Bare hand techniques vs Knife

Knife image

In this part, we will go through empty-hand techniques against knife attacks and discuss them in view of the data from the previous chapters.


PART 3: Empty hand techniques vs knife

We've already reviewed lots of illuminating information in the previous two parts of this series.

In Part 1 (Knife Attacks: A Analytic Study), we saw the main findings of a research carried on 150+ street attacks caught on CCTV and phone cameras.

In Part 2 (How to Survive a Knife Attack), we discussed how people manage to survive real life knife assaults and we explored a number of concepts and ideas commonly encountered in the martial arts and self-defence industry such as Awareness and Avoidance.

In this final chapter, we will review the most effective ways to defend against a knife attack with bare hands. Namely, we will look at the various empty-hand techniques renowned instructors from around the world teach.

How to defend yourself against a knife attack

When it comes to physical assaults, it's fair to say that a person armed with a knife is at a huge advantage so it's best to avoid physical confrontation if possible.

This being said, we've also seen that a knife attack is decided by the aggressor and it will happen on his terms.

"If someone with a knife tries to attack you, then guess what? You're in a knife fight whether you like it or not."

At such a short range (we saw that most assaults are launched within 3 feet of the victim) it's not possible to avoid the fight. Once you're engaged you'll need to defend yourself and you might not have the time and opportunity to deploy a weapon.

Although priority should be put on escaping, you'll need to fight your way out while minimising damage as much as possible because each new cut or stab could be fatal.

At this point, it's important to say that there's no silver-bullet empty-hand technique to stop a knife attack. And no technique is fool-proof.

Due to the variety of possible situations, my opinion is that you'll need to incorporate in your knife defence training a range of empty-hand techniques that will allow you to improvise and adapt to different situations.

Techniques should therefore be seen more like tools/skills that you can use to adjust to various situations.

The best way to proceed in this review of the various bare hand options to block a knife attack, is to tackle problems that stem from the situation and the possible solutions that are often offered.

Let's start with the elephant in the room:

The 'free hand' issue

In his 1988-book, Don Pentecost insisted that aggressors won't lead with the knife when they're within striking range (i.e. within 3 feet) and they will use their free hand.

"The fact is, an experienced fighter will have his knife hand held close to his side until the empty hand has done its job and created an opening" Don Pentecost

This is something we clearly saw in our analysis of CCTV/surveillance videos (Part 1). More than 70% of knife attacks happen that way.

The study of these footages reveals that even inexperienced aggressors tend to use their free hand instinctively to latch on their victims.

They won't necessarily hit you with their free hand, as Pentecost contends in the case of experienced fighters, but the use of the 'leveraging arm' makes the whole situation a lot worse for the victim.

Greg Elliffritz (Active Response Training) perfectly makes the point here:

Understanding how it works for the aggressor, would allow us to find solutions. So, let's do a bit of reverse engineering.

A leading free hand will change the dynamic of an attack in several ways:

1- it will condition your initial reaction

You will react to what you see first, and that will be the free hand coming towards your face; not to the knife that will still be concealed.

2- it will allow the aggressor to keep you at a distance

Leading with the free hand will allow him to keep you at the right distance to prevent you from (i) reaching and controlling the knife, (ii) reaching him (e.g. punches).

The blade will give him additional reach that he will use to stab and cut you, inflicting maximum damage.

3- it will give an aggressor some control over you

Your aggressor will try to grab you which will make it harder for you to escape.

4- it will allow him to apply forward pressure

The aggressor will be steaming in. Leading with his free hand will allow him to apply forward pressure (i.e. to push the victim). The victim will be going backwards which is why over 50% of victims fall on the ground while trying to escape. It is an important point that many instructors don't understand due to their own size.

"To be able to deal with a knife attack, you need to find a response to these issues."

Defending the "Grab'n stab"

At the time of writing (2016), there was very little material online with regard to this specific situation (note: this has dramatically changed since the initial publication of this research and I've updated this article accordingly).

