Monday, March 15, 2010

Realistic Defense against a Knife

There's no shortage of opinions about the best way to handle a knife wielding attacker if you are unarmed.If your avoidance & de-escalation fail,then if unarmed look for a weapon of some sort.It can be any improvised weapon in your environment such as chairs,trash cans/lids,sticks,bottles etc. that can even the odds a bit.The primary goal being to escape and many objects can put a barrier between you and the assailant to buy you some time.A good kick(s) to the lower extremities might limit their mobility facilitating the escape.

But,what if you can't escape?(your boxed in and they are blocking your path.Again first look for the makeshift weapon.If you don't find anything,then were looking at the very precarious unarmed vs a blade.Even if your path is temporally blocked,you may be able to maneuver around the assailant and escape to freedom depending on the environment.You may have to buy some time for your Family's escape & have to stay engaged for awhile or it possible there is simply no room(such as a bathroom stall etc.)to do an evasive move,deflection,stun & get out.
You want to quickly determine how he is holding the knife(Ice pick or Blade forward)so you know what types of attacks are likely.Ice pick grip means He'll probably come in "psycho style" using downward hammer type stabbing movements.A standard blade forward grip means slashing and thrusts.It's possible(unlikely)someone will take a reverse grip(blade back)which means slashing and backhand attacks,but can also flow into overhand attacks.Is He committed(putting everything He has into each slash or stab)or Non-Committed(trying to set-up,dancing,waving & flashing blade or somewhere in-between the two extremes. Now lets examine what our goals are........

Part 1. Avoidance- Keep as much distance between you and the blade until you can escape,disable or disarm the attacker.Not always possible,but if it's there,use distance to look for a way out and buy you time.If someone is rushing at you with a knife,your first instinctive reaction usually is to back up & there is normally nothing wrong with this as it will buy you some extra time & let you process what's happening.If you see a way out or a weapon nearby you want to get to & don't want to engage the attacker unarmed or disarm him,but need to defend against actual thrusts,stabs and slashes them you want to use slapping type parries to knock the blade away while moving your body off line.You have to be cautious with obstruction type defenses(such as an overhand "rising" style forearm block)because when the knife is retracted,it might be drawn back in a semi-circular arc or downward and back and slice right across your forearms.Caution must be used with these types of techniques,but they are very instinctive and natural for most People,so educate them and learn to work off of them.If you have to directly block the movement,immediately redirect it to Your outside in one fluid movement.....

These types of Blocks often are not "Overhead" because against a stab attempt to the Chest,You probably will have to perform more of a "Forward Block" or some Overhead/Forward Hybrid type block or they may be more of an Outer Block or any combination of or anything in-between.The average Person coming with an overhand psycho style attack basically brings the knife in a motion similar to if they we're throwing a baseball which means if won't be coming in high & down form overhead,but about top of their head level in an arcing motion with exact height and angle usually determined if target is face or chest area,but they might pretty much come in straight into face from a same level drawback rather than arcing down from higher,so You can't assume and explore how and if You need to adjust in various cases.Such differences are usually rather minor in changing or altering Your defense as You simply watch,adjust and react to where the knife hand is and How it's coming in naturally & automatically/reflexively.What angle & type of block You do depends on the specific situation and circumstances such as what their targets is,how tall they are,what angle the attack is coming in at etc.

