Should I Even Dare to Use a Knife to Defend Myself?
A motto for my Force Necessary: Knife course is “Use your knife to save your life!” It’s also for desperate times and situations. Mine is a politically correct slogan that sets the stage for the carry-and-use doctrine.
The knife can be used for less-than-lethal purposes and lethal purposes. Yes, less-than-lethal despite its reputation. The edged weapon is not well looked upon in the legal systems of the civilized world. I must warn you that if you use one to defend yourself you usually will be harshly regarded and will be working under an emotional and costly deficit to clear yourself of legal trouble.
Carrying alone can be a problem. Most pocket and belt carry knives are illegal in many countries and in some cities and states in the United States, unless you have a very common sense reason to do so, such as your job. If you run across the street to grab a cup of coffee, from your factory job, you may be grilled by authorities about your pocket knife. (This has happened.)
Knife who, what, where, when, how and why?
Who are you to carry a knife?
What do you do that requires a knife?
Where do you do this knife-as-tool work?
When do you need a knife on your job or work?
How will you use this knife on your job or work?
Why such a knife?
These are some of the legal questions authorities will consider, investigate and ask about your knife-carry in these knife-restricted areas.
There is also a citizen-based, “never-knife” and “anti-knife” knife movement, if you will, in certain self defense and combatives programs. Many of these groups are in countries where knife carry is illegal. I get the message from several Krav Maga schools also, which is a bit surprising. I hear –
- “I’ll never have 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 won’t have one.”
- “I don’t need knife training. Everyone already knows instinctively how to use a knife.”
- “People who like and use knives are crazy, like criminals.”
- “There are no self defense knife use statistics where I live. Why bother then?”
- “Have you seen the kinds of people that carry and train with knives? they’re a cult. A crazy, wacky cult!”
…and so on.
Knives are quite ubiquitous. There are in the kitchens and probably the garages of every home in the world. They are in every restaurant in the world, and every business in the world that requires a minimal amount of handy work. There was a stabbing the other day in a Walmart. A man got a for-sale knife off a shelf and used it. These facts render some of the above quotes moot.
And I might address the “There are no self defense knife use statistics where I live. Why bother then?” comment. I usually hear it from people/instructors/school owners who live in countries where knife-carry is nearly of fully illegal. There are consistent numbers of knife and gun crime but not knife self defense. Could that be that knives are just not allowed on the streets for the normal law abiding citizen? The no-knife mentality bleeds over to forgetting the knife, like Judo people forget to punch.
Still, despite the stigma, I carry on with my own knife course – Force Necessary: Knife. Here’s why and perhaps some of the talking points I use, maybe you can use for your positions. The following is how and why I justify a “nasty, violent” knife course.
First off, I understand your anti-knife concerns. I really do. I have wrangled with these issues. I have no particular fascination with knives themselves. I feel the same way about guns and sticks. I do not collect them, in the same way I wouldn’t collect wrenches or hammers, or all tools in general. These things to me are tools. Some folks do collect knives and of course that’s fine and fine hobby. But since I feel this way, this detachment, I might offer a very practical viewpoint on the subject, along with, needless to add, my decades of investigating knife 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. 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 have to injure them. And, sometimes we have to kill them.
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 legal or illegal possessing here, as in walking around with an illegal weapon in your pocket. I am just talking about use. Using it. Knowing. Messing with it. Familiarization.
The big picture.
Martial instructors with statistics of things that almost never happening? A whole lot of things hardly ever happen in some areas. There are 330 million people in the United States. Millions in other countries. And the odds of being a victim of any hand, stick, knife or gun crime is quite small in comparison. Keep this in mind when we discuss one hand-fighting-only instructor in the USA who declared it was waste of time to bother learning long gun disarming. “Long gun attacks never happen,” he said. “You would be smarter to get on a treadmill than learn long gun disarming.” He said these very things the same week a guy walked into a church with an AR-15 and killed people. Annually, consistently, people use long guns like hunting rifles and shotguns in crimes. The problem exists. Since it exists, the problem requires solutions and one movement is in the available, existence of long gun disarming training.
Stats also that say that knife defense hardly ever happens too? That beatings with impact weapons hardly “never happen.” That fistfights and unarmed beatings hardly ever happen. I agree in the big picture. 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 have every day.
