taught with a knife be used with no weapons?

They can, but it's not ideal. We have a street boxing curriculum for empty hands work.

How would you describe your libre fighting?

As a system, it's an unconventional, edged weapons methodology. We focus on using the blade from a concealed position, low light work, confronting multiple opponents, and confined space training. We start with the situations in which a knife attack is likely to occur and work backwards from there. As an organization, I very much see it as a countercultural movement within the martial arts.

What does libre fighting have to offer a student?

Freedom. There's nothing to hinder or inhibit growth. It's all about direct functionality.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in the martial arts?

One of my instructors told me the secret to getting good was to train when you don't feel like it. Train when you're tired, train when you're sick, train when you're stressed, train when the last thing on earth you want to do is train. It's easy to do it recreationally. Pop into class when everything is going good and catch a workout. Discipline comes in making it there when you don't want to be there.

How do you ensure that your students have the mindset to use the knife in a life and death situation, should they ever need to?

We use the blender (confined space sparring) to deveop their aggressive instinct. If forces them to fight, to be aggressive. If they don't they quickly become overwhelmed. From there we work multiple opponent exercises that are very physical, very chaotic. Some people develop the mindset faster than others, but I've managed to instill it in everyone I've trained on an ongoing basis. 

Looking at your clips, there is very little knife disarming, is there a reason for this?

I don't believe in knife disarming. It's generally just busy work that is taught to give students and illusion of profiency. I spent months pressure testing knife disarms with instructors from Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, and Isreali martial arts, and under pressure, with a non cooperative opponent, none of them were able to consistently disarm a knife. The material I had taught held up no better than anyone else's. It was a humbling experience.

What specifications do you have when purchasing a knife?

Generally as long as it is sharp enough to cut, pointy enough to stab, and sturdy enough not to fail under duress I am pretty happy. Guitarists say "tone is in your fingers". Meaning that it's not the instrument, it's the artist. The same thing applies. But to get technical, I like a knife that is comfortable in any grip, and is designed to prevent my hand from sliding up onto the blade. If it's a folder a solid locking mechanism. All the sexy stuff (blade shape, steel, etc) is just personal preference. 

What advice would you offer to a student purchasing a knife, is there any knifes you recommend, if so why?

The Libre Fighter MKII, but of course I am bias, I helped design it.

Learn more about Libre Fighting Systems by visiting their website:

Interview by Ben Lee

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