.......For example:They come overhead with an icepick attack & You use an overhead block.Rather than just sticking it up there,use a continuous motion(arcing)to Your outside while moving(if can)your whole body the other way looking to attain a makeshift weapon or escape.You can also use the same movement,but bring the elbow up high(higher than wrist and move to the outside redirecting their knife arm inward.You can also execute the block and follow the knife back in(when they retract for another stab)and grab/control the arm using a 2 on 1 grip.You can use an obstruction type block to intercept the attack combined with a wrist grab(right behind it,usually under it)and go into a two on one and into armbar,takedown or body between their position described below in the engagement section.An inside parry with an obstruction block behind it for back-up is an idea for transition to something else or get weapon/draw weapon,keep moving away to create space,escape etc.
If you use any type of obstruction block,there is a high probability you'll get cut on the blocking arm although it's definitely not a certainty.You want the top/outside portion of the forearm to be angled toward the blade,so if cut it doesn't limit function as substantially as a cut to the inner/under part of the forearm.If using an obstruction block against low line attacks,still face that part of the forearm to the blade even if it has to be inverted & doesn't impede motion too drastically. A cut to the forearm is better than a cut to the throat,face or having the knife stabbed into your torso although no cuts is ideal and taking a cut to the forearm to prevent a vital kill shot is a good trade off.However,the notion of taking a cut(to forearm) to open him up for your "finishing" attack is a ridiculously bad idea perpetuated by many. You never intentionally get cut for any reason as even a forearm wound might lead to a physiological response that could completely shut you down.X Blocks are very useful but not so much in the traditional sense.Rather using a staggered or separated(arms being apart not touching)to catch/wedge the incoming knife thrust and then into an armlock(taking arm behind them)or transition into some other technique or escaping always using proper footwork and positioning to make any of them work.

Krav Maga has a technique which they label "Bursting" which is essentially a simultaneous block & strike where You "Burst" or drive into Your opponent(just upper body or whole body movement depending on distance & dynamics)with intent of defending & stunning or "shocking"(esp. knife/weapon arm even if momentarily)or completely disable opponent.Think of the Block as a Strike or of it as a simultaneous Block/Strike,so that Your essentially performing two strikes and one block.The shock to the arm could even disarm them and the combination strike/block could stun/shock them long enough to easily allowing You to following up with another technique,such as putting Your body between them with a two on one etc. or effect an escape.

The Burst incorporates very well with and has a lot of similarities with Tony Blauers SPEAR system. Explore "educating" the Startle/Flinch response to transition or act as a bridge into effective & functional action/reaction and understand that any technique can technically be a "SPEAR" and a "Burst" is any Two handed/simultaneous Block/Hit or Defend/Counter applied suddenly.Keep in mind that if Your using a particular technique as an Educated Startle/Flinch response,it should be compatible with natural startle/flinch responses,but what is COMPATIBLE with a natural startle/flinch is debatable as is what specific Startle/Flinch specific reactions could/will/do occur among different individuals,so explore the various possibilities for Yourself and for You specifically by testing Your natural startle/flinch response.But,with that being said one shouldn't try to "re-invent the wheel",taking advantage of the research and knowledge others have already acquired in combination with Your own personal testing for You as a specific individual.
The Burst is effective at any time not just as a startle/flinch technique.
             The startle/flinch is a response to ambush attacks that You simply don't see coming and therefore aren't prepared or ready.An educated startle/flinch response is primarily designed for & focuses on an intial surprise ambush,but is not only useful during an initial ambush/surprise or sneak attack, but truly/really has broader applications and can be useful at anytime something catches You off-guard or is unexpected. A healthy dose of skepticism is usually a good and many People feel Blauers analysis of Startle/Flinch and SPEAR system in general is not well defined & a bit abstract lacking sufficient hard data & provable information.The Burst is a little simpler and straightforward by itself as well as being easier to demonstrate than startle/flinch responses or vague SPEAR concepts and idea.For me,there's enough "proof" and use by high risk operators of the Startle/Flinch & SPEAR systems that I feel it deserves serious exploration and recommendation.The same applies to the Burst as well as integrating & combining elements of the two as I outlined.

One example of a Burst would basically be using overhead,outside or forward block combined with a simultaneous strike into Your opponent.The Blocking Hand drives into the attacking Knife arm driving it away while You Hit the Face,throat,nose or eyes with a open or closed hand strike or eye jab or claw.Against an overhand knife attack the blocking hand can be an overhead type,but is often/usually more vertical or approx.45 degrees so their downward slash is deflected/redirected outward/downward and not necessarily completely stopped/obstructed by the arm.

