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In Reality- using an edged weapon for self-defense

Discussion in 'The Cutting Edge' started by mercop, Feb 22, 2010.

  1. mercop


    Jul 10, 2002
    This is going to be the first article in our new column called "In Reality", in which I will tackle some age old questions when it comes to all things related to preparedness and personal protection. We are first going to start off with the reality of using an edged weapon for self-defense.

    We live in a society where you would think that we are desensitized to violence, but for some reason people are still shocked when they are actually witness to it. Even in a state that allows its citizens to carry concealed firearms, the path of someone involved in a clear cut shooting is likely to be a long one. The only thing that would be worse is cutting someone in self-defense.

    Here are some obvious hurdles when it comes to the righteous use of a knife for self-defense. On one hand most people do not view knives as a legitimate personal protection tool, even those that are huge proponents of the right to self-defense. When they envision someone protecting themselves with something, it is usually a firearm. Thanks to TV and movies, we have all sat through thousands of shoot, don't shoot situations. But when it comes to edged weapons, we have seen lots of "knife fighting" with no clear lines drawn as when you would mentally choose to cut as you would to "drop the hammer". Because of distance and target focus, most on screen blade play is a flurry of body movement that ends with a fatal dramatic stab. The same is true of scenes involving firearms where our good guy appears to be down and out until you see the villain fall backwards. Only then does your mind put two and two together realizing that our hero was able to deploy his gun and fire a contact shot, thus saving his life. A knife is viewed as a sneaky tool that can come out of anywhere.

    Keeping the above in mind, let's look at the physics of using a knife. Being a contact distance weapon that can puncture, tear, or cut flesh, an edged weapon requires that you be able to touch your attacker. At the same time, the attacker must be in a position to employ deadly force on you. This justifies one out of the three things needed that allows you to use deadly force, they have the immediate opportunity.

    The next part we need to fulfill is jeopardy, meaning that the attacker is acting in a manner that a reasonable and prudent person would conclude that they intend to kill or cripple you. A particular act in and of itself may not kill you but it would be reasonable to believe that you would as they say in the UFC "not be capable of intelligently defending yourself". For instance, they are not attacking you with a weapon per se, but you have just been pushed during that altercation and have just had your head bounced off of a brick wall and you are going in and out of consciousness. There is a lot of blood and things are getting foggy, you have weapons on you, once you are out cold will he take your money and run or take your weapons and finish you? The extent of your jeopardy is more like a thermostat that can fluctuate greatly second to second based on multiple factors that if ever understood it will only be weeks, months, or years later. You have to make that decision in the moment with the information you have.

    Even though for our purposes we are discussing it last, the first part of justifying deadly force is ability. Let's cover the five basic examples as they relate to the defensive use of an edged weapon-

    Weapon employed against you- if it is a firearm and it is outside arms distance, your ability to do anything even with a knife in hand is very small. Any impact weapon is likely to extend the reach of your attacker, probably negating the use of your knife, even if you have it in hand. Now we are down to knife on knife which makes up a huge portion of cultural martial arts, and "knife fighting". By definition this would require you to be within reach of someone with a knife and you having pre-deployed yours, or deploying it as you are being attacked. For you to meet this deadly force with deadly force, you would have to articulate that you saw or anticipated your attacker having a knife which provoked you to draw yours. For you to cut them, depending on the blade length, they would have to be in a position to cut you as well. More likely to result in a mutual cutting.

    Force in numbers- is a situation where one could articulate that even without seeing any visible weapons, deploying a knife would be more than justified. The problem is tool fixation. When surrounded by a few people, moving forward creates a vacuum where everyone fills in behind you. You can only stab or cut one person at a time. Once the pack moves in and your arm is controlled, the knife is a moot point. I would rather start off with a stick in hand personally.

    Able vs Disabled- a situation that is very misunderstood. It does not mean that you walked out of your house with a broken leg and were attacked by someone who was able bodied. It can be as simple as you being knocked down to the ground and you cannot or are not allowed to get up. Not being able to stand up or walk is a disability. Again, another example would be losing consciousness from blunt force trauma to the head or strangulation. This is contact distance fighting where you will need to be able to cut your attacker off of you.

    Male vs Female- gender does not change the physics. Even if your attacker is doing something that justifies deadly force, but you are not close enough to touch him, the knife is useless. Again, the likeliest situation is one where you need to cut the attacker off of you.

    Physical size and strength- the same realities apply here as they do for male vs female.