The most surprising thing for me during this research on knife attacks was that Grab'n Stab -which is the most common type of attacks- is almost never addressed by martial artists and self-defence instructors.

According to the points we mentioned previously, it looks like we have to:
  • Anticipate the possibility of a knife
  • Block the knife
  • Suppress the leveraging arm to regain control of the distance
  • Move off-line (possibly also lower your center of mass) to avoid falling backward
To this we must add:
  • Rely solely on gross motor skills
  • Control the knife-bearing arm to stop the stabbing
  • Shut down the aggressor asap

With this in mind, I went to see a couple of people I knew in London who had both extensive knowledge of martial arts and combatives, and also first-hand experience of knife attacks.

The first person I met to talk about this situation was Stewart McGill.

Founder and Chief-instructor of Urban Krav Maga, Stewart has his martial art background primarily in Judo and Goju Ryu karate (3rd Dan) and was a Civilian/Law Enforcement Instructor with several Krav Maga organisations (including IKMF under Eyal Yanilov). He's also a senior instructor with the British Combat Association (Learn more about Urban Krav Maga).

Here is one option we came up with:

This worked well as it covered all the points mentioned above (i.e. the necessity to get off-line, to block and control the knife and to shut down the aggressor). Additionally, it relies on gross motors skills (so its application not too impacted by the effects of adrenaline) and leverage (so it can be used against bigger opponents) and is not overly complicated (students learn it quite fast).

I liked the fact that the big step behind the aggressor's leg compromises his balance right away. A big plus. To anticipate comments, I will add that it's been pressure tested against big guys (6'9 / 308 type of big guy) and it yielded good results.

Here are some other options for a slightly different situation (but see at 4:38), by Stewart McGill and MMA/Vale Tudo fighter and BJJ world Champion Leo Negao:

Then, I went to see my friend and fellow instructor David Kyriacou who grew up in one of East London roughest boroughs and experienced several violent situations involving knives.

David is an accomplished martial artist (primarily TKD, Muay Thai and more recently BJJ and wrestling) and a Krav Maga Instructor. He's worked at the door of some of the most unpleasant clubs in the capital for more than 10 years. So it's an understatement to say that David knows violence (see his story here).

Here is his take on the situation:

David's approach is not to let anyone get close enough to be able to grab him and leverage their free hand. That makes a lot of sense and simplifies a number of problems namely the strength and size of the aggressor but it also supposes that you're always switched on.

As I said earlier, very few instructors have actually addressed this particular situation, so it's worth having a look at their solutions.

Here's the solution presented by the famed Lee Morrison (Urban Combatives):

Morrison too recognises that the leveraging arm needs to be dealt with in priority. He doesn't try to control the knife-bearing arm and relies on brute force to switch off the aggressor. This is well adapted to his morphology but could be a problem for smaller people.

I like Nick Drossos' genuine approach to self-defence and I follow him with interest but I'm not sold on this one:

Drossos raises good points regarding the necessity to trap and isolate the knife and his move is functionally simple but I can see a number of issues:

Firstly, it might be hard to apply a strong bearhug to a big guy. It's also relatively easy to get out of such a bearhug, so it's fair to say that many things could go wrong for you. Thirdly, you need to know how to finish it.

Let's be honest, once you 'bearhug' the aggressor, you're not going stay there to cuddle and hope that calms him down, are you?

You'd need something like this, or a more violent version of it rather:

Not an easy feat against a much larger, adrenalized aggressor who's holding a knife with the intention to carve you like a Thanksgiving turkey.

Besides, you have to do the move before the guy secures a firm grip on your shirt. In a typical attack (no warning) the knife gets into action shortly after the initial move, so you need to react fast.

