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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"Tramontina" pocket knifeImage via Wikipedia

Self Defense Against Knives, by Keith W.

With all the preparations people make for TEOTWAWKI, one skill that I've noticed that a lot of people lack is personal self defense in close quarters combat (CQC). I'm not talking about their collection of weapons only here, but rather their overall sense of what self defense really means and what it really requires. People have a in inherent duality to their nature. In normal times, nearly all humans have an aversion to killing each other. However, in a survival situation (even just a perceived survival situation) people can be exceedingly vicious if they think they have to be. This isn't news to readers of this blog, however I would like to address some of the often times overlooked realities of self defense against knives.
Knives are tools first and foremost and weapons second. Because of this, knives are abundant. For the purposes of this article, almost anything that can cut or impale you could fall into the knife category. Many people including experience martial artists, are unprepared for the realities of knife encounters. You often hear certain types of people say how they hate knives or are scared of knives. Indeed, the use of a knife brings combat to a much more personal level than do firearms. However, being scared of something will not save you from it but rather makes it your weakness.
If we find ourselves in a TEOTWAWKI situation, then you can expect to encounter rough people with ill intentions and a lot of these people are going to carry a knife of some sort. Again, knives are abundant, relatively inexpensive and easy to find, quiet and can be just as lethal as a handgun if the user is determined. You have to prepare for these types of people with these types of weapons if you really want to be prepared for a world turned on it's head with a lot of desperate people living in it. Even in TEOTWAWKI it will be hard to avoid all people no matter where you are. Remember there are over 300 million people in the US alone.
Many knife attacks occur suddenly and unexpectedly and the receiver rarely even knows a knife is involved until he feels it. That goes double for criminals that are used to using knives offensively. The knife may be huge or it may be a box cutter (the kerambit type blade also comes to mind) that you can barely see, even without attempts to conceal it. It may be a machete, or a butcher knife, a folding pocket knife or a bayonet. You have to be prepared for all of them because they all could be encountered, and truthfully, you should react in a similar manner to them all. A mantra for most professionals is "watch the hands, they can hurt you." Not bad advice, but even if the hands appear empty, don't assume anything.
The key is to learn to watch the persons movement overall. Notice the hands (and feet, and knees, etc.) of course, but you have to watch the person as a whole to be able to react soon enough. Remember, the person is attacking you, he just happens to have a knife in this case. If you learn to deal with the whole person, you will learn to take care of the problem (the person attacking) and not just the symptom (whatever he is attacking with and how they are attacking.)
The following are some strategies against edged weapons (including large knives and machetes).
The specifics are dependent upon what the attacker is armed with of course so this is a general outline. I'm not recommending a certain martial art or style as that would be a can of worms at least as big as the "what gun should I carry?" question.
You unarmed versus the knife wielding attacker:
First, this is a bad situation yes, but certainly not a hopeless one. Learning to control your inherent fear is your best defense. You must maintain enough awareness to maintain your breathing and therefore your movement. Don't just wait there in a fixed stance and make it easy for the attacker. Also, do not stare at the knife if it is displayed. You must keep an awareness of the attacker as a whole (what if he has two knives?) as well as your surroundings (what if he has friends with knives or other weapons?), what if the light is dim and you can't make out all details? Remember, you may never see the knife to begin with but you will likely be able to see the attackers silhouette. If the knife is a large one, then consider the attacker has a range advantage, but don't let that rattle you. The same goes for wicked looking or tactical type blades - don't let their appearance change your mindset, or intimidate you - the goal is the same - survival.

