Purpose: This tutorial is intended to help the reader learn basic survival skills when confronted with a knife wielding assailant.
Preparation: You should be able to have a basic level of physical fitness before attempting to practice/use these instructions. Find an object that can be used as a false knife (should be soft and pliable) such as a foam or rubber knife. If you do not have access to one, taking a few sheets of paper rolled together.
Safety: When training for knife defense, use caution and common sense. Recommended equipment: forearm guards/pads, chest padding, eye and throat protection.
Time: This is a skill that requires practice. Initial learning will take one half to one hour. Practice regularly for a few weeks to ingrain the skill.
Although reported aggravated murder rates are in decline from a couple of decades ago, knife attacks are still a common weapon used in murder cases. While firearms were the most frequently used weapon in a murder, a close second stabbing or slashing weapons.
Knives are cheaper and easier to hide than a firearm, and so most violent crimes (aggravated assault, muggins, rapes, etc.) actually have the knife as the weapon of choice. We cannot choose whether we will be victims of violent crimes, but we can choose how we handle them. While it may seem daunting, there are some very simple tricks one can use to defend against this common.
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Step 1: Get Away
Run. Scream. Dial 911.
An attacker loses courage the more others are willing to step in and stop him. Make it known, get in public, find someone who is outside that you can get to and touch. Psychology tells us about the bystander effect- the more people are around, the less likely they are to help. But if you make physical contact with one, they are far more willing to help- they will experience it with you. Strangers in a car, building, etc. may not step to your aide. It is vital that you grab ahold of another individual if available.
Step 2: Keep Your Distance
- A knife is only dangerous up close. If it can't touch you, it can't hurt you! But how far away is the best? Other than a million miles away, the general consensus is two arm lengths away. This means that if a full step and swing is made that the victim is still barely far enough away to avoid the attack.
- Stay far enough away that the attacker cannot grab you (a wrist, arm, etc.) if they grab you, even a stronger individual will have a difficult time withstanding the relentless attacks from a bladed weapon.
- If grabbed, twist your wrist back and forth and pull towards the attackers thumb and finger. Then pull the arm straight back.
- Avoid stepping straight backwards. This can lead to walking into and/or tripping over furniture, curbs, walls, etc. If you need to create space, step to the side and slightly backwards. You can keep the distance in a room by moving this way in circles, keeping ever out of range until help arrives.
Step 3: Use a Shield
Common objects do well to keep a knife attacker at bay. Most effective items will be as thick or thicker than the length of the blade (a large purse, backpack) or be a lightweight but strong object (such as a chair). This is to be used only if distance cannot be maintained. It is okay for an expensive purse, dining chair, hiking bag, etc. to be ruined if it means that you are safe from the knife.
- Hold the shield in front of your chest, arms slightly bent
- When the attacker thrusts, shove the shield into the knife
- Push to the side and slightly twist (this can yank the knife from his arm)
Step 4: Use the X Arm Shield
When distance and shield-like objects cannot be used, as a last resort your arms work as a strong defense. The best way to do this is to cover all the major veins and arteries of the neck and arms, the heart, lungs, and throat.
- Make an X with your arms, crossing in the middle of your chest at about nipple line.
- Hold the arms near but not against the chest. This will cover the heart in case of a straight stab, and the lungs will be largely protected against puncture wounds as well. The elbows should be near the bottom of the rib cage.
- Place the hands near both sides of the neck, palms facing inwards. This will hide the major veins and arteries of the arms and cover the large vessels in the neck, as well as protect the windpipe. The shoulders should be shrugged up ever slightly, protecting more vessels.
In this position, we will assume that may be slashed; however, these will not prove immediately fatal as would one to the chest or neck. The arms can sustain several cuts if on the back side (the side with hair growing) as well as the outside of the upper arm and back of the hands.
Step 5: Block With the X Arm Shield
Most attackers will use fast slicing motions- do not move your arms for these. Maintain the arm shield as is (it is made to protect anything major from happening from the slashing attacks).
A frustrated or angry attacker will use an aggressive stab- almost always downwards (like an ice pick) or upwards towards the gut. Again, maintaining distance is the best option, but where not possible:
- Extend the X block- KEEPING THE ARMS CROSSED AND BACK OF THE HANDS FACING THE BLADE- to meet the stab (upwards for the ice pick, and down for the gut stab).
- Aim for your crossed forearms to meet their forearms (not the wrist!). Make sure the arms are fully extended to meet the attack. Extended arms should be as far out and away from you as possible while still blocking the attack.
- Bend slightly at the waist for the lower thrust.
- Once the knife is pulled back, return the arms as fast as possible to the x arm shield.
Step 6: Trap the Arm
Only when the most fervent, fierce, and dedicated stab attacks come should the arm traps be attempted. There are two main traps. These should be practiced extensively until instinctual. Merely knowing them will not work.
