Monday, January 11, 2010

Knives for Self Defense?

Julia said...
How much training does one need to use a knife? I recall you saying your wife carries one when out.

I've always thought a knife fight would involve some level of skill. Something like 'if you don't know how to use it someone can take it away from you and use it on you'. They say that about guns, but I wouldn't let anyone disarm me.

I'd like to consider a knife, but I'm bit nervous. What type of knife would be good for a woman?
January 10, 2010 8:17 PM

Hi Julia,

Not long ago I wrote a post about just that, knife for women.
Here’s the link:

Defensive Knives for Women

Also check the "Knives" Topic on the left column for more posts about knives.

If you choose the right knife for you, it’s not going to be easy for an attacker to take it away from you. Much harder than disarming someone with a firearm.
Knives are deadly contact range weapons.
Many folks say don’t bring a knife to a gunfight, but those that know better know that at contact range, against someone that has a slight idea of what to do and some training, the knife wins most often and is deadlier than the handgun.
If you use a razor sharp fighting knife, the kind of damage you can do to a person will make a gunshot wound pale in comparison.

You are right about the possibility of the knife being taken away from a woman, there’s always the risk, but that risk stands mostly on three pillars:

1)Poorly chosen weapon:

Selecting a good knife for defense requires a lot of knowledge. The selection process is much more difficult than choosing a handgun because appropriate grip and blade are crucial. I can recommend just about anyone to arm himself or herself with a Glock 19. Give or take I know it’s a weapon that will work for practically every person you can thing of that takes a minimum amount of time to learn to shoot it well.
A knife? Not so easy. A $400 Busse Battle Mistress will be totally useless for a women that wants a knife for defensive carry, while a $15 Cold Steel Roach Belly may be a very good choice.

Most “combat” knives are poor choices for women or even men with small hands. Others are just too big or heavy, there’s not a one answer fits all knife, the right fitting grip being mandatory for weapon retention during a knife fight. If you ever sparred with a practice knife, you know how often they fly out of the grasp of people, just happens a lot.
Now imagine actually getting a knife stuck on an attacker, desperately twisting away to literally save his life.
Long narrow knife blade? Deadly for sure, but the short blade will come out of the body, and you retain your weapon, while a longer one may catch in the body more when the attacker moves away. A bayonet like blade is an effective stabbing tool , but will require greater physical strength to retain when rumbling. Not a problem with WWII troops, but not ideal for a woman’s defensive use.

Most combat knives also have large grips made for large hands, even for being used with gloves. This may be too large for small hands and while it may not be a problem when working, or cutting an apple, it may give an attacker a surface to hold on to and twist the weapon out of your grip.
I recommend a good grip, small, preferably rubberized and with shallow groves or a concave shape that allows good retention. The blade should be short, but razor sharp and thick, of good steel, flexibility being more important than 60rc hardness.

2) Lack of training:

There’s more than enough proof, many cases of women using knifes (often with deadly results) against rapists and abusive husbands. Just like with men, it’s a weapon that goes along well with rage, instinctive fighting, you stab slash and hurt the person as much as you can, before you know it there’s a bloody mess in front of you.

I of course encourage at least a class or seminar so as to know the basics. There’s Filipino knife fighting martial arts that takes a lifetime to master, but just knowing the basic guard and attacks will make you an adversary to be reckoned with. I’d also recommend knowing the human body very well, so as to know where to cut and stab, and what you can expect.

This is something I went into detail in my book because knowing those things will give you a huge advantage in a contact range fight, where you maybe have a second or two to cut before a stronger attacker pins you down on the floor. If you slashed the face, maybe the result won’t be what you expected, but stabbing on the side of the neck … Mr. Rapist now has to decide if he will spend the last few seconds he has left before passing out and probably dying trying to remove his pants or heading to the ER room.

