When was the last time you sat on a train, or a bus, or in a restaurant, club, or movie theater, and worried that you might be attacked by a knife-wielding madman? There are some people who don’t want to think about such things, and might want to give you a mental health diagnosis. Yet a recent episode of a crazed knife-wielding murderer wilding through the streets and subways of Manhattan once again drives home the fact that it could happen to you. So, how do you process this possibility?

One option is denial; just stick your head in the sand and insist that it is unlikely to happen to you, just like anti-gun and weapon rights hoplophobes do. Another option, if you can afford it, is to hire your own personal protection team. Unfortunately, with a few exceptions, only the privileged power brokers who want everyone else disarmed can afford this option. Still a third option is to actually prepare yourself to deal with such a situation should it find you.

Fortunately, you do not have to be a special forces operator to learn some simple counterattack techniques to turn the tables back onto a knife wielding attacker. As a student of edged weapon combatives with Tuhon Tom Kier of the Sayoc Tactical Group (STG), I have been fortunate to study some of these techniques with like-minded partners.

Avoid Knife Fights

You should exhaust all options before you go blade-to-blade, because all blade confrontations are nasty affairs. Options include escape, verbal dissuasion, and launching projectiles from a distance greater than two arms length (e.g., throwing something, deploying a firearm). If all of these preferable options fail, then you are in a close-quarters confrontation (CQC). If this is the case, hopefully, you can produce and are prepared to deploy a close-quarter weapon. You cannot afford to freeze—if you do, you will end up in a ball of blood. So, what do we have to hit our attacker with or stab him with? Recognize that you do not want to trade punches or slaps for stabs because if that is your strategy, you may die.

As the “defender” against an adversary wielding a deadly weapon who is intent on killing or maiming you, you are at a grave disadvantage because action typically beats reaction. Therefore, STG’s philosophy is to counter every one of the attacker’s movements with an aggressive counterattack, or else the attacker will be completely offensive and you will be completely overwhelmed. If you are ambushed, launch a decisive, aggressive and relentless counterattack that does not stop until your assailant has stopped being a threat to you.

Gain The Edge

You need to simultaneously counter every one of the bad guy’s movements to gain the winning edge. If you are taken by surprise; that is, ambushed, the fight begins with the bad guy being the “feeder” (i.e., feeding you his blade or his blows or his bullets) and you being the “receiver.” If you are to prevail, you must change that immediately by making yourself the “feeder” and your attacker the “receiver” so that he is forced to defend himself. This disrupts his plan, and if he doesn’t have a counteroffensive strategy, he loses the fight. In order to end the fight, you need to wear your attacker down fast with your counterattacks. The terms, counter-edged weapon and “counter ambush” provide more accurate connotations of Wthe desired combative mentality than does the word defensive.

Unarmed Combatives

Even if you are not carrying any conventional weapons (not a good idea!), you can probably deploy something as a shield to serve as cover from the attacker’s blade thrusts or slashes, to buy yourself time. For example, you might deploy your handbag, briefcase, portfolio, magazine or newspaper, as a shield or as a striking or impact weapon. Meanwhile, thrusting is the most effective form of attack with both conventional and unconventional edged weapons—utilize hard pointed objects such as pens. The good news is that you can carry utility objects such as pens that are legal everywhere and that can be deployed for thrusting into vital areas of an attacker’s body. It does not appear that pens (the First Amendment) will be outlawed any time soon, and while the pen may not be mightier than the sword, unlike the sword, it does have multiple uses.

Actually, any implement in your hand with which you can thrust, you can use in a pinch (think about rolled up magazines, umbrellas, canes, keys, flashlights to name a few). With makeshift edged weapons like a pen, our targets on the bad guy must become more vulnerable, such as his eyes. If you stab your attacker in his eyes, he will become so preoccupied with the damage that he will most assuredly turn his focus inward to his own wounds. This buys you time to continue your attack, to control his weapon, or to get out another weapon, such as drawing your pistol if you have one on you.

Personal Security Blades

With adequate training, a fixed blade can be a more effective weapon than a gun if you are ambushed by a person with an edged or blunt-impact weapon at face-to-face range. Within such close quarters, you are unlikely to have time to deploy your concealed handgun and avoid getting stabbed or bludgeoned. Therefore, you should carry one or more personal security blades that can be concealed comfortably and deployed rapidly. Your blades should be good thrusters and not primarily slashing blades because thrusting techniques are what stop people. While slashing may produce a lot of blood, it typically does not stop attackers. With the exception of deep slashes in certain vital areas, the wounds are usually superficial. Slashes deflect off of stuff—they are mitigated by clothing and will glance off of bone.

