Tips for self-defense with a knife
If you are reading this column, you likely already know that the USCCA Self-Defense SHIELD covers the defensive use of “all legal weapons.” This includes weapons of opportunity and even your hands and feet if it comes down to that.
While knowing that you are covered provides peace of mind after an incident, understanding that just about any solid object can become a weapon, even a deadly weapon, when used with such intent is a very important part of your self-defense strategy. What if you can’t get to your gun? What are you going to do then?
There are plenty of bar stool commandos and mall ninjas who will glibly tell you, “I’m going to use whatever I can to fight my way to my gun. Then I’m going to use my pistol to fight my way to my rifle.”
The sad truth is that most fights don’t last that long. When you need to use force to stop an attack, you need to do so instantly. That means using whatever is at hand to impede your attacker. Remember the definition of self-defense: To cause enough dysfunction in your attacker that you can immediately stop the threat. Sometimes that means you have to use bullets to drain all the blood or to interfere with the central nervous system of a bad guy. Sometimes you need to come up with an alternative. You will need to fight with what you have.
The vast majority of gun owners also carry a knife. The most common type of knife in the pockets of gun owners is the tactical folding knife. This is better than no knife at all, but if you honestly intend to defend yourself with a folding knife, you must train relentlessly on getting that knife into action. Drawing the knife from your pocket, opening the blade and applying the sharp edge to the bad guy requires a fair level of skill that only comes through repetition. Once you get that mastered, then you have to deal with tactical elements and the legal ramifications of using a knife for self defense.
First, let’s talk about the practical side of things. If you watch a lot of movies, you would think that stabbing someone causes near instant incapacitation. It does not. Most stabbing victims say they didn’t even feel the stab until later. They thought they were getting punched. So, if you want to stop someone from attacking you, don’t stab him in the gut, or even in the chest. Doing so will likely not stop the attack quickly. To quickly stop the attack, you need to make it mechanically impossible for the attacker to inflict damage on you.
Hands kill. Arms move the hands. Deep slices to the major muscles of the arms will keep a person from grabbing you, pulling you or pushing you. Legs also kill. They kick and allow the attacker to move and continue the attack. So target the extremities with deep cuts to the major muscle groups. Think about it: If you slice an attacker to the bone with a cut across the thigh, that person is going down. You have just created enough dysfunction to allow you to escape. Stop cutting and run away.
As I mentioned above, there are legal ramifications when using a knife in self-defense. The media, particularly movies, has long portrayed anyone wielding a knife as a violent criminal. We have all heard stories of someone stabbing a victim 25 times. Not only is it further proof that stabbing is not the right course of action, but stabbing an attacker 25 times will give the prosecutor the chance to tell the jury just how violent you are.
If you are using a knife for self-defense, be ready to clearly articulate why you did what you did. For instance, after consulting with your lawyer, you might say, “I cut his arm so he could not grab me, but he tried attacking me with his other hand. So then I cut his leg so he could not chase me. Then I got away and called 9-1-1.”
If you thought this column was going to be about knife technique, I’m sorry to disappoint you. I cannot provide enough training here to make you proficient. Fighting with a knife is a physical skill that requires instruction and repetition. If you want to use a knife, please go take a class. Then take another and practice often. If you ever need to use your knife, you will be glad you did.