To be fair with him, following the publication of this article, Drossos came up with a slightly different -and more satisfying- approach to defend the grab'n stab:

More recently, I spotted this vid from RedBeard Combatives with some interesting points:

Renowned martial artist Ron Balicki, who extensively trained under Dan Inosanto, offers some interesting insights on the issue here:

Whether you like his concept or not, whether you agree with him or not, we have at least to acknowledge Balicki's genuine effort to figure out a solution to a very difficult situation.

I've personally tried a variety of things and I can't see this option working for several of reasons:

The first one is that the impact of the "shoulder grab" is very limited particularly if the aggressor changes angles and goes overhand to strike the neck which is quite common.

The second reason is that the technique relies on fine motor skills and complex moves that will be hard to pull off in real conditions.

The third reason is that your position is not improved so you'll be going backwards which makes the whole punching thing a lot less efficient/disruptive than shown in the video.

"You may get lucky and deliver a knockout blow as you jump in, but this would be unlikely. It is very difficult to knock someone out when they are completely adrenalized and riled up. They probably won’t even feel the hit and they will carry on attacking like nothing has happened." Neal Martin (Combative Mind)

Besides, the aggressor's arm is in the way and might shield his face. Also, if he has longer arms than you, you might simply not be able to reach him.

That's also why I don't see the classic Krav Maga knife defense (aka "360 defence") working in this situation either.

Knife attacks are extremely violent and the efficiency of punching and kicking in these situations should not be overestimated as can be seen in the following video (punches at 2:20; kicks at 3:20 and 5:14):

Finally, a number of martial artists advocate elbow/shoulder manipulation and armbars (see here for example). Pressure testing, though, shows that joint-locks of this type are really hard to pull off against a non-compliant, aggressive attacker, so I'm not a big fan.

We've covered the most common type of knife attacks (70% of cases): no warning (knife concealed), attack launched within 3 ft of the victim and led with the free hand.

If you have any links or videos addressing the issue please feel free to post in the comments. All suggestions are welcome.

Now, let's see what can be done for the other 30% of knife attacks where the aggressor leads with the knife.

The good news is, there's lots of material for this situation.

Parrying the knife

In discussions about how to defend against a knife attack (see here or there for example), one common piece of advice is "keep them at a distance".

It's a very tricky and contentious point.

It sounds like common sense to stay far from a knife but, remember what we've seen, it's not always so easy to achieve once the fight is on at close quarters. And most knife attacks occur at conversation range (less than 3 feet of the victim).

Truth is, if you can't put significant room between you and the knife (i.e. escape), distance might not be such a good friend.

How's that?

Look at the following video. Paul Vunak shows the problem with parrying a knife bare-handed:

The point is: if you can't escape or if you don't have a weapon to safely keep your aggressor at a distance, moving out and creating space will just give him more opportunities to slash/stab you.

And he'll keep coming at you, adding more cuts every time.

"You can’t defend against a determined and/or frenzied knife attack. You’ll just end up cut to ribbons..." Neal Martin (Combative Mind)

Let's repeat it here: the more times you get stabbed or cut, the more chances a vital organ, such as the heart, or a major blood vessel, such as the jugular vein, will get punctured or slit.

The same reservations can be applied to kicks.

Kicking the attacker

In cases of knife attacks, 'groin-kicks' and 'push-kicks' are often presented as a viable options.

Remember, though, most attacks are launched within 3 feet of the victim so you probably won't have the space for a kick.

Even if you had the space, kicks are actually much harder to pull off in a fast moving, dynamic, real-life encounter, than a drill in a controlled training environment would suggest.

Below is a video by Neal Martin during seminar with IDF Yamam operative and Krav Maga instructor Itay Gil, that shows the limited effectiveness of kicks (at 0:05):

The limitations of groin kicks are very well detailed in "The Myth of the Krav Maga Groin Strike" by Gershon Ben Keren (Krav Maga Yashir Boston).

But the main point is that a knife-wielding aggressor who is charging and reaching, will probably stab or cut you before your kick lands.

