The 13 Misconceptions about knife attacks, what you don’t know can kill you… Below is a list of misconceptions people have about knife attackers. This article was written by retired police officer Kara Borshuk. Kara served on the OPP, Windsor and Detroit Police Forces.
You’re going to have time to draw your own weapon
In all the times I have been assaulted with knives, only once was I able to pull my own weapon. I had repeatedly practiced speed drawing. I could, in a crisis, draw in just over one second. And yet, despite this incredible rate of speed, when attacked I didn’t have time to draw my gun.
That’s because by the time I realized there was a knife involved, I was already being attacked.
Most knife “fighting” training is predicated on the assumption that you have somehow managed to get a blade in your hand. If you are attacked by either a young punk, a total incompetent. Even someone who was brandishing the knife in order to get you to back off then there is a chance that you might have time to draw you own weapon.
However, if you are dealing with anyone with any experience, street savvy or cunning, you will not be able to draw your own weapon when you are attacked. Against such a person, there is just not enough time. He won’t show his weapon before he attacks. That’s because those who are foolish enough to brandish weapons in places where weapons are common don’t live long themselves.
It’s going to be a knife “fight”
Not to be the bearer of bad tidings. But the reason someone uses a weapon on another human being is to stack the deck in their favor. People don’t use weapons to fight, they use weapons to win. The absolute last thing any attacker wants to do is to fight you with equal weapons. If he was looking for a fight he wouldn’t have attacked you with a weapon in the first place. If he knows you have a weapon he is going to attack you with a bigger and better weapon! This is to keep you from winning.
You pull a club and he pulls a gun. There is no fighting involved, you use the superior weapon to disable your opponent. And you do it before he does it to you. As far as your attacker is concerned this is not a fight, it is an assassination. He is not going to want to stand there with you and hack it out.
Unfortunately, this is exactly the fantasy that many so-called knife fighting instructors promote. The absolute last thing you want to do is to try to “fight.” There is another reason that you need to chase the idea of “knife fighting” out of your head. In many states there is this attitude that “consensual fights” are best resolved by throwing both of the morons who participated in jail. Contrary to this belief, you have the right to defend yourself.
But what if I’m cornered?
Common sense tells us that knife fighting is dangerous. And yet, many people who train in knife fight have the same torn desires. One of the biggest issues goading these people is “Do they have what it takes?”.
Human beings have the ability for self-deception and rationalization. Such people strongly resist the idea that knife fighting is a bad place to go. It is literally as though they are seeking to find an excuse.
One of the strongest indicator of this fantasy mindset is the reaction when they are told to flee instead of fighting with a knife. literally the next words out of their mouths will be “But what if I am cornered and can’t run?” There are many such similar excuses that they can use. They all start with the word but: “but what if I am with old people or children and can’t run?“, “But what if I am out of shape (or in-firmed) and can’t run?” In all cases, of the millions of possible options available they always seem to focus on the one that requires them to engage in a knife fight.
The truth is, it is incredibly difficult to “corner” someone who is determined to leave. Basically because he will use your face as traction or squirt through the smallest of holes.
However, if the person’s desire to engage in physical violence is stronger than his desire to leave, it is very easy to corner someone. If you ask any experienced Law Enforcement Officer, or mental ward orderly which they would rather face. Ask them, a person who wants to fight them, or someone who will pull a weapon? They will tell you the former. They know the latter will hurt them more. Plus be harder to defeat. That’s because that person is fully committed to a course of action.
Whereas a person who has allowed themselves to be “cornered” will still be of a divided heart and therefore not able to fight at full capacity. And that is exactly what it will take in order to survive such a “no win” situation that they have put themselves into. That is the true danger of this kind of thinking. Because part of you does want to know if you have what it takes and “can do it,” you can unconsciously trick yourself into not taking appropriate precautions and ignoring danger signals. Your pride and ego will blind you about what you are doing until it is too late.
Don’t fantasize about being in a situation where you have to use your knife fighting skills, because you can end up tricking yourself into just such a situation by blinding yourself to possible escape routes.
He’s going to attack you a certain way
It’s always better to presume that you will be fighting a trained “knifer.” The problem with that assumption is that not everyone attacks the way that someone trained will attack you. This is problematic because the counters maneuvers against how people trained “knifers” will attack you, with these kinds of attacks, the counters work don’t always work effectively.
The bottom line is, in the Western culture, someone who is attacking you with a knife is attempting to murder you. They are not going to be hanging back cautiously in fear of your weapon and your fighting skill. Instead they will usually attempt to overwhelm you and quickly kill you by whatever means necessary. Such an attack is totally different than the well balanced training. Understand it is totally different than how someone trained or a gang members will attack you with a knife.
Also consider training techniques from all over the world Asia, Germany, South Africa, China, Venezuela, Best to study different knife fighting systems and techniques.
