For some time I have been gathering information on the truth behind what knives good guys and bad guys carry and how they are likely to use them. First we will discuss the good guys, then the bad guys.
Judging from my experience, talking to people at shows and classes, and from those answering the polls I have posted in several forums, it appears regardless of our affinity for large combat fixed blades, around 70% of us carry folders with blades less than four inches and many blades with less than three inches. Since most of us carry multiple blades, I asked that people vote using what they consider their primary defensive blade.
I am not surprised about my findings, since I have found that when it comes to firearms that many folks who go on and on about the best 1911 usually carry a J frame 38 day in and day out. For many it comes down to comfort and wanting to be armed but still not attract unwanted attention.
Since it seems that so many people are carrying folders and plan on using them in self defense, it is logical to conclude that it is important to have a plan for when and how to get their knife into action. The last several years of watching people, ranging from experienced knife folks to beginners, has shown me that getting a folder out of your pocket and then deploying the blade with any sort of real or perceived stress is a tricking thing.
Considering all the other options I have been able to come up with has only made me more confident in the way we teach students to deploy their folders. With a tip down, manually opening folder carried against the strong side pocket seam-
|1) With your thumb between the knife and your side, draw your knife closed in a hammer grip. If you begin to fumble the knife, your natural reaction is to trap it against your body. Don't panic, just do it, if this is your primary deadly force option you cannot afford to drop it.
|2) Bring the closed knife up in front of you somewhere between your belt and nipple line. If you do not have time to deploy the blade or deadly force is no longer needed, you can hammer fist with the closed folder.
|3) When warranted by the totality of circumstances and ability to do so, open the knife with your thumb using the disk, hole, or stud on the blade.
Whether discussing the carrying of a firearm or edged weapon to defend yourself, we seem to come to the same problem… deployment. Being able to get your tool into play when you need to. I realize that for many involved with edged weapons it is their concentration and many practice it as a stand-alone martial art.
Survival can be like Trivia Pursuit. You don't get to pick the subject matter. If your training is rooted in counter attacking someone with a knife already in your hand, and in reality you carry a folder, you really can't expect to fare very well.
Most people reading this are familiar with me from one of the several forums that I frequent. It seems that lots of folks have more confidence in their skills and abilities under the stress of a real attack than I do. Where this really seems to come into play is with those who train extensively in edged weapons that believe that during a confrontation they will stab no matter what.
This is largely based in common wisdom that stabs are more lethal. Again drawing from shootings we know that under stress it is almost impossible to target specific anatomical targets with a firearm there are still those who choose to believe they will be able to do so within arms distance with a blade.
First I will look at stabbing from the standpoint of blade length. Without getting scientific, it is commonly agreed upon that the typical stabbing targets like the heart and lungs are 3-4 inches into the body and that is before taking clothing into consideration. So this would be at the extreme limit of our 4- inch folder. In comparison to this, major arteries are less than 2 inches below the skin.
Watching a cross section of students from all levels has led me to believe that stabbing is very likely if the person with the knife is able to aggress forward. However when moving rearward, the body's natural reaction not to fall, forces the arms out and up to the side, which better allows for slashing.
Being an instructor that believes in training over entertaining, I am not interested in what I can do some of the time but rather what my students can do most of the time. Because of this, I believe the following is true when it comes to the average person using a knife to defend themselves.
|1) They will not have spent 100s of hours learning how to use a knife
|2) They will be using a folder
|3) Their heart rate will be in excess of 200 BPM
|4) Their fine and complex motor skills will be rapidly deteriorating
|5) They will be likely to slash violently with the knife in an effort to stop their attacker and keep the blade between them and their attacker as much as possible
For these reasons, I am now more confident than ever that Inverted
Edge Tactics are the best option available for people who want to be able to effectively defend themselves with a knife without dedicating tons of training time to do so. Except for the opening of the folder, no fine motor skills are needed and weaknesses in your attackers body are targeted by default.
Now for what I feel is the most important part of this article is what edged weapons do bad guys carry and how do they use them. Bad guys have two environments, in jail and on the street. Some time ago I took my collection of nasties that was collected from clients over the years. It was more or less an assortment of box cutters, razor knives, screwdrivers, pot metal fixed blades, and folders. What was interesting was that the average blade length was almost exactly the same as those favored by good guys, right around 3-4 inches.
One glaring difference between the knives of the good guys and the bad guys was that whether they were improvised or not they were usually either intended for cutting or stabbing, seldom both.
Recently while putting together my lesson plan for Edged Weapon Survival for Corrections, I had the opportunity to speak to several correction officers in addition to touring a local prison after a briefing. What I found was that the average size of the weapon seized behind the walls was about the same as those on the outside. It was also noted that most improvised weapons by design were limited to either being really good for stabbing or for cutting and seldom for both.
These findings are interesting but tend to make sense. Whether an offender is incarcerated or on the street, if he decides to carry a weapon it will be one that he prefers. Since like a good guy, offenders realize that for a tool to be any good to you it has to be carried all the time, it is only logical that it be easy to conceal so that is does not attract unwanted attention.
What separates the average offender from the average good guy? Their willingness to do violence. Criminals understand the value of intimidation and overwhelming violence. They also realize that if you have something in your hand that is only good for stabbing or cutting you better be fast and violent about doing either one before you are pulled off or attacked yourself.
So taking into account what we now know about the tools we are likely to be attacked with, what are the training implications? The first and most obvious is that some of us are guilty when it comes to being generous during training by using training knives with large blades or even using “knives” at all. The truth is that as previously documented we are very unlikely to ever see what cuts or stabs us even in favorable lighting conditions.
If you can't see a weapon, there is a pretty good chance that you will not have seen something that would cause you to draw a weapon of your own, so your initial defense needs to be open handed, and depending on your situation you need to know how to end it open handed. An example would be that of a correction officer armed with only a radio and handcuffs.
Defenses need to be based on gross motor movements and begin in response to furtive moments. They should move you off the center line and to the outside of the attacker where you can break contact and transition to a mechanical force option or maintain contact and employ joint destruction.
From now on the Modern
Combatives System basic edged weapons course will consist of four hours of Spontaneous Attack Survival for Edged Weapons and four hours Inverted
Edge Tactics. These two skill sets are easy to learn and remember and with practice provide the best training available that is based on research and reality.