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Self Defense/Which is most effective with bladed weapons slashing, thrusting, or stabbing?


QUESTION: I found this debate online.

Which later led me to this link.

Indeed in the martial arts world and historical fencing, there is so much arguments about stabbing  vs slashing bladed weapons and I can't tell you how many 'Gladius is superior to longswords because it thrusts enemies and is thsu much more useful on the alleys where space is confined thus better for street fighting' or 'katana slash hits from a variety more angles than a cavalry saber' and such arguments why thrusting is always superior and vice versa.

To the point even in academia, I notice there is a trend right now where historians believe the Romans defeated the much taller Celts and other Barbarians because their Gladius was much shorter and thus they were able to thrust their enemies much quicker than the typical Gaul or Spaniard could slash their longsword and to the point that Acadamia atm even believe that the Roman marching formation was specifically designed AROUND the use of thrusting weapons where Legions quickly close in  such range that it would be impossible to use your typical Celtic longsword while you're being stabbed repeatedly by a Legionnaire and than getting trumpled over by 50 more soldiers in a forward offensive formation!

From the website of the second link I posted, THEARMA, even emphasizes the rapier became the most popular weapon of civilians during the Renaissance because  thrusting was far more efficient than slashing. There are too many links to post but you can probably find some in your freetime on THEARMA.

OK now that I'm done with the historical background, I am curious about the reality for self defense and street fighting?

I will add another category from the "thrust vs slash" that you seen in the above two links and add in the "stab". By the stab I am referring to how you hold the knife like in this pic.

YOu already know how Hollywood loves to show psychopaths take 50-100 stabs at their victims in a gory murder scene. However I also notice movies as a whole show that the thrust is the preferable attack for assassination (especially sneak attacks and quick assassinations). However they show the slash as being the most sophisticated and used primarily in martial arts and historical flicks.

Although I mentioned that martial artists have been arguing over the thing (especially the practitioners of the "traditional" styles like Kyokushin and TKD), I noticed in the RBSD world and military combatives and systems (Krav Maga, Sambo,etc) they show different attacks being used for different scenarios and often they show in direct one-on-one encounters mixing slash with thrusts and  stabs and some other fancy techniques. I still remember one video I saw where an RBSD instructor demonstrated a slash than all of a sudden with such fluid grace he spun his knife and suddenly it went into "stabbing" grip and he quickly began stabbing and than suddenly he switched hands (like a magician!) and out of nowhere his left hand with THRUSTING in fast like a demon.

The RBSD instructors hand tricks and quick transitions were truly impressive!

However you quoted Don Pentecost's book(which I read years ago) and indeed you stated most knife attacks tended to use the prison yard rush basically a technique where you close in your opponent quickly and quickly stab him out of nowhere till he's dead.

So are you of the opinion thrust's are the best? Thats what I got from reading your knife fighting stuff on your website and later watching this video.

(Although you did quickly transition to slashing his neck at one point but that was after you pinned him on the ground and thrusted him brutally 6-7 times).

Sorry for asking a STUPID question considering how much you emphasized knife use is something that should be avoided at all costs but all this thrusting vs slashing (vs stabbing) debates really got me curious?

Also I should note most thrust vs slash arguments in the martial arts and RBSD world tend to use thrust interchangeably with stabbing but the two attacks look distinct enough for me that I had to separate them (plus don't they use different bodily mechanics?). I am curious if its correct to assume thrust and stab are the same or totally different attacks that should be treated differently? Because the MA and RBSD worlds use thrust and stab interchangeably despite arguing all the time about how slashing is so different and is inferior/superior.

ANSWER: Short version... it's a BS debate by armchair warriors.

The 'best' blade is the one in your hand when you need it. I've stabbed people with the best knife on the market at the time, a 25 cent fishing knife from a drug store and a broken bottle. They ALL work. Knives cut flesh. Simple physics... debating over which one does it 'best' means someone has too much time on their hands and are involved in ego games to prove how smart they are.