Just because you know how to handle one, doesn’t mean you know how to handle the others. Each are different, and each are equally lethal. And those differences CAN kill you.
The Perpetrator is going to passively stand there while you attempt to disarm him
What few people realize is that a wild perpetrators have intent He/she previously orchestrated the plan ahead of time, their intent is to rob or murder to get away. They want to commit the crime intended leaving no witnesses and leave as quickly as possible. Defensive flailing while holding a knife, is just as dangerous and damaging as an intentional strike. Even more dangerous because the attacker is unpredictable, his defensive moves can hurt you badly you will either get mauled, if not killed.
Fights are never static and his ability to move is his ability to hurt you. Your best defence first and foremost is distract by conversing with the perpetrator, and observing any window of opportunity to react effectively.
Trapping and stripping
Disarming is something that is commonly taught at higher levels. Subtle and complex moves are drilled into the advanced students so they can either knock the knife out of their attacker’s hands or carve the knife out of his hand. They have very little to do with actual knife defense and very much to do with keeping the student involved in the system and keeping up with changing times.
The thing is even the older masters tell you that these moves are purely opportunity and chance. In truth, unless an attacker is drunk or pathetically slow the odds of successfully catching his hand and doing all these marvelous joint locks or controlling moves are very, very slim. Furthermore you are not going to be able to effectively control a wildly struggling opponent’s arm with only one hand. Odds are that he will be able to wiggle free of it and cause you some degree of damage.
While there are things that you can do that will give you momentary advantage, what you can do is create an opening, enter and then prevent him from countering. If you are able to disarm an opponent whether by leverage or your own blade, a quick knockout or break will disable him.
Understanding the Laws of self-defence vs Weapons disbarment
I have seen this idea seriously misinterpreted and bandied about by those ignorant of the laws, precedents and legal nuances regarding use of lethal force. And the only time you are justified in using lethal force in most states is when you are “in immediate threat of death or grievous bodily injury.”
In other words, if it is bad enough where you have to use a weapon on someone, ask yourself, is it bad enough to kill them. If you are at a point where you are just trying stay alive are you in enough danger to justify using a weapon. People would shoot an intruder and then tell the police that they were only trying to wound him. This left them open to all kinds of criminal charges and civil litigation from the person they had shot.
There is a natural hesitation to take another human life. However, when this manifests in seeking to “wound” someone in order to make them “go away” you end up in a very dangerous legal grey area. And the fact that you were even in a situation where a weapon was used is going to make that grey area more dangerous.
Stick-fighting means you know how to knife fight
“People claim that a stick is an average weapon. That it has similarities to all weapons. This is true, it does. But then they claim that if you know how to use a stick you can use all weapons. This is not true. What they don’t understand is that the differences are just as important as the similarities.”
Just because you are proficient with one type of tool doesn’t automatically mean you can translate that skill to another weapon. The simple truth is that different weapons handle differently. The have different weights, different sizes, different timing, different requirements and different uses. There are indeed certain similarities, but unless you want to end up kneeling in a dark parking lot trying to hold your guts in, you had better stop telling yourself about the similarities and start looking at the differences.
To begin with a stick doesn’t have an edge. A blade with a the point and the edge are critical components. Edge control is pretty much the indicator between someone who knows how to use a knife and a stick jock trying to tell you that he knows knife work. If you know what to look for you can spot the difference with just one move even if it is a fast one. In fact, the faster the move, the more obvious it is.
The physics of a stick do not require this exactness of edge control. This is because a stick is an impact weapon, were as a blade is designed to cut, slice, stab and sometimes, hack. Therefore if you do not have your edge on target, then you create a totally different set of physics and reactions other than the one you want.
If you are learning stick fighting then accept that you are learning stick fighting, that is a legitimate pursuit. So if you are learning knife work, then you are learning knife work while there are similarities there are radical differences. The differences especially become manifest when your weapon encounters flesh.
Grappling with a knife
The myth of grappling is that it works everywhere. The fact that it proved so successful in martial art Dojo has blinded many people to the fact that there are critical differences between fighting barehanded and fighting with weapons. While empty-hand fighting might easily turn into an endurance marathon, where size, strength, physical shape and ability to endure punishment significantly influence the outcome of an altercation, that is not applicable to weapons work.
What makes you think you can keep on fighting with that kind of damage being done to you? All a guy has to do is cut you a few times to seriously reduce your ability to move and then wait while you bleed out. Now the really bad news, being pumped up on adrenaline is going to make that happen faster, the higher your heart rate, the faster you bleed out and lose strength. All he has to do is out wait for your strength to fail before finishing the job.
Do not attempt to “grapple” with a knifer. Once on the ground, you are not guaranteed to be able to control his knife arm well enough to prevent him from carving you up. If it were a barehanded fight, then you can often prevent him from being able to generate enough power to effectively strike you, but a knife doesn’t need power, it just needs to touch you. And if you are attempting to control his arm while on the ground, he will wiggle free and repeatedly cut you until you can no longer continue to resist.
