Documents, Martial Arts

Knife Attacks – Realism is key


Principles of Krav Maga in Reality Knife Attack/Defense

I want to focus here on the principles of reality knife defenses, based on the Krav Maga experience and recent seminars. Let’s just start by if someone wants to kill you, they will and you must be willing to go in knowing you could die!

There are many types of knife defenses. You can study the Philipino styles; Arnis, Kali, Escrima. You can learn how to use a stick vs. a knife or another weapon. Jujitsu, Ninjitsu, Kung fu, Systema; they all have knife defenses and they all have good techniques in there own context. You have to ask yourself, ‘Is this reality knife defense that suits my needs, lifestyle or circumstances most often in?’

Over my own years of training, in different styles, with many different people, I have come to learn a few things about survival and edged weapon attacks. These principles are incorporated in our style of Krav Maga but are by no means a perfect solution.

A great way to train for reality knife defense, is to wear full protective gear, hide the knife behind your back or in random places, think like an attacker, go to “kill”, and attack the person with a sudden, relentless burst. This mimics reality.

Understand the Weapon – In order to be able to defend against a weapon you should learn how to fight with that weapon. This is part of ‘reality knife defense’. This applies to all weapons like gun as well as a knife, a baton, or any blunt or edged weapon. Most martial arts schools teach only pure defense, if at all, and/or if you don’t understand how an attacker will use the weapon against you, you don’t have much of a chance.  Also, there are so many different ways to use a knife because you can think of so many.

Think of Reality Knife Attack & Defense, Forget ‘Style Loyalty’

I find it shocking me how many martial arts practitioners still hold on to the concept of ‘style loyalty’, i.e. “I am a Shotokan man or Kung Fu etc, I will never train in Krav Maga knife defense”, “our style is a complete style” and that sort of nonsense. To speak this way only shows that you have never faced real fear or got hurt by a knife, because if you had, you would not care what style it is from, heck I don’t give a shit. I care if it will save my life. If the technique was from the Native American Indians, the ancient Hebrews or your friend’s grandmother; if it works – that’s all that matters. Again, keep in mind, ‘reality knife attack & defense’ and ask yourself, what will help you survive; simple as that!

Learning the Attack and Common Trends

When I first started training in knife defense,  I learned the defense first with the ideology of what a knife attack could look like etc, before learning to fight with a knife. My understanding was based on how I wanted to defend or was taught how to defend, not on the diverse possibilities of how some deranged maniac might attack. I was interested in different styles and it appeared to me that there was only one ‘correct’ way to attack & defend common to each “style” and all the learned defenses were based on the assumption of that attack.  It is even seen in Krav Maga to a certain extent.  This is easy to mistake from our notions of check points to understand principles.  But, no one bothered asking ‘what if the guy did not attack that way’. Again, all the devoted disciples would not, or could not, ask, ‘is this a realistic knife defense?’  I turned to Krav Maga because principles didn’t change even if the attack did.  I loved my instructor because it didn’t care if he got hurt or if I did (in a way) he attacked hard and like you see on “youtube”.

Hock Hochheim writes “It is the “Myth of the Duel” – spending too much time fighting the mirror image of yourself or your small system of techniques. Innocent mistake, but a serious one. The old kick boxer never fought on the ground. The wrestlers and Judokans never “kickboxed” only practiced on the ground.” This is to say you should practice a variety of techniques but based on reality or principals of attack.  Oh and by the way, The ground WILL KILL YOU in real life!!

Before we identify the solution; block, evasive movement, counter, we must first identify the problem, i.e. the nature of the attack.

We have to understand what might happen, we have to learn this from people ‘who have been there and done that.’ I get my advice from my GIT instructors like Avi Moyal  of the IKMF, former Military police Hock Hochheim, NYPD officer Louie Balestrieri, personal safety expert Arthur Cohen, and anyone, who has been in a real life encounter and media/articles. This does not beat first-hand experience, I admit, but I am not going into a bar looking for a fight with a drunken knife wielding opponent either just so I can ‘practice’.

An example is Professor Arthur Cohen enlightened us with some informational stuff about some scary information such as: many of our knives disarm won’t work because they rely upon grabbing. In some information I have read, people are crazy and gang members can anticipate this by rub Vaseline on their arms or gang members wear things around their wrists to stop blocking so you will get hurt. Ignore this type of information could get you killed or hurt.  This is all to say, be prepared and aware of your environment and don’t put yourself in situations that could be avoided.

