Knife Defense

Knife Defense also spelled Knife Defence is the ability to defend yourself or a loved one when you are unarmed and your attacker is armed with an knife or edged weapon. The unfortunate fact is that anyone holding a knife has a tremendous advantage over you, assuming you are not armed with a weapon. But there are practical and strategic “knife defense” guidelines that can dramatically improve your chances of surviving a vicious knife attack.

“There are practical knife defense guidelines that can dramatically improve your chances of surviving a knife attack.”

Knife Defense Misinformation

In the world of self defense, there is a vast amount of information on the subject of knife defense. Unfortunately, most of it is wrong! This is especially concerning considering the fact that one wrong move against a knife attack could end your life in an instant. Believe it or not, there are some popular self defense courses out there teaching knife defense skills without teaching the critical importance of controlling the weapon! Then there are others self defense programs that teach their students to kick the knife out of the attacker’s hand. Both of these knife defense approaches are nothing less than suicide. 

“Beware! Most of the information about knife defense is wrong and will get you seriously injured or possibly killed in a self defense altercation!”

Knife Defense Training

The only place to learn practical and realistic knife defense skills is from a reputable reality based self defense (RBSD) school. The school must address both static and dynamic forms of knife defense and the drills must “alive” and replicate real world situations and circumstances. You need to stay clear of traditional martial arts like karate, kung fu and any other classical styles of fighting. These traditional fighting forms are simply not designed to deal with modern day forms of violence and crime. Moreover, you will need to stay away from all mixed martial arts classes that claim to teach knife defense skills in their curriculum. Mixed martial arts are for environmentally controlled sport combat competition and not real world self defense circumstances.

“Traditional martial arts schools are the last place you want to go if you want to learn life saving knife defense skills!”

The Differences Between Knife Defense and Knife Fighting

But before we begin, it important to distinguish the difference between knife defense (you are unarmed and facing a knife attacker) and knife fighting (i.e., self defense with a knife). For those who might not know, knife fighting (aka blade combat) is when both you and your adversary are armed with knives or edged weapons. As you can imagine, this is much different than a knife defense scenario (i.e., you are unarmed and facing a knife attacker). However, if the subject of knife fighting or blade combat interests you, you might want to study my War Blade: A Tactical Guide to Knife Fighting or read my knife fighting article.

“Most people don’t know the technical differences between knife fighting and knife defense. Do you know the differences?”

Knife Defense Basic Skills and Techniques

Sound knife defense skills first require a basic understanding of how you get wounded by a knife attack. First, you must understand there are various ways a criminal can launch a knife attack. For example, there is a stabbing motion that punctures human tissue and is more likely to be fatal. Stab knife wounds produce internal damage and bleeding that may not be visible to the eye.

The other type of knife attack wound is the slash. Unless the cut severs a major artery, it is generally not as immediately threatening as a stab knife wound. Stabbing and slashing motions can be executed from a variety of knife grips, knife stances and postures.

“The first step to learning sound knife defense skills is to understand how you get cut or stabbed in a knife attack.”

Knife Defense Street Survival Tips

What follows are several knife defense tips that are taught in my Contemporary Fighting Arts self defense system. It is my hope that these knife defense tips can help reduce your chances of being the victim.

KNIFE DEFENSE TIP – BE AWARE OF KNIVES. Look out! Street criminals can hide knives or edged weapons anywhere. Here are just a few possible locations: In newspapers, magazines, shopping bags, briefcases, pockets, tote bags, wallets, purses, hats, sleeves, shoes, socks, belts, automobiles, motorcycles, under their arms, behind their forearms or in books. Never forget that sound knife defense skills start with a keen awareness of your immediate surrounding.

“Situational awareness is one of the best tools you have to prevent a knife attack from taking place.”

KNIFE DEFENSE TIP – FAMILIARIZE YOURSELF WITH DIFFERENT TYPES OF EDGED WEAPONS. Familiarize yourself with the different types of knives that are used by street criminals. There are seven different classifications of knives. They include the following:

  • Gravity blade knives
  • Spring blade knives
  • Lock blade knives
  • Folding blade knives
  • Fixed blade knives
  • Ballistic blade knives
  • Makeshift or Improvised knives

KNIFE DEFENSE TIP – KNOW WHY CRIMINALS PREFER KNIVES OVER OTHER WEAPONS. It behooves you to know the various reasons why street criminals prefer to use knives to commit crimes. Here are some reasons:

  • Knife attacks are silent.
  • Knives don’t misfire or jam.
  • Knives do not require reloading.
  • Knives are easier to conceal.
  • Knives are easy to dispose.
  • Knives are symbolic to psychopaths.
  • Knives leave no ballistic clues.
  • Courts tend to be more lenient with knives than guns.
  • Knives are ubiquitous.
  • Knives are inexpensive. 
  • Makeshift knives are relatively easy to create. 
  • Street criminals know that very few citizens possess knife defense skills and more importantly criminals know it is very difficult to defend against a knife attack. 

