Monday, April 27, 2009

Bringing a Knife to a Knife Fight

Adam at Low Tech Combat and Juggernaut were recently analyzing knife fights, or at least defending against a knife attack; they both posted quality entries that provided some good food for thought. A couple of additional points that I thought I'd submit for consideration:

-Once again, Mongo's Rule #1: If you don't have a gun, you're chum. This is an easy philosophy for a Yank to adopt. MA brethren in Australia and the UK may find it problematic, though. Even in the States, even in a concealed-carry state, if one wants to conduct oneself 100% in accordance with the law, one finds freedom of movement pretty severely curtailed. It has always amazed me whenever there is a school shooting event or a fast food restaurant massacre, there's never a single law abiding, armed citizen present to abrogate the situation. Oh, wait a minute, that's because law abiding citizens are not allowed to carry in those areas. Gosh, those statutes really helped out, eh?

-There are some habits that are so ingrained with me now that not adhering to them are actually physically discomfiting. One is arming myself, either with a firearm or an edged weapon (another, just to illuminate the phenomenon, is wearing my seat belt in a motor vehicle). So it is very difficult to imagine facing a knife-wielding assailant with no weapon whatever to hand. I do get the heebie-jeebies imagining being present in an event involving a mad-dog active shooter armed with only a knife because I obediently followed the law and Mr. Mad Dog didn't. My training with a knife is pretty decent and maintained, so while the knife-to-knife scenario isn't necessarily the way I'd like to spend a Saturday night (when assaulted on my way to church, of course; where the hell else would I be going on Saturday night?), it doesn't really give me cold sweat nightmares. I'm relatively confident that, in either a military or civilian scenario, I'll be the better trained, more capable participant, under the "tigers don't hunt tigers" operating principle. Yuh, I know: pride goeth before a fall, but there's a couple thousand training hours behind my "pride."

-Both Adam and Juggernaut extol the benefits of the avoidance/run away course of action; I heartily endorse that mindset.

-In those situations where I am un(fire)armed, and reinforcing the run away COA, the assailant better be able to stick me pretty good, and out run me, and be able to block me getting to my truck. Because no matter where I am, once I get to the truck he just brought a knife to a gun fight. (As an aside, if I am carrying a firearm, I've got the same philosophy; my pocket pistol--my favorite being my little Kel Tec P3-AT--is just to cover me back to the truck, where the heavy artillery is (securely) stored but quickly accessible.)

-One point that should be considered in performing a mission analysis on the appropriate reaction to the knife wielding opponent is: in the scenario, is the knife a bargaining tool, or is the assailant intent on actually inserting it? Bargaining tool: See my knife? Give me your wallet or I'll use it. Actually intent: YAARGH!!! This bifurcation of possible uses of the knife, to my mind, generate two separate sets of options and reaction times.

-There are two environments for use of the knife that I've been trained in. One is civilian, the other is on the job. Civilian is wearing street clothes and using my dominant hand with, most likely, a tactical folder. On the job is with my entire panoply on, using my off-hand with a fixed blade. Both environments have their advantages and disadvantages, but they are definitely separate and distinct and require different training regimens.

-Awareness of the two different paradigms of knife employment. Most 1st World personnel (to include 1st World scum) are going to be "linear thinkers." Most pax coming from a knife culture--think South America and Pacific Rim--are going employ a circular blade-use paradigm.

-Adam and Juggernaut both eschew going in-depth on counter-knife techniques (actually, Juggernaut eschews the use of the term "technique") but in discussing the potential dangers of counter-knife training, they bump up against the age-old question of: which is more effective, a definitely lethal technique that I've never used full-force, or a non-lethal technique that I've practiced a thousand times against a live opponent? I'm going to come down decisively right in the middle, and posit that if you're not training a blend of live Randori and partner collaborative drills, you are probably not matriculating a functionally sound and reliable response (whether you're training for an armed, knife, or unarmed confrontation--or more realistically, a mix thereof). An edged weapon confrontation, two- or one-way, calls for an immediate body-mind-spirit response. Juggernaut accurately describes a victim thinking, repeatedly, "this can't be happening to me," which is a pretty common response to a violent encounter. You can refuse to believe it could happen or be happening to you right up to the instant that you finally bleed out. Believe it. As Laurence Gonzales put it in Deep Survival, Be Here Now. To quote Musashi: Make your cut and die.

-I've never, thank God, been in a knife fight. But I was in a pretty serious knife retention situation one time. I was on a job in a very politically sensitive area, where we had no Status of Forces agreement (basically, if I got nabbed by local law enforcement--who at the time were looking for the chance to nab an American under any pretext--I had the same protections as a tourist, i.e., none) and a whole bunch of things went wrong. I got swarmed by a bunch of (four or five) guys intent on relieving me of everything I had of value. Within the first fractions of a second of the "incident," I realized:
1. I was not being personally assaulted, these guys just wanted my stuff. If they'd been intent on shivving me, they definitely could have when they initiated their attack,
2. They were just kids (16-18),
3. I really didn't want to hurt them
Number 3 above sort of surprised me, even as the event was unfolding, as I've always thought my philosophy was "old enough to play, old enough to pay." Guess not, or at least not always. However, it would have been decidedly professionally embarrassing to get killed by my own knife, so while watch, wallet, cellphone, shades, and even belt were getting ripped at with an enormous amount of ferocity, I had to concentrate on keeping possession and control of my knife. Interestingly, this is the only event I've ever experienced (thus far) that left me with any degree of what could be considered PTSD. While I rationalized that I had acted in the appropriately mature manner in the interests of mission accomplishment (and in the interests of staying out of some hellhole dungeon), it really irked me for weeks that I had had to submit to the attack without conducting an ad hoc blunt trauma clinic. I finally resolved that when the good Lord offers you an object lesson in humility, gratitude is called for, so thank You, Big Guy.


  1. Name this country based on its demographics and gun policies:

    This country (fairly small by American standards) has four distinct ethnic groups and cannot even agree on a common language. It has tens, if not hundreds of thousands of assault rifles in the hands of private citizens. (And I mean real assault rifles, not those ones that the news stories talk about).

    What country is this? Switzerland. Ever hear of Swiss citizens shooting up banks or mowing down kids at the Nestle Chocolate Plant with SIG assault rifles? Do the Italian speaking Swiss massacre the German speaking Swiss in order to control a banking-rich city? Do they use the automatic feature to perforate their fellow citizens so that they resemble their own brand of cheese? I think not.

    At any rate, if you don't have a knife in a knife fight, you can always improvise.

  2. Even though the so called said "girl scouts" attacked you hon, you did kick ass and chase them down to get some of your stuff back and also their mommy's made them through your wallet over the US Dip Fence, it's sad to think they just wanted your cash. They could have asked you and you would have laughed saying, ask my wife for the cash!