Self defence against a knife (Knife awareness)

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:

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.

OODA loop

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.


Thank you for the great training yesterday. It helped me today when an angry employee tried to stab me with a screw driver
Richard Greenaway

Close quarter combat

Direct, straight to the point self defence. KAPAP offers counter measures when dealing with even the most violent of opponents. We build confidence, a survival mindset and fitness.

Practical survival skills - Bushcraft

KAPAP is a survival system and run workshops with experts in the survival field with Alex Mair (Ex Royal Marine) and Fraser Christian (Coastal survival) school.

Edged weapons awareness & disarming

Learn how to spot a potential concealed weapon (awareness). How to react/respond to a robbery and last resort attempt a disarm.

Firearms handling & disarming

At Viking KAPAP we insist that you learn basic firearms handling. Students will learn how to make a weapon safe, understand the mechanics of a pistol and the difference between different pistols and revolvers.

We train with VCRA compliant (blank firing pistols and BB pistols for realism) pistols. In class you will be taught Standard Operating Procedures (SOP's). How to react in a robbery/hostage scenario, evaluate the situation and respond without risking injury to yourself and others.

Remember, their is no 100% guarantee a disarm will work. Is a calculated risk based on the situation and how it develops. Attempting to disarm someone is a last possible resort.

Street grappling

We teach practical easy to learn self defence drills on the ground. KAPAP system teaches Brazilian Jiu Jutsi (Machado school) as a self defence not a sport.

KAPAP in Norwich

Location: The Norman Centre, Bignold Road, Norwich NR31 2QZ

Time: Tuesday evening 19.30 - 21.30hrs

KAPAP in Lowestoft

Location: Ruckus Martial Arts 38 London Road North, Lowestoft NR321EP

Time: Wednesday evenings 19.00 - 21.00hrs

KAPAP in Great Yarmouth

Location: Cobholm Community Centre, St Lukes Terrace, Cobholm, Great Yarmouth NR31 0AP

Time: Monday evening 19.30hrs -21.30hrs

Avi Nardia Machado Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Our chief Instructor Avi Nardia is part of the famous Machado family Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

GROM Shooting Academy

We are the UK national representatives club for Master of Arms Željko Vujčić. We teach practical shooting (UK we train Airsoft - skills and drills. Serbia is real steel without the restrictions of UK licensing)

KAPAP / Israeli Jiu Jitsu / GROM

Viking KAPAP is proud to be a member of the Avi Nardia Academy. Teaching KAPAP a modern street self defence system CQC (Close Quarter Combat). Israeli Jiu Jitsu is a more traditional version of KAPAP which is syllabus based. And final we are part of GROM Serbia, the selected firearms school of the Avi Nardia Academy.