31 August 2012

The physical realities of using a knife for self-defense

For years now we have been doing the folder into the fight drill-
The good guy is armed with a training folder and wearing headgear.

1- On the word “GO”, the good guy grabs a hold of two escrima sticks held by another person and starts a push/pull motion while moving around in a circle.

2- During the last 5 seconds of the stick drill, the good guy is attacked by someone (usually me) wearing boxing gloves. I tag them in the front and sides of the head to cause central nervous system disruption.

3- “GO” is again called. They drop the sticks and attempt to break contact in order to create time and space to deploy their knife and get a lethal cut or stab.

This drill is what led to Inverted Edge Tactics. We had done the drill with all kinds of people from varying training backgrounds. Most of which shared the mantra that you should stab in a fight. We found out the problem with that was that when you are being attacked and likely, at least initially, being pushed back your arms go out to the side because of the Moro Reflex. Because of the knife being in the outstretched hand, their cuts were slashes that usually went across my chest and left upper arm (with 93%+ of people being right handed). These were very superficial wounds and would likely do very little to stop me from caving their head in.

By using the inverted grip and edge, the good guy regardless of training was getting “defensive” cuts on my brachial and femoral arteries by simply bringing the knife up from waist level until he felt resistance (setting the hook) and then simply holding on and the attacker responds to the cut causing a push/pull motion increasing trauma.

Those that had training did very well if they could get more than arms distance away from the attacker. At that distance, their training took over. The problem is that interpersonal combat has three phases; standing free range movement, clinch, and ground fighting. The traditional stuff (with training) works well during standing free range movement, but in the clinch and on the ground you simply don’t have the room and need something that works at contact distance. This is where IET excels.

My unscientific research has led me to the conclusion that you are very unlikely to even get the chance to use a knife for self-defense. Drawing your knife against a specific threat would require that a deadly force option was appropriate. So let’s look at the scenarios-

Against a firearm- the main reason for using a firearm is the ability to cause trauma at a distance. So, it is unlikely that the person holding the gun on you will be within range of your knife. If they are within range and you attempt a cut, you will likely get what I call a fear bite. They will pull the trigger in response to your furtive movement.

Against a knife- this would require you to see the knife. If you see the knife, it is most likely that they are holding it on you but at a distance. Same issues as the firearm. Investigations I did while on the job, talking to other police and corrections officers, have confirmed what the rumors have been all these years. That is that most people never see the edged weapon they are attacked with. They feel it first. This is why I personally do very little knife on knife work.

Against a group- contrary to what we see on TV, the knife would not be the best melee weapon. If one comes forward and you cut him, the others may back off. But if they don’t see it and you are dog piled, the knife is not going to be of much use.

Against open hand and impact weapons- I believe, especially against the open hand, you have the best chance of using your knife. Impact weapons, especially improvised, are big and easy to see. Think baseball bat or tire iron. They cause the user to wind up giving you time to react. The first punch or the first swing is almost always the round house. This is where IET shines, coming up and under the attack.

Now you may be asking, “How am I going to justify cutting someone who is only punching me”? That is why we do the head shots into the folder into the fight drill. You see that even while wearing headgear and the attacker wearing boxing gloves, that you can be disoriented very quickly, or even knocked out on occasion.

The bottom line is that I think that if you do use a knife it will be to cut someone off of you well within arms distance. Train for what is most likely first.- George

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