Depending on distance & reaction time,You may move/drive toward them into with upper-body or leaning into them,shifting weight into them or shifting,shuffling,stepping,moving into them intercepting the attack which I label a "Tactical Burst" or it might erupt very up close suddenly and You simply block,hit and move in a very defensive way(moving away,to side,evading etc. which I label the "Defensive Burst" in either case You should always be ready to defend against counter or changing dynamic or place Your technique sequence doesn't go as planned. You could possibly see it coming a mile away and simply create space or escape if that's an option(not cornered or by Yourself not have Family with You etc.).

Movement after the Burst is often taught & usually shown as moving away from the knife arm in opposite direction moving to the outside of the non-knife hand or around and behind them to escape or follow up/finish,which certainly has merit against multiple assailants where You want to keep moving/mobile or You are trying to escape and have a pathway out,but to get away You might have to go in some other direction other than simply away from the knife or it might simply not be the best option for escape or if Your disarming.So, play with different options & scenarios.Play with different ways of how You can apply this concept to different knife attacks & How You might combine the Krav Burst in different way against different types of attacks as well in combination with other methods while having backup plans & options as well.The Burst like the SPEAR & the Startle/Flinch is almost more a Concept or Underlying Principle that You can apply to very Broad Spectrum of Methods & Techniques.

If your using an obstruction or shielding type of block,you still want to try to avoid getting cut by using the appropriate angles,positions & motions.It is highly probable that you will get cut in a real knife defense,but in no way is it a certainty and there are ALWAYS options other than intentionally allowing yourself to be cut as a strategy to employ another tactic.It simply is not an rational or acceptable tactic and the circumstances requiring necessity of such are so bizarre & abnormal to be realistic.Just too completely unlikely & improbable to consider in functional/normal applications.You want to control the distance,staying out of range until appropriate and use set-ups,positioning,angles when engaging so that You don't have to block/parry at all time and You simply control the situation until You can escape or disarm.This being the idea or concept and while it is possible,it's not probable that You won't have to execute some type of physical defensive block,parry etc.,but that's the thought to illustrate the point."In the pocket","The hot zone","Toe-to-Toe" is dangerous enough unarmed,but especially so against an knife wielding assailant,so don't spend much time there if any at all and the only time there should be quick transitions through it ideally while they are out of position,off balance,don't have the angle to attack etc.

Part 2. Engagement & Disarms-If you have to engage the knife wielding attacker unarmed then you want to disable them,immobilize them and/or disarm them.The first concept is to "attack the attacker" meaning to not just wait on his attack,but to control the fight as much as you can by being proactive.You do this by offensive striking(especially long range low line kicking)and by using footwork(changing your relative position to attacker)and by fakes(making his flinch or react)& baiting(get him to slash at a particular area or attack specific spot).The Tactical Burst concept being very useful in this sense.
Your goal to disarm is to get two hands on the wrist of the knife hand using a opposing thumb grip(facing opposite directions) and takedown/immobilize OR disable the attacker from this point.You usually want to perform the initial grab either at the end of a movement(move/fad back & let it pass,them move in)or at the very beginning of it(intercept/jam,may or may not have to move in depending on his position and if advancing forward.If He slashes at you across your body,sway back to evade it and then perform the grab the instant at the end of the movement.Or if he's drawing back for an attack,close in and take hold at the apex if your in close enough proximity to do so.This is ideal,but real fights are hardly ideal,so always train alternative positions and methods should initial tactic fail.Catching &