    In reality, to make the judicious use of edged weapons relevant to the situations where they are most likely to be used, we have to-

    * Begin the majority of drills with the attacker initiating contact with the good guy in the form of a punch, push, or bum rush.
    * Train the student to use the smallest amount of space and movement necessary to deploy their knife.
    * Train the student to use the natural funnels of the body such as the crotch, arm pits, and sides of the neck as landmarks for default targeting, instead of focusing on being at a distance to be able see the body to use intentional targeting.

    * The majority of deployment practice should be done from any position other than standing upright.
    * A heavy emphasis needs to be placed on the use of open hand combatives that allow the student to create space to deploy the knife, use them along with the knife to include getting the attacker off of them.

    Make sure reality is driving your training, not your training driving your reality.
  2. James L Clifton

    James L Clifton

    Feb 17, 2015
    Missed you at Blade 2015! Still carry my Gunting!
    glockzilla10mm likes this.

  3. MajorD


    Aug 16, 2010
    Good read thank you. While I carry a handgun and am very practiced with it there are place I go where a knife can but gun can not. Having very limited training in knife use makes me consider some sort of entry level class to become better prepared, who or what classes do you suggest?
    glockzilla10mm, tnhawk and Angry Fist like this.
  4. James L Clifton

    James L Clifton

    Feb 17, 2015
    glockzilla10mm likes this.
  5. James L Clifton

    James L Clifton

    Feb 17, 2015
    I suggest a Bram Frank seminar.....or if you are in New York....sign up with Jeff Chung!
    glockzilla10mm likes this.
  6. oldman11


    Mar 1, 2012
    Good article mercop. I enjoyed it. Unfortunately, being an "old guy", hand speed and agility (or lack thereof) almost necessitates carrying a gun. That being said, yes I do carry a knife, but I do understand it's limitations.
    glockzilla10mm, Pierre! and tnhawk like this.
  7. bdcochran


    Sep 23, 2005
    Los Angeles
    I agree with what Mercop wrote.

    Someone asked about training. The ergonomics of the framing is the same as other disciplines in the martial arts.

    The types of movements are about 11 total. They are the same basic movements as in using an escrima stick, a policeman's night stick or an entrenching tool (yes I had training in that as well). Once you learn the movements, you can safely practice on your own and become proficient.

    How fast can you deploy, with training? I am old. .6 second from drawing a concealed Glock to shooting; 1.1 second to draw and deploy a folder from jeans pocket carry to base of throat. Women are faster in deploying a folder. With training, they can easily do .9 second.

    Mercop is correct; actual fight is over in seconds. More tiring than any other form of exercise.

    Mercop is correct. Most training should be done other than standing. In the real world, you will be on your butt, defending with your feet/boots. Whether attacking or defending, you will want to be in movement to avoid a blow or to deliver a blow.

    The smaller person has a natural advantage in such a fight if grappling is involved, avoid grappling.

    The concept of an "edge", whether rolled newspaper, knife, a book, a shovel, a stick or other object to gain distance and avoid injuring your hands. I'm sure that you have seen many youtube videos of people hitting people in the head with their clenched knuckles. Not what you want to do.

    There is more to it than holding a knife. One of the things that you might learn is how to do the following - you stand opposite an opponent. He has a raised club or billy club raised. His target it your left clavicle. On a whistle, he tries to deliver full speed, but as the weapon descends, you take control and stab him in the side with the club!

    You also have to do the unexpected. I saw a fight wherein a guy drew a switchblade and held it out. The opponent promptly kicked it out of the aggressor's hand, proceeded to beat up the aggressor then picked up the knife and walked off.
    glockzilla10mm likes this.
  8. Boats

    Boats Not Assimilated

    Dec 22, 2002
    Somewhere in Oregon
    I agree with pretty much everything in the article except for where there are musings about the relative difficulties of guns or knives and legality when used in self-defense. They are off base.

    Whether people view knives as legitimate self defense weapons is next to irrelevant. Whether your SD item is a gun, knife, pipe, hastily grabbed bottle of champagne, etc., if whatever is colorably the deployment of lethal force. A righteous shooting, stabbing, clubbing, choke out with a belt, whatever, undergoes the same investigative and legal analysis in any jurisdiction where there is not a duty to retreat, i.e., were your actions objectively reasonable under the circumstances? If they were, your SD action, no matter what it was, is righteous. The distant jury at a trial is not the concern, the DA not filing or grand jury no billing you is. For that, before deploying any lethal weapon, you'd better have a firm grasp on the reality of the situation you are in.

