Should You Even DARE Use a Knife to Defend Yourself?

 (This “never-knife,” and “anti-use-knife” subject came up somewhere else on FB, where a Krav school decided to completely stop teaching the use of the knife for self defense. One reason was that carrying knives is prohibited in their region. Another reason was the low stats of such events – might be the lack of carry-knives is a reason for the low stats of events? These observations are actually a common argument in various countries around the world and from various instructors AND practitioners around the world I meet with.)

     “I’ll never have a knife!” they declare.

     “Yes you will, you’ll have the knife of the guy you just disarmed.” I add. (Insert the word “pistol” in place of “knife” when you hear about that subject.) Because they do spend copious amounts of time, disarming, disarming, disarming. What happens next?

     Others say that aspects of the knife training “culture” can be whacky, extremist and too ugly to connect with, even loosely. Stigma!

     Still, I carry on with my own knife course – Force Necessary: Knife! Here’s why and perhaps some of the talking points I use, may be used by you for your positions. Below is how and why I justify a “nasty, violent” knife course, and how I have wrangled with these issues myself, into something I can morally and ethically work with.)




“I’ll never use a knife.”

“I’ll never need a knife, I have my unarmed skills.”

“Even if I disarm a knife, I’ll just throw it off.”

“Carrying Knives are illegal where I live.”

“I don’t need knife training. Everyone alreday knows instinctively how to use a knife.”

“People who like and use knives are crazy, like criminals.”

…and so on. 

     First off, I understand your concerns.  I really do. I myself have no particular fascination with knives. I do not collect them, nor would I collect wrenches or hammers, or tools in general. Some folks do collect knives. And of course, that’s fine. But since I feel this way, I might offer a very practical viewpoint on the subject, needless to add my decades of investigating crimes might add some value too.

     We live in a mixed weapon world and therefore I accept the challenge of trying to examine this hand, stick, knife, gun world. I have a knife course. I have my own motto in my knife course. “Use your knife to save your life.” which is the opposite of the “no-use,” “never-need them,” anti-knife movement remarks we hear. Mine is a politically correct slogan that sets the stage for the carry and use doctrine. I would like to say in summary for myself, and some things to think about, is that…we all live in a hand, stick, knife, gun world. Carry and possession laws aside. It’s still a hand, stick, knife, gun world. It’s a world of war and crime and that  includes weapons. We fight criminals and/or worse, we fight enemy soldiers.

   – Sometimes we escape them.

   – Sometimes we capture them.

   – Sometimes we injure them.

   – Sometimes we kill them. 

     It’s all situational in “who, what, where, when, how and why.” I believe that those “Ws and H,” based on good intel, not assumption, should set priorities for training schedules for you and your areas/regions. Where you live and what goes on there are very, important considerations.

     However, one set within those priorities should never ignore that in a hand, stick, knife, world, a person (who lives anywhere) should know how to use a stick, a knife or a gun, despite the laws possessing them. I am not talking about possessing here, as in walking around with an illegal weapon in your pocket, though I know many world-wide that do, I am just talking about using. Using it. Knowing. Messing with it. Familiarization.

     Statistics of things almost never happening? Knife defense hardly ever happens? I agree. If you do big-picture studies of fighting in general, I think you would discover though that even simple, unarmed fights are also extremely rare when compared to population size and the billions of personal interactions people every day. I believe this to be true in USA states, Australia, United Kingdom and other countries banning common also. When you consider this big picture, places like Australia are a wonderful, peaceful places. (USA is too when you think of 320 million people and billions of easy, successful, interactions every single day).

     So then, if an actual, unarmed fight, or an actual unarmed attack/crime is so very, very rare, why do we then bother to practice any self-defense at all? If it hardly ever happens? Even crime rates are small compared to the over-all population. Most of you reading this now will never be in an unarmed fight, never a knife fight, never be shot, or never be a victim of crime. Still we work on these problems because on some level we know, it has happened, will happen and could happen to you and yours. It sort of – needs to be done. Needs to be looked at. With these very low stats, this “understandable, needy” acceptance, logic suggests to us to work unarmed material. This very same logic should suggest that we include stick, knife and gun too.

