In Reality- using an edged weapon for self-defense
This is going to be the first article in our new column called "In Reality", in which I will tackle some age old questions when it comes to all things related to preparedness and personal protection. We are first going to start off with the reality of using an edged weapon for self-defense.
We live in a society where you would think that we are desensitized to violence, but for some reason people are still shocked when they are actually witness to it. Even in a state that allows its citizens to carry concealed firearms, the path of someone involved in a clear cut shooting is likely to be a long one. The only thing that would be worse is cutting someone in self-defense.
Here are some obvious hurdles when it comes to the righteous use of a knife for self-defense. On one hand most people do not view knives as a legitimate personal protection tool, even those that are huge proponents of the right to self-defense. When they envision someone protecting themselves with something, it is usually a firearm. Thanks to TV and movies, we have all sat through thousands of shoot, don't shoot situations. But when it comes to edged weapons, we have seen lots of "knife fighting" with no clear lines drawn as when you would mentally choose to cut as you would to "drop the hammer". Because of distance and target focus, most on screen blade play is a flurry of body movement that ends with a fatal dramatic stab. The same is true of scenes involving firearms where our good guy appears to be down and out until you see the villain fall backwards. Only then does your mind put two and two together realizing that our hero was able to deploy his gun and fire a contact shot, thus saving his life. A knife is viewed as a sneaky tool that can come out of anywhere.
Keeping the above in mind, let's look at the physics of using a knife. Being a contact distance weapon that can puncture, tear, or cut flesh, an edged weapon requires that you be able to touch your attacker. At the same time, the attacker must be in a position to employ deadly force on you. This justifies one out of the three things needed that allows you to use deadly force, they have the immediate opportunity.
The next part we need to fulfill is jeopardy, meaning that the attacker is acting in a manner that a reasonable and prudent person would conclude that they intend to kill or cripple you. A particular act in and of itself may not kill you but it would be reasonable to believe that you would as they say in the UFC "not be capable of intelligently defending yourself". For instance, they are not attacking you with a weapon per se, but you have just been pushed during that altercation and have just had your head bounced off of a brick wall and you are going in and out of consciousness. There is a lot of blood and things are getting foggy, you have weapons on you, once you are out cold will he take your money and run or take your weapons and finish you? The extent of your jeopardy is more like a thermostat that can fluctuate greatly second to second based on multiple factors that if ever understood it will only be weeks, months, or years later. You have to make that decision in the moment with the information you have.
Even though for our purposes we are discussing it last, the first part of justifying deadly force is ability. Let's cover the five basic examples as they relate to the defensive use of an edged weapon-
Weapon employed against you- if it is a firearm and it is outside arms distance, your ability to do anything even with a knife in hand is very small. Any impact weapon is likely to extend the reach of your attacker, probably negating the use of your knife, even if you have it in hand. Now we are down to knife on knife which makes up a huge portion of cultural martial arts, and "knife fighting". By definition this would require you to be within reach of someone with a knife and you having pre-deployed yours, or deploying it as you are being attacked. For you to meet this deadly force with deadly force, you would have to articulate that you saw or anticipated your attacker having a knife which provoked you to draw yours. For you to cut them, depending on the blade length, they would have to be in a position to cut you as well. More likely to result in a mutual cutting.
Force in numbers- is a situation where one could articulate that even without seeing any visible weapons, deploying a knife would be more than justified. The problem is tool fixation. When surrounded by a few people, moving forward creates a vacuum where everyone fills in behind you. You can only stab or cut one person at a time. Once the pack moves in and your arm is controlled, the knife is a moot point. I would rather start off with a stick in hand personally.
Able vs Disabled- a situation that is very misunderstood. It does not mean that you walked out of your house with a broken leg and were attacked by someone who was able bodied. It can be as simple as you being knocked down to the ground and you cannot or are not allowed to get up. Not being able to stand up or walk is a disability. Again, another example would be losing consciousness from blunt force trauma to the head or strangulation. This is contact distance fighting where you will need to be able to cut your attacker off of you.
Male vs Female- gender does not change the physics. Even if your attacker is doing something that justifies deadly force, but you are not close enough to touch him, the knife is useless. Again, the likeliest situation is one where you need to cut the attacker off of you.
Physical size and strength- the same realities apply here as they do for male vs female.
In reality, to make the judicious use of edged weapons relevant to the situations where they are most likely to be used, we have to-
* Begin the majority of drills with the attacker initiating contact with the good guy in the form of a punch, push, or bum rush.
* Train the student to use the smallest amount of space and movement necessary to deploy their knife.
* Train the student to use the natural funnels of the body such as the crotch, arm pits, and sides of the neck as landmarks for default targeting, instead of focusing on being at a distance to be able see the body to use intentional targeting.
* The majority of deployment practice should be done from any position other than standing upright.
* A heavy emphasis needs to be placed on the use of open hand combatives that allow the student to create space to deploy the knife, use them along with the knife to include getting the attacker off of them.
Make sure reality is driving your training, not your training driving your reality.