Second point. It isn't the blade, it's knowing how to use it most effectively. You can have the 'best' blade in the world and if you don't know where to stick it our how to use it you're just going to wound the person... not stop him.

Drop the $2.99 and get something I wrote for writers that shows why so much of the 'best' knife debates and arguments about deadly knife fighting systems are absolute nonsense

Oh yeah, and something I put into the original post about the samurai (the one that got eaten by Allexperts) is look at the Osprey series (Men at arms, warriors, etc.). These are written by actual historians and scholars, not just internet warriors and cyber-warriors

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you for your response! Indeed other real "street fighters" (as in they wrote things similar to what you wrote about AVOIDING confrontations at all cost because fighting is NOT self defense and other such things found on your NNDS website) emphasize all this "Gladius vs rapier vs (insert weapon) is all BS.

However I should have clarified more speciifcally what I meant in my question.

Not counting different bladed weapons like a Gladius and a pentagon knife tend to be designed  for specific purposes, I noted that when weapon discussion is well-rounded, that is where the "thrust vs stab vs slash" debates come in.

To use an example, typical military knives are praised by RBSD groups as being well-balanced and adept at different attacks.

As I mentioned in my first post, from what I seen both in DVDs, books, and online videos, Krav Maga, military Sambo, etc (well at least as they are portrayed in publicly available books and purchaseable products), the RBSD and military combatives world always portray really impressive tricks to switch to  different attacks tot he point at times the hand movements seem so fluidly like a traditional martial art!

Now what I meant to ask in the initial question is that is there really such a huge difference between stabbing, thrusting, and slashing/cutting technique?

I mean even among the RBSD world and to a lesser extent military world there is argument among experts (many who never used knives outside of drills) that for most scenarios thrusting is the best technique and slashing or stabbing should only be used for specific scenario.

I will pick up your book when I get my paycheck soon but I am curious just how much more efficient thrusting is than slashing and stabbing?

Also I am rather curious how much murders have been committed by the stabbing grip as seen in the picture below?

Its not just Hollywood but every crime documentary and news report I seen where a completely untrained person who never killed before loses it and kills his spouse/lover for cheating on him or her, they always portray the hand being held in the above link picture.

THese nonfiction crime documentaries and news reports portray it almost as though humans by instinct choose to hold the knife in a stab  grip!

Is there any psychological reason why so many knife murders by untrained people are almost always committed in the grip portrayed in the picture?

Or is there something ID Channel documentaries and news reports leave out when they shown footage of the victim getting stabbed to death by his untrained assailants?

I am just curious why thrusts and clashing style techniques tend to be avoided by your average enraged housewife or druggie and they just go for the stab. Or if this is something that supposedly accurate nonfiction media ( a la your murder documentary or your recent 6 AM daily news) exaggerated?

Also I am curious about the practicality of transitioning from 50 thrusts to 1 stab on the neck to  a few slashes or vice verssa in any order? In your knife stabbing video, you thrusted the guy like 40 times but at one point while you pinned him on the ground, you suddenly flip the positioning of the knife to a stab grip and begin stabbing your "victim" on the neck in the video.

I mean the RBSD and military system all seem to emphasize fancy flipping blades and even switching it to the other hand in the middle of a knife attack to hit from multiple angles and you sort of did that at least a few times in your knife stabbing video so I am curious why do this instead of repeatedly thrusting your enemy on say the lungs or kidney or slashing your enemy on the fact, stabbing him on the neck,etc? One attack the seems effective enough.

Also you already mention that body physics and techniques can never make up for lack of proficiency but  in your opinion are some blade types really better suited for thrusting rather than cutting and vice versa? This is the sole debate in the TMA and HEMA world that a rapier is terrible for cutting or a dao is far better used as a slashing weapon,etc.

