When you’re being attacked by someone with a weapon, any mistake you make could be your last. You need to be able to think fast and react even faster. You are at a disadvantage—they have the weapon. Even professional fighters only have a small chance of succeeding against an armed attacker.
Having said that, a small chance is better than no chance, and proper preparation can save the lives of you, your family, and possibly dozens of innocent bystanders. In this article, we are going to take a look at the most common weapons used in attacks and how you can deal with and neutralize these threats.
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Defending against firearms is a topic that requires an article of its own, and a firearm specific article will be published in a couple of weeks. For now, we’re going to focus on weapons such as knives and bats.
Percentage of Attacks by Weapon Type
To start, I figured we should take a look at some recent FBI data regarding the types of weapons used in both murders and aggravated assaults. This may tell us what sort of attacks we can expect.
Murders by weapon used (16,214 in 2018):
- Firearms 72.7%
- Knives 10.7%
- “Unknown or other dangerous weapons” 11.8%
- Hand, Feet, Fist 4.8%
Aggravated Assault by weapon used (807,410):
- Firearms 26.1%
- Knives 17.3%
- Other weapons (clubs, blunt objects, etc.) 31.5%
- Hand, Feet, Fist 25.2%
Robbery by weapon used (282,061):
- Firearms 38.5%
- Knives 8.3%
- Other weapons 10.4%
- “Strong-arm” 42.8%
So various firearms were used in 72% of murders, 38% of robberies, and 26% of aggravated assaults. What this shows is that those looking to do serious harm—or at least attacks that end in death—are more likely to involve firearms. This isn’t surprising given the increased lethality of firearms.
It also shows that murders are only a percentage of the hundreds of thousands of violent assaults that occur every year, even without societal collapse. Your chances of simply being robbed or attacked with a knife or bludgeon are quite high relative to being assaulted with a firearm—even with guns being so prevalent.
There is another lesson here: Training to defend against one type of weapon in one kind of scenario probably won’t prepare you for the situation you’ll actually be faced with. Train to be proficient in various techniques and tactics, as well as how to use and pick up on physical and verbal cues towards a possible attackers intention.
Dealing With Clubs, Bats, and Other Bludgeoning Tools
Clubs and bludgeons can be anything from a crowbar to a baseball bat to a hefty boot. While the damage they can inflict can vary greatly, they have some similar characteristics. They are held in hand and deal crushing damage by being swung in looping arcs.
Very few people are trained in these types of weapons, though it doesn’t take much training to take a bat to someone. What you can expect is for someone to overcommit on their swing or to misjudge the distance between you and them. Those are the moments when you will find your openings to come in and neutralize the arm(s) holding the weapon.
This quick video shows this method in use by a police training officer. If you want to see how training for this should really look, and how messy this will be in reality, then escrima stick fights are an excellent place to start. In this video, Guro AA Quidlat pulls of a knee-mount disarm.
While the images we used from the Marine Corps handbook show an armbar, if you are fighting for your life or you do not know this technique, your free hand can be used to strike the opponent’s throat and eyes. Your legs are free to strike the groin. Continue this until the threat is neutralized.
From the ground, use your legs to keep the blade and your attacker away from you. Cuts to your calves are more acceptable than to your neck or torso. Look for an opportunity to escape and strike the knees if possible. This position can buy you some seconds when all else fails and help is on the way.
Of course, if the opponent is using a bat, you won’t be able to armbar both arms as they grip the weapon. In that case, trap the arms down or up and headbutt, knee the groin, and strike the eyes and throat to force them to release the weapon.
Where you can learn to defend against a club or bat attack:
Kali/Escrima schools are masters of blade and stick fighting. Many high-level instructors are brought in to train the military, police, and special forces across the world. One of my instructors has a two-week free trial on his site (I’m not affiliated or anything), but keep in mind you need training partners to learn how to make this stuff work.
Krav-Maga and Jeet Kune Do schools will often include these types of drills and training in their classes. The most intense stick fighters in the United States are going to have to be the Dog Brothers.
