Question of the Day: Do you have Defensive Knife Training?


Krav Maga, the Israeli form of martial arts, is one method of training for DKU

We have been discussing various aspects of Defensive Knife Use lately.  I don’t know about you, but I think of my EDC knife as a weapon of last resort.  That being said, the only training I have from a defensive point of view is a year of Tai Chi Chuan (the “boxing” form of Tai Chi, not the interpretive dance for Senior Citizens – we actually sparred against the Kung Fu students).  While advanced practitioners eventually progress to what is known as “Sword Form”, utilizing a broadsword known as a dao, Tai Chi’s applicability to a street fight in modern life is questionable.

There are many forms of DKU training, both knife specific and as a complement to traditional martial arts styles.  One style of martial art that lends itself particularly well to knife use was invented by the Israelis – Krav Maga.   (Technically, it was invented by a Hungarian Jew, Imi Lichtenfeld, pre-WW2, and refined following his eventual relocation to the newly formed state of Israel (h/t IvG)).

In a nutshell, the philosophy behind Krav Maga is that the practitioner meets a threat with sudden, violent force.  You use strikes to vulnerable areas such as the neck, knees, and groin, seeking to immediately disable your opponent or to create an opening to either escape or deploy a weapon – any weapon, traditional or improvised (book, chair, tool, etc.).

I recently discovered that there is a Krav Maga studio in Knoxville.  It is something I intend to look into more following the conclusion of the fishing season.  You can never have enough training, especially when the safety of your family and self are concerned.

So my question is this:

Do any of you have actual training in Defensive Knife Use?

If so, I would love to hear details and suggestions for avenues of exploration.


  1. Aharon says:

    I do not have knife defense training in my bio. Krav Mega is an effective and practical self-defense system to study. Most people can apply (to some degree) it immediately. The Filipino Martial Arts (PMA) often start out teaching knife and stick training to new students vs. some systems that reserve weapons training for the advanced student. Like Krav Mega the basic moves can be applied by the new student on the street if necessary. Krav Mega and PMA are two very compatible systems to know.

  2. ChuckN says:

    I practice with a few buddies in the Marines. Mostly it’s MCMAP or
    judo/jiu jitsu. I started picking up Systema after spending some
    time in eastern Europe. All are definitely street worthy.

  3. David says:

    I have a little knife training from FMA – mostly in the form of Espada Y Daga. And yes I do own an espada/sword. Honestly, much of it seemed overly complicated which is a criticism of Filipino Marital Arts in general.

    Many approaches within FMA and other arts depend on slashing w/ the knife. This is actually not true of Espada Y Daga as the knife is for stabbing and the sword does the slashing and stabbing. The slashing moves that were done in retrospect do not seem solid. In many martial art systems there is an attempt to disarm (better w/ sticks or swords) and I do not see this happening in a knife fight on the street.

    You may want to talk to a medic (isn’t Chris Dumm one) but slashes, though nasty, typically do not kill or incapacitate. Even stabs to the torso do not kill (quick enough) w/ most knives. You are going for the neck and head (eyes – FMA is big on this). How does the Roman saying go – the slash wounds, the thrust kills.

    From everything I have ever heard, read, or been told: knife fights are as brutal as it gets. Most of us are in uncharted waters here as few experts, with real world experience, exist especially in our culture. Last, most blade assault statistics are skewed beyond use because of blade use in jails/prisons.

    1. Actually, it is Leghorn who is a medic, and I was a Firefighter/EMT-I in a former life. You are right, you are unlikely to get a fatal strike at your opponent with a knife. Especially with one of the EDC variety. But I think the value lies in the damage you can cause, even blocking a strike with your knife, to the aggressor’s hands, face, and forearms. With each cut inflicted, you are diminishing the effectiveness of your opponent’s offense. If God forbid I ever find myself in a fight for my life, I don’t anticipate sticking around beyond the first clear opening to escape.

      This is pure speculation on my part, you are completely correct in that there are not many experienced knife fighters around to learn from (at least on our side of the law).

      1. jwm says:

        Having worked in a prison I can say that the guys in there aren’t knife fighters either. They are killers who try to strike without their opponents knowledge. If they do it right their victim is already stabbed multiple times before he realizes he’s in a “knife fight”.

        I’ve never met a person I would call a true knife fighter, not even in the military. There are cultures that seem to value edged weapons skills higher than others. But i question if this is because they simply have trouble, either legally or financially, procuring firearms.

        1. ChuckN says:

          I hear you about the differences in cultural values.
          You may be right in some regard that inability to
          get a firearm plays a part. I think the growth of
          knife use in Britain is fairly indicative of this.

          I could see some cultural differences; but I think
          with so many cultures being able to interact, those differences have been waning. Regionalization
          could be a factor though, especially in the type of knives used. For instance, fishing is a big industry where I live. Many carry a fixed short bladed knife, because it’s one of the more useful designs when on a work boat. Nobody gets upset because knife use is a fact of daily life. On the other hand, carry the same knife around a city and you get dirty looks.

      2. David says:

        I think you are starting to answer your own questions which is a very good thing. The type of gear you bring to the battle will determine how you will fight – or even if you will. I would not use anything under 3″ and even 3″ is small. That leaves many/most EDCs off the table.

        I think the mistake many people make w/ martial arts is that they try to “trade” when it comes to combat – kind of like boxing. Natural fighters, a.k.a. street fighters, attempt to overwhelm (or “cheat” as already mentioned). This means that they close gaps instantly and go for a death strike (often neck) or grapple. If some switchblade artist tries to trade w/ you do run.

