Techniques>Self-defense against armed attacker

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Self-defense against armed attacker


Along with multiple attackers, being attacked with a weapon is pretty much your worst self-defense nightmare. A weapon certainly adds more danger to a self-defense situation, but it may be dealt with if you keep your defenses simple. You do not need defenses that are complicated to carry out because they may fail and leave in a worse condition than before.

Types of weapons

Bludgeon attack

A bludgeon can be any blunt object used to strike you such as a club, stick, baton, bat, nightstick, etc. Generally, you may grab a bludgeon being held by an attacker without harming yourself. A bludgeon is only a threat when it is swung or poked at you. To defend against bludgeon-type weapons, you can use most of the same techniques used in unarmed fighting.

Firearm attack

You have practically no defense against a firearm that is out of arm an arm’s reach, other than talking. If the weapon is within an arm’s reach, which means you do not have to move the rest of your body, you must grab and control it before you eliminate the attacker. You know where the threat of a firearm is, it is the pointed end with the hole. You can grab a firearm, and as long as the hole points in a safe direction, it cannot harm you. What you do next must be quick, powerful, and deadly.

Knife attack

As the godfather of soul, James Brown sang "I don't know karate, but I know ka-razor!" 

Knife fighters usually do not show the blade. The first time you see it will be when it is sticking into your body. Always check the hands of your antagonist. If you cannot see the palms or a hand is concealed, assume the attacker has a weapon.

If an attacker shows you the knife, he or she is usually just posturing. If you are facing a knife, the best-case scenario is that you do not die because, in a knife attack, you will get cut. If a knife is pulled and running away is not an option for you, throw anything handy at the attacker, and then run. If you cannot throw something, blitz the attacker with powerful head strikes until he or she is unable to continue the attack.

Defending against a knife is more difficult than against a firearm because it has more ways that may harm you. A knife may be used to stab, cut on both sides, cut on the forward and backward stroke, thrust, lunge, or slash, and it cannot be safely grabbed.

Remember, in a knife attack, you will get cut and you may get stabbed, probably multiple times. Knife attacks are bloody, nasty, deadly affairs. Do everything you can to avoid having to defend yourself against a knife attack, but if it happens, you will be fighting for your life. Your only goal is to blind, maim, or kill the attacker before he or she kills you.


When faced with a knife, you have three defensive movement choices: retreat, lateral close (outside and inside), and pass by. Each of these initial movements allows you to close the distance between you and your opponent so you can apply the defense technique of your choice. These movements may also be used against bludgeons and firearms.

Choice 1: Retreat

Your retreat is usually seen by the opponent as a sign of cowardice. The attacker thinks you are either too afraid to fight or that you think you cannot beat him or her. However, a retreat may be the best initial move since it gives you space and time to evaluate your attacker's seriousness and an opportunity for you to prepare a strategy. Sometimes, your retreat may cause your attacker to back off and let you escape.

You may use a retreat to evaluate your position, gain better footing, find a weapon, adjust your stance, or maneuver for the best position in a confined space. You also may use a retreat to take control of the timing and distance of the confrontation. When you begin to retreat, your attacker is forced to react to you instead of acting on you. You may find the distance most comfortable for you and prepare to retaliate when you are ready. While retreating, you should be observing your opponent's position and anything that signals his or her intent and abilities.

While a retreat is the most sensible option available, it has disadvantages that make it a poor choice in some situations. It is not an option when in a confined space. While you may gain a physical advantage by retreating, you lose a major psychological advantage. When you step back, the psychological upper hand goes to your opponent. He or she will see you as weak, uncertain, inexperienced, and perhaps unskilled and may gain courage from it. If you do have a plan, you may regain the advantage by using it when the opponent thinks you are about to give up. If you do not have a plan, your fear will only increase by retreating.

Choice 2: Lateral close

The lateral close is the most taught method of defending against a thrusting, lunging, or cutting attack. There are two types of lateral closes: the outside close and the inside close. Each type describes the direction of your movement relative to your opponent's body. 

By holding a knife, the attacker extends his or her range of attack and thereby shortens the distance you must move to gain control of the weapon. Both closing types allow you to close the distance effectively while possibly avoiding the attacker's weapon.

