Against Knife Attack Basics II
Just last month, we had reached 14 years anniversary of 911. To me personally, 911 was a date that I would never forget, because I was living right outside of New York City where I could see the World Trade Center from my apartment building across the Hudson River. When I got home in the afternoon that day, I couldn't believe those two skyscrapers disappeared just like that. On that day nearly 3,000 lives were lost, due to a few terrorists brought some box cutters on board two airplanes.
I had always been wanting to learn knife defense, so 911 was the “last draw.” Last year, there was an incidence in Taipei Metro; 4 were killed and 24 persons were wounded by a guy with knives. This incidence prompted many people want to learn about knife defense and many instructors provided classes for the mass to meet the demand. If I remember correctly, 911 also prompted many people to learn more about knife defense. The interest on this subject was so high, so much so I think it created a backlash. There are people who say knife defense is a subject that very few people really know, yet so many people are teaching it. Some even bluntly criticize many knife defense classes are teaching their students “suicide” techniques. The thing is even people who have learned martial art cannot discern the good knife defense from the bad one, let alone ordinary people.
I would be the first one to admit that I am no knife expert. I am merely a student or at best a researcher of knife defense. My first knife background was in Filipino martial arts of Kali. It seems most Kali systems start their students with sticks, then move to knives. But, the system that I learned we were taught to use knives from day one. Then, I also learned Krav Maga way to deal with knife attack. Later on, I have become an avid reader of different styles martial arts on their ways of dealing with knife attacks. I have also collect data on over 230 knife attack cases in Taiwan. My best advice is simply “Run!” when you face a knife attack. I have heard stories about some supposedly knife experts got wounded badly during encounters with assailants with a knife. How do you think an average Joe who has a two-hour class on knife defense would fair in a really knife attack? Worst yet, some might have a false sense of security after taking one or two of these knife defense classes. Based on my collected cases the death rate of knife attack in Taiwan is almost 50%?!! Sometimes there are situation that one might not be able to just run away from the attacker who armed with a knife, for example inside a room. I have some suggestions on my first blog on the same subject, if you are interested. Followings are additional thinking on this subject. Some of the thinking might not be very complete, just treat it as thought stimulators. I have divided this subject into four areas. “Observe, Run, Grab, Disarm”
Observe: In my first Kali class, I was taught to tuck my shirt in my pants like the rest of the class. This is to teach us to look for people who have their shirts untagged, because they might have weapon hidden under the shirt. Like many things, prevention is usually better.“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” holds true in self-defense situation, too. Be more observant on what seems to be out of the place or strange. Stay out of dangerous places of the city. People who live in big cities like New York seem to be more alert about his or her surroundings; especially after 911. After the Taipei Metro incidence last year, things might have changed a bit, but I think people in general in Taiwan need to become more alter. Like many self-defense experts like to say: “Be a hard target!”
Run: Everyone knows how to run, but there might be more to it in a knife attack situation. Something that worthwhile to think about on running when facing an attacker with a knife. In my collection of knife attack cases, many of the victims had wounds on their back. I suspect many of them were cut when they turned the body away from their attackers and prepared to run. It's probably an instinct for some people to turn away from knife threat and prepare to run. Although in general, our back side has less vital areas than on the front. In some cases these victims did get to run away from their attackers, however, the cuts on their back were so severe they ended up died on the street. Once we decide to run, in the ideal situation, we want to have a safe distance from the attacker before we take off. One thing that we need to take into account is the distance between us and the attacker, we have to make sure we have a safe distance from the attacker; especially now he has a longer reach with the weapon. Turning away takes time. Can we stall him with some verbal exchanges? Or, throws things at him before we take off? Or, run toward the left side of the attacker making him has to turn to cut us, assuming he is a righty and has the knife on his right hand? Also, if there isn’t any barrier that one can use as a deterrent between him or her and the attacker in an open area, running in a irregular Zigzag pattern probably is a better idea than running straight.