     You’ll never have or will never touch a knife (or gun)? In a fight, you might well pick up a knife, a stick or a gun in the area, or right from the bad guy’s hands. I might mention here too, that an attacker’s knife, disarmed and dropped on the ground? It is still dangerous and the death threat is NOT over. A person was just trying to kill you with it, and his knife is still just 3, 4 or 5 feet away from his hands on the ground? It is still a very deadly situation and a very quick pick-up.

     So you have disarmed him or picked it up and now hold his weapon? What happens next? Can you fight with it? He’s charging in! (My favorite “What” question is “what happens next?” What happens next? ( Ending down the “what question” line with in – “are you arrested or sued?) Don’t know what to do next? Do you think you will just become a knife fighter/user because of some magical, inert, instinct? Why do you spend all that time working on simple, unarmed moves and spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars shooting guns and bulleye chasing, and yet ignore the knife? (Some people suggest getting a disarm and “throwing it away,” tossing a knife “away.” This is suggested by the naive as some sort of consummate solution, but is not consummate or universal, such is highly situational,  and is the subject of another essay.) I might add here there are numerous Department of Justice stats through the years in the USA that even holding a knife, “presenting a knife,” can scare off over 50% of common criminals.

     Knives are EVERYWHERE, (and knife-like items). “sticks,” or stick-like things are too in a way. Guns? In many countries the opponents bring the guns to you, barrel first. Many of the Krav schools around the world (oh, about 40% of the schools I teach at each year are Krav schools) have no weapons handling at all. All unarmed stuff. Not all, but many. This is a criticism I hear with some regularity from many Krav people actually. But whatever. In a way that’s fine if all the parties involved are educated enough to know this incomplete status and where they fit in the big picture. I don’t agree doctrine-wise, but whatever.

     In order to best use or fight against a weapon, you should at least know how that weapon is actually used. Not how you assume it is used. Your assumptions may be wrong. Know something about it. We have that USA expression about baseball –

     “you’ll never hit a curve ball if you never see one in practice.”

     This involves studying the curve ball, throwing good curve balls in practice and a lot of batting practice concerning curve balls. We also have another old expression, “life throws you curve balls.” This is trus in all confrontational endeavors. You must know what a boxer does. You must know whet a grappler does. You must know what the current armed robber team in your area is doing. You must know what the street thugs are doing – the the fad of the “knock-out gangs.” Know they enemy, Which brings us back to the “who, what, where, when, how and why.”

     The knife-stigma issue can be challenging. Weird and violent course names and weird, macho knife names don’t help you in the end. Trust me on this. I’ve worked these cases. I have no grim reapers, no flaming skulls and none of those suggestive, macho mantras made by people (mostly/usually from folks inexperienced with the true, real, ugly, wet violence and the aftermath) who seem obsessed with a certain “type” of knife culture. (I have seen photos of knife training where attendees wear bandanna-masks on their faces like cartels or something like that?) Associate with criminal looks, themes, names and behavior? And then use a Klingon knife in an incident and the police and prosecutors will use all of this against you, every Facebook entry. Every strange tattoo, photo, hobby, associates, etc. Anyone teaching anything about the knife, must know about this stigma and should try to overcome it with a level of professionalism. Remember, by selecting and promoting your own “dark” premise, you are defeating your own end game. Concerned about thus, all my courses are stacked and packed with legal issues and the “who, what, where, when, how and why” questions. It has to work in court as much as possible! I repeat – remember, by selecting and promoting your own “dark” premise, you are defeating your own end game.

