Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Knives for Self Defense

Knives are everywhere.  I have spent a lot of time searching out realistic defenses for knife attacks.  Bladed weapons are everywhere.  They fascinate and terrify me at the same time.  Not long ago, one of J.C's posts over at Bujutsu: the Path got me thinking in reverse.  I always stress that any time you use a weapon, it should be an extension of your empty hand techniques.  This commonality of techniques reduces the chances of getting tripped up when adding a weapon to the equation.  J.C. mentioned that the actions or motions or concepts behind certain weapons techniques helped him develop his empty hand techniques.  He learned from the instrument itself versus my insistence of making the instrument bend to my empty hand concepts.  It's all a matter of perspective, but it gave me pause.

I have, and will, discuss knife defense in the future.  Being attacked with a knife attack is, in my opinion, the most dangerous and the most likely form of violence that the average law abiding person will face.

Some people may be tempted to arm themselves with knives in order to defend themselves.  There are several issues to consider.  There are four topics that need to be considered.

#1.  It is illegal in many countries, states and provinces.

#2.  The very fact that someone arms themselves can cause a false sense of security.  The person may be tempted to engage in a behaviour that they would not normally partake in.  They might get into a situation that they would normally walk away from due to false confidence in their weapon or blade.

#3. Unless a person is trained in the use and the retention of a weapon, the very real risk of the weapon being taken from them by their attacker and then being used on them exists.

#4. Finally, a point that is often overlooked.  Knives are a poor choice for self defense.  For self defense. 

I'm the first to stress how deadly dangerous knives are.  An attack can be fatal with a small slash or a shallow puncture.  Having said that, these results most often occur some time after the attack.

Most people who are attacked with a knife do not realize that they have been stabbed or cut until after the  event.  Most often, they think they have been punched or slapped until they see either the blade or the blood.  The initial ability to fight back is normally still intact.  There are exceptions, of course, but more often than not, the effects or the attack do not incapacitate the victim until some time later.

This is the reason for stressing the point that knives are a poor choice for self defense.  The use of a knife to try to overpower or stop an attacker from attacking is unrealistic.  Chances are, a motivated attacker will complete their assault on you before the results of your knife attack/defense are realized.  If your goal is to protect yourself and get away safely from a violent assault, knives are not your best option.


  1. Hi, I have to agree with JC that learning to manipulate a weapon actually improves your use of empty hand techniques. I have also found this to be true since I took up kobudo, particularly in relation to applying locks (with nunchuku or tonfa) and doing certain throws (where you need to control the opponents weapon at the same time e.g a sword).

  2. great blog my friend,very interesting posts.

  3. Sue,

    You're right, weapon techniques and empty hand techniques do not and can not exist in isolation. For me, this was an exercise in making sure I didn't become 'fixed' into only looking at them from one point of view.

    Mr. Alobar,

    Thanks for commenting. I'm glad you liked it.

  4. I have really enjoyed your blog as a fellow JJJ student (Miyama Ryu / Combat Arts), got a question that relates to this post. Do you think knives are more dangerous than clubs? It always struck me that a strike from a bat is far more dangerous than a kinife strike as an unskilled oponent is far more likely to deliver a disabling blow. Also, while there are certainly a lot of people carrying knives, clubs are everywhere.

  5. Najones1,

    I apologize for the delay in responding. I don't always track back through my posts as often as I should.

    In answer to your question, I do think knives are more dangerous in many ways than a club. While both weapons can be extremely dangerous, I think knives take the edge (pun intended), for the following reasons:

    - Knives are easier to conceal.
    - Knives are harder to see once they're drawn.
    - Knives are harder to defend from.
    - You know when you've been hit with a club, not always when you've been cut or stabbed.

    Clubs can surely cause comparable injury, but you are more likely to see the attack coming. The attack will likely be slower. A club based attack is harder to retract once thrown, it's more likely to end in a struggle over the club itself. While dangerous, a single club strike is less likely to cause internal, potentially fatal injury (head strikes excluded).

    Clubs or club like instruments can often be weapons of opportunity. In fact, I'd rather be armed with a club facing a knife wielding opponent.

    Thanks for your question. Nice to find other JJJ students out there.

  6. That is a very remarkable post, Journeyman! And you are quite right about handling knives and other weapons. They can be lethal in the hands of people who do not have proper training, and it is important to stress out that handling one is a responsibility. [Kisha Kitchens]

  7. Kisha Kitchens,

    Thank you very much. True, nothing like cutting yourself with your own blade in training. Responsible training is a must.