Surviving Knife Attacks
We live in a world where violence is all around us, and here in the UK one particular tool of violence seems to fill us all with dread. For many people just the image of a knife, whether it’s a small flick-knife or a large Bowie knife, is enough to make them shudder. The knowledge of just how deadly a simple knife can be, and the horrific wounds they can inflict, is gained and reinforced just by reading the daily papers and watching the news. In some parts of the country it seems almost daily that there is another attack, often with fatal consequences, involving knives.
Knife crime is on the rise in this country, and more and more people are carrying knives on the streets, often under the misguided notion that carrying one themselves will protect them against others who may try to use a knife on them. Knives are easy to get hold of and easy to carry and conceal. Add to this the growing threat from terrorists using knives and it’s no wonder that the dangers of knives, and knife attacks, are at the forefront of a lot of people’s minds. But what can we do about it? How can we protect ourselves should we ever fall victim to such an attack.
Ask anyone who doesn’t have much knowledge or training on the matter what the best way to deal with a knife attacker is and they’ll usually say ‘just run away’. Ask the same question in America and the answer will be ‘shoot them’. Whilst either of these can, in the right circumstances, be excellent strategies to employ, it betrays a rather naïve outlook on the realities of a knife attack.
The problem is that in reality, by the time you even realise that you are being attacked with a knife (assuming you realise at all – many people do not until the attack is over) it is already too late to simply run away (or pull out a gun). Even once you see the knife it takes time to register what is happening, to physically turn around and take the first steps. In that time a determined attacker can very easily have covered several meters, and already be plunging the knife into your body. If you want to stand a chance of surviving then you need to have a more complete set of options and tools at your disposal than just running away.
That being said, if you are attacked with a knife your ultimate goal, in fact your ONLY objective, should be to escape the situation at the earliest opportunity (unless you need to protect another person, in which case you need to get both yourself and them out of the danger zone). You’re not trying to fight the attacker, or to disarm the knife, or control, restrain, or anything else… you just want to get away as soon as you can. Of course you may, and probably will, have to do some of those things in order to be able to make your escape, but your focus should be on the end goal of getting away. Do whatever you have to do, and then escape. Research into real knife attacks has shown that victims who’s main focus is escape stand the highest chance of survival.
So what can you actually do if faced with somebody with a knife? What real options do you have? Well, definitely in the right situation, running away is absolutely a good idea. If the attacker is approaching from a very long distance, and you are already aware of the knife and his intention to use it, then run away as fast as you can. An example of such a situation might be a terrorist attack, where one or several attackers are stabbing multiple victims, going from one to the next. In such a situation, assuming you are not one of the early victims, you may have time to recognise the danger and run away very quickly. The further away from the attacker you can get the safer you will be.
If for some reason you can’t get a good physical distance between yourself and the attacker, perhaps due to a lack of time or physical space, the next best thing is to try to use something as a barrier to stop the attacker getting to you. If you’re outside then moving behind a car or other large object, like a phone box or bus stop, can be very effective. If you’re indoors then think of things like a shop counter, shelves, a bar, or table. Anything that you can position yourself behind so that the attacker can’t get to you so easily.
If there are no such large barriers you can use then grabbing a smaller object to use either as a shield or a weapon is your next best option. Picking up a chair or a stool can be very effective at keeping the attacker and the knife away from you. Any kind of longer stick-type object can also be used to defend or attack, and smaller heavier objects, like cans, tins, or bottles can be thrown at the attacker to keep him at distance giving you time to make your escape.
If nothing is readily at hand for you to use as a weapon then you’re going to have to rely on your own body. Your first line of defence should be to use your legs. Legs are very strong and are long enough to keep the attacker at a distance where it is much harder for him to do any real damage with the knife. Try to use kicks to cause damage to the attacker, as well as just pushing them away. Aim to vulnerable targets, such as the chin, solar plexus, and the knees, depending on the angle and your ability to kick. Bear in mind that in order to be able to use kicks you’ll need to have the time and distance to do so.
Once the attacker has got in close enough that he can reach you with the knife you’re going to have to use your hands (and arms) to defend yourself. When it comes to using your hands to defend against a knife there are generally two schools of thought on how to go about it.
The first is that you should focus all of your attention and effort on controlling the knife, to limit the attacker’s ability to cut you with it. The second is to focus more on dealing with the attacker, so that you can get away.
The truth is that both of these are important, but if you focus solely on controlling the knife you are not dealing with the real problem – the attacker. Whatever his motivations were for attacking you in the first place will not disappear just because you have managed to control his knife (which, in reality, is extremely difficult to do anyway). He may still be intent on hurting you, and while you have all your attention on his knife hand, his other hand is free to strike you, or grab you. He can kick you, or throw you to the ground, which is the last place you want to be when there’s a knife involved. If he manages to regain control of his knife then you’re in big trouble.
If you want to get away (and remember that is your primary goal) then you’re going to have stop the attacker (not just the individual attacks), and that means using strong, effective counter-attacks to destroy the attacker’s ability and willingness to continue attacking you. You should avoid getting stabbed or cut at all costs, but at the same time you need to deliver multiple, sustained counter-attacks until you can make your escape. That is the only way to survive such an encounter.
Hopefully none of us will ever have to deal with a situation like this for real, but this kind of thing happens, to somebody, somewhere, with alarming regularity, so we should be prepared for the possibility. To have the best chance of surviving you need not just to know what to do, but you must also develop the physical skills to accompany the knowledge. You can only do this by training regularly, in as realistic a manner as possible, on all variations of the problem.
Here at Direct Defence Krav Maga we deal with problems like these often in our classes, as well as many other kinds of violence. If you’d like to make yourself safer, and feel more confident in this increasingly dangerous world then come and give our classes a try.
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