      Historical stigma. Many times through history, self defense has been hidden inside martial arts when self defense seemed threatening to the local governments. The same can be said for modern times. For example, the study of “knife fighting” can be condemned in some societies, yet is okay when done inside the auspices of say – a “Filipino Martial Arts Class.” The trappings, as in the “look” and style and so forth, make it an art form to the shallow eye, tempering criticism. Packaging. Many groups in these weapon-restrictive countries, still openly practice sword fighting and “short-sword” fighting, rapier and dagger (that’s a knife, folks) but in the wrappings of a Medieval disguise. Those folks get featured on the TV news as an interesting hobby, but some guys in street clothes in the park doing the similar things might get… arrested? 

Knife for self defense

     Force Necessary: Knife! is VERY simple course about the mechanics of the knife. Simple as needed. Complex as necessary. It is a popular course throughout the UK and Australia too, as in other countries, despite the no-carry laws found. Some people are just plain interested in the subject for whatever reason. Historical? Perhaps. Numerous police officers and agencies attend these classes to gather expertise and information on the subject for their professions. Others may have a morbid curiosity on the subject of edged weapons.

     The knife course, all knife courses, should also have less-than-lethal applications, which I think is very important from a doctrine perspective, and people want to know these applications too, as do police. As do the military, as they often are under orders to take prisoners. Less-Than-Lethal applications includes the verbiage around “situational surrender,” or scaring the attacker off (this happens in high precentages in the States), closed folder strikes, pommel strikes and areas on the body to slash (like incoming fists) that are meant to slow and wound. 

     While you might quickly punch something or someone, as you might quickly stab or shoot something or someone, an overall “fight” is much more than that singular event. The knife-criminal-attack or knife-war-event is surrounded by details and situations. One studies the situational responses. Your knife course also must cover knife ground fighting as well as fighting against common “weapons,” (like a chair for example). Overall, knife “combatives,” as well as all “combatives really must include in doctrine:

* standing

* moving

* seated

* kneeling

* ground top

* ground bottom

* ground side-by-side

* fighting versus common weapons, not just knife vs. knife or other exotic martial weapons

All of it seamlessly because, “you fight where you are, with and against what you and he have.”       

      Of course, in the history of crime and war, a knife (and sharp, knife-like things) has been used, dare I say, countless times to defend oneself. Since this “no-knife-no-matter-what” discussion “aired” on the web, Britians and Australians have added presented examples where desperate they have used knives to save lives and have been acquitted. Even guns have been used in self defense and shooters were acquitted. In the end, the “totality of circumstances” (a legal term) and common sense should usually win out.

      Self defense instructors? School owners? And here are some points from a business/training perspective, and is part of the “who question.” Who do you teach? Who do you want to teach? And the “How questions” – how big is your course? How diverse is your outline? How many people do you really teach, or how many groups and people do you want to teach? Do you expect to teach only citizens, or the police and the military also? Do you want too? Or just teach some nice, neighborhood people in your classic 5 square mile demographic? If you want to do more, reach more, then your curriculum must be of a big mind. That bigger mind is hand, stick, knife, gun. Keep in mind also, that there are just men and women – customers –  who are just interested in the use of a knife. They just…want to learn what they call “the knife.” For knife sakes? It fascinates them. These folks too, are your customers.

     Should you ever, even dare to use a knife to save your life? It will certainly be ugly. There will be ramifications. Knives! Look…hey…they exist. They are everywhere. To save your life and the lives of others, use them when and where you gottem’. Its a hand, stick, knife, gun, world. To me, you are either in it or out of it. If you can’t do it all (I can’t) know where you are in the big picture, and were you need to send people for the rest.

     I will leave you “never-ever-knife” folks with this thought. This question. It’s 4 am and you hear two thugs breaking into your back door. Your spouse and kids are asleep. Presuming you are unfortunate enough not to have a gun handy, do you reach for the biggest kitchen knife you can find? Will they get yours first instead, as so many home invaders and rapists do? If you don’t even think about getting a knife in that very dark moment? You may have a thinking disorder.

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