Knife Combat Realities

As a good friend who was trained in the use of the knife by guys who were OSS in WWII said, those who haven’t used a knife on a person always “out” themselves by talking of grandiose “knife fights”, which end with them as the victor and dripping with their opponents blood. Reality is that anyone claiming to have been in knife fights (especially those claiming “But we did it in the dojo with real blades”), and “getting wet” with their opponents blood are usually nothing but blowhard, fantasy monkeys with delusions of their actual abilities and experience.


There are very few people who are (or have been) in a position to use a knife in a combat situation. Unlike the movies, the situation very rarely presents itself to personnel in the military. I know a lot of LEO’s carry a knife for the purpose of “Back up defense”, but those same guys are usually carrying a back up gun as well. The average citizen should definitely be carrying a defense and utility (if you don’t carry a multi-tool as well) blade that is easily accessible, even if they can’t legally carry a gun.


Generally speaking, using a knife in a defensive scenario means you have no means of escape and your firearm is either out of action, or you can’t access it (guy is on top of you [mount] and you can’t reach your pistol, but the knife is in an accessible location). Anyone who says that when given the chance to escape, they will go toe to toe with a knife wielding bad guy who has threatened them is a liar and/or a moron. As I said, this isn’t the early 1800’s, and you ain’t Jim Bowie.


What I teach in knife defense is the same as what I teach in defending against a handgun (handgun takeaways). The acronym is “RCAT” Redirect/Control/Attack/Takeaway. REDIRECT- You redirect the thrust of the blade, or the direction the muzzle is pointing. CONTROL- You gain control of the wrist, forearm, and upper arm on the side that the weapon is held (try not to be on the inside of the arm, they can wrap you up if you do that). ATTACK- You use a punch or elbow to strike an area that will cause immediate debilitating pain and/or nerve damage ( example-head or neck and/or nerves in the hand/arm). TAKEAWAY- You use a technique to strip the weapon (gun or knife) from the attacker’s hand. Usually, this takeaway will involve the fact that the thumb is the weakest point of the grip, and will “give” very easily if leveraged correctly. The caveat is that some people will wrap the knife’s lanyard around the back of their hand, so you might not be able to strip it.


Although I teach/have taught how to perform a “Knife Takeaway”, I usually just suggest that they stop the immediate attack by the bad guy, follow up with some combatives (kick, punch, elbow) to reset his “OODA Loop”, and push the individual off/away and get out of there if possible. If you can’t get out of there, my advice is this. You were just attacked by someone with a deadly weapon. It is a “Deadly Force” attack. Morally, ethically and LEGALLY, you have the right to attack with the same force to stop them. Stopping them, doesn’t necessarily mean killing them. If you knock someone out, or make it impossible for them to continue, YOU stop YOUR attack! It would be ridiculous to come out of a knife attack with little or no harm to yourself, only to end up in jail because some jackass videoed you killing someone who was no longer a threat (think it can’t happen?).


Unlike most of the defensive tactics instructors out there, I have unfortunately seen real knife attacks up close. Several “instructors” out there make the claim of, “I’m a knife fighter”, but their BS is usually easy to see through if you have any DT experience. Once you’ve seen a knife attack personally, you realize there is no “fantasies of the blade” (A knife is a tool, not some fantastical implement that you have a semi sexual bonding ceremony with), just a grim reality. Although I probably have more training in the use of the knife in combat than most “instructors” (most don’t have much, just some basics they’ve learned, but there are a few that are really experienced) out there, I still would not consider myself a knife fighter, and definitely don’t believe I’m an expert. It’s one thing for the DT instructors out there to write what they’ve been taught and hopefully that is based on reality. It’s something else entirely when they claim to be “The voice of experience”, because they “Got wet at belt buckle range”, but conveniently have no bona fides to back it up.


If you are getting a blade specifically for taking out bad guys (remember, it’s not a knife fight, it’s a sneak attack), I recommend you get a Fairbairn–Sykes fighting knife (get a real Sheffield, not a crap “knock off”), or a Gerber MK II. The Gerber has a little more going for it in the utility blade (is a dagger ever really a “utility” knife?) department (heavier blade, serrated edges), but what makes it better on the utility side, takes away from it’s ability as a sentry removal tool. Once again, from experience, I can tell you that the closer your blade profile is to an ice pick (“needle point” as opposed to the “spear point”), the better it will penetrate a human target. The F-S knife has the prerequisite length (& inches) for reaching vital areas when you are attacking a target location like the clavicle (at a downward angle towards the aorta/heart) or neck from the rear.



