Thursday, January 19, 2012

Dark Arts for Good Guys: The Right to Knife pt II


Everything about fighting starts inside your head.

Gun, knife, or hands. It makes no difference.

The response that begins in your head flows to your hands. That response is strongly aided in micro-planning, or rather the ability to deal and confront in immediate fashion because you have previously trained to do so.

Translation: In the eternity of a whole second a defensive resolution has to be formulated in your head and reproduced at your hands. After that your ability to overcome is dependent upon your ability to reduce the attacker's rate of survival in their encounter with you. This equates to liquidating their body of blood or stopping the transmission of signals from their brain to the appendages.

Damage has to be significant enough to encourage them to break off the attack, lose consciousness, or the use of the arms and/or legs....and it has to be done quickly.

Because in an encounter with violent humans it is generally a hands/brain combination that is your biggest threat, legs and feet being the second (yes dear reader you can still be stomped to death in the 21st Century). Most likely though hands are the problem this is why you hear it preached "Watch the hands. Hands kill."

If you are forced into the position to defend yourself with a knife-in-use this means being on the inside of the "dance space" as the late Patrick Swayze referred to it in Dirty Dancing , "This is your dance space. This is my dance space" (yep).








The Chest & Upper Body

No other portion of the body allows for such an array of significant multiple and viable targets that in a matter of a few short seconds can lead to cascade-like failure for your attacker. Unlike the abdomen the chest has a protective bone structure in the form of the ribcage and shoulder girdle. However unlike the head/skull it is not a vault like structure and is readily penetrable. In fact 25% of all deaths in the U.S. is attributed to chest trauma. The trauma we are looking at here is predominately stabbing.

The slash cut has its place...without question. Where a slash to the surface of the chest cuts muscle and tendons its also stopped from further penetration from bone and a lack of  pressure on the knife because the grip angle for a slash is reduced in comparison to a push (read: stab). It's physics.


In the span of one second the average and capable adult should be able to deliver three smashing stabs across a span of nine or ten inches. Look at your shoulder and poke your finger inward every three inches.

Now instead of thinking skin deep, with each poke think was sits in between your finger tip and the skin of your back.

Or you can keep reading.

From the shoulder socket you can severe or atleast lacerate part of the lateral cord; which contains the lateral pectoral nerve, the median nerve, and the musculocutaneous nerve. But as the knife slices nerves it also cuts through multiple layers of muscle tissue and does so regardless of whether you are going at it front-to-back, back-to-front or from the outside of the arm inward. Cuts to the deltoid muscle works in tandem with the the chest muscles, biceps and on down to the forearm. A stab (or multiple stabs) while not necessarily lethal in the short term sense they greatly reduce your attacker's ability to attack effectively.




His mechanical ability to maintain a grip on you or a weapon is now reduced in significant fashion, but so is his ability to rotate the arm and the hand.

Why is this important?

Say for example he has a handgun, a stab here followed by a hasty exit on your part reduces his ability to raise, aim, and fire. The multiply factor is you are also now a rapidly, erratically moving target ever decreasing in size...meaning hard to hit under "good" conditions for him.

The other winning factor in this is if in your fight he ends up down on the ground it makes it difficult for him to push up and get up...not impossible...but the difficult factor is high. All because of a three to four inch deep cut.

Moving inward from the arm several inches a stabbing blow delivered to the chest has a high probability of puncturing a lung. It sounds "meh" to read it but instant deflation of one of the two lungs is almost an instantaneous fight stopper.

The internet experts like to tell you of the raging bull attacker who can't be stopped by multiple cylinders of .357. No one thinks of a 105lb woman with a folding knife deflating his lung that leaves him gasping on the floor like a fish out of water. Yet the reason is simple. Your chest expands and contrasts as you inhale and exhale and since breathing is an involuntary act your attacker is breathing while he attacks you. Sounds stupid right?

Who thinks of bad guys breathing in and out?

In the brief interlude between you slamming a four inch folder into his chest/lungs and pulling it out he has either inhaled or exhaled. One or the other. If he inhaled just prior to your stab you have unexpectedly robbed his body of air as it rushes from his chest. If he exhaled the lung has contracted.

Once a lung has contracted the internal world of his chest takes up that space (or tries to). This inward exerting pressure along with the hole in his chest prevents the lung from re-inflation either fully or parially. No re-inflation means no air.