Your personal security blades should be razor sharp and keep their edge. They should be a “flesh only knives” dedicated to social emergency situations. Two blades are better than one. While fixed blades are recommended for personal security application, because they are stronger and faster to deploy than folders, nowadays, there are more excellent folder choices than ever. Truth be told, it is easier to carry a “tactical” folder concealed than it is to carry most fixed blades, and any knife on you is better than none, with 10 at home. So, if you only feel comfortable carrying a folder, then it is definitely 100 percent better than no blade at all.

Drawing And Targeting

As with the handgun draw stroke, with the blade, we need to obtain a “master grip,” before the blade clears our sheath or holster. This cannot be done with a folder, which requires a readjustment of your grip as you draw. This means that you may have to use your folder as an impact tool before you deploy the blade, as you work on distracting your opponent and buy yourself time to open your folder.

STG seminars teach effective targeting. Targets on the body can be classified into those that are “timers” and those that are “switches.” “Timers” take time to stop your attacker when aggressively punctured. They either disrupt breathing or circulation (i.e., bleed out). Effective “timers” include good thrusts into the throat and into vital points in the circulatory system.

These “bleed out” points include the neckline (carotid arteries and jugular veins), collarbone (aortic arch), armpit (auxillary and brachial arteries), palmar front surface (radial and ulnar arteries), and mid-thighs (femoral arteries). “Switches,” when aggressively punctured, cause an instant shutdown of the particular body system that the switch controls. For example, in the central nervous system, destroying the brainstem will cause an instant shut down of your attacker, and in the muscular-skeletal system, cutting the inner elbow (anti cubita fossa) will disrupt the attacker’s use of that arm and hand.

Tactics To Consider

While people naturally shield themselves with their palms out, this exposes your hands to getting cut. Thus, STG training emphasizes tapping your attacker’s arms with the backs of your hands so you can protect your ability to continue to use weapons and grab. It is imperative to keep your hands working. If you get cut on the outside of your arms, this is unlikely to debilitate your ability to grab.

TAPPING AND PARRYING: We tap or parry to deflect our attacker’s blade or impact weapon and simultaneously or sequentially strike our attacker with our empty hands, impact weapon, or blade. Every time we tap or parry our attacker’s strikes or blows, we pair our block with an offensive movement; that is, a strike or strikes to disable our attacker. STG teaches several basic taps for dealing with an opponent’s blade attacks. These “taps” are delivered with the palms facing inward to protect our hands and our flexor and extensor tendons.

CROSS-BODY PENDULUM TAPPING: Here we use the back of our cross-side wrist to counter close in strikes. We tap our attacker’s weapon arm between our bodies so as to create an opening or path to counter attack him with our weapon or our empty hand. This is essentially a clearing technique.

CROSS-BODY CORKSCREW TAPPING: This is a weapon control technique. It is similar to the pendulum tap, but instead of passing the attacker’s weapon arm between our bodies like a pendulum, his weapon arm is corkscrew tapped back into his centerline, thus pressing his own weapon against his own centerline. We do this as opposed to pendulum tapping to enable us to make entry with our weapon and our body, and control his weapon in the process.

SAME SIDE FUNNEL TAPS: The funnel tap allows us to engage the attacker’s weapon at maximum tapping range from our body without having to make entry. It is usually done on the same side. The aim is to eventually jam our attacker’s weapon arm while staying at maximum arm’s length from him, but you may need to come in and strike.

SIMULTANEOUS TAP AND STRIKES: This technique is a parry or tap while the other hand is delivering a simultaneous attack with or without a blade. If you do not have a blade (shame on you!), within an arm’s length of your attacker you may need to use hand or arm strikes. Depending on your opening at the moment, your hand strikes should target: the side of your attacker’s neck (his carotid) to disrupt the baroreceptors that regulate blood pressure, his jaw hinge or temporal mandibular joint, his ears, the tip of his chin, or anywhere in his soft throat to disrupt his windpipe and give him something to think about other than continuing his attack. We call this “neck brace targeting”, if you can imagine the bad guy wearing a big neck collar. Frankly, he should be considered lucky if he gets to wear one after the fight!

GUNTING: This Filipino term refers to a scissoring counterattack. In other words, you use your two hands in a scissoring type movement with the target in between. The target could be your opponent’s arm or neck or any other part of him. So, we are using a scissoring motion as a counterattack. Typically you strike with your knife as you parry with your other hand to squeeze your target in between and cut him.

PINNING: Pin the attacker’s arm or hand against something hard and then strike or deploy your blade. In order to buy time in the fight, we might pin the attacker’s weapon against an object or against his centerline. This gives us time to deploy a weapon, strike him, or facilitate a disarming.

In summary, train to move and shoot when you have distance from your attacker and when you are just out of arm’s reach. Train to move and deploy a blade when you are within arm’s reach of your attacker. Attempting to present your gun from concealment at bad-breath distance may get you severely injured or killed. Prepare yourself. Your survival may depend on it.
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