Movie Myths about Knife Assaults

 In today’s society, the movies and television have created a tremendous number of misconceptions about how knife attacks happen and how the “hero” is able to defend against the knife wielder without any serious injury.  Let’s address some of these Media misgivings.


# 1:  The attacker will square off with you, presenting a specific posture or stance that gives you time to assess his style, plan your moves and get ready to defend.

Real World Experience 1:  An experienced knife fighter or criminal will not show his blade to you or anyone else before he tries to bury it in your chest.  This person is intent upon murder.  They will not announce this fact along with their style giving you time to defend.  Most martial arts and military styles of knife work were developed in a lawless society or where the soldier was the law. Today's reality is that knives are common and while cutting someone is illegal, the prisons have shown that criminals have a preference for the knife because of it’s ease of use. The ambush and the sucker strike are preferred methods of attack.

 The individual who waves their knife in your face wants something from you: your fear, your money or for you to leave them alone. In this situation you would be best to disengage and await authorities who have firearms to deal with the individual. 


#2:  After the attacker shows you their knife and their intent, the attacker will use the knife like a long-range weapon: i.e. he will hold it in his forward hand and lunge into a slash. Or, he will thrust with full body movement, extending his knife hand as he moves with a major body part (read: a killing blow) at his target.


Real World Experience 2:  Body Language cues will give away a person’s intention, the fixed gaze, the tight bladed body, the gritted teach, are all clear intentions of the attackers desire to kill you.  None of the mainstream martial arts knife work have taught this approach to killing; they are notorious for slicing and dicing before they finish (this includes Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Filipino styles). Even the military styles are taught to cut their way in and to cut their way back out--taking all targets of opportunity on their way. American prison style of shanking with only the point (no edge) does not usually drive in this way either.


 The full body, lunging style of attack seems to be a movie style that was developed to be able to picture what was happening on the screen to the best advantage.  It is an over dramatized method of attack to make movies more entertaining.


Where you may see this is in the ambush or surprise attack, where the extra distance is seen by the attacker as a safety zone. This may be used by someone who is feeling secure that he is not going to be seen or who is too enraged to care. When the attacker combines the ambush with a lunge attack, using strongest-weapon-to-major-target principle, the victim (you) is surprised, caught off balance, not in fight mode and very vulnerable. Therefore, your training must include defenses from surprise lunge attacks. But, due to the fact that other types of attacks are possible and even more probable, especially if you are being confronted with a attacker who wants to hide his stuff, training against the other types of attacks must be learned and drilled.

#3:   The myth of the frozen hand. This is actually two myths because it can apply to both the knife hand and to the attacker's free hand. It means that once you have blocked his knife hand, he either leaves it out there for you to do your baddest finishing move on , or he does not involve his free hand at all.


Real World Experience 3: The knife you block will cut its way back out of your reach as fast as it came in, it will twirl and cut up your forearm, it will "rip or fillet" your forearm or his other hand will tear out an eye or give you a thought provoking shot in the throat.

Three principles of effective knife work:

  1. hypnotise with the blade, kill with the free hand
  2. flash the knife to get a defensive block up then cut it
  3. starting with the closest target, cut your way in, then cut your way back out, wait for blood loss and shock

As for the prison style attacks, it is much more direct with less flash and slash without the disadvantages of the lunge attack. It depends upon the proper use of the free hand to catch and pull the victim in close where the knife can be used "discretely."   Prisoners practice to kill guards or other prisoners, they are aware of cameras and witnesses, so they train to be subtle and keep their strikes hidden. 


 # 4:  "You get close distance to fight a knife;" or "You must rush at the knife." Or “If you lunge at the knife the attacker will pull back because they are startled and won’t attack you!”


Real World  Experience 4: The knife is a short range weapon and if you choose to fight in its range the chances are you will lose, for sure you will get cut. Unless you must fight the knife wielding attacker, you should stay away and fight from long range with long-range weapons, like Guns, but if you don’t have that tactical option, improvised weapons work well including

·         chairs,

·         garbage cans

·         and thrown objects like ashtrays.

It doesn't matter if the bad guy is trained or not, he must get close to you to cut you, and once he is close, he can cut you.

There is no power needed for cutting -- the knife has all the power. All the attacker provides is a delivery system and the knife can come in at incredibly high speed with erratic motions.  Keep your distance and keep yelling to draw attention.

If you rush in at someone, they are likely to stab you out of reflex.  When someone is rushed and is in a heightened state of anxiety, they tend to react with pushing motions… and the knife is in the pushing hand.

#5:  "You can take a cut while you kill him," or, "While he's cutting me, I'll be killing him."

Real World Experience 5: The one-shot kill is so hard to pull off on a fresh and committed opponent that you can't count on it, as the No Holds Barred fighting has proven. Of course it's available but if it fails you are in deep trouble while you are inside his range, cut and going into shock. This is not where you want to be.

The problem of shock relates to the body's natural dismay at being invaded by a foreign object; it has nothing to do with how tough you are... a deep cut in a minor place like the forearm may stop you in your tracks due to physiological responses outside your control.

Recognition of Shock


Initially, a flow of adrenaline causes: 

bullet A rapid pulse.
bullet Pale, grey skin, especially inside the lips.  If pressure is applied to a fingernail or earlobe, it will not regain its colour immediately.
bullet Sweating, and cold, clammy skin (sweat does not evaporate).


As shock develops, there may be: 

bulletWeakness and giddiness.
bulletNausea, and sometimes vomiting.
bulletRapid, shallow breathing.
bulletA weak, ‘thready’ pulse.  When the pulse at the wrist disappears, fluid loss may equal half the blood volume.


As the oxygen supply to the brain weakens: 

bullet The casualty may become restless, anxious and aggressive.
bullet The casualty may yawn and gasp for air (‘air hunger’).
bullet The casualty will eventually become unconscious.
bullet Finally, the heart will stop.

Imagine getting the wind knocked out of you and then being forced to defend yourself. That is a bit of what the shock will be like. The shock of the cut on your forearm may give the attacker the opportunity to sink their blade in your heart or throat.

Sacrificing an arm to avoid a kill shot to the throat is a smart move, but don't intentionally take a cut just to set up your own shot, no matter how many others have successfully done it.

# 6:   If you are good at sparring, you are ready for fighting.


Real World Experience 6:  Sparring is a game that is safe and no matter how good you get, it isn't fighting. It will teach you balance, movement, range and openings, but it will not prepare you to face death, adrenaline dumps and brutality.

A criminal who is seriously trying to kill you with a knife will not spar or look for openings and fake you out--his psychology is totally different. He has no fear because he has made himself invincible with his weapon and previous successes, and he wants it over fast so he can escape the attention of the police. He charges in with no apparent regard for his own safety so as to overwhelm his victim.

 If he starts waving his knife around and sparring, you are lucky. Now you have time to assess, plan, get a distance weapon ready or escape.