Self Defense/Knife Use


Last week I asked you about forward and reverse knife grips (and thank you for your answer) and I wanted to follow up on an issue you touched on: effective vs lethal use of the knife. In a self defense situation, I'm assuming that stabbing him in the vitals over and over isn't the best option from either a legal or practical standpoint.  If the edge wounds and the point kills, does that mean cutting is the way to go?

Not quite as simple as that.

Full scale:

Most people don't even know there is a difference between pain and injury. Rule of thumb: Pain hurts. Injury hurts too, but you HAVE to go to the hospital.

You can be in pain and/or injured and continue to attack.

Same goes with lethal. You can be lethally wounded and still function -- for a limited time. Numerous cases where someone is shot in the heart and still up and active threat for up to 90 seconds. Read once that 80% of all people who die in hospitals from traumatic brain injury (alone)walk into the hospital. A term you should know is 'Deadman's 10.' It's supposedly an old west gunfighter term. But who knows? Basically it means the ten seconds a man who is lethally wounded can remain up and a danger to you (e.g. can pull his own gun and shoot you too). The big question is: Is it 'immediately lethal' (rare and very specific targeting) or will it take time? The latter is way more common

All three of these are extremely dependent on the person's 'will' to carry on and what they expect. I've known of people who are so convinced that they die when shot that they end up dying after a non-lethal wound. I've known of people who have 'thrown themselves backwards' when shot -- because that's what they've seen in the movies. I've known people to fall down and curl up around wounds and I've known wounded people to be caught four blocks away climbing a fence. I've seen people remain on the fight until the bitter end.

Incapacitating however, stops the person's ability to act. Take for example a broken leg. Not lethal, but the guy isn't going to get up and chase you either. Most forms of incapacitation are injurious. Some are quicker to lethality than others. Still others are a crap shoot. Someone who is unconscious is incapacitated -- but where are they on the all right, injured, lethal scale?

(BTW keep these levels in mind next time you hear someone squealing about police brutality when the cops use tasers or pepperspray. Those cause pain they don't injure. They aren't lethal unless there is an unknown medical condition and/or certain drugs. Also keep in mind the ability of someone to fight through them.)

The problem with stabbing someone multiple times is while it may be lethal, it might not incapacitate in time. The problem with slashing is the same. The problem with both is they take time.

Time you may not have. Remember, in order for a lethal force instrument to be legally used, you yourself must be in immediate threat of death or grave bodily injury. Roughly speaking that means they're coming in to kill you. If you don't do something about that, they will succeed. This even if your actions are eventually fatal to them. In short, if all you are doing is relying on your offense, then what you are doing is trading lethal hits with the guy.

IF you live, then the courts are going to take a dim view of the multiple wounds you inflicted expecting them to take care of business.

This is my big hard on with what these so-called knife fighting 'gurus' are teaching. They think that all it takes is being offensive.

No. You have to go for stopping the threat. This whether running and screaming like a girl, dodging and running like hell, dodging,slashing and running like hell or avoid the primary attack and incapacitate as quickly and effectively as you can.

The last being the part that most of these bozos touch themselves over -- this while telling you "Of course this is only for the times you can't escape."  The sad thing is, what they're teaching is neither incapacitating or going to save you from getting carved -- as you do unto him.

It's really less about what kind of wound you inflict than it is about all the other stuff that you are doing that effects his ability to attack you again. The knife itself is a very small part of that much larger process.

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Marc MacYoung


Street self-defense, crime avoidance and personal safety


I grew up in the streets of Los Angeles in 'situational poverty.' I have dealt with criminals and violent people all my life -- both personally and professionally. I have written 15 books and 6 videos on surviving street violence. I was originally published under the name Marc Animal MacYoung. (Animal was my street name). I've taught police and military both internationally and within the US. I've lectured at universities, academies and done countless TV, radio, newspaper and magazine interviews. I'm a professional speaker on crime avoidance and personal safety. And I am an expert witness recognized by the US court system. My bio is at My abridged CV (Curriculum Vitae) is at

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Read "In the Name of Self-Defense" the streets don't give a Ph.D in scuffle.

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