In that regard, it's important to keep in mind that a serious cut to any of the major blood vessels -such as the femoral artery (inner thighs), the brachial artery (arm) or the carotid artery (neck)- could result in your death in less than 5 min.

Anatomy - body main arteries

This leads us to the conclusion that you need to control the knife-bearing limb.

By "controlling", I mean 'trapping'/'capturing'/'grabbing' and 'holding'/'locking' the knife-bearing arm so your aggressor can't use it.

Trapping the knife

Before you can properly trap the knife" -more precisely the knife-bearing arm- you need to block it.

"...when I say stop the knife attack, I mean stop the knife from entering your body by whatever means necessary..." Hank Hayes Knife Defence 101

Obviously, you want to block it in such a way that allows you to get control and capture the arm in order to stop the attacker recoiling and thrusting.

For this reason, you will often see double-hand grabs with C-grips / V-grips in knife defence training videos such as the one below by Jeremy Pollack:

It's been demonstrated on a number of occasions that grabbing your aggressor's arm (ideally the wrist) with only one hand is not the safest option because it's easy to break free from that type of grip.

It's better than nothing, sure, but the moment you are dealing with a concerted stabbing effort, 'one-on-on' might not be enough to mitigate the attack. '2-on-1' is always safer.

If you end up with only one hand on your aggressor's wrist -which is by no mean the safest situation- you'll need to seriously disrupt his attack by hitting him (namely in the face).

Double-hand grabs give a stronger control but there a small catch.

Trying to block someone's arm at full speed just with your hands is very difficult.

Additionally, your outstretched and already hyper-extended arms can become a target for some kind of armbar: all the attacker has to do is spin clockwise and smash his left forearm into your elbow.

Here are some interesting examples of simple counters against one-hand and two-hands blocks:

Trying to block a knife with your hands may also result in your thumbs being broken/dislocated as Richard Dimitri perfectly explains it in the following video (skip to 1:35):

For these reasons many instructors advocate blocking with the forearms as shown by Michael Janich who demonstrates the "split cross-block" in this video from Black Belt Magazine:

Or Ken Brayman in the following tutorial:

The problem with this type of blocks is that the space between the arms, along with the underhook, might leave too much room for the knife to slide up your arm and directly into your neck.

This is why some instructors advocate the "hard cross-block" -using both forearms- as shown by London-based Darren Selley in the following video:

The main criticism of these types of blocks is that the attacker would retract/recoil (e.g. if you get the timing wrong) and your arms will get slashed, resulting in severe limb mutilation.

Of course, that's what will happen if you just stand static after you blocked the knife.

As you block the knife, you need to explode forward and take control.

Close in & Take Control of the Knife

In order to attack properly, your aggressor needs space and movement.

By closing in after you've blocked the knife, you'll deprive him of both as demonstrated by Stewart McGill (Urban Krav Maga):

Moving into the attack is critical to stop the stabbing (by reducing space and movement) and to prevent counter-attacks (e.g. punch with free hand, head-butt, etc).

Now, you may still get stabbed or cut, but it is better to get stabbed once than multiple times, as you would if you backed away from the attack.

Here's the important part:

You have to shut your aggressor down right away.

The solution is to cut the attack short and close in with as much kinetic energy as possible.

The movement is driven by your legs which hurl you forward into the attack as explained by Itay Gil in the following instructional video:

Here's another approach, using the same principle, against slashing attacks by Lee Morrison (you can jump to 13:53 for short blades, and then 31:00 for machete attack):

It's critical to lock your aggressor's arm so he can't use it. As soon as you give up that control, the knife will be back in action.

