7 Tips to Defend Yourself Against a Knife-Wielding Attacker

Image via Shutterstock, a man in a black hoodie attacks with a knife.

A knife-wielding assailant in Japan killed 19 people and wounded another 26 in 2016. Although most of the victims were residents in a home for disabled people, I am sure many people read the headlines and wondered if they could possibly stop an attacker armed with a knife.


Two years ago, a team of 10 jihadist-terrorists attacked a train station in China. They were armed only with knives, yet they killed 29 and wounded another 130! If you are unarmed, is there any way to defend yourself from someone with a blade?

Before anyone writes, “I’ll just pull out my concealed pistol and blow him away,” remember the “21 Foot Rule.” Long ago the FBI proved that trained police officers need a minimum of 21 feet between themselves and a knife-wielding attacker in order to successfully draw their gun and accurately fire.

Anything less than that distance, and the attacker can easily stab the victim before he/she can draw their pistol. Demonstrating that fact in the following video is world famous martial artist Dan Inosanto in unrehearsed scenes:

Please notice at the 1:48 mark that the police officer uses the correct gripping and striking techniques to control the knife hand and to disarm/disable the attacker. We’ll come back to that in a minute.

I have said often that I would rather face someone armed with a baseball bat or club than someone armed with a knife. Why? Knives are small and concealable. If someone attacks you with a blade, you will probably get stabbed before you even see it.

Unlike some guns, knives don’t jam. They don’t run out of ammo. They don’t make a sound. And even in the hands of an “amateur,” the knife can travel at blinding speed as someone is trying to cut you to shreds. So what can you do? Here are some helpful training tips:


1. Run.

Always my first choice. Just like in many of my previous articles, I always start here. If you see someone brandishing a knife, get out of there as fast as you can. You’d better be practicing running.

If you can’t run, if there is not already enough distance between you and the attacker, then you’ll have to do something to fight. Watch this video to see how quickly someone can approach and stick a knife in someone:

Next Page: What if you can’t run?

2. Find a makeshift weapon.

If you have to fight, grab hold of a makeshift weapon if at all possible. A shielding weapon like a briefcase, trash can top, backpack, or a thick cushion would work. Use it to block the thrusts or slashes of the knife.

Or, instead of the “shield,” find a stick or anything that can be used as a club. Immediately strike the weapon hand of the attacker. Follow up with strikes to the throat/side of the neck or head.

3. Defend your vulnerable body parts.

Know that in any confrontation with a blade the chances are very, very high that you will get cut. You must avoid at all costs any strike to your eyes, neck, chest, stomach or the inside areas of your arms and legs. Those are your most vulnerable areas.

You can’t fight if you are blinded, and if an artery is cut you will bleed out quickly. If your tendons get slashed on the inside of your arms/wrists you will lose the ability to use your hands and you could bleed to death.

4. Adopt a fighting stance.


If you see the attack coming and you have the time to move into a fighting stance, quickly put your arms in front of your “center line” (from your chin to your pelvic area). This is the area you must protect.

Make sure the outside of your forearms are facing the enemy; you can take a cut to that area and still fight. Tuck your chin down and hunch your shoulders to protect your neck and throat as much as possible.

Take a look at a “sneak preview” of Sammy Franco’s “Control and Conquer” DVD that demonstrates this stance clearly at the 22 second mark and 52 second mark:

Notice also the gripping of the knife hand and counterattack at the 40 second and 53 second mark. You can keep the enemy at bay with lightning-quick finger jabs to the eyes or kicks to the knees, but at some point you must disarm him if help does not arrive soon.

5. Redirect the knife hand.

Of course, the attack may come so quickly that you do not have time to shift into any kind of preparatory fighting stance. But in order to save your life you must redirect or deflect the knife hand away from you. If the knife hand is coming straight at your face or chest, your only chance is to parry it (a quick slap of the hand forcefully redirecting the knife hand).

Watch Nick Drossos parry a knife attack in this video:

If it is coming in a circular motion (coming up to your stomach, down to your head or around to the head in a slashing motion), then your only chance is to grab the attacker’s wrist and arm.

The best grip for this is a “V” grip. You make a “V” grip by overlapping your hands so that one thumb is over the middle of the other hand, thus forming the letter “V”.


This is clearly demonstrated in the Sammy Franco YouTube clip in point #4, and in Sammy’s two DVDs on knife defense: “Control and Conquer, volumes 1 and 2.” You can find these DVDs at www.sammyfranco.com. (In my opinion they are simply the best DVD instruction money can buy.)

You must grab his arm and control it with all your might, keeping the blade away from your body.

Next Page: So you’ve redirected the knife. Now what?

6. Destroy the attacker.

Keeping an iron grip on the attacker’s arm, you must immediately destroy him with vicious strikes. Head butt him in the face, knee him in the groin or side of the leg, bite him in the jugular if you must.

Remember, he is trying to kill you. You are therefore legally and morally justified to use lethal force. Once you have weakened him with strikes, attack his windpipe by crushing or striking it. You are not finished until he is down on the ground and not moving.

Nick Drossos shows many good videos on YouTube addressing this situation. (His language is pretty vulgar at times. If that bothers you, just use the mute button. But what he is teaching is right on.) Watch how he deals with a knife attack. Notice how he uses parries and simple strikes to counterattack:


7. What about a “static” knife attack?

A static attack is when the attacker holds the knife directly on you (like at your throat). A “ballistic” attack is when the attacker is slashing or thrusting at you. Here Nick shows his defense against a knife being held at his throat:


Notice in every situation the defender redirects the weapon, controls the hand or arm (not touching the knife, but keeping it as far away as possible), and then works on disarming the attacker.

Two more videos from Nick Drossos deal more with defenses against static knife attacks and someone concealing a knife:

And finally:

If you successfully defend yourself (that means you live and the attacker has left or is on the ground), immediately call for the police and seek medical attention. You may be severely wounded and not even feel it.

If you are serious about defending yourself, you must train. Get a training partner, get some training knives (NOT “real”, obviously!), some eye protection, and probably a helmet and protection for your throat and start practicing. You will fight like you train!


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