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Marcus_1's picture
Knife attacks

After yesterdays events with the school teacher being subjected to a knife attack whilst at work, I did a very quick google search for "knife defence from close range".  This is the first link posted up, a you tube video which, towards the end makes some good calls, but throughout the video, shows how Krav Maga can be used to defend oneself against a lunatic with a knife.

The techniques shown in the video (mostly) do work, my issue with this video is the portrayal (yet again) of the knife weilding maniac becoming all of a sudden "compliant" as soon as the target fights back or puts hands on.  In my experience of dealing with people using knive's, this just isn't the case.  People carrying a knife intend to use it to do serious harm to people, they do not just give up the ghost as soon as someone has the audacity to lay hands on, even if the "weapon hand" is being controlled by some method of lock etc, that person will still be making attempts to free that hand or pass the knife to the other hand.  They also don't tend to make one single attack, instead they tend to flail wildely (particularly if they have not had any knife training).  I feel that these types of vidoes, whilst there is a place for them on the internet in raising awareness, they need to be more realistic in the material they portray.

Also, on speaking to my wife (secondary school teacher), I happened to mention to her that distance is the key when facing a person with a knife, her answer to that was some what shocking to me.  Her reason for not maintaining a distance was "But if you are asking the kid to hand over their mobile phone (for example) then you will be close and you don't know if that person is going to pull out their phone from their pocket or a knife".  This got me thinking back to my previous career where I regularly dealt with violent young people who regularly carried improvised weapons and how we would deal with them.  OK, we had the benefit of being trained in various forms of restraint and how to deal with edged weapons etc, we also had the benefit of being able to search some one for a weapon which is not somethign your average teacher has.  However, should we approach a kid who was being disruptive, teh first thing we would want to do is to see his hands at all times and if they were not compliant with this, we would not approach any closer until they either put their hands on the desk or other staff could approach from another angle to control the arms.  My egood lady wife also said somethign that totally shocked me "I certainly don't expect a 14 year old kid to be carrying a knife in school".  I am afraid that in this day and age, we ALL have to be alert to the possibility that someone i scarrying a knife or other weapon, it's not like it was when we were kids anymore I am afraid.

Chikara Andrew
Chikara Andrew's picture

The first point I would make about the video linked above is that their interpretation of range differs greatly from mine. I would consider their medium range to be long range and their close medium, I don’t consider any of the demonstrations in the attached video to be close.

Although there are not a lot of details about yesterday’s attack out yet (it caused quite a stir where I work as one of my colleagues has friends working in the school) it would appear that the attack was from close range.

When you consider this and last years attached at Corpus Christi in Leeds you have to wonder what if anything could have been done by the victim. We are not talking about a mugging gone wrong or a confrontation that escalated (not as sure about yesterday’s attack yet). In the Corpus Christi attack, which was calculated and likely planned by the attacker, the victim was stabbed from behind whilst bent over the desk of another pupil. There was no dialogue or confrontation with the victim, all the awareness of build up that we often talk about would have been of no use here.

I cannot speak from a hands on perspective like you Marcus but I can only image what it must be like for teachers to have to deal with aggression from pupils. I do work with teenagers in a voluntary capacity although we tend to find that the sorts of people who are likely to carry a knife are not the same as commit to our group.

Iain has made the point in other posts that people become fixated on dealing with the knife and not the attacker and this is certainly the view that I take. Although the video does show strikes being delivered there is a lot of effort going into controlling the knife hand, often with both hands.

As Marcus points out this is where the compliant partner is a problem, if you have two hands on the knife hand you have nothing to strike at the head with and nothing to protect you from the attackers non-knife hand.

Marcus_1's picture

I agree with the fact that the video's idea of range is very dubious, none of them were at close range at all.  To me, close range is anything under 2-3 feet, that is why it is so important to not get drawn into that range, you want someone to take their hands out of their pocket, do it from a greater distance with clear verbal instructions, they refuse, you get more people in to help (if you can).

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

I think this is one of the more realistic (as it not real) portrayals of what we are truly up against (more palatable to view than footage of real knife attacks):

Anyone want to tray a wrist-lock or disarm against that? Anyone think that traditional Tano Dori provide a workable solution? It’s ugly and frantic and there is no “good” clean solution to that problem.