I know of a small knife being manufactured that is called the “clinch pick.” It’s a small concealable and easily accessible knife, that can be rammed into a grappler’s guts and chest three or four times before the grappler knows it is there. Where it is carried makes it nearly impossible for the grappler to prevent its deployment. When you realize he has it, it is too late.
The knife is an extension of your hand
This is a lie most often promoted by empty-handed stylists who insist that they can teach you how to either defend yourself against a knife or to use one. Unfortunately, many people who started out in such systems have transferred over to supposed blade arts and continued promoting this often misinterpreted saying.
Empty hand fighting is not the same as weapon fighting it requires different body mechanics, different ranges , different timing and most importantly an emphasis on movement that is not found in most kicking and punching arts.
The problem is that most empty handed fighters lack the understanding of how to generate force from a moving state, instead seeking to generate force from a stationary stance. While this works for barehanded fighting styles, it fails to address the needs of weapons fighting.
In these circumstances your not being cut relies on you speed and reflexes, rather than more reliable means. Basically, because you might not be fast enough to counter, parry or block what he is doing.
Misconceptions of this thought process of empty handed fighting into a field where it does not belong, or work. The only thing the knife is an extension of is your will, everything in between my will and my knife will be likely to move to achieve my ends. And that is far more effective for staying alive
Expect to get cut
A knife is going to do a shitload of damage, people can talk about the damage that a knife can do but unfortunately they know little about the real confrontation outcome. It’s a real ordeal “expect to get cut” they talk so casually as though getting cut were only a minor inconvenience.
You can’t fight an armed opponent in the same way that he would an unarmed opponent.
If you are cut in a blade altercation you must not to panic! When it happens know that you must continue to the best of your abilities. This in order to increase your chances of survival.
Hanging back and trying to catch this fast moving blade so you can safely enter. This is one of the best ways to make getting cut minimal. Use distraction by continued communication all while exploring your surroundings for escape routes and possible resources to your disposal.
Drills teach you how to knife fight
Drills teach principles mostly used as a map, not the territory.
One of the most unrealistic tendencies that drills teach is they do not teach you proper ranging. The object of an attack is to stab/slash your partner. However, often in training you will see people standing back. They are ranging their attack against their partner’s stick or their training knife. They are falling at least a foot short of their partner. Furthermore they are not attacking with the same commitment and force level that a real knife assault will occur with. Therefore the training drill, while important is missing several critical components.
You can successfully fight an armed attacker
This is a lie.. you cannot “fight” an armed opponent. You can survive against one! You might even be able to successfully put him down before he causes you any major damage. However whatever you do, it must be fast, effective and brutal. If it isn’t, then you will not stop him before he causes you major damage. You cannot stand there and engage in a long, drawn out contest with an armed opponent. If you try to do so, you will lose. It is not a matter of if, but when.
If confronted with an assailant!Or find yourself in situation know if the blade touches you. Know any knife he will cause serious damage. How can you hope to launch a long drawn out retaliation against him? How can this happen when every time he touches you he causes damage? You are going to bleed out! Hence cease to function long before your strategy comes to any form of successful escape.
The problem that I have encountered with bullies is that they are very selective on who chose to bully. I have seen individuals who have savaged weaker opponents / victims. These individuals may have taken blades away from intimidated kids. But somehow they never seem to be around to try it against someone who is an experienced and able to handle themselves.
If you think that knife attacks look anything like those typically seen in martial arts classes or favourite movies you are dead wrong.
Real attacks, by people who are familiar with a knife’s properties and true potential. Their stabs and cuts that are practically impossible to stop.
An attacker, with any idea of what he or she is doing, will overwhelm you with a hail of cuts. These will start at the nearest body part and end in a vital target. Within a second you may lose your fingers! Have severed tendons of your arms, and be finished with a stab to your eye, or throat, or trunk.
Get as much knowledge as you can prepare yourself on techniques of weapons fighting is to your benefit. Observe prison inmates and knife experts practice knife fighting. See what really works and what doesn’t against a knife attack! Stay safe and use proper judgments when leaving yourself vulnerable in the streets.
My thanks to Kara ad all the time she took putting this information together. I have know Kara for more years than I can remember. She is currently retired from police work and is the Administrative Director of my Dojo in Canada.
During the creation of our Kyusho Jitsu Knife Defense eBook and Video Companion she was consulted all the way. She agrees that the approach take in the project is the correct one. We will collaborate further on more advanced material concerning knife defense.
Information on our Kyusho Jitsu Knife Defense eBook and video can be found from the link below.
Yours in the arts,
Grand Master Art Mason
Thank you for reading the 13 Misconceptions about Knife Attacks
Grand Master Art Mason is a professional full time martial artists and Kyusho Jitsu teacher. He is available for seminars and study groups. He resides in Brasov Romania
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