Blocking the knife arm by grabbing it by the wrist against an Overhand Downward stab is feasible,but can often be difficult as it leaves little room for error(but true of any knife defense techs)and requires excellent timing.This type of defense is very natural & instinctive,so it's a good idea to train & educate it.In this type of technique You'll normally want to use both hands with the thumbs facing opposite directions creating a relatively wide and sturdy place to catch their wrist/arm.Off of the double hand grab,You'll want to usually move laterally to the side or in an elliptical arc around and into the in-between body placement collapsing the elbow(the one on side whichever direction Your going)in and over their knife arm.You can also just move their arm and take Your position(if room for mobility limited) or can do both.You could have to adjust(slide/twist don't relinquish)the 2 on 1 grip when positioning,but can usually just force their arm where You want it from initial grab without changing or altering grip all done pretty much simultaneously.Can also move back or back and at a sideways angle utilizing an armdrag that could force them down or armdrag and then rotate into an armbar or an in-between body placement etc. Execution of any of these techniques is usually in one fluid movement,but could need to break time or could get stalled,so be prepared & ready for that contingency and ways to cope.

Using the Burst concept with a wrist grab and simultaneous strike is possible,but likely very hard to block/catch their arm with one only hand.This technique would likely work best if You catch them right at the apex of the movement such as when they are drawing the knife up and back in which You grab the wrist or could check the forearm & hit and escape etc. defending on what Your plan is for the scenario.And conversely You could burst/grab(side or down etc.)or simply knock it down or sideways etc./parry,redirect and hit at the extension or bottom of their movement if You evaded it first.
When they are drawing back and Your close or can close in or at any time in an active engagement when that can occur,pushing up and under the elbow might be an option to gain moment or a second to go into another techniques or simply move/get positioning etc.Push elbow up and back with one hand and grab wrist with the other one(might be one or both one moment then change the next,switching off,handing off etc.) which if You keep forcing it up,back and then down(pulling on wrist,pushing on elbow,one or both combined throughout the normally/usually arcing/circular(might not totally be such though)motion perhaps combined with a trip of sweep)could actually act as a takedown & put them on the ground.You could use it go into an armbar or chickenwing or You might go into a 2 on 1 body block position as mentioned before.Kiumura,Armbars etc. which specific one used/needed depending on specifics of positioning may act as a transition,bridging or stand alone control moves.There are a lot of different variations depending on which Side Your using where,Which side He is attacking with,who has what foot forward and relative position & side forward,back or neutral compared to each other as well as if Your going to the Inside or Outside.And all is fluid and can change momentarily and keep changing,so You have to have adaptable & flexible methods that You can apply spontaneously to broad circumstances & dynamic & possibly ever changing scenarios without having to think too much about technique selection or positioning.

Once you have ahold of his wrist,look for ways to put Him in awkward positions.There are so many variables here that you pretty much have to explore them in a live drill,but basically if your on the outside of HIS arm,some things I'd look for are...Roll him into a an rotating/spiral/corkscrew armbar(still holding wrist)& take him down,Extend arm away from him against your body and stomp/sweep his feet/ankle to take him down,knee his leg or even head if presents itself.If I'm on the inside of HIS arm then I want to extend his arm out while turning into him(so nearly facing the same way as Him)and step across his legs.From here,the same principle idea as before apply,but you could also switch to a Kimura and rotate out and take him down face first.Any position where You get a two hand grasp with Your body between Him and the Knife(both of You facing the same direction)for a disarm is usually effective.Perform a parry/block and rotate into the opponent putting Your outside arm over His knife arm trapping it under Your armpit and maintain a two hand hold.You can rotate to the outside and over the arm which is especially effective if Your go to do a spiral takedown,but for standing disarms,it doesn't quite give as much control & protection as the inside version IMO,but should still work.
NOTE: Also be aware that which leg You have forward or if Your in a Neutral stance & which arm Your using to block with relative to what side he has forward & what hand He's using determines if You going to be to the outside or inside of His arm when You redirect it out or You rotate out.And any step You or He makes or takes can alter the relationship,Hence fighting is fluid & dynamic,active & reactive,so see it as such & be flexible adapting,adjusting to the specific circumstances to establish/re-establish/maintain control & stay in control of the situation.