Nothing replaces training, though. Buy a couple of motorcycle helmets, grab some padded sticks and a friend, then see what works and what doesn’t work for you.
Dealing With Knives and Other Cutting Tools
Knives can be incredibly deadly or a relatively small threat. It all depends on the ability of the user and the size of the blade. A knife may kill you in one blow, or it may take over 50 stabs (and you may yet live). You need an active defense, and you can’t give them a chance for a clear and accurate strike to an artery.
- Keep moving and keep an active defense.
- Find something to deflect the knife or break the knife-wielding hand.
- Once you make contact, control the knife hand no matter what.
- Disarm and disable the attacker.
The Importance of Being Aware
Knife and bludgeoning attacks are common all over the world. The simplicity in creation, and in wielding these weapons makes them common—even in the most strict prison environments. Attacks of this sort, especially with blades, are often sudden, and victims can be stabbed or cut multiple times before they are even aware they are under attack.
Being aware is your best defense against knives. Keep a safe distance from suspicious personnel (in order to give you a chance to react) and make sure you are aware of anybody approaching you. An attacker will often try and mask their intentions.
Even a buddy of mine back in the Marine Corps was attacked by a homeless guy with a knife down in Los Angeles. He ended up grabbing the knife by the blade and knocking the guy out. Messed up his hand for a bit, but he survived and got a nice souvenir in that blade. This man defended himself from a knife attack with a toilet plunger.
We can’t really link them here for clear reasons, but the internet is full of videos of actual knife attacks. Many have been recorded in London in the last few years. If you are serious about the topic and the reality of knife attacks, you need to watch some of these videos. It isn’t easy to do, but you can’t hide from reality, and you need to be ready when it comes for you.
Mass Knife Attacks:
One of the best stories I can recall on this topic occurred in London. During a terrorist attack, the unarmed police were forced to flee from multiple ISIS terrorists with long blades attacking a crowd.
When armed police finally arrived, they saw bakers throwing bread crates, and men continuing to chuck drinks and chairs at the attackers even while being stabbed and cut. The defenders are credited with saving multiple lives of those who chose to flee. A similar attack in China that lacked the same active resistance ended with 33 dead and 130 injured.
Warn people and run if you can. If you cannot run or the situation won’t allow it, you must stop and control the knife-hand. Never let go once you get your hand on the arm with the knife. Once this is done and you can stop the incoming strike somehow, there are a multitude of techniques that can be applied to force them to drop it.
These are also very difficult and require large amounts of training. We used to train this with shock knives, and no matter how skilled you were, when someone resists, you are gonna get cut in some way. It is about minimizing the danger you take and maximizing the damage you inflict on the attacker.
There is almost no reason to confront a knife attacker unarmed. Even using your belt or shoe to try and deflect the knife as you grab for the hand is better than nothing.
If you can control the hand and you don’t know any sophisticated disarm techniques, once again go for the eyes, throat, and groin or any other open target areas on the opponent. You need to disable the person as quickly and violently as possible to avoid taking any unneeded damage. Make sure you don’t lose control of the knife—that is always the priority.
This is a big topic, and it’s full of false information online. I highly recommend you watch this video on the topic of knife fighting and disarming: Why You Will Get Cut Knife Fighting.
Defanging the Snake:
In knife fighting, a common technique for winning without putting yourself into too much danger is called “defanging the snake” which we can understand as removing their knife. With a blade of your own, this is done by cutting the hand as it attacks.
You can also try to pick up an object that allows you to strike the knife hand as it comes near you. A bottle or dense stick can shatter hand bones and force them to drop the weapon. While this is very difficult to do, keep in mind other techniques all involve trying to get in and wrestle with the guy with the knife.
I think it is obvious why attempting to “defang” them is a better strategy to try before getting into a wrestling match with a blade. Here is some more of that training in practice.
Use bottles, books, pool cues, anything you have to try and strike their hand as they step in. If you fall over, stay on your back and defend yourself with your hands while kicking the attacker’s hand and knees while looking for a chance to escape. Don’t stand up with your head down, allowing them to strike your face and neck.
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