So then, if an actual, unarmed fight, or an actual unarmed attack/crime is so very, very rare in comparison to the population number, the interactions numbers, why do we then bother to practice any self-defense at all? If hardly anything happens? Why bother with your Krav Maga?
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.
I ask this of the “never-knife,” people, the “never long-gun” person, the unarmed-only trainer. Why bother doing anything then? Does your “no-knife” logic carry over to “no-hand,” “no-stick, “no-gun?” None of it happens a lot anyway. Why bother?
A study of the FBI crime records disclosed that through the years, 40% to 90% of the people the police must fight, are armed in some fashion. That’s a lot of weapons out there in the civilian world. But, of course, in the history of crime and war, a knife (and sharp, knife-like things) has been used, dare I say, countless times in combat. Since this “no-knife-no-matter-what” essay aired on social media back in 2016, Brits, Europeans and Australians have presented examples when desperate people have used knives to save lives and have been acquitted, even within their strict laws. Even guns have been used in self defense and shooters were acquitted in “no-gun’ worlds. In the end, the “totality of circumstances” (a legal term) and common sense should usually win out. We hope! Should you ever, even dare to use a knife to save your life? It will certainly be ugly. There will be ramifications.
I do get a kick out of the knife simpletons who say, “just stick the pointy end in someone.” Well, there are mental and physical and situational and legal issues to work on and work out. I also find it interesting that many of these same folks spend thousands and thousands of dollars to own and learn how to stick the…”pointy end of a bullet,” into someone. A simpleton might say back to them, “What? Just point the barrel and pull the trigger. Stick the pointy end of a bullet into someone.” I would never say that about shooting and I won’t say that about the knife either.
Mental. Physical, Situational. Legal. I hope I don’t have to mention a long list of examples here. Training with a knife creates a desensitization of it’s use, something most people need. They need the speed, strength and coordination to overcome an opponent and their reflexive arms. What are the positions and situations of use? And my God, the legal issues! One could write a book about these vital things (oh…I have!)
And I would be remiss not to comment here on the subject listed above on “lost,” dropped or disarmed knives in this essay. You might not have a knife, but he does! And in your unarmed combatives class, your Krav Maga class in “no-knife” countries still practice knife disarms ad nauseam. You break the guy’s nose and execute Disarm #22. It worked! Two things happen to the knife –
- The knife either hits the floor, or,
- The knife is now in your untrained hand.
What happens next? One naysayer says he will just “throw that knife away” and continue to fight on versus one, (two or more) bad men unarmed. What size room are you in, anyway? And just because the knife (or gun) is on the floor doesn’t mean the bad guy can’t lunge down in a second’s flash and get it back. The lethal threat is not over because the knife has hit the floor at your feet. It’s still within lunge and reach and the deadly intent has been established with his assault.
Knives! Look…hey…they exist. They are everywhere. To save your life and the lives of others, use them when and where you got them. Its a hand, stick, knife, gun, world. If you call yourself a self defense, combatives, survivalist, you must have a working knowledge of hand, stick, knife, gun world.
Warning though, if you use a knife, even legally, you will still be rung through the legal ringer. First the knife carry-and-use stigma. Then your background, your comments on social media, your “unusual” (they will call it) interest in weapons. Your knife brand name and your knife social group. Your tattoos. Everything will be used against you. And you will spend a lot of money with lawyers. I have written about these obstacles extensively elsewhere. Violence sucks and this will suck too.
So, despite all the negativity, I still maintain the Force Necessary: Knife course as a storehouse of information and research on the subject. Somebody has to do it. Knife versus hand. Knife versus stick. Knife versus knife. Knife versus gun threats. Standing on down to floor/ground. Legal issues. Use of Force. Rules of engagement. Psychology. History. (Certainly not just knife dueling.)
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, deprived enough, not to have a gun handy, do you reach for the biggest kitchen knife you can get your hands on? Or, will they get to your big knife first instead, as so many home invaders and rapists like to use your kitchen knives, so they aren’t caught with a knife in transit. If you don’t even think about getting a kitchen knife in that very dark moment? You are a very poorly trained, self defense, survivalist. If you do realize you need to get the biggest knife you can find? You may have just joined that crazy knife cult you so quickly dismiss!
Hock’s email is hockHochheim@forcenecessary.com
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