I did a podcast outlining my views on weapon defence six years ago that may be of interest:


All the best,


Marcus_1's picture

Iain, that video is pretty much as realistic as it gets to be fair.  I listened to your podcast a lot when I was working in that kind of environment where we were expected to deal with kids who were more than likely armed with an edged weapon of sorts on an almost daily basis (and no, we were not issued stab vests).  Maintaining distance is the only way to survive a knife attack safely, and as I have said in another post, if you have something you can use (and this was addressed in a small section of that Krav Maga video towards the very end), then use it, a chair can be quite a useful tool to maintain some distance between you and the maniac with the knife.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Marcus_1 wrote:
(and no, we were not issued stab vests).

This ties in with the thread about self-defence at work:


While not always appropriate, stab vests are effective. Modern ones are thin, relatively comfortable and can be worn user normal clothing. Slash resistant clothing – which won’t stop a stab or a needle, but will stop stashes – may also be a less high profile option.

I have a friend who works security and he recently had a homeless gent ambush him and try to stab him with a used needle. It was his stab vest and the actions of his dog that saved him from contracting God knows what.

The bottom line is as you say though. We need to create distance, and failing that we need to incapacitate or disorientate. We can forget fancy disarms and locks. Attack as explosively as possible while doing your best to control the limb. Live drilling quickly brings home the reality of this.

All the best,


Marcus_1's picture

Live training as realistically as you can get is the only way, if you can't get out of the situation then you simply have to make sure that the other person is not capable of using the weapon they have. If that means you knock them out, then you knock them out.  We once did a drill involving a red marker pen, the person with the pen attacks, they go hell for leather and the other person "defends", the amount of red left on the defender tells it's own story.

I used to say that it's not the weapon but the person holding the weapon that is the issue, a knife is but a piece of metal, it's what the person holding it that you have to worry about.

Ian H
Ian H's picture

Check out this video ... at about the 1:30 point there are some knife attacks.  First, the "dojo training" version, and then a couple real-life versions.  

Very enlightening.

JWT's picture

I think the whole subject of knife attacks is a tricky one both in the context of regular martial arts training, training specifically designed for personnel who through their work are likely to face bladed attacks, and 'one-off' training courses for non martial artisits or martial artists.

As the videos shared above show, real bladed attacks are dangerous and difficult. Realistically preparing people for these can be equally difficult for different reasons. A trainer will want to capture (or build towards) the realism and dynamism of a real event (which obviously must include an understanding of the most probable nature of blade related violence rather than copying cinematic set pieces) while at the same time being focused on the fact that training that physically or psychologically injures participants is not fit for purpose. As with all training there will have to be compromises. Whatever training route and stages you take to get there, truly unscripted dynamic full force anti-blade training without body armour or pulling of techniques will not be possible until we have solid hologram technology or some form of 3D video game sensory immersement. Any armour chosen forces compromises between free movement, realistic positions, contact levels and realism - different trainers will opt for different models.

In the video below, with no prior training from me for the pariticpants (who are a mixture of Ju Jitsu, Karate and TKD practitioners) I introduced a knife into two scenarios with the brief that the carrier was carrying it due to insecurity and would draw or attempt to use if they felt threatened. The point of this was not to get the participants to demonstrate some cool knife disarms, but to show how easily a blade introduced in a chaotic situation could cause a lot of damage and how difficult it was to spot. So, look past the overly polite language (and one instructor misreading his briefing card and pretending to the the girlfriend rather than friend of the person next to them) and look at the responses. The pariticipants were taken aback when they watched the footage after the event. https://www.youtube.com/embed/j33KVTgL4vA One elephant in the room is that even top quality blade related tactics are likely to fail if they are 'bolt-on' rather than fully integrated with other trained approaches. I don't share my blade tactics online because they don't make sense without the supporting and integrated unarmed tactics and I don't want people trying them out of that context. John Titchen

mike23's picture

In discussing the Krav video above, I will say I didn't watch the whole thing because there is so much in just the first 30 seconds. in each of the 3 clips the attacker stands idle while the defender does his techniques. Tnhe knife hand is extended for an unrealistic time. The attacker stands still while getting punched in the face. There is no reaction to the attacker's body or knife hand after getting hit and the defender easily grabs the knife hand wrist with an inverted hand grip. I say no way. Even the woman stands still, the attacker vertical and remaining still while her small hand grabs inverted- sliding down the arm to "find" the wrist. No way.