Introduction to Unarmed Knife Defense

Echanis_cover-image_276pxDefensive Training Group

By the illusive R&D guy.  (And yes, I realize who that is in the featured image. I’m in a fairly good mood and wanted to make myself chuckle today).

Why write about unarmed knife defense? Aren’t there so many more important things to cover in regard to NPT / Community preps? Yes there are.

In SHTF do I see myself needing unarmed knife defense skills as much as I may need them today? Not as much as I do today.  

However, we are not currently in SHTF, (it may come, it may not). DTG’s job as a company is to help individuals, families and communities defend themselves against criminals in both SHTF AND normal society though.

So with that said, there are places that we just cannot go with our personal protection firearm. As well, edged weapons do not always become apparent in an attack until after victim is being stabbed. Despite what’s taught in most CPL courses, there is a very real possibility that you are going to have to stop the bad guy from continuing to use you as a pin-cushion before you can access your firearm.

This topic is kind of fun to write about.  Unarmed knife defense usually sets off a crap storm of flame wars on the internet, arguing about what method is best for mitigating a knife wielding threat. You will see video demonstrations on a monkey-kung-fu disarm that will surely get someone killed if they try it, all the way down to the explanation that “one should just bend over because attempting to resist an in process knife attack is pointless”.    WHY DO PEOPLE ARGUE SO HARD ON THIS TOPIC?  (This is me laughing . . . ).  Here are my top three reasons I think people go “full-retard” on this topic, (if you have other reasons, feel free to post them).

  1. The first reason (pride argument) is a hard one.  If I spent 25 hard-working years in Kool-Dong-Su and all of a sudden on a forum spattered with guys from the latest fad combatives program, they start downgrading my techniques, . . . well . . . that may hurt my pride and the years of hard work I spent learning to strip a knife against a training partner.
  1. The second reason people argue so hard on this topic is market-share.  Think about it.  If I am a practitioner of Kool-Dong-Su – I feed my family with that money, when my students start gravitating toward Gracie or Krav, I’m going to try and win them back.  I’m going to go all “flame war” on forums to vent and argue until I can’t type anymore.  Also if I use knife defense as a primary tool to drive up sales, when someone starts talking legitimate trash about my sales tool, that hurts my market-share.  Never-mind that I may have to get to the root problem as to why I’m losing my student base, (but business marketing is not the point of this post).
  1. The third reason (validation argument), is for guys who really aren’t completely secure in their abilities.  The insecurity (at least in my opinion) is that knife defense is not like fist fighting (obviously) in that, you can’t eat a shot to the stomach and shrug it off.  You eat a shot the stomach with a knife, and now there’s a wonderful red liquid running all over the place.  You eat a shot to the eye with a punch?  Black eye.  Eat a shot with a knife to the eye?  Best case you are permanently blind, worst cast you die.  There’s a rightful fear of edged weapons and the defense of.  That fear causes many to question their ability (which is a natural and good thing to a point).  But some take that insecurity and manifest it in argument.  If I can win the debate on which knife defense is best, it validates my position.  If my position is validated, then I can feel as though I’m not wasting my time practicing X technique in unarmed knife defense.   Then I can build confidence.  The real question though, “is my confidence truly grounded in sound practices”?

Picture someone who’s fairly new to the idea of combatives. All he or she hears are arguments like this and “my knife defense is realistic, the other guys stuff is Sh1t”, or my favorite “don’t focus on knife defense because you’re likely to die and there are so many more important things to train”. Really? Unarmed knife defense is important to the guy being attacked with one (even if he’s got a gun – he’s still got to access it and first stop the incessant knife thrusting).

Who’s right?  Should I not worry about unarmed knife defense because some say “well you should have had better situational awareness and not let them get that close?”  Should I not worry about unarmed knife defense because “you won’t have a chance anyway, so don’t waste your time training against it”?  Should I go to the school that shows the most techniques for unarmed knife defense?  WHAT SHOULD I DO!?!?!? SOMEONE TELL ME !!!!! (This is my laughing . . . )

So what I see are people that have a genuine concern for handling a sticky self-defense predicament, caught up and confused in what they read on the internet by arguers and “experts” based off of (pride, validation issues and market-share).

There are so many tasks required to keep my family safe, how much time do they really have to learning 25 different knife disarms and successfully master them?  That was the whole point of Finish It Now – Self-Defense System.  We kept it simple, brutal and effective.  We took the best of our real experiences over the years and adapted it for the people who don’t mind training religiously, but who don’t need 10,000 techniques.  The practice is still necessary to get to mastery, but our focus was on the whole self-defense “shooting match” if you will:  Ground Fighting, Unarmed Weapon Defense, Clinch-Grappling Fighting, Pistol/Carbine retention and use.