No air. No fight.

His very own body begins to act like a boa constrictor, with each exhale the body tightens around the lung.


That last third of a second and your third stab wound going towards center mass stands a high probability of a direct hit on the heart. Unlike a slash to an arm or leg, a deep puncture will not stop bleeding from applying pressure alone. Drill the heart and you get severe-crippling pain (ask someone who suffered a heart attack about pain), and blood loss at an increased rate. Since the heart's job is to act as a double pump to collect de-oxygenated blood re-distribute freshly oxygenated blood to the body a laceration to it is "problematic" for the attacker. The body can not get fully resupplied (like any wound with blood loss) and significant trauma means the body can not get the oxygen it needs to aid in lung function and...brain function.

Count one full second while tapping your finger three times.

Three wounds in one second. From you to the bad guy.

Arm function is reduced, ability to breath deteriorating, severe pain in multiple locations+blood loss+unexpected negative impact on achieving goal of attacking victim....

Any attack is going to last several seconds under the best conditions for you. As you counter attack he has to block. If you are attacking the upper chest and head region almost everyone is going to try an raise an arm to block the attack. When an arm goes up to protect exposure also occurs.

You now have a direct line of counter-attack on the arm pit, the elbow, the lungs again, the forearms. A knife in one hand and an empty hand or closed fist allows for a quick barrage attack of slashes and stabs in short order. Hitting the underside of the arm near the arm pit means there is strong likely-hood of cutting open the brachial artery.

It sounds redundant doesn't it. Muscle damage, blood loss, puncture wound.

But do you get it?

Your attacker is human...just like you. When you are armed in one fashion or another you fight less an attackers brawn and more his ability to think through what was supposed to be a short win and is now a rapidly changing lethal encounter.

An attacker doesn't think in a sense of planning a defense. Yet we do. That means we have an elongated plan based upon being attacked and then overcoming that attack.

There is something else. If you haven't picked up on it yet. A knife defense doesn't mean a knife fight i.e. knife-on-knife. We are talking about the honest citizen/good guy taking on a bad guy armed in any fashion and winning.

The utilization of knife work in defense work also will get the internets fired up with statements like "you're gonna get cut". It's just not true that this is a "guaranteed" outcome. A woman in minivan can kill a rapist with a knife and never get cut, a dad grocery shopping on vacation fresh off the beach with a folder can blindside a gunman bent on a mass shooting and prevail physically unscathed. Everyone seemingly obsesses that they will get cut because there is a knife around yet most never seem to think or give more than a passing thought of being shot in an exchange of gunfire. Because in case no one ever told you in a gunfight you're downrange.

Stop trying to predict the future. You will either get injured or you won't.

If you obsess about getting shot or getting stabbed or otherwise killed you won't engage or you will do so blindly, stupidly and wildly. You can't treat your injury until the bad guy is dead, down, or fleeing. Make that happen faster. No one, not me, not you, not the best instructor in the world can guarantee your  life...if it comes to a toe to toe fight remember this:

You came into this world covered in someone else's blood you should, in the midst of a violent attack upon you, atleast leave in the same fashion.

11 comments:

cayton said...

Reminded me of this video I saw last week of a WW2 veteran discussing how they used their fighting knives.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDGHKyB3T_U&feature=share

Evan said...

"The utilization of knife work in defense work also will get the internets fired up with statements like 'you're gonna get cut'."

Amen for pointing out the idiocy of many telling you not to use a knife ever. Use the best tools you can manage to have with you. Know how to use the second, third, fourth best tools you might have with your when the previous "best" fail or are absent.

ThomasD said...

Perhaps the single greatest requirement to successfully using a knife defensively is will. You simply must commit to the fight, and be prepared to enter and/or remain in that 'dance space' until victory or defeat.

To use Cooper's terminology, the quicker and more decisively you get to condition red, the greater your chances of success.

The 'prison technique' - off hand driven into you opponents face, instinctively drawing his defenses upwards, followed by slashing attacks to the axilla or abdomen - has a well established record of real life success among the inmate population.

Significant tissue damage will also tend to cause anyone but the most well trained to revert to a reactive defense - whereby they surrender the initiative. So in the case of a chest or abdominal wound they will immediately drop their hands in an attempt to guard those areas - thereby exposing the neck and face. Once you'e managed to reach that point it is simply a matter of retaining posession of the weapon and keeping it in motion until the attacker ceases to be a threat.