"Your first objective should be to control that knife before anything else. If you don’t control the knife you don’t get to do anything else without getting stabbed repeatedly." Neal Martin (Combative Mind)

Here is a very interesting take on the whole issue by Sal Mascoli in this recent video from Funker Tactical:

Here is the takeaway:
  • Do not collect fancy techniques 
  • Simplify knife attacks as Above or Below 90 degrees angles 
  • Incorporate "consequences" in your training 
  • In a fight, accept that you're going to get hurt somehow 
  • Gross motor movements over fine motor movements 
  • Both thumbs down. 
  • Creates incidental defence from forearms 
  • Push forward to prevent recoil and restab 
  • What ifs exist only in demos. They disappear with live energy 
  • Fights move. We move. 
  • Consider never handing a knife to your training partner 
  • Remember you're going to get cut 
  • Jiu Jitsu Principle: Stay Tight 
  • It is not easy to switch knife hands 
  • Support hands keeps working! Strike or Enforce Control 
  • Protect your vitals 
  • Run Away or Crash In. All in or All out 
  • Isolate something small with something big 
  • Impact with intent & Aggression at every opportunity 
  • Use all available tools to end the fight 



Knife attacks are a very difficult and complex topic.

Most of what we know looks more like inherited wisdom, passed on from and by instructors, than primary information source.

Hence the importance of evidence-based approaches.

For that reason, it would also be amazing if readers who experienced knife attacks first-hand could tell us their story. That would make a great contribution to the topic.

I would love to know your thoughts particularly about training methods, but also about techniques.

Or maybe you have a question or just want to share a link.

Either way, don't hesitate to leave a comment below.

Thanks for reading this article, I hope you enjoyed it and found it informative.

Remember to share it!


In Part 1: "Knife Attacks an Analytical Study", we saw that:
  • 71.1% of knife attacks are led with the free hand and this dramatically alters the dynamic of the attack along with your initial reaction.
  • Most knife attacks are ambushes, not duels. Attackers rarely brandish the knife; they keep it concealed until the very last moment.
  • 70.6% of knife attacks are launched within 3 feet of the victim
  • Knife attacks are fast and furious, often resulting in the victim falling on the ground.
  • Knife attacks don't last long, avg time is 23 seconds but 50% of attacks last 14 seconds or less.
  • Knife attacks are more often performed with quick, short repetitive stabs at different angles. There's usually a first, very aggressive, wave of stabs (5 to 10).

In Part 2: "Surviving a Knife Attack",  we covered:
  • Avoidance and Situational Awareness
  • Knife awareness is key
  • Escaping should be the priority
  • Compliance and its limitation
  • Weapons and the issue of deployment

In Part 3, "Empty-hand techniques vs Knife attacks", we highlighted a number of principles to remember:
  • you need to get control over the knife-wielding hand (or arm)
  • grabbing the knife wielding hand is always preferable to parrying/blocking
  • close the distance quickly and smoothly and stay as close to your aggressor as possible
  • maintain forward pressure and
  • take control of the knife-bearing arm as soon as possible 
  • shut down your attacker aggressively

< Part 2: "Surviving a Knife Attack"


