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Knife attack defense


The 9/11 terrorists commandeered aircraft using only box cutters and knives with blades under 4 inches. They relied on the shock value of people seeing a blade to intimidate and control the passengers. Although too late, the passengers on United Flight 93 did finally take action and resist, losing their lives in the process, but probably saving the lives of many others by forcing the aircraft to crash in rural Pennsylvania instead of into another building.

How did four men with such insignificant weapons control so many people?

One reason is that people have been trained since childhood that violence is not the answer to conflict; that you should talk to your attacker and try to understand him or her. This may work with a distraught, but otherwise good person, but it does not work with a person who is intent on causing you harm. When you hesitate in your defensive reactions, you allow the perpetrator with a minor weapon to gain the upper hand and possibly gain access to a major weapon.

Another reason for the inaction of people when they are faced with an edged weapon is the tremendous psychological advantage an edged weapon possesses. Most people have never been punched or shot so they do not have any memories of the pain it may cause, but most people have been cut in some way during their lifetimes. Thus, most people have experience with the pain and trauma of a cut, so they cringe at even the thought of being cut.

However, the real threat from an edged weapon is not from a cut, but the penetration of the blade into the body. A cut that does not sever an artery or vein will not be immediately deadly. However, a blade that penetrates more than 2 inches into the body may immediately produce lethal results. The famous military tactician and historian Vegetius wrote how the Romans would laugh at their much larger opponents who would slash and hack with the edge of their weapons rather than stab and thrust. The smaller Romans would use straight thrusts with their short swords and defeat their larger opponents with ease.

Department of Justice statistics on edged weapon assaults indicate that the first 3-5 strikes in an edged weapon attack are slashes and are not lethal. Studies of edged weapon attacks have shown that people are generally repulsed by the thought of shoving an edged weapon into someone. You may slash at a person with the intent of making them stay away from you or to intimidate the person, but a thrust means you intend to hurt or kill the person. Most people, even when in danger, find it difficult to form this deadly intent.

Some cold, hard facts

If you are attacked with a knife:
  • You WILL get cut, maybe superficially, maybe seriously.
  • You WILL bleed, maybe slightly, maybe dangerously.
  • You MAY get stabbed, maybe slightly, maybe deeply.
  • You MAY die.

Unarmed knife defense

If you have no way to escape, you must at least try to defend yourself. As stated above, you will get injured, maybe seriously, even if you fend off the attack, but you are going to die if you do nothing.
A "knife fighter" is a person who uses a knife to fight. He or she relies solely on the knife as a weapon of intimidation, usually because he or she is not intimidating without the weapon. Without the knife, the knife fighter would lose his or her power over victims. 

However, a person who is a trained fighter who fights well, will use a knife in a fight if it is available, but does not need a knife or any other weapon to feel confident and in control during a fight. Since most bad guys are usually not trained to fight, with or without a knife, if you are confronted by a person with a knife, he or she is most likely not a knife fighter. When facing a knife-wielder, the threat is not so much from the knife itself as from the brain of the person holding the knife. An idiot with a knife is less a threat than a person who is trained to fight and has a knife.

A knife has a short-range, the attacker's reach plus the length of the blade, So, when facing a knife, whenever it is possible, simply run away! If you cannot run, then you must immediately attack the attacker.

Your primary weapon is your brain. If you are thinking better and faster than your attacker, you have an advantage. Your next weapon is your body: your arms, legs, hands, feet, elbows, knees, and skull. Lastly, available objects may be used as weapons, whether that is their intended purpose. Since the brain is needed for the body to be used as a weapon and it is needed to use an object as a weapon, the first target of a counterattack should be the attacker's brain, or central nervous system.

When facing a knife fighter whose strength comes from having the knife, if you attack the person, he or she will try to protect the knife from your attack and then counter with slashes, rather than worrying about protecting his or her brain. So, to defend against a knife fighter, attack his or her brain.