    Like people have said, my EDC knife is primarily for going where my pistol cannot. I am not going to ever second guess a last ditch deployment of my Spydie Military if the ballon goes up because it is scary to the sheeple or more difficult to use effectively.
    glockzilla10mm likes this.
  9. fastbolt


    Jun 9, 2002
    CA Central Coast
    I was wondering what might have happened to the gentleman using the name 'mercop'. I tried the domain name listed in the Op and found it to be inactive. Some quick looking found a new site, apparently involving the same gentleman, which gave some background info about why the site had seemingly gone offline.

    Apparently he's gone through some changes (as have we all :) ).

    No comments on the older thoughts contained in the Op, as I've covered my thoughts on this topic in some other threads. Just thought I'd mention the new blog site by the guy, in case someone wants to check in on him.
  10. tnhawk


    Oct 25, 2009
    SW Tennessee
    As I approach the "old guy" status in speed and agility, I make more effort to be more aware of my surroundings.
    glockzilla10mm, Sharkey and Pierre! like this.
  11. Pierre!

    Pierre! NRA Life Member

    Jun 20, 2003
    Lovin Sparks Nv!
    Great Article!

    Would love to read more about those of us who are "Physically Compromised" and the legal ramifications to self defense.

    My neck is trashed, I have vary limited arm strength as a result. Additionally, a punch to my face, head, or neck could paralyze me for life.

    I compensate with situational awareness, distance, and attention to that "Time To Go" gut feeling. So far very successfully.

    Martial Arts trainers have not really been too interested in teaching me at this point.

    If you come across something like this, would love to know about it.

    Keep up the great articles regardless - Very helpful!

    Well Done Mercop!
  12. bdcochran


    Sep 23, 2005
    Los Angeles
    Not a criticism; just some observations.

    There is usually some discussion about "legality". Forget that. If you are ever in a situation of a police interview, keep your mouth shut until you have spoken to your lawyer. The "fact" that you did not speak or "cooperate" is not admissible potential police testimony n court. Read that sentence again. This is true in every one of the 50 states. Some layperson's discussion of legality may not have any value in your jurisdiction.

    There is usually some discussion of gun vs. knife. Forget that as well. Most people cannot hit a moving target. If you are not standing still, you stand a chance of surviving. In some martial arts, this is called "shooting" ( in layman's terms, you move your butt and you aren't there when some one goes to hit you, stab you, grapple with you or shoot you. A few weeks of 2 hour twice a week sessions with a good martial artist instructor and you will have the concept down. Smart people don't just stand there and take it if bad things are going to be happening..

    One of my classmates, a lawyer, (yeah, hold the boos) was held up at gun point at a gas station. He drew and shot and killed the bad guy. One of my instructors walked out of a dojo. Three gang members were there, with one "to make his bones". One died on the spot, one ended up in the hospital, and the third ran away.. Situational awareness and movement.

    Most "gun on knife" stuff you read is when a policeman shoots a person with a knife. Irrelevant. How many bad guy with gun vs. good guy with knife articles do you ever read. I cannot remember one! If you, a good guy, won't spend the money learning how to knife fight or shoot a moving target, do you think a "bad guy" is likely to have spent money on those skills.

    A very good comment was made about using situational awareness to make up for old age. It is true. Do you know what the "funnel of death" is? It is the area that you want to traverse, for only God knows why, and the bad guy has the area covered with his muzzle. If you are blithely in condition white (walking, but unconscious) when you walk up to the automatic teller, you are in the funnel of death for a guy who has a gun.
  13. Sharkey


    Nov 21, 2006
    DFW, TX
    From what I have seen, knife attacks are spontaneous affairs and a cut or stab is very dangerous. I didn't read the whole post, I just skimmed it. A person with a knife is a dangerous person indeed even without training. I think training should consist of controlling the arm of your attacker before you even think of going for your own knife and/or gun. You are gonna get cut just try to not let it be a vital part of your body.
    The increase of stabbings by criminals and terrorists should be frightening to many. It is only gonna get worse so prepare for it.
    pntblnk likes this.
  14. pntblnk


    May 17, 2008
    Nashville Tennessee
    I fear this as well. Any BG with intent and $5 can pick up a carving knife at Walmart without the slightest of questions.
  15. Timothy Courtney

    Timothy Courtney

    Oct 24, 2015
    blades scare me especially when i see what they have done to me in 65 years. im referring to my own pocket knives, cooking knives and doctor knives.