  1. Hi Patrice,
    An outstanding and in depth researched series of articles on Knife Defense. I very much enjoyed them. The last one definitely provides plenty of material to discuss over what approaches might work or not. Out of those knife defense videos you shared, David Kyriacou probably has the best one if you're going to stay in the pocket vs. a grab and stab. He catches and controls the elbow right away to prevent the retract. The key aspect of stopping the sewing machine, imo. He's got some similarities to the Red Zone defense (popular over here) but he has enough sense not to stay there so long. It should be a transitional position and quickly move to something else. You are vulnerable while there if the guy has some training. I've been teaching Combatives since 1999. Initially to Law Enforcement here in the US as well as private citizens. I started teaching an outside 2 on 1 (or Russian Arm type position) back around 2001 and though it has evolved over the years, and incorporated in FMA and Indonesian qualities, I still feel its the safest place to get to if you're stuck empty handed. There are different possibilities on how you may pick the attack up and transition there, but if you can get to that position, you have a good shot at doing serious damage to the attacker, both his arm and possibly sticking his blade back into him. But ideally, one, i don't want to have to deal with it empty handed. I carry two blades on me all the time. One fixed blade and one folder. Second, I don't want to stay in the pocket, squared off to the attacker if I can help it. So, recognizing that you may not know what attack is coming, and that many FMA blade systems say to assume a blade is always in the hand of an attacker, those two realities should make people rethink their paradigm of defense in general, not just knife defense. That round house punch to the head could be either a punch or a thrust. Do I have separate techniques for them both based on whether I recognize I'm dealing with a knife or not? Or the one hand grab? If that is a common start to either being punched in the face or the grab and stab, do I have separate techniques for when someone just grabs me and talks shit vs when they grab and try to punch me in the face vs when they grab me and start stabbing? If i do, i believe this requires some reassessment. I have one basic move for any grab lapel. It gets me offline, allows me to do damage to the grabbing arm elbow if I want to, and if I need to escalate I can do so rapidly by drawing a weapon from a temporarily safer position which offers me some good control over the attackers body. I would love to talk at further length. The last 11 years I've been the lead combatives instructor at a training facility that teaches military, LE, executive protection agents, and private citizens. When I first started in 2006 it was called Blackwater. We've had a couple of name changes since then. I've also been teaching High Speed, Tactical and Off Road Driving there for the last 10 years. Hope we can talk.

    1. Hi Mike,

      Thank you; glad you enjoyed the articles.

      David Kyriacou is a great instructor, very knowledgeable with first hand experience. One of the best I know tbh.

      I agree that paradigms have to change to be more realistic. The possibility of a blade should be more present in training because the dichotomy armed/unarmed is a "dojo" construct that doesn't reflect reality.

      What drills do you use to address the various issues we've discussed here?

  2. Very good. A bodyguard I had overseas, Kotec, ex-soviet army, with a belly full of scars showed me somewhat different things. He'd been stabbed with a bayonet, and with knives in battle in Afghanistan and in other combat. But this was very educational, the best I have seen. K wouldn't carry a gun in town, only long guns when traveling, because he said it's too hard to resist the urge to go for the gun. Said he saw men die that way. He showed me that I could close with him at 5 meters before he could draw and get a gun up, when he knew I as coming. And he could do it from farther away coming at me.

    With knives, his main thing was to emphasize that you will get hurt badly. You need to have the mental toughness to attack back and kill when you've had a couple of stabs in your gut and you feel sick, want to cry your brains out, and like you're dying now and your life is over. He said a stab to the gut is better if you can keep going because if you get medical care, you'll make it because the arteries are deep in the back. I usually had a box knife in my pocket, and I'd carry a zip-up binder with a titanium rifle plate in the front. The binder had a strap on the back to make it into a shield. Never used either one though.

    His greatest emphasis was on reading the street. Who is where, how are they moving. I learned a lot from that, enough that after I walked into a pickpocket's channel trap I read his motion and grabbed his hand. The look on the pickpocket's face was priceless. They had parked two cars at the mouth of an alley, so that from the sidewalk there was a choice between walking around out into traffic, or between them. I took the dumb guy's route and didn't even slow down and survey what was going on first.

    I got so could I did fairly well at seeing who the predators were and he'd grin. There's a subtle directedness, and usually economy of motion to someone who is a predator as their job. Or there is something "off". I remember coming to the threshold of my apartment building, and inside at the bottom of the stairs was this older man who was waving his body and hands. His mouth and tongue were flapping loosely. And his eyes rolled. But, for instants, his eyes locked on me and K, and assessed us. Just for a second interspersed. We backed away. Never saw anybody else, but there was probably at least one other guy around the back read to rush us. The older man disappeared like a ghost in an instant when we weren't looking. Had to have run out the back. He did it so quietly we didn't hear a sound.

    1. Hi Brian,

      Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment.

      What a fascinating story. It's rare to have the opportunity to learn from people who had extensive first hand experience with knives. Please feel free to post material (e.g. videos) of things you learned with Kotec. Anything that could improve our knowledge is welcome.


