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Defend Thyself Personal Defense

The Rules for Knife Attack Defense

by George Wehby   |  October 4th, 2011 22

Over many years of martial arts training, I have seen some horrible techniques in knife attack defense. I’ve spotted well respected instructors teaching and advocating techniques that looked good against a compliant partner, but in no way would work against a knife-wielding maniac. Just the other day, I heard two guys discussing how to take on an assailant with a knife. One was talking discussing how he could kick the knife out of the bad guy’s hand, and the other said he could block the strike and then knock the attacker out. Similar conversations can be heard in and out of the self-defense community. There’s more to these situations than meets the eye quite often, and it’s good to listen to different perspectives on the subject.

In this video, self-defense instructor Paul Vunak provides his expert opinion on knife wounds.

Vuncak makes a great point with his beef slash demonstration. He says that simply trying to take a knife on shouldn’t be your first instinct. Matter of fact, you’ll be cut and, most likely, very badly. All techniques must take this into account. In my opinion, there is only one way to train against knife attacks (it is understood in this scenario that I do not have a firearm).

Rule No. 1:  RUN.  Get as far away from the individual as possible. The good thing about knives is they have limited reach.

Rule No. 2: If you cannot run, put a stationary object between you and the attacker. Find a car, wall, large piece of furniture….something.

Rule No. 3: If you cannot run and there is nothing to put in between, pick something up and start swinging.  Try to even up the odds, find a stick, chair or a blunt object of some kind to make him think twice about getting close.

Rule No. 4: If the previous rules are not applicable, then follow the principles of Clear, Close, Control and Capture. Clear all your vitals from the path of the blade. Close the distance by jamming yourself super tight against them, so the attacker cannot swing or stab with the blade again. Control the arm holding the knife as close to the hand as possible. Capture the weapon by any means necessary. That means biting, clawing , striking , spitting, hitting, smashing; whatever it takes to extract it away from the attacker.

As a good experiment, give a person a marker and tell them they can mark you up as much as possible before you take it away. See what happens. It’s often a real eye opener.  Have you considered how you would handle a knife attack without a gun?  What are some crazy techniques you have seen?

Stay safe.

  • Western Tom

    Your commentary has the support of none other than Mr. Jimmy Hoffa of the Teamsters union. A guy who as a union organizer and graduate of the school of hard knocks Hoffa had this to say to reporters when a crazy guy tried to shoot him in a courtroom. "you charge a gun and run from a knife".

    Oh by the way he did just that to the guy who tried to shoot him.

  • Bob Owen

    During my 34 years of lawenforcement, I learned a couple of things. If you get in a knife fight, your going to get cut. Never mace a person with a knife. It makes the situation worse. Always have a gun in a knife fight or stay out of it.

  • SraOchoa

    My best advice would be to maintain your fighter stance (if you have one), and kicks to the groin until you have a chance to get away. Keep your distance as much as possible.

  • The Musket

    The marker idea is truly eye opening. Remember, if you must take a hit with a knife – arms hits are less lethal than torso/neck hits. Protect yourself if you can't run away.

  • Ben

    I agree with the first rule…run. And if you can find something use it.

    Very true statements indeed, you would all be very surprised at what a four legged chair can do to a human with a knife.

    You should know how to turn anything into a weapon. A pen, a magazine, car keys, chairs, carabiners, cellphone…hot coffee…etc.

    • David Daly

      Don't foreget your belt! A belt buckle can make a very convincing weapon when slung from the end of a belt. And it has the added effect of extending your reach out beyond the reach of the knife-wielding assailant. Just make sure you don't need it to hold up your pants – lol!

  • Antonio

    If you can't run, take off your shirt. You can swing it at the attacker to redirect him and buy yourself some a few seconds — try to move laterally. You can wrap it around your lead arm to give it some protection so you can potentially move in for a strike (or capture, as per the article), or, again, buy time and hope reinforcements come or otherwise thwart the attack.

  • HOUSheepdog

    Lateral, fast movement and training! If you haven't trained in knife fighting skills and you absolutely can't run then control, control, control. "Trapping" a knife during a fight is HARD!! There are NO rules in a fight for your life and everything can be used as a weapon when your life depends on it.

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  • Don Griffiths

    I have Paul Vunak's original video on this. Every piece of advise is solid, but his demonstrations and use is not for the novice – novices who try to imitate him will likely cut themselves. Any "hit" (slash, thrust) and your body starts going into shock – at that point your only true chance of survival is conditioning.

    While running from a knife fight is great advice, sometimes you do not have a choice. II have faced a knife on more than one occasion. The first 11 inch laceration cost me partial use of my left arm to include loss of my ulnar artery. This event inspired me to learn martial arts. The last person to cut me was none other than the Warwick slasher who was on interstate compact in Florida where I prevented him from killing another inmate. That cut cost me a lot less.