  4. Chris Dumm says:

    I know nothing firsthand about knife combat, except for the messy legal aftermath. Personally I suspect the two best defenses against knife-wielding adversaries are Run-Fu and Gun-Fu, and probably in that order. Running like hell while spraying OC spray wildly behind you might be the best defense of all, because uncontrollable coughing will soon force your attacker to break off the pursuit. Just don’t run downwind.

    A colleague of mine bears the faint scar of a short, violent knife attack decades ago. A thin line stretches from the corner of his mouth along his cheek to his ear. He shrugged down into the blade to keep it away from his neck, and this move saved his life while his partner ended the fight with a bullet to the perp’s temple. There was no challenge or warning, and the ‘fight’ was over in three or four seconds with one person dead and another grievously wounded.

    By the time a citizen is *legally* justified in using a knife for self-defense (because deadly force is already being used or threatened against them) they’ll really wish they’d brought something bigger than a knife. A bat, a barstool, a pool cue, a sword or a gun: anything with reach and the ability to inflict one-hit incapacitation. By the time the victim is aware they’re in a knife fight, it’s probably too late.

    1. David says:

      I have actually used my superior run-fu technique. I got jumped in Thailand in 2005. I was “victorious” and so one of the guys (there were two) up the game buy going back to his motorcycle and presenting a knife. My “training” kicked in and the saying “charge a gun, run from a knife” ran through my brain. So – I ran from the knife and lived to tell the tale. The thing is Thailand is a very nice place and way safer than my native (born there) California. Just bad timing.

      I think it should be added that knife-counter attacks look bad. In our culture knives are not what good guys use to defend themselves; even if they do but that is the perception – and perceptions sway jurors. Defensive use of a knife my be justified but if “successful” will leave a mess.

      1. Clay Aalders says:

        I was alluding to Run-Fu when I mentioned skedaddling at the first opportunity. My last ditch knife is like having a claw that evolution did not grant me. I just am happy to have something more than my bare hands. It doesn’t take much of a cut for someone to involuntarily break a grasp, hopefully allowing Run-Fu to be an option, and barring that change to pool-cue-fu, large rock-fu, etc.

        I am a fan of Gun-Fu when possible though.

  5. Jim Scrummy says:

    As a practitioner of Krav Maga, we do train in disarming of knifes, rifles, sticks/baseball bats. For me it’s my golf, I get a mental and physical workout (and sometimes getting the s-kicked out of me when sparring) that I enjoy. Krav can be done by people of all ages, because the studio I practice at has kids from age 5 to 70 doing Krav. It’s another tool in the tool box to have, when needed. Of course I do also favor GTFO, when at all possible.

  6. Grant says:

    Most edged weapon training has to be very theoretical, blunt weapons at half speed. You learn cool blocks that close the distance. But the one martial art that truly teaches a respect of blades, is fencing. The best block in the world, Don’t be there when the sharp bit comes close. Get your opponent to overextend then counterattack when he is off balance. And do it fast and accurately.

  7. Steven says:

    I train in Martial Blade Concepts(MBC). This is from the website. (MBC) is an edged-weapon system that tactics focus on “stopping power”—the ability to immediately and decisively stop an assailant from continuing his attack. To this end, MBC emphasizes an in-depth understanding of human physiology and the most effective methods of targeting key structures with small, legal-to-carry knives. Sometimes called “biomechanical targeting,” this approach has been thoroughly reviewed and validated by leading experts in the field of tactical medicine. I am a ppct spontaneous knife defense instructor for my department and MBC blows it away. Just my two cents.

    1. OODAloop says:

      Yea! Another Michael Janich student. I trained with Michael last year for 3 days and it was awe-inspiring. While knife fights can definitely be a scary thing (potentially more so than firearms), 3 days with Michael is a good start on getting the skills to defend yourself in an attack and walk away when you’re done. I recommend that anyone looking to take this kind of training look hard at the skills that MBC can impart on a student of almost any size, age or gender.

  8. Paul W says:

    Yes, some. And one or two messy experiences from younger and dumber days.

    I advise running–and I fucking hate running–but I hate getting stabbed more!

  9. Azimuth says:

    I have many years of defensive knife training…against belligerent cardboard boxes, unruly bailing twine, and those contentious anti-theft, plastic blister packs in which they encase every piece of tech gear I buy. In all other situations, I prefer to be the guy who brings a gun to a knife fight.

  10. Mark N. says:

    Use a knife in a knife fight only if you have no other option. If you have no choice, expect to get cut, and try to make that cut on a part of your body that isn’t too critical. To be effective, you must be nimble and quick–or big enough to absorb damage. Attack the face and neck, inner arms, forearms, and if available, the back of the hands; these are often disabling injuries for your opponent. Face attacks are not usually fatal, but they bleed a lot and can be dissuasive. Cuts to the eyes or throat will usually end the fight. Like a gun fight, it will probably last the longest few seconds in your life.
    I used to be pretty handy with a sword, but I am too old and too slow to bring anything to a knife fight less than high velocity lead–or a broad sword.

  11. Pat says:

    Watched James Keatings ‘Riddle of Steel’ videos. A heavie Bowie of around 10″ or greater can be used as a short sword. You can kill with a jab rather than a punch. Impossible to block and the catsclaw back cut move is deadly. Light years deadlier than a knife in the 5-8″ blade range.

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Question of the Day: Do you have Defensive Knife Training?

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