KNIFE DEFENSE TIP – TRY TO ESCAPE FROM A KNIFE ATTACK IF POSSIBLE. If you have the possibility to run and escape during the course of a knife attack, do it immediately! Try to quickly scan your environment for possible escape routes. Look for doors, windows, stairwells, or other avenues of safe escape. Under no circumstances should you engage in knife defense techniques unless it is absolutely necessary. Don’t let your ego or pride trap you into believing that it’s cowardly to run from a knife attack. Warning: If you attempt to outrun a knife attack, be certain that you have the athletic ability to really move – and don’t offer your attacker target opportunities in your flight.

“Running away from a knife attack will most likely require you to turn your back to your attacker and this often provides target opportunities for your knife attacker. Therefore, if you attempt to run away from a knife attack, be certain that you have the ability to haul ass!”

KNIFE DEFENSE TIP – CREATE DISTANCE BETWEEN YOU AND THE KNIFE ATTACKER. When unarmed and defending against a knife attack, try to create as much distance as you can between you and the knife. Distance is a critical component of knife defense because it enhances your defensive reaction time and allows you to control your tactical options. Obviously, running away is a great way to put distance between you and the knife, but you can also use different types of objects in the environment to create barriers between you and your adversary. Cars, trucks, couches, large chairs, tall fences, park benches, and large tables are only a few examples. Remember, though, that these objects are only buying you a little precious time. They do not negate the threat of a knife attack. The bottom line rule is to stay as far away from the knife as possible. Keep in mind that the only time you want to be close to a knife is for disarming purposes and then only if this situation is absolutely unavoidable. For more information about knife disarming techniques, see my Control and Conquer Knife Defense DVD series.

“When it comes to knife defense skills, distance can be your best friend.”

KNIFE DEFENSE TIP – DON’T PANIC WHEN FACED WITH A KNIFE ATTACK. When unarmed and faced with a knife attack, do not panic and lose your cool. This may seem difficult, but with proper knife defense training accompanied with realistic role playing scenarios, it can be done. People naturally freeze up when they are faced with a knife attack. This only makes it easier for your assailant to accomplish his nefarious mission. You must rise to the occasion and conjure all of spirit and courage to ward off the deleterious effects of fear, anxiety, and stress. You must be determined to fight your adversary to the death if necessary.

“The best way to prepare yourself for the psychological and emotional aspects of a knife attack is to regularly engage in realistic knife attack scenarios.”

KNIFE DEFENSE TIP – RESPECT THE KNIFE. Always respect a knife or any other edged weapon. Few too many people realize how deadly knives are. Even a child becomes dangerous with a knife in hand. The entertainment industry has done us a great disservice to the public by making everyone believe that a knife-wielding assailant can be neutralized easily with one swift kick, shoulder throw, or punch. It is not like that in the real world of self defense! Knife defense is not easy. In fact, the odds are strongly stacked against your survival if you are unarmed and attacked by an assailant with a knife. Simply put, never underestimate the danger of a knife attack; it could cost you your life.

“Defending against a knife attack is not easy. As a matter of fact, the odds are heavily stacked against your survival.”

KNIFE DEFENSE TIP – NEVER KICK AT A KNIFE. Never attempt to kick a knife out of your assailant’s hand. This knife defence strategy is asinine and hazardous for the following reasons:

  • The speed of your kick is no match for the speed of a knife attack.
  • To successfully kick your assailant’s knife hand, you will be required to execute a high-line kick which is suicide in any type of physical street fight confrontation.
  • When you perform a kick, you run the risk of losing your balance and falling on the ground. 
  • Kicking unnecessarily exposes your vital targets to the knife attack. 
  • Kicking temporarily inhibits your ability to execute quick and evasive knife defense footwork. 
  • Your assailant can cut your ankle, foot or calf when you deliver the kick.

“Knife defense skills and techniques must always be practical, simple and effective!”

KNIFE DEFENSE TIP – USE MAKESHIFT WEAPONS AGAINST THE KNIFE ATTACKER.Makeshift weapons should be a significant component of your knife defense arsenal. When unarmed and confronted by a knife attacker, scan your environment for any makeshift weapon, especially for ones that can safely shield against stabs and slashes. A strong briefcase is a great shield. So are metal trash can lids, sofa and chair cushions, and even small chairs and tables. Also look for makeshift weapons with which you can strike your assailant. If you can get hold of striking weapon, use it to strike quickly at your adversary’s hand – the one holding the knife. Effective striking weapons are hardwood limbs, metal pipe, a long stick, etc.

KNIFE DEFENSE TIP – DETERMINE THE KNIFE ATTACKER’S INTENT. It’s critical to make an accurate threat assessment when confronted by a knife attacker. Use split second judgment to determine exactly what your adversary wants to accomplish. Some criminals might not want to harm you if they can avoid it. Others may be dead set on cutting you from limb to limb. If you have determined that your assailant plans to attack you with a knife, you must immediately resort to aggressive knife defensive tactics. You can learn more about assessing a potential knife attack by reading my book, When Seconds Count: Everyone’s Guide to Self Defense.

Knife Defense Information and Resources
If you would like to learn more about practical knife defense skills and techniques, please take a look at my Control and Conquer knife defense DVDs:

Control and Conquer (Volume 1): Unarmed Against The Knife

Control and Conquer (Volume 2): Advanced Knife Defense Training

Good luck and be safe!