What about blades that are so dull that they cannot be used with proper slashing or cutting techniques? SInce you mentioned using a fishing knife (something MOST RBSD, TMA, military, and HEMA would see as a useless for knife fighting), I note in these debates they always tell you to go around purchasing military GRADE knives or some obscure TMA knife (such as Deer Horn Knives beccause you aren't going to be able to slash someone in the throat with a butter knife and kitchen knives lack the knecessary penetrating power to stab the heat in one trike without repeated impact,etc. Wouldn't a fishing knife be too weak to say stab someone's brain or cut fingers off?  The complete about rhusting vs slashing techniques primarily comes from the differences in knife designs at least thats what I been told by these experts.

One last question, is it true thrusting is the fastest attack and the best one to use in most situations? In your knife fighting video you primarily thrust at your opponent until he was in your ground and most RBSD and military guys I seen in videos state that thrusting is the best attack to start with because its so fast you can't see it and you save slashes, stabs, etc other techniques for specialized situations or to mix up to confuse your victim.

The martial arts and historical European swordsmanship worlds are the onlye one I seen where slashing is considered just as emphasized (in some specific schools even MORE EMPHASIZED than thrusting). To the point they even use slashing techniques even if the knife wasn't designed for slashing.

I have one more question but its such a different topic I'm saving it for later.

You're asking me to answer other people's questions/arguments/contentions. These other people have lots of drilling and cool training experience but absolutely NO experience putting blades into other people. They tend to lack experience with physical violence and how it happens.

Answering edge vs. point issues took me over 50 pages in that e-booklet "Writing Violence." You're not going to realize how much what those people are arguing over is BS unless you understand an important idea covered in the book. That is most vital targets are deep in the body and protected by bone. So slashing is mostly about wounding and disabling. You get to the vital targets by stabbing. Unfortunately, the emphasis taught by these fantasy knife fighting styles is on slashing. This is why I say they're teaching the 'Weedwhackers of death" approach.

Unfortunately for anyone who listens to them is these so-called 'experts' are willfully ignorant about the legal consequences of lethal force. What they are teaching you is a guaranteed prison sentence if you do what they are teaching.

I will flat out tell you you'd better write these on your mirror in the bathroom -- so every day you look at it and remind yourself.

1) Knives are lethal force items
2) There are prosecutors out there who do not believe self-defense exists

Expansion on one: What does lethal force item mean? It means using knives on someone is as restricted as guns -- even if you don't kill, it's still an attempted murder charge. And odds are the prosecutor is going to get the conviction.

Expansion on two: Our legal system is about winning and numbers. A self-defense claim is low hanging fruit for most prosecutors. That's because self-defense is an affirmative defense. You are CONFESSING to a crime when you claim it. You then have to provide all the evidence that it was self-defense and not just you trying to wiggle out of punishment by claiming self-defense. Most people don't know how to do this. So if a prosecutor claims that he believes self-defense exist (he has to officially admit it does), but sets the bar for SD so high that nobody can meet it, he's going to prosecute EVERYONE who claims it. Regardless of what really happened. This especially applies to any incident where a weapon is involved.

I'm going to tell you something I wrote about in "In the Name of Self-Defense" Think of self-defense as a square on the floor.  Inside that square, it's self-defense. Step outside the square, in any direction, it's NOT self-defense anymore.

Now, that square is low level force. The higher the level of force is like stacking smaller tables and chairs inside the square. The higher the level, the smaller the surface. By the time you get to lethal force, that self-defense square has shrunk to an upside down bucket that you're standing on. That's on top of a table, that an end table is on top of, that a chair is on top of -- and the bucket is on that chair.  The prosecutor is going to be trying to pull you over, sawing the legs off the furniture and/or trying to kick the whole wobbly structure over.

THAT'S the 'reality' of using a knife on someone.

If you go weedwhacker of death like these knife fighting gooroos and cyber warriors are telling you to you've just handed the prosecutor a chainsaw to use on your self-defense claim.  Your ass is going to the prison showers.

Do NOT listen to these people. The average person doesn't like the idea of knives being used on another human being -- and that's who's going to be sitting in the jury box.

Yes, a knife can be used effectively and defensively. But there's going to be some nasty consequences. So you better do your learning, thinking and understanding about all the OTHER issues regarding knives BEFORE you even think about using one on someone.

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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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