So if you are new to combatives, the idea of defending against a knife attacker, there are some simple truths that help wade through all the BS in both the traditional martial arts AND the “reality” based systems about defending against edged weapons:

  1. Close in Knife attacks happen far more than an attack out in kicking and punching range.  Google some videos on shankings, and knife attacks.  They are up-close and personal in clinch/grappling range and repeated and rapid thrusting strikes, capitalizing on the element of surprise.  Having an excellent base fighting within the Thai boxing clinch and body clinch will go a long way for some people excelling in unarmed knife defense vs. those who have no clinch skills.
  1. Gross motor skills – are more useable than fine motor skills in a fight – it’s science, it cannot be argued.  To what degree is the subjective part of that statement.  Use common sense, and induce stress into the training because that will help you figure out what you can pull off when you have real pressure, are uncomfortable and your heart is beating through your chest.
  1. Edged Weapons Fights are Ugly and Frantic – Again, google-fu some footage of real attacks involving weapons.  It’s NOT pretty.  With any consistency, I would like someone to show me knife disarm that happens out in punching range with full force.  You can disarm a knife, but it will more than likely be due to the fact that you’ve jammed up a weapon bearing arm, and are repeatedly head butting the living crap out of the attacker until they go unconscious while wrapped up in the clinch.  Again, gross motor skills.
  1. Unaware – The person being attacked with a knife doesn’t always know they are being attacked with a knife.  Therefore, the skills used to defend and turn the tables on a weapon wielding attacker need to be interchangeable with those used to win a good old fashioned fist fight. The less “shifting of gears” the brain has to do, the quicker it will react and ultimately jam up the threat, control the weapon bearing limb and end the threat.
  1. Violence of Action – Having the mindset and action to bring fear and death to the threat is necessary to survive a criminal assault. We’re not talking about an argument outside a bar about women that one should have walked away from. I’m talking about someone trying to kill your family with an edged weapon, rape your women and permanently disfigure any survivors. Whether or not you end the bad guy’s life while you are stopping the threat does not change the requirement to have a combat mindset and demonstrate violence of action until the threat stops being a threat.

Quite a while ago, I was exposed to Jerry Wetzel’s approach to unarmed knife defense (redzone knife defense).  Although I don’t agree with everything presented in his program, he’s one of the most realistic (and respected) trainers out there and has spent the time compiling good instruction based on many years of experience. With any trainer, they adapt things they like, and change or reject things they don’t. We’re no different here at DTG. The point is that the overall approach works, it works at real speed with real training pressure.

With those truths in mind, here’s a suggested Basic Strategy of Effective Unarmed Knife Defense in any combatives / martial arts style: Seriously, if you don’t like DTG Finish It Now program – great – just practice something that gives you rightful confidence in your ability to stop bad guys to the best of your abilities with your bare hands.

First –

  • Avoid the blade in punching and kicking range and create distance if you can. It’s not really going to help you if you’re already in a scrum, or you’re getting bull-rushed with a knife, but I’m not, I sure as heck am not going to wait until that happens.

If you can’t run –

  • Jam – up the attacker and the weapon bearing arm in between swipes and thrusts – with a very violent stop hit, damn near like a lineman protecting the quarterback, but pinning the weapon hand above and below the elbow – (Like any fighting skill, learning timing is a key attribute).
  • Control – the weapon bearing arm. From the jam up, a more secure hold has to be established. This is NOT done by grabbing the knife hand out in punching range . . . that’s a recipe for continuing to get carved up.
  • Beat the Bad Guy Senseless – from a control position . Blunt force – head butt, knee shots, remember the constant forward momentum? Run them into objects. Work the weapon bearing arm to the ground and stomp the knife hand from the control position. If you can strip the knife by forcing the weapon hand into the bad guy’s own leg – do it. But it gets pretty hard to hold onto an object while my weapon arm is wrapped up and I’m getting head-butted and groin shot into oblivion.

Unlike many unarmed knife defense programs, you can actually put on the minimals (helmet, groin protector and gloves) and go at a realistic pressure and speed with your training partner. Again, if you have something that works for you, great, don’t give this post a passing thought. Hopefully your program has these previously mentioned fighting strategies. But train something effective. You just might have to fight your way to your pistol.

Unarmed Knife Defense is a tool in big picture of individual self-defense. So is the management of unknowns, so is ground fighting, so is fighting in the clinch, so is close in pistol work, etc, etc, etc. Do I focus all of my training in that regard? No, my go to tool is my personal protection firearm which follows my situational awareness and assertive response skills. However, I recognize that my personal protection firearm is not bonded to my hand. There are times when I don’t/can’t carry, but bad guys don’t follow the “rules”.

Again, don’t get caught up in the “my kung-fu is better than your kung-fu”. If you can pull off your self-defense program with REAL pressure from a devoted training partner, you’re farther ahead than most.  Growing up in my family, there was so much combatives talent it wasn’t funny -(talent that will always be better than mine in my opinion).  Seriously, from a professional boxer to USMC golden gloves contender to a full contact fighter, etc, the list goes on and it’s not worth boring you.  Anyway, you think your Thanksgiving and St. Paddy’s Day celebrations get out of hand? Heh.  You haven’t seen sh . . . Nevermind.

thanksgiving fights spiderman kornhaber 615

The point is, ALL of us came up with an appreciation for differing views on combatives.  Don’t get caught up in the arguments.  If it don’t work, just ignore it and move on.  If it does work?  Give it credit, adapt it, and USE it.

And don’t forsake unarmed knife defense because you A: carry a pistol, B: don’t see yourself using it in SHTF (we live in the here and now), or C: let someone convince you that you don’t stand a chance and therefore should roll over and die.

Our complete program will be listed in the Online Classroom in the coming month or so.

DTG uses a similar approach to this for unarmed knife defense:

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