Knife Defence Highlight #5

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

#5 It’s the first moment that counts

There is no hard and fast rule that a knife assault must happen in a particular way, but the majority will be sudden, surprise, fast, furious and malicious.

Certainly, law enforcement may be called for a person with a knife and be at a distance from the Aggressor. Today, rarely, but it happens terrorists are using knife assaults rushing through malls etc and you could be faced with a person at a distance. You could simply walk into the wrong place at the wrong time to find a disturbed person or an ongoing assault.

There are no “never happens” in knife assaults but if you stop and think for a moment like a criminal if you wanted to hurt or kill a person with a knife how would you do it?

You want to succeed so the less chance your chosen victim has to respond the better. Surprise then is a good choice – an ambush. In fact, best they don’t see you coming, so from the side is good but from behind is better. And, of course, you don’t want them to see the knife at all, so it should be tucked out of view. You don’t even want an unintended witness to see it.

You don’t want them to get away so grabbing them with your non-weapon hand to keep them close and controlled is a good idea.

You want to do the most damage possible and as quickly as possible, so stabs are best as they do the most damage and repeated stabs … well … do repeated damage.

You don’t want to be stopped so you keep the stabs short and close.

And through the logic of thinking like a criminal wanting to do harm we’ve come up with the most common attack: ambush, from behind or the side, grabbed with non-weapon arm and sewing machine like repeated stabs.

A really difficult thing to deal with which is why, of course, it’s done that way.

What can we do?

We can learn to respond if possible in a way that first gets us safe, even if for just a moment , and then gives us the opportunity to take control of the next action.

In my book if we have distance we will always want to keep it but if it is, as we designed it, an ambush assault we always want to do one thing first. Whether we want to then get distance and escape or deploy a weapon (or grab an improvised one) or whether we want to disable the Aggressor so they can’t hurt us or, if our job requires it, we want to control the person, we always do the same thing: Avoid while intercepting the attack.

Avoiding the attack (details of how are in the book) means we are safe for a moment. Intercepting the attack gives us a connection to the Aggressor that then allows us to go for the next action to either propel them away to escape or deploy a weapon or move in to take control to disable them or control them.

It all hinges on operantly conditioning that initial response in the first moment that counts. If we can condition that then our chances of survival increase greatly.

Think back to when we were thinking as a criminal.

We wanted surprise. If we have conditioned our response and avoid as we intercept, then surprise is gone. The book has in it at the end once all the skills have been built the cues to help you operantly condition this response to a surprise assault.

We didn’t want them getting away so we grabbed them with the non-weapon arm to control them. If we avoid as set out in the book the grabbing arm is immaterial to our avoiding the assault and by moving and intercepting, we place ourselves in a position to stop them taking control.

We wanted fast damage so sewing machine stabs are used but if we avoid the stabs we have our shot at surviving.

Having a conditioned response for that first moment, whether it the one in my book or from another system, it doesn’t matter. That first response is the most vital moment in the assault. Okay the ones that come next are important too, but this will at least get you to that point alive.

It is that first moment that counts and doing the right thing.