Knife Defence: Understand What’s Coming

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knife defense infographic

Knife defence is one of the trickiest subjects for any martial artist, with a host of different opinions showing up on what you should do when confronted with a blade. One of the most important points is to understand how knife attacks happen, so that you can train in a way that matches the potential threat you face. There are numerous potential scenarios, but a great many of them boil down into just three approaches to the knife.

In the first, an attacker draws a blade and threatens you with it, either from a distance or with the blade pressed to you. This is actually the least dangerous of the potential situations, since the other person’s intent is not, initially, to harm you, but to get you to do something. If they only want to rob you, seriously consider just handing over what you have. At the same time, recognise that this could be just a precursor to a later attack, or an attempt to move you to another location to hurt you worse. Your knife defence here needs to include recognising the moment at which you have to move from compliance to action, and acting decisively when you do.

A second very common situation involves an approach with a hidden or at least not brandished blade, followed by repeated stabs with the dominant hand. These will be delivered either in a hooking motion to the torso, or overhand to the head and chest. Do not assume that someone will stop at a single strike. Many attackers stab repeatedly, even after their victim falls to the ground. Awareness is crucial here, to spot the blade in the first place or at least to pick up on the other person’s intentions towards you. Jamming the knife arm and interrupting the attack are also crucial if you are to create enough space to get away.

The third situation you are likely to face is in fact a variation of the one above, but one you have to prepare for in your knife defence. Again, the assailant attacks with repeated thrusts or slashes, but here they grab you with the other hand to both guide the attack and prevent you from pulling out of distance. This method offers you both benefits and additional dangers. Benefits, because at least the grab gives you some warning of what might be coming. Dangers, because it is harder to escape the situation.

In each case, you need to ask yourself if these situations fit with the sort of blade training your martial art of choice favours. Are you preparing yourself for what you are actually likely to face in the event of an assault with an edged weapon? Far too often, the answer is no. People are preparing for fair fights in which both people are armed, or for opponents who make a single thrust and freeze. If your current knife defence consists of that sort of training, then you need to seriously reconsider what you are doing.

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