Control the knife, don’t let it control you
Worryingly, every day in our lovely, peaceful county of Norfolk we are seeing a sharp rise in knife crime, especially in Norwich and Great Yarmouth. The first thing you need to understand is using a knife requires close contact range to be effective. The less space between you and the knife means less time to react and far greater chance of getting seriously hurt. This is known as the reactionary gap in the self defence community.
Many martial arts clubs teach self defence these days and jump on the knife self defence bandwagon. Taking opportunity to promote themselves by posting the latest news headlines regarding knife crime. The fact is the majority have zero experience in dealing with knives and teach questionable techniques, filling student’s heads up with false confidence.
The truth is it’s extremely hard to defend against and takes years of training with the caveat “this might work”. That’s why we prefer to talk more about awareness rather than actually taking someone on with a knife.
Avoid taking on someone with a knife, unless it’s the last resort
The first question is you have got to ask yourself is, how much is your life worth. How much money would you be prepared to fight for your life for? £10, £20, £50, £100, £200? Before you even think about it and ego steps in just ask yourself this. How much this will cost your loved ones, if you were to get seriously hurt or die fighting over a few quid in your pocket? Yes, now we have your attention. It’s not worth it, just hand over what you have and learn from this situation. Why did you get robbed? It’s because the robber thought you were an easy target and you were not in tune with your surroundings. A common self defence term, “your situational awareness” was poor and you made yourself a target.
If the motive is something even more sinister such as kidnapping, sexual, life threatening and you have no alternative to fight, you must be prepared for total commitment mentally and physically, to survive.
Situational awareness and identify the threat
The best knife defence is simply avoid it in the first place. The sooner you see or feel a potential threat, look at a rapid exit strategy. If you are not cornered, simply run as fast as you can. Creating distance is always the best strategy with a knife, if you can’t run then find a temporary barrier between you and the attacker. Look for an improvised weapon, anything to hand that will add distance between you and the blade or deter the attacker.
Telltale signs and spotting a potential concealed weapon
The most important one is to watch the hands and posture. What are the hands doing? Are they in pockets or are they reaching around the clothing. Something door security do whilst working on the doors is to look at body language, aggressive posture and hands. For instance, watching individuals that are identified as a potential threat, which hand are they holding a glass with, what pocket they keep items in and how they hold things is a big tell on how they will handle a blade. Also which is their leading leg is helpful in seeing what’s their stronger side.
This is not always possible, as some attacks and robberies tend to happen very quickly when the victim has been caught unawares. So key to any self defence training is situational awareness and how to train your mind in spotting threats quicker and dealing with them.
The Cooper colour codes
The Cooper colour codes were developed by a famous sports shooter Jeff Cooper. Jeff understood that your brain could never be on total alert all the well so worked on an awareness scale:
- White – relaxed and completely unaware
- Yellow – relaxed but aware, default standard for public places
- Orange – a potential threat has been identified and action is required if necessary
- Red – immediate action required to deal with threat
Observation games in military circles are an important part of training and eventually, when practised enough, become instinctive. For instance police drivers are taught ‘commentary driving’, a process where the officer commentates all hazards when driving. Eventually when done for long enough the driver doesn’t have to do this as his brain has been taught to do this subconsciously.
The OODA loop is a system designed to help win in any uncertain environment. It’s a process designed by ex US Airforce Ace Lt. Colonel John Boyd. Or know as Forty Second Boyd as “Forty-Second Boyd” because he could defeat any opponent in simulated air-to-air combat in less than forty seconds. The OODA in OODA Loop is an acronym that stands for:
The quick explanation for this is simple – you observe / see the threat, you then orientate to the threat, you decide what to do, then you act. What Boyd realised was that you can trap an enemy fighter in the loop and if you keep him in the loop you will guarantee victory.
So how is this done? It’s simple, the attacker observes, he orientates and at this point you change so the attacker has to observe and orientate again. If this process is continued you trap them in a loop they can’t get out of. You are taking initiative and you are keeping them on the back foot. How can this be trained in the self defence doctrine? By movement and keeping your relative position better than your attackers. Action and reaction, by responding to the attack and interfering with the attackers thought process by changing rapidly.
For more on OODA loop check out this great article about Lt. Colonel John Boyd.
Taking control and removing the initiative from the attacker
Controlling the reactionary gap by closing the distance and not allowing the knife to slash or stab. Or a very common method for disarming an individual with a knife and is widely used is “pat, wrap and attack”. Blocking the arm with the blade, wrapping the arm tight and stopping a continuous stabbing motion called the ‘Sewing machine’. Attacking by raining numerous strikes with knee, elbows, hands and feet until the attacker is no longer a threat. For this to be effect it requires an immense amount of practice and simulation of a knife attack in what we call a pressure test.
Normally conducted with marker pens, marker knives and in some causes a shock knife. White t-shirts are worn and the attacker will randomly stab and be non-compliant. This continues until the defender either gives in or controls the attacker until he disarms the the blade. Even with intense training results are never guaranteed, so best advice avoid, run, make a barrier or find an improvised weapon. Don’t listen to your ego it will get you killed.
- If you can run, run!
- If you can’t run, give them what they want!
- Use something as a barrier between you and the knife.
- Arm yourself, anything you can get your hands on to create distance between yourself and the knife.
- Fighting someone attacking you with a knife is a last resort! You need to be totally committed physical and mental. Best advice, get some training!