Knife Defense

The most profound error in knife defense is to confuse it with knife fencing. Also, it is no such thing as “self-defense knife”. Knife is just a cutting tool. I never heard about any kind of “self-defense screwdriver”, even large flat-head screwdriver is as effective as a stubbing weapon as any knife could be, or any kind of “self-defense ax”, or “self-defense shovel” even both, ax and shovel, can be used as weapon in self-defense scenarios (even combat ax is, probably, most used assault weapon in the human history and sharpened small infantry truncheon is, for at least 70 years already, adapted as a CQC weapon in Russian military).

When confronted with a knife, don’t pull your own blade to equate with attacker, instead use weapons of opportunity to “outgun” him. Don’t have any? Wrong, unless you’re naked in an empty swimming pool, you always do!

In knife defense, you have two tactical goals to achieve:

1. To avoid been cut
2. To disable attacker’s knife

To avid been cut you need a shield.

Almost anything that you can put between your own skin and a knife can function as a shield. Some authors recommending using a shoe placed on your blocking hand. I wouldn’t advocate much for this idea if you wearing tight-up shoes or boots because it will take time to take them off (both of them, because been in one shoe will impede your coordination) and been barefoot on unprepared surface can distract you as you may step on some sharp or otherwise unexpected object (gravel, slippery spot, etc; this is why outdoor survivor experts recommending to cross strong current in shoes and not barefoot, even you need to dry your shoes later). However, if you’re wearing slippers or high-hill dress shoes, that must be taken off and quickly anyway, use them. Women’s dress stiletto shoes used as hummer can be effective weapon against short knife…

I wouldn’t stop much on using hand bags, purses, suitcases as a shield, nor on using things like chair or stool. But, dispute visible simplicity, using of a chair in the knife defense should be train in a class because in this scenario you’re as vulnerable to your attacker kicks from underneath as much as he’s vulnerable to yours.

Most effective improvised (but well trained) defense against light blade weapon in a face-to-face altercation was developed in Europe in Renaissance Era (14th – 17th century): when man holds knife, dagger, or rapier in his primary hand, the other arm was loosely wrapped into his cape. Well, we’re not wearing capes anymore, but we’re wearing something and this something can be as affective as a cape was in the short knife defense.

Light overcoat, blazer, jacket, sweater, or even shirt can do the trick. As heavier the fabric is better, but even light fabric will work. Wrap it around your blocking arm or hold it loosely in your primary hand and use it as a whip… Now to the second goal:

To disable attacker’s knife you need to entrap it.

The primary benefit of using “cape” defense is that at the same time as it shielding you from the blade, it allows you to entrap this blade. Using your jacket as a whip you’re turning attacker into defender. Anything of weight in your jacket pockets will enhance its effectiveness as a weapon. You can drive your attacker off or you can subdue him by entrapping in your cloth. Your counterattack should target his armed hand and face. Yes, your jacket can be ruined behind repair after such use, but even $2K Armani suite I would expect to be less of value for you the your own skin.

Up to this point I silently omitted one critical element in the knife defense – it’s rarely if ever face-to-face fight. If someone showing you knife you probably can get out of this situation without fight by de-escalating and complying with tolerable requests (“give me your watch!” is a tolerable request from an armed mugger, but “get into the car!” isn’t tolerable request during kidnapping-in-progress).

Best (and very extensive) discussion of this subject can be found on on this page of Marc "Animal" MacYaung site.

As it said “what we don’t see kills us”. Defense against “invisible” knife is not feasible in knife fencing. To avoid knife that you don’t see you need to be vigilant. If you see that situation becoming terse, don’t test your good luck, but, if you can’t get out, look for weapon of opportunity that you can get your hands quickly on. The initial response to spontaneous knife attack is a defensive block. Instinctive block technique should be trained daily and with outmost attention. You need to build your “invisible shield” day by day and sharpen it as your crown technique.

The best practical approach for instinctive defense has been developed in Krav Maga. Even if you’re specializing in other block-rich traditional martial art (any style of karate or Aikido , as an example), look at Krav Maga instinctive knife defense technique and see if your own blocking can be improved.


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