Know Where a Knife Might Be

Many traditional jujitsu knife disarms, at least the way they are practiced today, involve taking a person down, pushing their arm and lowering their body. Most ignore the fact that some criminals hide a knife in their boot or in plain sight to pull out fast, thus you could be putting them in a perfect position to grab that knife and stab you in your exposed leg or vulnerable area. This does not happen in the studio but it can, and has happened on the streets.   Trying different fucked up places to place a knife is key and practicing awareness drills to call out knife or run away etc are important.

Know Your Society

In a conversation with different instructors, people have made a very important point about our Krav Maga training. There are practitioners in other styles, such as the Filipino styles, that carry two knives and are very proficient with them, more so than us. Perhaps we should put more of an emphasis on this in our training.  I just had training where someone I know made me do a 360 defense, and as I was blocking one of the knives, he pulled out the other and straight stabled me in the chest.  I would be dead!!!

Nevertheless, as it was pointed out in the ‘Human Weapon’, or episodes of Law and Order, there are millions of people in the Middle East and all over the world that carry knives but millions of guns as well; if you had to choose, we are a gun society worldwide. Most assailants in this region are not master swordsman, they are angry killers who grab with a kitchen knife and desire to kill a certain person or can act like a terrorist and try to kill as many people as possible as fast as possible. They have not had years of training – just the desire to kill.  This means, train aggressively and proactively but remember safety in training and try not to aim for the face too often.

Now even if they would stab one or two people, catching them by surprise, they would be shot dead very quickly by a police officer, security guard or ordinary armed and dangerous citizen if you were in the U.S or country allowing guns but in Canada it is different.  Therefore we put some emphasis on a quick knife defense, more emphasis on getting out of the way and running away! Best case scenario, getting stabbed only once! That’s the risk you take everyday even without you realizing, that is why it is important to come train so you become aware.  It is approaching our Canadian society more often…

Today’s society, you see majorly two types of attacks – Ice Pick or Oriental stabbing with the odd horizontal slash.   What I mean by that is during a seminar that we had, we ran through actual knife attacks and the realism it takes in practice to simulate what actually occurs; adrenaline and all.

One simple way:

At the beginning of class I gave three people markers and everyone was walking around stretching and practicing awareness.  We all were wearing white t-shirts that day.  I told the individuals with markers that they have two options: Stab someone as many times as possible how ever they could and don’t stop or get as many people as possible! At the beginning of class, they don’t know what is going on so you get adrenaline and a true reaction from both parties (attacker vs. defender).   As you know re-enacting a knife attack is in fact extremely hard and/or impossible but this is a practical first step especially if this is how it most likely could happen in real life.

Some people say that angles change and the attacker can do whatever they want but as I explained above, your society and the adrenaline of someone wanting to stab you doesn’t consciously change attacks.  Additionally, your body has a recoil and a repeat mechanism after it has hit something.  If you are angered or want to stab someone you do it continuously without thinking (hence change of angle isn’t necessarily realistic).  This means it is a committed attack and, you will most often return on the same angle or slightly different.

Israeli Society and Knife Defense

More on that point; Very few people here, soldiers or civilians, have the time or inclination to became ‘master knife fighters’, which takes years. Therefore we train in what is known as “high percentage moves”, we attack the knife arm so hard and aggressively that it caused a ‘dead hand’ affect. The blow is very hard and penetrating and painful. Simultaneously we strike the body or face. Beginning students often will say, ‘but then I can do this or that’, and I say, ‘You can’t, the pain will be too great’ and the counter should stop to make them “think”. It is like shutting down the computer; once it is shut down it cannot perform any functions. Additionally, your knife must recoil back before it can happen again.  By eliminating the recoil – pushing forward, we hit the arm and move in aggressively to the body or face, continue with aggressive punches and kicks.  Further ‘shut down the computer’. It is not a picture perfect Hollywood technique but it has proven effective but followed with exiting the area!

“Richard Ryan has a wonderful technique for knife defense which uses some similar principles to what we do. He calls it the ‘Shield’. He emphasizes the same idea; in real life we will not be able to do any of those fancy knife disarms because we will get cut and your natural body reaction won’t allow it.”

-Danny Inosanto, Bruce Lee’s top disciple, said, “Knife disarm is incidental if not accidental’. Yet most martial arts schools continue to work on fancy knife disarms.

I think Bruce Lee said it best all those years ago, “Absorb what is useful, reject what is useless, cultivate what is truly your own.’-

Thank you very much to our GIT and Camp.


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