  3. Congratulations for this post, Patrice. No doubt you made a nice job on collecting and analyzing all those videos. Definitely a must-see article quite useful for anyone interested in urban survival/street fighting.

    1. Hi Carlos,

      Thanks, and for the link below as well.


  4. One of the thing in your article that caught my attention is using common things to block a knife attack, specially the backpack. I just found this video from ABC Action News:
    The same way the backpacks can be used to block a knife assault, they can be used to attack the assailant if, for example, we put a metal plate inside or a stone or even a billiard ball. Another item could be a Track & Field fanny pack. It´s a flat, light, neoprene made pack, with a plastic belt buckle that makes it easy to take from your body and use as a slap jack if you put a padlock inside.

  5. It seems to me that the first opportunity to defend against the prison yard rush is the outstretched arm. If you grab it with both hands,pull him forward and twist the arm behind him you should be able to take him to the ground face down. If you keep twisting the arm until the shoulder dislocates, give him a few kicks to the kidneys, a souple of kicks his knee and ankel you should be able to run away. If you are feeling bold you can try to inflict further damage.

    1. Hi Mac,

      If you catch it perfectly and turn fast enough then, theoretically, yep that should work.

      Now, in practice you have to assume you'll have to catch a punch (basically) not a gently extended hand. The moment you move to do anything to this arm/hand, the blade will come into action...little place for error

  6. Hi Patrice. I tried posting the other day but It didn't take apparently. Here's two links from a page that I run. The first is a video I put together about my ideas on Grab and Stab. The second one has a lot of blade vs empty hand pressure testing, aggressive random / free flow engagements, sewing machine counters, etc.

    And a third link with CCTV vids I put together and some thoughts of mine on the "just run" knife defense mentality.

    1. Hi Mike,

      For some reasons, I wasn't notified of your last comment (I use manual moderation on my blog; too much spamming nowadays).

      Re. Video #1: Yes, it makes sense to get rid of the leveraging arm (3:58 to 5:32), and the taking the back as you show is always an option indeed. I personally prefer to have control over the arm (like at 2:36 in video #2)rather than to go for body lock, but I guess respective size (you look like a big guy) has an influence on our choices.

      I'm a bit skeptical about applying the twist&armbar tech (5:32-5:50) in a real situation. Works well in case of threats as things go more slowly...but full speed much could go wrong for my comfort.

      Video #2: Nice drills. I like the full gear pressure test @2:36. What gear/brand do you use?

      Video #3, about running away. Totally agree with you. That's the tricky part to explain. Yes, you're fighting to escape but you can't simply turn your back and run.

      Thanks for the material, great stuff.

  7. Hi Patrice.

    This article was great and it changed my mind about self defence against knifes. Thank you very much.

    1. Hi Matias,

      You're welcome. Glad it helped.

      Stay safe

  8. Good Article Patrice. Attached for you here is a brief clip from Rick Tucci...a world reknown instructor and owner for almost 30 years of Princeton Academy of Martial Arts (PAMA) demonstrating a few knife defense techniques...most importantly a dounle hand grab he calls " the sandwich ". Turn the volume all the way up as there is traffic noise etc, since Tucci decided to take the class outside that day due to nice weather. Just crank the volume. As a note, Rick was taught by Muay Thai masters and the top teachers in Savate and Penjak Silat and etc.,etc. Aside from his earliest Karate training and bodyguard traiming, he was a dedicsted student of Taky Kimura and a long time student of Dan Inosanto and arguably Inosanto's best student. Thanks again for the informative article.

  9. Patrice, Another short Rick Tucci video showing methods against a knife if one is knocked down on the ground with the attacker also on the ground...and a victim is on his back. Note at the beginning Tucci shows parrying of the knife hand with empty hand blocks and slaps to the arm of the aggressor...then explaining, " If you try this kind of're gonna' die." So true.Anyhow thanks again for your article Patrice.I am Kevin and a self defense instructor for 20 years.