This may be accomplished in numerous ways, but one proven approach is first to close the range quickly. If you stand away from the attacker, you will be constantly on the defensive, dodging slashing attacks and not attacking. You need to get close so you may attack the attacker's central nervous system. 

Your weapons of choice are your forearms, since they are hard, versatile, and, unlike the hands, they may take punishment without serious injury. As you rush in, attack with downward, circular strikes, flailing your forearms inward in a flurry of attacks like two propellers beating on the attacker. Do not reach out with the arms, keep them in close for power, and to permit quicker follow-up attacks. This type of attack protects your torso and generates powerful strikes that overwhelm the attacker. The attacker never gets to think about anything, including using the knife.

The forearm attacks are aimed to strike multiple targets. The first strikes are to the attacker's arms and then they rapidly advance upward. When you reach the neck, you will find yourself well inside the attacker's defenses, with access to the attacker's central nervous system. 

Focus the forearms strikes to crush the windpipe, strike the vagus nerve that runs vertically along each side of the neck, the temples, the nose, the ears, and the jaw hinges. Use your thumbs to gouge the eyes. One of these attacks will incapacitate the attacker, and the knife will no longer be a problem. You will probably get cut during the attacks, but the attacker will be fighting for his or her life and will not be making effective knife strokes. You will be bleeding, but you will heal, whereas your attacker will be dead or unconscious.

When facing a knife attack, focus on attacking your attacker, not on defending against a slashing attack. You will get cut, but you can still win. It is highly unlikely you will ever be attacked by a trained fighter with a knife. It is more likely you will be attacked by an idiot who is used to having everyone cower and be intimidated by his or her knife. They will have no defenses against your vicious attack that ignores their knife.

More on unarmed knife defense

Unarmed defense against a weapon is always very risky. Fight only to prevent death or certain serious injury to yourself or others. If the opponent has a knife, even if you also have one, avoid the fight or flee, if possible. If you must fight, you may use deadly force since your attacker has a deadly weapon and intent on attacking you. If you have a knife and the opponent does not, use it judiciously, since you now have a deadly weapon and may be legally or civilly liable for its use even when you attacker continues to attack.
  • If the situation demands it, do as you are told, including giving up valuables. 
  • Comply if ordered to put your hands up. Even if not told to, hold your arms up; it implies compliance. It is easier to make an initial move when your hands are up. They are out of the attacker's line of vision and you do not look aggressive.
  • Divert the attacker's attention away from your intentions by talking (pleading, crying, etc.). Practice starting your defense/ or attack while you are in the middle of a remark or phrase.
  • While attacking, focus on controlling the hand holding the knife.
  • Some may think that carrying a concealed firearm will protect them against a knife attacker. Tests have shown that a potential knife attacker that is under 21 feet away will be able to close the distance and slit the throat of an untrained shooter before he or she can draw and fire, every time.
  • Either stay outside the arc of the blade or move inside the arc of the attacker's forearm, while controlling the knife.
  • Be prepared to be cut or slashed; the secret is to avoid injury to vital areas or your hands.
  • A knife attack is very personal. A person may mean to threaten you with a gun and accidentally shoot you without trying, but to hurt you with a knife, a person must make a purposeful action to harm you. You cannot accidentally attack someone with a knife. It is relatively easy to shoot someone from a distance, it is much more difficult to get close enough to a person to cut them, and then to purposefully use the knife to cut the person. This means a person who is trying to cut you is trying to kill you, not scare you. When you defend yourself against a knife, you must have the mindset that you are defending your life, and then act accordingly. Deadly force is authorized against a knife attacker.
  • In a blade on blade confrontation, the key is to attack first and strike as many vital areas as possible in one movement. In empty hand fighting, you reset after you strike. For example, the jab goes out and comes back, and then the cross goes out. In knife fighting, the blade is moving from one target to the next continuously, while the empty hand controls the opponent's weapon.
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