Matt said...

Can you make a suggestion for a good EDC tactical knife?

Brigid said...

That was information that too many people don't have as they just would rather not think about it.

With the exception of a brain shot, most shots (or wounds from flat edged weapons) do not kill instantly. Man, like any other animal, must follow the dictates of nature and expire from lack of oxygen to the brain. How is this going to happen? First is your basic circulatory collapse, either complete failure of the heart that stops the flow of oxygenated blood to the brain or bleeding out. Or second, they can die from loss of functioning of the lungs, i.e. the lungs fill with blood or the airways are disrupted to the point that they cannot support the flow of air through them. When the lungs quit replenishing the oxygen in the blood what little you have left in oxygen stores is soon gone and the brain shuts down .

But unlike TV, this does not happen instantly, and depending where your defense blow was placed and how determined or high on drugs your attacker is, you might be gravely injured yourself before you before you find out.

Even more cheery news, if you miss the heart, remember the body is capable of pretty much continuing to operate until about 20% of the blood supply is drained, more time than you'd like, if the wound doesn't cause immediate blood loss. Shots to the stomach? Serious on the OUCH factor, but recently a criminal in Idaho was been shot over 20 times in that area and survived. The lungs? Sure, it's sort of in the "center" but, as I said, it takes seconds for the lungs to fill with blood or the airways to be disrupted where they can't support the flow of oxygen through them.

It's about blood loss folks. You need to know where best to strike.

Again, excellent, excellent information as you presented it.

Brerarnold said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brerarnold said...

Thanks for this and the previous article. Back in the 70s, I got my martial arts training from a former Marine, Bronze Star, Vietnam vet. Most of the class, he taught unarmed combat. For some of his senior students/assistant instructors, he gave us weapons instruction, and I don't mean nunchucks or swords. Pistol, rifle, shotgun, and Ka-Bar. He was not as methodical as what you have presented here, but it was all along the same lines. Thanks for reminding me of this information. It's been in the back of my mind all that time. Being reminded, and remembering that I have to stay up to date with this stuff as well as my pistol skills, that's real good. So, thanks again, Matthew. (I wish Blogger had an edit function for comments.)

BonnieGadsden said...

Great posts. I linked to them from my site.

RegT said...

I'm certainly _not_ a knife fighter, but as an RN (last in a fair line of occupations) and a former EMT, it isn't just about blood loss. As the article stated, there are muscle groups and tendons, ligaments that can cripple and prevent your opponent from being able to fight back, even though he hasn't bled out enough to shut down.

Cut the hamstring muscles or Achilles tendon, and leg function fails. Sever the major muscles of the biceps while you are slashing the inner (medial) aspect of the upper arm (also gets you the brachial artery), slash the forearm, and arm function fails, possibly grip function as well.

Deep thrusts into the arm pit when an arm is raised defensively, and along with puncturing a lung, nerves that enervate the arm can be cut, reducing or destroying function, as well as possibly slicing the subclavian artery.

As this author states, in seconds it is possible to reduce function sufficiently that he cannot fight back, at least not effectively. If you have managed to slash the lateral or medial collateral ligaments near the knee, or the vastus medialus muscle of the inner thigh, that leg may stop functioning - along with a hopeful cut to the femoral artery, which is one of the quickest ways to bleed out. I would guess that most folks might be less worried about guarding their leg as opposed to neck or chest.

We all know that CNS (central nervous system) hits with a decent caliber bullet can stop the action fairly quickly, but there are also nerves, motor nerves, that can be cut which can render entire muscle groups unable to work. The brachial plexus is one group, and sufficient damage to it can cause the arm on that side to be rendered useless.

My guess on all I have read is that it is more important to cut for function than it is to hope for sufficient blood loss, because blood loss, as Brigid states, may take longer than you think, with your opponent still able to fight. Whatever blood loss occurs while shutting down his ability to respond is just icing on the cake.

Anonymous said...

I cary at least 1 to three, on me at all times.. I am also handicapped, and have a Cane. The cane, is such a great club. Or sometimes, they can hide a nice 28 inch suprise!

Shashi Suryawanshi said...


really good piece of information, I had come to know about your site from my friend shubodh, kolkatta,i have read atleast nine posts of yours by now, and let me tell you, your site gives the best and the most interesting information. Thanks a lot once again, Regards,
bicep workouts