    1. Hi Kevin,

      Thanks. I'll have a look a these vids asap. Seem very interesting.


  10. Great article. I know that it and its predecessors are changing approaches to knife defense in Jim Harrison's schools. The key takeaways are (1) situational awareness (including distance control), (2) escape (including compliance), and (3) getting the attacker off-line (you and McGill). I see one factor, which many of us fall victim to. That is ego-fighting. If we are trained in knife defense and especially if we are well-trained in knife defense, our default reaction will be active defense instead of escape. Our instructors ought to spend more time on avoidance and escape and distance control. This is counter-intuitive in a fighting dojo but nevertheless. Anyway, thank you for this collection. I'm bookmarking it.

    1. Hi Jeff,

      You're spot on! The hardest part is, indeed, to get people to understand that escaping is the priority and that's what you have to fight for. Escaping.

      Thanks for the stopping by,

  11. Great to see this kind of article out there. I think the best approach for all is to drill under reality conditions, throw solutions into the mix but challenge them aggressively. We know that some things work under test conditions that don't work under adrenalized and surprise conditions. At a recent pressure testing event, we identified a common response to surprise - an involuntary backwards step or load which further inhibits the forward drive response required for effective knife defence. If this kind of response is going to be typical, you have to factor this in for instance. Lee Morrison's 3 E's are good, Nick Drossos is always great, evolving/honest. If you don't parry that grab before it's on, you've got to fend or bicep slam that first stab before anything else.

    1. Hi Finn,

      Thanks. Good points. As usual with self defence, it's important to stick to reality. Be it innate reactions or scenarios


  12. Giovanni Di Gregorio7 September 2017 at 15:43

    EXTREMELY good article, I can't do anything but congratulate with you for the in-depth study. Knife attacks are truly the bad part of self defense.
    Avoiding to advertise myself here, I tried to include into statistics factors like the quality of knives (tons of cheap and "not-so cheap" folding knives we tested with the needed protective stuff simply self-destroyed themselves against heavy leather jackets, for example), useful clothing (for everyday and specific for professionals), and what we call the "9 o'clock principle", where you wanna be at the attacker's 9: tested in a few hundreds of situations by professionals with the right combat fitness level it gave good results.
    Like you, I consider this as a science, and being constantly looking for solutions to test is what really makes a martial art, combat system or self defense method EVOLVE.

    1. Hi Giovanni,

      Thank you.

      Interesting approach! I never thought about testing knives quality...

      Please feel free to post some videos/links here. Anything I can learn from is welcome!

      Looking forward to seeing some of your stuff,


  13. Very impressive article and research. I have passed it on to a couple of instructors I have trained with. Your article has made me review what I have learned regarding knife defense. Because, from your research, most of the attacks are ambushes, and the attacker leads with his free hand, situational awareness is very important, which I guess would include a person's body positioning (with regards to concealing a knife). And because of the surprise and intensity of the attack, one's counter has to be of such intensity as to remove the attacker's advantage, as well as to give you a chance of defending and taking control. I will be definitely keeping the issues you raised in mind as I train in the future.

  14. Sir,

    Thank you so much for taking time to write this interesting, evidence-based article.

  15. I live in a very rough neighborhood. I often get confronted by thugs with knives when coming home from the local pub...on our streets, escape is your best chance of survival. I know a few people who've lost their lives because they decided to advice from experience is read the situation well & escape while you can. It's a cowardly thing to do but it may spare you some lethal cuts. The only disadvantage to running is that if you are not fast enough, your attackers will catch up with u & cut you up like a turkey coz now you got them pissed stay in shape & remember the silver & golden rules; silver rule, "if you run, don't get caught", golden rule, "don't forget the silver rule!!!" Great article...

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience. Escaping is not a cowardly thing to do if you don't leave anyone behind. Self-preservation should be the main goal.

      Yes, there are times you can't run (fast enough); I guess that's what we train for.

      Stay safe