  • Don Griffiths


    When we are faced with aggression, we must choose to fight, flight, posture,
    or submit. The right choice depends on circumstance and one's character. For
    some, flight to fight another day is the right choice. Others choose to avoid
    aggression by fleeing or submitting to the aggressor's will. Still, some appear
    to submit as a strategy to lure the aggressor into a false sense of security.

    Others choose to posture, appear to stand up to the aggressor until the
    aggressor moves in resulting in a change from posturing to submission, fight, or
    flight. Sometimes posturing works, but it is always gamble. In fact, when you
    face an aggressor, any choice is a gamble. However, training and preparedness
    will increase your odds of survival.

  • Don Griffiths


    When facing aggression or a threat to your personal survival, your body will
    respond physiologically to the stress. Your heart rate and respirations will
    increase. Your body will pull blood from your extremities to your torso, and
    capillaries will contract, restricting the available blood flow. This provides
    two benefits. The first benefit is injuries to the extremities will bleed less.
    The second benefit is the blood is near the vital organs if needed.

    Like professional football players in a stadium who cannot hear the cheering
    fans, you will experience auditory exclusion. You will not hear all that is
    worth hearing.

    Your training is part of your preparedness, so is knowledge of how your body

  • Don Griffiths


    When your heart rate reaches 115 beats per minute, you lose fine motor skills.
    Sensei Advincula's superb conditioning resulted in a heart rate of about 56
    beats per minute after an hour's aerobic activity when he was in his
    mid-fifties. For Sensei Advincula, loss of fine motor skills (dexterity and
    coordination) will not occur. For the rest of us, we should be aware of how
    our heart rate affects our fine motor skills.

    When your heart rate reaches 145 beats per minute, you will lose complex motor
    skills. This means, you will not be able to execute any complex defensive move.
    At this point, you will be thanking Sensei Advincula for all the excellent
    simple defensive moves that he taught you!

    If your heart rate reaches 150 beats per minute, your gross motor skills will
    become enhanced, you will temporarily gain strength and speed. Use these
    temporary enhancements wisely.

    Some people will experience a spiked heart rate above 200 beats per minute
    during a violent encounter.
    and mind will respond to the stress of violent aggression.

  • Don Griffiths


    You will find it difficult to close just one eye as your vision becomes
    dominantly binocular. You will lose your peripheral vision and depth
    perception. You may find that your near vision is also diminished. For this
    reason, law enforcement officers and soldiers may not be able to focus on the
    sights of their firearms.

  • Don Griffiths


    When your heart rate reaches 145 beats per minute, you will also begin to lose
    logical thought—that part of your mind that thinks and plans your next move.
    At this point, you will thank Sensei Advincula for all those drills that made
    your next move reflexive, without need of thought.

    Faced with multiple options, your ability to choose a single option will
    become slower. Your reaction time will also slow due to increased stimulus or
    because of denial that you are experiencing a violent encounter.

  • Don Griffiths

    "Critical incident amnesia" may occur as the ability to transfer information
    to long term memory becomes difficult. "Post incident amnesia" may occur
    immediately after the incident causing the majority of information observed in
    the incident to be forgotten immediately after the incident. After a healthy
    night's sleep, "memory recovery" may occur resulting in the most pure memory of
    the event. After about 72 hours, the fullest memory of the event will occur,
    but will be partially "reconstructed" and subsequently somewhat "contaminated"
    after integrating available information from other sources.

  • Don Griffiths

    In addition to the cognitive impairment, you may have to deal with fear,
    anger, panic, anxiety, or other emotions.


    In addition to the cognitive impairment, you may have to deal with fear,
    anger, panic, anxiety, or other emotions. As adrenaline increases, pain
    tolerance, strength, and speed increase as dexterity and coordination decline.

    Your training is part of your preparedness, so is knowledge of how your body
    and mind will respond to the stress of violent aggression.

  • tim

    you have to also remember if you draw a more agressive weapon you may face charges when the cops arrive, depending on the state laws

    • David Daly

      If someone is attacking with a knife, I can reasonably infer that their intent is probably not to be kind to me and make me a PB&J sandwich. The knife's potential effects could be terminally lethal and I can respond with whatever force necessary to defend myself. I will not have a great deal of time to figure it all out and will need to make a judgement call. I will respond with all force and training at my disposal, leaving only the option to discontinue that response if I determine that the threat has ceased, either by the use of force or by the attacker departing…

    • Mack Missiletoe


  • Spike1point5

    This is an excellent video, and it is exactly what needs to be shown at any self-defence class. What needs to be taught is
    A) best defence is to not be there
    B) if it's unavoidable, ther is no such thing as a fair fight. Find a brick, a chair, a bottle, anything that could pssibly cause damage
    C) If you have to, get reaaly close in. Use your head, knees, elbows, teeth, anything. Hit vital areas like the crotch, the kidneys, the eyes. Also, if you get any opportunity, ram him into something. using your body to ram someone into a wall might not be elegant, but it'll slow them down.

  • ???

    because they will rage and attack like a mad man

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