Last but not least, if you plan on using that large or medium sized bowie or tanto (7-10 inch blade), understand that they are primarily slashing weapons (you know all the primary slashing targets….right?), and if you stab someone with a blade with those types of profiles, there is a good chance it might not penetrate, or will get stuck.

Below is a post from DTG that imparts some good lessons from DTG and Marc MacYoung. There are many good takeaways from that post, Read and Heed.




First, before we get into the post as written by ‘Marc MacYoung’, which I very much agree with on the whole; the man makes a lot of sense, I am an admitted ‘student of the knife’ when it comes to capabilities and techniques.  Out of all the years I’ve studied one system or another, technique upon technique, I’ve learned a few good things:  A:  Knife duels (what most consider a ‘knife fight’) are rarer than hen’s teeth.  B:  People who say they prefer to get into a fight with a knife wielding opponent are either 1 – consummate bullshiters or 2 – in possession of a ‘less than sane’ death wish.  C:  All the knives in the world and all the ‘knife training’ in the world will not prepare you for a knife attack.  Read the article.  Knife attacks are more precisely defined as ‘assassination attempts’.  Also, pay particular attention to what the writer says about ‘self-defense’.  You have to know when to stop….many don’t.

The only place where the knife fighting fantasy exists is in the martial arts. There is no such thing in the modern civilized world. In legal terms it is attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon or homicide. To the street fighter it is assassination, not a “fight” at all. To the criminal it is a tool for robbery  Everyone else considers it abhorrent macho stupidity. 


Knife fighting lies

On this page:
Lie #1You’re going to have time to draw your own weapon | Lie #2 It’s going to be a knife “fight” | Lie #3 But what if I’m cornered?” | Lie #4 He’s going to attack you a specific  way | Lie# 5 And then he is going to passively stand there while you carve him | Lie #6 Trapping and stripping | Lie #7 Bio-mechanical cutting | Lie #8 Knowing how to stickfight means you know how to knife fight | Lie #9 Knowing kali makes you a knife fighter | Lie #10 Grappling with a knife | Lie #11 The knife is an extension of your hand | Lie #12 There is such a thing as a “master knife fighter” | Lie #13 That this is a “fight” at all | Lie #14 Expect to get cut | Lie #15 The FMA are the ultimate knife fighting systems | Lie #16 It’s easy to disarm an armed opponent | Lie #17 You can successfully fight an armed attacker | Lie #18 Drills teach you how to knife fight | Lie #19 You can use a knife on another human being without legal repercussions

There are many so-called “experts” who claim to be able to teach you either knife fighting or defense against a knife. The problem is that most of them are just teaching regurgitated martial arts, usually from the Philippines. While I have lots of respect for the martial arts of other lands, the truth is that you live where you do. Odds are you are not in a “knife culture.” And that means that whatever you do regarding knives must:

A) Work to keep you alive against how you are likely to be attacked by a knife in your homeland
B) If it does work, not put you in prison for murder or manslaughter

While B is important, it only becomes an issue if you survive A. Unfortunately, based on a lot of what I have been seeing taught with my own eyes or encountered while working with the students of these self-proclaimed “knife experts” getting past A is going to be a whole lot tougher than you think. Quite simply, most knife assaults are assassination attempts…how they occur is significantly different than how one “knife fights.” While I express my opinions on other knife instructors elsewhere, what this page is for is to help you avoid some of the more common pitfalls with what is being taught out there.

Oh yeah, one more thing, always remember…it’s your ass on the line out there, so don’t let *anybody* tell you that you don’t have the right to ask about these things or think for yourself.

Read the rest, here, then let’s have a good discussion on the subject.


One of my favorite lines from MacYoung is this one, “For civilians, the best preventative measure of them all is not to put yourself into situations where you need to fight your way out. That is what he teaches, lest people find themselves in the same kind of situations that he did. For professionals the message is “IT ENDS NOW! — and of course in your favor.” But even there, it’s better if you can keep it from going physical (if for no other reason than the paperwork).” 


American by BIRTH, Infidel by CHOICE