05 March 2013

Justification, Time, and Opportunity for using a knife for self-defense

Some people who carry both knives and guns for self-defense have illusions of grandeur based on movies, TV, and "attack" training.  By attack training I mean training in which the gun or knife is in their hand and they get a signal to attack. 

I am sure that people here get tired of me when in response to a "which knife is better or best" thread I ask if a knife has a trainer available, whether it is a folder or fixed.   If it is fixed, it needs to have a sheath as well so you can train with the carry/deployment option you plan to use.  Any and all edged weapons can be pressed into use as a weapon if you can get it into your hand.  But that is not what people here are asking, they are implying that they plan to carry a particular knife as a primary or secondary deadly force option.  In that case, you will need a trainer and training, and I am not talking about just knowing how to use a knife against a person.

You need a trainer, and at least a training buddy.  Write down some scenarios in which you believe you would have justification, time, and opportunity to use your knife for self-defense.  Then play a few of them out.  Doing exactly this is what has led me to the following conclusions about the reality of using a knife for self-defense:

#1 There are basically three ranges in which you would have the time and opportunity to draw your knife for self-defense.

You have chosen to draw your knife and show it to someone at a distance in an attempt to intimidate them to stop what they are doing.

They are moving towards you and due to the totality of the circumstances you believe that you have the justification, time, and opportunity to draw your knife for self-defense.

You are locked up or in a clinch, standing or on the ground, and based on the totality of the circumstances you believe you have the justification, time, and opportunity to draw your knife for self-defense.

#2 That the most probable scenario in which you have the justification, time, and opportunity to deploy your own knife is in the clinch scenario, or at least well within arm’s reach.

#3 That once you have a specific tool in your hand you become focused on using that tool against your attacker as your defense, and not part of your defense in addition to moving or getting a physical barrier between you and them.

#4 That the slowest way to physically stop a human is by blood loss even though it often causes eventual death.  The majority of wounds caused by knives are those to the circulatory system.  An attack using a blade usually has no immediate effect on the central nervous or structural system (comprised of the bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons).  A disruption of these two systems is achieved by crushing/impact injuries most efficiently delivered by personal (feet, hands) and impact weapons.

#5 Between 1998-2004 my agency sent me to train with several well-known, and lesser known edged weapon instructors.  They were all excellent instructors, but much of their material was culturally based.  I learned a lot about how to use a knife while it was in my hand, like many people who are into knives.  What was not covered was use of force for using an edged weapon, as well as no time was spent talking about time and opportunity.  Force on force that was conducted was solely focused on the knife as your only tool.   Any violence not done with the knife was forbidden.

#6 After paying for me to attend a bunch of schools, my agency wanted me to write a policy for edged weapons and conduct training.  Try as I might it was hard for me to develop any scenarios in which this issued or authorized folder would be a better option than their pistol, baton, or flashlight.  Of course this was based on every call I had ever been on or heard of, so it did not mean it could not happen.  For this reason, our general orders read that "any weapon or tool issued, or commonly carried by the officer could be used to apply force as long as the force was otherwise justified"

#7 Purposely designed and improvised impact weapons are much more easily carried, or found in any environment.

#8 That even when a knife or pistol is used, they are more effective when used in combination with open hand combatives, especially within arm’s reach.  Just because you have a knife in your hand does not mean you give up an opportunity to smash an attacker’s head into a wall.

#9 People who talk about only being allowed to carry a knife for self-defense have not thought about the effectiveness of impact weapons.

#10 After retiring, I had the epiphany that turned into Inverted Edge Tactics.  During the Folder into the Fight Drill, with people from all different background including some with lots of edged weapon training, we found the following:

When you are getting punched in the head with boxing gloves, your mind does not want you to reach down to draw a weapon of your own.  It wants you to protect your head.

That if you attempt to draw your weapon without creating distance from your attacker you are going to take some serious shots before, during, or whether or not you get your weapon out.

That because of the pummeling, a very large number of weapons are dropped.

That if they got the knife out and counter attacked, the vast majority were slashes across the upper arms and chest of the attacker with very few stabs regardless of prior training.

That once people used the inverted edge grip, cuts were by default landing between the legs and under the armpits.  Even with a training knife, the cuts, especially between the legs, had a noticeable impact on the attacker.

If during the drill the good guy was knocked down, they were able to land the same cuts if the attacker followed them to the ground.

That after completing the drill, the good guy completely understood the idea of Central Nervous System disruption and would be able to not only articulate it in court, but have confidence in its use.

In closing, the knife, like all other tools and tactics, should have training time dedicated to it based on its likelihood of use.  Offensive prowess does not equal defensive skill.

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