There are multiple different ways to take the two handed grasp(direction of each hand,top or bottom) & which one you employ determines which way you'll be able to move & what's available to you,so play with the different options.Just make sure that thumbs are going in opposing directions to maximize strength of the hold.And you can always change the hold if you need,just make sure you always keep one hand on there & re-establish as quick as possible.

There also might be times when an ideal strike presents itself while you have the two handed hold.If so,then go ahead and take the strike and let it's effect determine your next course of action.There may be a perfect elbow strike to the face or you may want to chop down hard on the forearm flexors(which could cause them to drop the knife if the ulnar,median or radial nerves are impacted or the muscles disrupted).You can do this from the hitting down on top of the forearm(with knife hand) or to to the underneath of forearm( with ridgehand).Puling the arm down onto a knee(ala Military Combative Manuals)might present itself and be effective.Eye gouges are always a go to move at all times,so look for them when your moving and not yet made in contact,during entry and when your actually engaged. The thing to remember is that you have to be flexible in your responses and be able to transition to plan B/move B if your techniques doesn't work as planned.The only way to do this is get you a partner and go try different movements and "what-ifs".Start off slow and controlled learning the technique and look at the different options and what seems functional to you.
Trying to pry the knife out of the guys hand is not real practical.It can be done,but it's very difficult and your likely to get cut.Instead,focus on evading escaping,controlling the knife arm and then look to disable,immobilize and disarm.One option if the knife is not double edged is to strike the back(smooth non-sharpened)side of the blade to knock it out of their hand.May work,may not,no guarantees.Also,investigate- "Pat,Wrap & Attack"-Controlling the Delivery System(ARM/ELBOW):Darren Laur.... Controlling the Arm(lever) to control the knife.
Darren Laur Q&A
Edged Weapons article by Darren Laur
Part 3.The Ground Game-being on the ground with a knife wielding attacker is about the last place you want to be,so our ultimate goal is to get up AS SOON AS YOU CAN.If your mounted entrap the leg on the same side they have the knife in by putting your foot over that leg.Sweep the knife to the outside and establish a 2 on 1 hold.Then strike to the face or eyes and then bridge and roll.When He goes over pin the knife to the ground with both hands in one continuous motion.Strike and back out and up and stomp him for finish or escape.Stepping on the knife or stomping on the knife arm may present itself as well to assist in disarming the assailant.This is just one possible.The ground game is complex and there are many variables.Get you partner and a rubber knife and look at the different options.If the above bridge and roll doesn't work,what then? You might end up with the knife on the other side with a 2 on 1 and use a elbow/knee escape type movement to crawl out of their mount and go into a chicken wing arm bar.You do not want to go to the guard.If you slide out of the mount,then get out and up, DO NOT wrap your legs around the guy in an attempt to control him!We want to avoid going to the ground if at all possible and to get up as soon as possible.Many times if you get taken down in a fight,you can get back up very quickly by not letting them establish position.This is accomplished during proper body positioning and movement during the transition phase which I cover in my next entry.

These are just some basic concepts & techniques about dealing with a knife wielding assailant when your unarmed.I can't guarantee any of these methods will work for you and I highly recommend avoiding confronting someone with a Knife if at all possible.Engagement is truly a last resort option.I've been in the self-defense game for a long time and I believe have explored most knife fighting methods.I don't know every technique or method,but I think I've seen most of them or at least their basic components.The one thing I am sure of is that trying to disarm or neutralize a knife attack unarmed is flat out hard to do.If anyone claims otherwise,then I call that person a liar and I wouldn't give anything He says any credibility.
Six Martial Art Myths about Knife Defense
Knife Defense while on Your back & mounted article
This link shows a Police Officer who was on the wrong end of the blade.Pictures are graphic,so be forewarned.They do however serve to Illustrate the unpleasant realities of knife HERE