3) Lack of proper mindset:

This is even more important that training, especially with knives. Gun may malfunction, may run out of ammo or you may not know how to operate it. Not the case with the knife, it depends entirely on how bad you want to carve someone with it.
Women that get beaten by abusive husbands, sometimes just crack, pick a kitchen knife and kill their abusive partner.
But if you doubt, if you hesitate and just don’t fight with all you’ve got, the result can be tragic.
In the end, the handgun requires to be aimed in the right direction, the trigger pulled enough times to stop the treat.
With the knife, there’s sort of an art to it. Where will you strike, will you slash certain key point or just go for a more brutal approach, grab and stitch the guy full of holes. When your stalker grabs you, will you slash the wrist, and follow up with a stab to the face or neck, then continue attacking until you stopped him? It requires some nerve to do this, and specially, I’d say it requires a person that has a mindset tuned to react violently against bad guys as the instant, natural reaction.

Think about it and be honest with yourself. As a weapon, the knife is terribly effective. A t contact distance it’s the best one bar none. That’s why I have one with me at all times.
So take a class or seminar to know how to grip your weapon, learn to strike, but most of all, be 100% certain that if ever faced with that decision, you will do the worst damage you can.



parabarbarian said...

Bear in mind that, for me, a knife is last ditch defensive tool. It is there to give me time to get away. That said, for that purpose I like a "push dagger" like the Cold Steel Safemakers or even better, IMO, the unfortunately discontinued Safekeeper models. The single edged Safekeeper III was designed as a skinning knife -- and it works well for that -- but still makes a good defensive knife.

For those who live in repressive states, the Mini Pal or slightly larger Urban Pal may be worth a look. I've had a Mini Pal on my key chain for about five years and it looks enough like a fob that no one seems to notice it's a knife. Not great as defensive knife unless you have surprise on your side but better than begging and it can be passed off to the cops as a tool to cut a stuck seatbelt.

BTW, the Roach Belly is an excellent design and a heckuva knife for the price.

Anonymous said...

I have always been curious about these knives:


Seems to meet your criteria - short blade, easy to retain...

Anonymous said...

Good advice. I am going to buy my girlfriend a knife to replace the Gerber that she has, because the grip is no good for fighting. I already got her some Mace. It is hard to change her attitude, but after her phone got stolen now three times, and her purse last month and our car broken in and radio stolen, she is starting to think that not everyone is a good person. I have spent years in a boxing gym and my opinion is that boxing is very good for learning to fight with a knife. Most people draw back on their punch and make it too long and loopy and lose time. Boxing would correct those mistakes. Un amigo del nordeste de los Estados Unidos. Que te vaya bien. Aqui conozco mucha gente argentino, refugiados del 2001. Son buena gente.

Julia said...

Wonderful info here! I have your book, but I had skipped over the knife fighting part because I had incorrectly assumed that it was more geared to men.

I agree with it being a last ditch defensive tool. I view my Sig that way too. I live in a non-carry state, so I thought a knife would be better. I think a woman being armed with either weapon is a big deterrent in and of itself.

Aiming for the side of the neck is a brilliant idea too. Never really thought of that!

Thanks again!

Ryan said...

Seems like knives have less skill or at least small motor control than shooting. Take knife, put in bad guy. Repeat as necessary. Training is good but I would say 15% training and 85% guts would win out over the reverse. Then again maybe that is always true.

One downside about knives for women is that they are up close and involve physical strength. Size doesn't matter at all in a gunfight but with physical comparatives it does.

I have a couple of the Cold Steel Roach Bellies. Like em a lot. For about $10 a piece why not get a pair of them.

Anonymous said...

Used to work out with a guy (a 5th or 6th dan master) who made all his students carry knives and guns in carry states.

He always trained with real knives, the edges ground off to get the "realest feel".

I'll always remember the night he taught us the "E.R. Special" a move one ER MD said, "Even if we're in the ER, there's not much we can do to save you".

Mind you, that's with a knife, not a gun.

Learn to use both... and your hands... and your feet... and your elbows... and your knees, but most importantly, learn to use and keep your head.

Go in peace

Kisha Kitchens said...

Thank you for sharing your knowledge, Ferfal! And yes, knives can be a good choice of weapon if the user has the right type of knife and the proper training on how to use it. But if I may add, I think another thing that we should emphasize is the safety in handling this kind of weapon. Keep us posted on your other survival tips!