- Against a downward attack: from the x-block (arms extended)
- Keep the opposite arm against the attacker's forearm.
- Turn this hand to grab the attacker's wrist. With the same side arm place either the palm cupping the elbow or the forearm bone (ulna) against the upper arm.
- Pull down and backwards with the arm grabbing the wrist, and use the other arm to turn the attackers arm.
- Drive until the attacker is kneeling, face down, or against a wall, table, etc. Hold the wrist by pulling, and the arm by pushing on the elbow or back of the upper arm.
- Keep the same side arm held against the attacker's forearm.
- Use the opposite hand to grab around the upper arm, with the fingers pressed against the triceps.
- Pull with the arm on the triceps and push with the arm on the opponent's forearm.
- Rotate the hips as the opponent moves in this arm trap.
The attacker will end in one of three positions- the arm twisted behind the back, the arm locked and straining the shoulder, or the arm bent on the side still straining the shoulder. The attacker may end in a standing, hunched, kneeling, or facedown position.
Step 7: Disarm the Knife
Before explaining the technique of disarming, we will see why we do what we do.
- Make a fist as tight as you can.
- Now, try and hold the fist as tight while bending the wrist (palm towards the forearm). The grip weakens and in some will simply disappear.
To use this to our advantage:
- Take the attacker from the arm trap position
- Free your arm that is closest to the knife hand, keeping the trap by switching hands.
- Use a hand to push on the back of the knife hand.
- Roll around with the palm from the attacker's pinky up to the thumb. This should either make the knife fall loose, or loosen the hand enough to grab the knife.
A side note: while getting the knife away from the attacker is a good idea, it is better to keep them in an arm trap position than to risk losing control trying to disarm. Use another body part (a knee, for instance) to maintain position while the other hand tries for the disarm.
As a strongly emphasized side note: Do not try to lever the knife out by pushing on the blade, even if wearing gloves or using an object. This is fighting against the strongest part of the grip and increasing the likelihood of being cut. As another feature, the correct disarm pushes the point of the knife away from you whereas and levering of the blade almost always pulls it towards you. In the scuffle of a knife attack, nothing goes perfect, and the chance of being injured only increases with the lever disarm attempt.
Step 8: Hold or Hie
At this point, if bystanders are watching, ask for the authorities to be called.
- If you can maintain the arm trap, stay in this position until help arrives.
- Do not try to retaliate. While the attacker brought the knife, once disarmed they are considered on equal grounds. If you have the knife and attack them then you will either be accounted as or appear to be the aggressor.
If you are alone, help is too far away, or there are others who may attack you, use your advantageous position to get up and run away. Do not walk. A frustrated or embarrassed attacker could always have friends help him, or raise the level of violence by reaching for a firearm they had originally not resorted to.
Step 9: Retaliate
Only in the case of other lives being in danger or escape being impossible should you retaliate. If you have the knife, do not stab downwards at the attacker. Most likely you will be on the side or behind/on top of them. the back of the ribs, spine, and skull protect against these kind of attacks very well. This motion could also put you off balance, putting you in a tumble with the attacker that the stronger person will almost always win.
- Use the blade, not the point, of the knife
- Slice either the side or front of the neck. Either will, if deep enough, inflict a lethal or near lethal wound. Even a shallow cut will drop their blood pressure enough to make them pass out, or create difficulty breathing.
Again- THIS IS ONLY IN THE LAST RESORT- taking a life, no matter how justified, is no simple or easy matter. It is a choice you cannot take back.
Step 10: Get Medical Help
Often the attack will leave the victim with severe injuries. It is imperative to get to an emergency room as swiftly as possible. Even minor cuts on the arm could infect and kill. With adrenaline, you may not even be aware of injuries you have sustained in the encounter. Stab wounds can kill in either minutes or hours, and only trained professionals will be able to assist you.
Calling for or providing help for the attacker(s) is also a very good idea. While both individuals may not be guilty, both will almost certainly be hurt.
Step 11: Seek Counsel
Many trained experts in either military or martial arts experience ptsd from similar situations. You may as well. Seek psychological counsel. It does no good to survive with the body if the mind is still fighting to survive.
Seek legal counsel. If the previous step was used especially. Even justified killing may be counted as manslaughter, and may result in hefty legal repercussions regardless of the circumstances. It does no good to survive physically if legally you are placed in an environment filled with such individuals (jail), lose your job, or lose custody of your children as a result of it.
Seek spiritual counsel. Near death experiences bring to light questions many have about destiny, life, and other spiritual philosophies. With the wealth of belief in the spiritual realm widespread in our world, there are many who can help you as you seek to reconcile concerns or find answers to questions.