In the outside lateral close, you sidestep your opponent's forward movement. When the opponent attacks, you step either to the side of the attack, so you end up close to the side of the opponent's body.

In the inside lateral close, you move diagonally toward your opponent before he or she moves forward to attack. You move into your attacker's space and end up close to the front/side of his or her body. 

Once you bypass the outer reach of the attacker's range (the blade of the knife) you lessen the attacker's options for attack and take away his or her advantage. When you get close, you force the attacker to resort to grabbing or blocking your attack, which distracts his or her attention from the knife. 

In the following descriptions, assume you are defending against an attacker who is stepping or lunging forward in an attack with a knife held in the right hand. 

Outside close

The outside close is the safer of the two types. To execute it, when the attacker steps toward you or thrusts the knife at you, you should step outward toward your left just far enough to let the knife pass by. Use your hands to guide the attacker's arm as it passes by you while getting a firm grip on his or her wrist or forearm with your right hand. You should find yourself standing close to the attacker's upper arm or shoulder with your right hand holding the attacking hand firmly at your side. 
When performed correctly, the outside close puts you outside of the line of attack and reduces your chances of getting cut. It puts you in the position of being almost behind your attacker and makes your opponent feel vulnerable. Once you complete the close, you may apply your choice of finishing techniques. 

Inside close

The inside close is somewhat riskier than the outside close since you are moving toward the attacker, but it is much more intimidating. To execute it, when the attacker steps toward you and thrusts the knife at you, step to your right and toward the centerline of the attacker's body while holding onto the attacking arm with your left hand. You should end up in front of your attacker’s chest and face while holding his or her right arm at your side with your left hand.

This is an intimidating position for the attacker because you have cut the weapon off from his or her line of vision and you have placed your body between him or her and the knife, making it impossible for him or her to attack you with it. You have also exposed key targets on the opponent's body to attack, including the critical targets on the centerline of his or her head and body.

However, you have also presented the attacker with the same opportunities, which makes the inside close a risky move. Once you use the inside close, you must have a specific plan to finish your attacker quickly. You must also be acutely aware of your opponent's actions and be prepared to defend against a counterattack.

Choice 3: Pass by

The final choice for closing the distance against a knife is the most dangerous, both to the attacker and the defender, even in practice. To execute it, when the attacker steps toward you and thrusts the knife at you, step outward to the left as if performing an outside close but take two steps so that you are behind the attacker. You have now "passed" the attacker and have several options. You may grab the attacker's hair, head, or shoulders and pull backward. You may apply a choke or lock from behind. You may kick the spine, tailbone, or knee to knock the attacker forward, or you may strike the back of the head. To be effective, the pass and follow-up techniques should be performed as a single move. In an instant, you must move by your attacker and apply a single deadly attack before he or she realizes where you are.

The result of a correctly performed pass is that your attacker never sees it coming and is blindsided by your attack. If you choose to pull the attacker backward, he or she will certainly hit his or her head on the ground. If you push the attacker forward, his or her face will likely hit the ground. If you choose to strike from behind, the attacker will suffer a full-force blow with no warning or defense. All these outcomes may result in death or serious injury to the attacker.

The pass is not recommended for beginners. You run the risk of becoming disoriented or losing your footing when you move so quickly and with such force. You also risk being tripped by yourself or your assailant as you pass. Finally, you run the risk of not being fast enough to complete the pass and not getting a grip on your opponent to control his knife.

Tips on defense against an armed attacker

Whichever defense method you choose, there are a few common principles:
  • Stay as close to your opponent as possible after you close.
  • Focus on taking control of the knife as you move.
  • Grabbing the knife-wielding hand is always preferable to parrying/blocking.
  • Cut off your attacker's view of the knife.
  • Close the distance quickly and smoothly.
  • Never take unnecessary chances or use complicated techniques.
  • Detach yourself from the fear you feel when faced with a knife.
  • Stay alert but unemotional.
  • Keep a natural demeanor and deceive your opponent.
  • Move suddenly and without warning.
  • This is a life or death situation. If you do nothing you will die; if you something you may die. Therefore, you are taking action because you have no other choice. When you take action, you must be a ruthless, blood thirsty, wild beast going for the kill.


  • Kim. S. H. (2003). Against an Armed Attack: The Advantages of Simplicity
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