Written by: Greg Ellifritz
I was recently watching the video Real Fight: Belt vs Knife on the Active Self Protection website. In that video, one man attacks another with a belt. The victim here responded by drawing a knife and stabbing the attacker one time in the neck. The man who was stabbed initially had no idea he was cut. Watch the short video below and see for yourself.
Watching the video caused me to think about the nature of knife attacks and the most effective way to use a knife to lawfully defend yourself. A lot of people are scared of knives. I think that fear comes from the fact that everyone has been cut. Everyone knows what it feels like when a knife slips and slices flesh or even when an annoying piece of paper painfully nicks your fingertip. I think that’s the reason people fear the blade even more so than the gun. Everyone has personally experienced what a knife can do. Most of us have not been shot. A gunshot wound is a far more abstract idea in our minds.
Because of the direct experience we’ve all had and our fear of being cut (again), I often hear people say “I’d rather be shot than cut.” Let’s explore that idea for a bit….
First of all, knife wounds (both slashes and stabs) are far less lethal than gunshot wounds. It is generally only the people who are stabbed multiple times in the torso who die from knife wounds. People who are cut or stabbed two, three, or even five times tend to survive. It’s only those who are “sewing machined” that generally die. Don’t believe me? Check out the study titled “Murder and Medicine.” According to this research, firearms assaults have a 5.4% fatality rate. Knife assaults kill only 1.1% of victims. That makes gunshot wounds almost five times more lethal than knife wounds. You really shouldn’t prefer to get shot instead of cut.
Second, most of the people I know who have been stabbed or slashed didn’t know it initially. Virtually all of them perceived the knife strike as a punch. It was only when they saw the blade or their own blood did they realize a blade was involved. Watch the video embedded above. The man in the red shirt was stabbed in the neck, resulting in spurting arterial bleeding. Initially, he had no idea he had been stabbed. He first seems to notice he had been cut approximately five seconds after the attacker delivered the wound. He remains on his feet and capable of violent action for more than 30 seconds, despite massive blood loss.
Generally, puncture wounds hit fewer nerves and cause less pain than slashes even though they are generally more lethal. It isn’t unusual at all for people to report that they didn’t know they were cut or stabbed until the incident was completely over. Instant incapacitations with knives are even more rare than the famed “one shot stop” with a handgun.
How can we use this information?
If you are defending yourself by using a knife to cut an attacker, it’s important that you not give up after one strike. You shouldn’t think your attacker is going to magically vanish as soon as you stab him. Get some training to be able to find good targets (generally large blood vessels close to the surface of the skin or major muscle groups that control bodily functions) under stress and keep slashing and stabbing until the attacker stops hurting you.
If you attacked by a criminal armed with an edged weapon, keep in mind that this phenomenon works both ways. Just because your attacker has a knife doesn’t mean that you are dead. Stay in the fight. Try to avoid getting cut as best you can and work to quickly disable your attacker. Remember, knife attacks have a 1% lethality rate. It doesn’t matter if you are cut or stabbed. Keep fighting. If you can disable your attacker, you have a 99% chance of surviving the encounter.
Most of you carry a knife on a daily basis. You should study knife fights like this and learn how the knife actually works in a violent encounter. Find a good instructor and get some training. I’d love to see you in an upcoming class.