Don't let yourself get cornered if possible. Keep your distance and look for possible escape routes so you can run and survive or at least get time to equal or beat the odds. Indecision is your worst enemy here. However, keep in mind don't be a hero. You are a survivor, so make sure you survive - your family needs you, live to fight another day.
If the guy is on you and you must defend empty handed or if you are getting stuck, cut, caught unawares, or whatever, the response is always the same - move! Just moving can keep the blade from making too deep a cut or stab. Inches count. A serious wound is better than a perforated lung or kidney. Moving the moment the blade comes in contact, or if possible before it touches you can make all the difference even if you get a wound in the process. Naturally, if you can defend and disarm/disable the attacker without getting cut you do so and this is what you train for. Just remember that if you are cut in the process it isn't necessarily the end of the world. Freezing and not reacting however very well could be. Spontaneous movement is better than the frozen pose followed by a "what if" period of indecision. Training is your friend here, as always.
Armed with a stick or cane against a knife wielding attacker:
Of course, this depends on the stick's length. Broomstick length offers a distance advantage of course but you could defend yourself with a sturdy ink pen as well. Bats are good of course but resist the urge to go on the offensive with wild swinging attacks. If the attacker is circling or taunting you then use short jabs at his hands and face to keep him disrupted all the while maintaining your own unpredictable movement. Don't play with the guy too much though or he may yank the stick right out of your hands if he is quick or very strong. Let the guy make his move and react with your own movement. Get off the line first and attack his hands and any vulnerable areas as he commits and can't react quickly enough. Two important points here. One, you have to hit people a lot harder than you think to do real, immediately felt damage with a blunt object, even with blows to the head. Therefore, make your shots count or you may find yourself cut in spite of your having a stick weapon. Two, Remember that if you are swinging and the guy gets past that swing or you miss, then he is inside your offense and right on top of you with his knife. More training will help naturally.
Armed with your own knife against the knife wielding attacker:
This is a really dangerous situation to begin with. There are now at least two blades in play and your chances of getting cut have doubled. If you aren't trained to knife fight, then you may be better off trying to escape this situation all together. Even if you are trained, resist the urge to have a "duel" with the attacker. You can't possibly know his level of skill, speed, training, agility, tolerance of pain, etc. so don't find out the hard way. That said, you owe it to yourself to at least have some idea of how to use a knife for defense as there is hardly a household in America that doesn't have some sort of knife in it. A butcher knife can kill as easily as a high dollar fighter, so don't underestimate an attacker just because his knife isn't impressive.
If forced to knife fight, then the rules are the same, keep moving and don't be an easy target. Don't wave your knife around out in front or you may find yourself missing fingers and the knife they were holding on to. Keep your weapon out of the guys line of sight so you can use it unexpectedly if he lunges or slashes. Training is not just a good idea here but is pretty much mandatory unless you are ready to meet your maker or have a colostomy bag (possibly hard to come by in TEOTWAWKI scenarios).
Armed with a handgun versus a knife wielding attacker:
This is probably what a lot of forum readers expect to encounter I'm guessing.
First off, let me warn you off the convenient idea of simply "just shooting them," unless you catch the guy coming at you from a distance and the attack is quite obvious. If you sense trouble get your gun out ASAP and learn to do it in a smooth manner that does not attract attention. Why? Because you don't want the guy to change his attack and make the situation even more unpredictable for you. That way, you are dealing with only one problem at a time. In addition, you need to learn to draw on the move. You don't want to stand there doing only one thing at a time when trouble comes. Why? Because if the guy is younger/stronger/faster than you then you need all the advantages you can get and a moving target is hard to hit - so move. On that note, you need to learn to shoot on the move as well. The better training centers teach this and I highly suggest you learn the skill to some degree. A lot of people have an Indiana Jones type fantasy of simply shooting the knife wielding attacker nonchalantly and calling it a day. Well, it might happen that way....or you might not even get your finger on the trigger before you are impaled. As I've stated and will continue to state here, don't underestimate your attacker. A smooth, clean draw, while moving off the line of attack without making a lot of obvious movements will buy you a surprising amount of time. Standing there in a fixed weaver or isosceles stance and seeing if you can beat the clock while you draw is not going to be good enough if someone is lunging at you with a machete (or anything else for that matter). Also consider that you may score a perfect hit but the damage may not stop the attacker quickly enough to keep you from getting cut or worse. Again, don't delude yourself with any assumptions about the instant effects of a handgun. The effects are rarely as dramatic as what many people expect them to be.
If you don't train in knife defense, start training now. Buy or make yourself some good training knives and practice. If you are into martial arts, make a point to include knife defense in your training. The more realistic the trainers, the better. There is a huge psychological component to knife fighting and a specific fear many people have with respect to knives. Learning to control that fear is best done through realistic training with realistic training weapons. Many Kali and Filipino influenced martial arts use the aluminum trainers available online. They are a worthwhile investment for those serious about learning to deal effectively with blades. You don't need the fancy, curvy, fantasy looking types. Stick to the basics, they will serve you best. Even a little training is better than none. If you can't find anyone to give you instruction, there are a variety of videos and books. As someone who has trained in martial arts for 28 years, I would not make that option my first choice, but if you have no alternatives, then follow one of these and practice with another person until you gain some understanding of the dynamics involved.
Safety Proviso: Of course, I don't have to tell you but I will: Be careful training and use caution with your mock weapons. Especially protect your eyes and face when using metal training knives - accidents happen in realistic training. Pace yourself, train honestly and you will have one more feather in your preparedness cap.

1 comment:

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