Knife Defence Highlight #2

Note: I wrote an entire book on knife defence called “Watch Out For The Pointy End” so these are snippets and highlights only.

#2 K.I.S.S.

Yes, I do mean the standard phrase for KISS = Keep It Simple Stupid.

While knife defence is an exceptionally complex topic in many ways, in some ways it isn’t. The bad guy wants to stab you a lot with a very pointy dangerous thing. You have to not let them.

I’m going to highlight just a few of the reasons you want to keep your response to a knife assault as simple as you can.

Let’s begin with the fact that the more options you have in the way you respond to an attack the likelier it is you can enter a freeze weighing those options. I’m older but if you haven’t see the original “Terminator” movie download it and look for the scene where Arnold Schwarzenegger (the terminator) is in his hotel room when the manager knocks and bothers him. The terminator brings up a visual of a drop down list of responses and runs down them until he selects F’Off. Having a number of possible responses to an assault creates that list and means you have to select before responding and that takes time you don’t have. Therefore, keep it simple with responses that are either identical or exceptionally similar.

The next thing you want to keep simple is the response itself. If it requires a complex movement using fine motor control you may run into great difficulty because it often takes a lot of experience to be able to have small muscle motor control when the chemical cocktail hits. If you keep it simple using more gross motor movements then you have far more chance of accessing them under stress.

To operantly condition a response you need a cue and your response. Your response cannot keep changing in response to a cue if you want it to be operantly conditioned. A brief side talk here. Most of the time we respond to an assault people have the OODA response: Observe, Orientate, Decide and Act. It is a four-step process and at any point you can slip into a freeze. Operant conditioning forms a habit. Habits work very simply, there is cue that triggers a response. A two-step process. You need to determine the cue and set the response and then take that into alive practice to form the tactical habit you want. But it must be consistent if you want to make it a habit. The simpler the better. In my book once all the skills have been learned it goes into what to condition to respond to being grabbed and assaulted. Some very simple things to form as a habit.

Another aspect of all this is having very different response to different attacks by a knife. Each response would have to be conditioned separately and you would have to recognize the “type” of attack as the cue to respond with something you have conditioned. That is a lot to have conditioned, so it is better to keep it simple with responses to attacks that are the same of very close to being the same.

Keeping the cue simple is another “keep it simple” factor. The more you have to see and interpret to kick in your operant conditioning the harder it will be to see and recognise the cue

The last thing I want to talk about is that in the book there four goals for survival. Two require you to make distance between you and the Aggressor (Distancing tactics) and two that require you to stay close (Closing tactics). I recommend in the book looking at your situation and, while you train them all, focus most of your practice on the one you want because what you train most is what you are more likely to do – so keep it simple.

Highlight #2 KISS is a good sound principle for all self defence. Rory Miller says as human beings we tend to try and complicate things. I think we all want to feel special so if we complicate things or make them mystical or even “elite” then we feel better for being a part of it. However, the goal in knife defence is to survive so we need to avoid that human tendency and just keep it simple.