Grab: Our Kali system’s attitude toward knife defense is – “He has a knife. I have knife, too.” It is a very down to earth attitude – the best way to deal with an attacker with a knife is you also have a knife or a weapon. Although many people carry knife as a self-defense tool in the US, but the situation and culture are different country by country. In the US, each state has its own law on legal knives to carry. If you decide to carry knife, then you better check the law in your area first. If you carry a mace or collapsible baton or other self-defense tools, then find time to practice how to use them. Another key is one has to be able find them and ready to deploy in few seconds to be really useful in self-defense situation, otherwise you might as well not carry them at all. This also needs practice, because when in the real situation people tend to be panicking and scared it would be very difficult for one to locate these tools if they don't practice. Also, train to pick out improvised weapons in your surroundings as soon as possible. For people who don't plan to carry any self-defense tools, then you should have a habit of identifying everyday items that you carry that can be used as an improvised weapons. It would be best to form a habit to quickly identify objects in your surroundings that can be used as weapons. So, when the bad guy pulls out his weapon, reach for any improvised weapon that you can get your hands on right away to at least level the playing field just a little bit.
Disarm: This is the stage that when you can't run away and don't have anything that can be used as weapon, so you are forced to fight the attacker with bare hands. Although I name this stage as "disarm”, because people are familiar with the term, however it is just one part of equation. I am not going to teach any disarming techniques here, because it would be impossible to do so. The only thing that I would say is not all martial art teachers/coaches can teach you knife defense. My recommendation to you is do your homework and find a qualified coach to teach you this sort of techniques. What I am going to discuss here are 1. training method and 2. the right approach and mentality at this stage.
1. Training: If you want to practice disarming the knife, I submit to you to at least find the right training knife. I don't agree to use a real knife for training, because the risk factor is just way too high. On the opposite end, I have noticed some schools use curled up newspaper or empty plastic water bottles as training knives. My friend who is a Jujitsu coach once he conducted a test for black belt candidates. Normally, they trained knife defense with a rubber knife. So, my friend used rubber knife first and they candidates did well. Then, my friend used an unsharpened metal knife. It was obvious the candidate became too nervous and hesitant, so they couldn't perform the same techniques as well. The pressure that put on people between a metal knife and rubber knife is significantly different; let alone aforementioned substitutes. There are some innovative products out there for training knife defense; I don’t know they are available in Taiwan or not, some would leave a red mark on the person if he or she get cut during training and some like Taser gun send out electricity shock when one get touched by the blade. At some stage of your knife training, it would be a good idea to introduce some fake blood like tomato sauce since as mentioned you most likely would be injured. You can apply blood on your hands, your training partner's arm and his training knife and see if you can apply the disarming technique now. In Karv Maga training, sometimes the training would be conducted under a dim light to mimic a dark alley. Or, street sounds like people noise and siren can be played at the schools while practicing the disarming techniques. These are both good ideas to add to your knife training.
2. Right approach and mentality: Additionally, even at this stage your ultimate goal is not to subdue the attacker, but to either find an opportunity to get away or buy time for helps to come. Subduing the attacker with your bare hands by yourself alone would be the last resort, if all other avenues fail. Also, one thing to bear in mind almost all experts agree you would get injured by knife at this stage. I concurred since my research shows 98% of the people in my data were at least injured in the process. When facing a knife attack, it is critical to avoid getting cut or stab at the vital areas such as major arteries or organs. Even if you got injured in the process, you still need to fight on. Although, injury is inevitable, however, as long as you don’t get cut or stab at the vital areas you still have a chance to survive. Yes, from my research, there were people who died from just one cut or stab to the vital area. If you can avoid that type of wounds, then your chance of survival grows exponentially even you are cut or stabbed multiple times. You must to summon all your courage to fight for your life. Like some experts like to say: “From the hunted becomes the hunter.”