Myth Busting – Knife Attacks



I am Selco and I am from the Balkan region, and as some of you may know it was hell here from 92-95, anyway, for 1 whole year I lived and survived in a city WITHOUT: electricity, fuel, running water, food distribution, without any kind of organized law or government. The city was surrounded for 1 year and it actually was a real SHTF situation. Our allies were our enemies from one day to the next. Today I’m prepared and share my experience on this blog.

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knife 1


I wrote this article as an addition to the (excellent) guest article we recently had on on our blog. I have to say that it is written based on my experience, seeing and dealing with knife attacks and wounds, both during the SHTF and during my work in the medical field.

It is not written scientifically, or based on hard data, it is based on what I saw, or did… what I actually experienced.

Often we find, some same topics are viewed differently by different people, and it is perfectly OK to be like that, but when it is come to knife wounds and killing, in the end a wound is wound and blood is blood.

Knife (blade)

There is something primal (can we say even mythical?) in a knife (blade) and I guess it comes from the fact that it has been used as a killing tool for many centuries, and to be honest, for me it is most scary type of possible fight – to be forced to knife fight.

Having a knife in your hand and ‘pushing’ it into someone’s body is scary thought, it is very personal, on many levels.

As always, thanks to movie industry, people imagine a knife fight is like two guys doing a whole bunch of fancy moves. In reality it is mostly about who pulled their knife first and stick it in to the other guy. (Before other guy had a chance to pull his knife hopefully)

Knife Fighting, Knives and Common Sense

I know there are knife fighting experts out there, but I have never gone through some sort of experts training so I cannot say the full impact of this. But I know that if you are forced to do knife fighting with someone when SHTF and by the chance you have pistol with you, pull the gun and shoot the man twice… forget about ‘honor’ and ‘movies’.

Knife fighting (equal terms) means that you (almost for sure) going to get hurt, get at least a couple of cuts from your opponent. Remember even a small cut when SHTF can kill you.

Accepting the possibility people on the internet will call me an idiot, I must say that choosing your knife (for SHTF) as a weapon ONLY is a HUGE resource waste.

A good knife means a working tool and a weapon.

Also accept there are more usable weapons and tools out there, like an axe for example, in terms of multi –use. A knife plays it’s part in the bigger picture.

What I am trying to say is, do not get yourself to romanticized into a certain type of knife- when it come to stabbing and cutting (in fights) most knives will do the job, with the possible exception of a really cheap one.

When it come to tools, then you should aim to choose the higher quality ones (and multi purpose if possible)

In one period of SHTF, most of the knife fights I saw were done with simple kitchen knives, and I assure you those knives did the job bloody good.

Point here is to have intention, and yes, to have guts for that. The type and style of knife is very much secondary to that…

Always you want to have common sense, and adaptability. For example if you found yourself in situation where a knife is your only weapon maybe it makes sense to make spear out of it, to have some „distance and strength“. You can’t just assume there is only ‘one way’.

Knives, Bleeding and Statistics.

There are numbers and data from years of the research about bleeding and death from knife wounds and blood loss, and it worth your time to read it, to know what is about and what you can expect.

On the other hand there are real life experiences and exceptions for everything, and you need to acknowledge that too.

You could see maybe in movies that if you silently move up on a guy from the rear, put your hand over his mouth and stab him with the knife in his back region or kidneys, he is gonna go down silently in two seconds.

Good luck with that, stabbing someone is actually a very „noisy“ job, and there are variables like; Did you hit correct place? Did you stab or slice? How long and sharp your knife is? etc etc.

On top of all this you must understand you will need do add lot of force to whatever method you use, definitely not like in the movies, people will fight for their life – literally.

Depending of the situation, you could hit the correct place (carotid artery for example) but the wounded guy could still have enough time to strangulate you. I’ve seen it happen. Yes, he will die very fast from massive bleeding from carotid artery – but the point is he could still kill you before that happens.

So you have an option of moving to the guy silently in order to kill him, great, but think, are you going to use your fancy knife in order to cut his carotid artery?

Maybe it can make more sense (and present better odds) to use a big rock and instantly crush his skull, with one strong blow, rather than take the chance of missing an artery and be faced with an alerted enemy with a knife?

If you do not have any good training about how to correctly use a knife, it is simply not very easy to achieve fast, effective kills.

More unpleasant facts about a knife fight is if you want to kill someone with a knife, it is going to be some serious requirement in terms of „working“ with your knife.

For example a simple stab, or even multiple stabs to the abdomen region will eventually kill the man, but not fast enough- it is complete different story if you stab the man and then move your knife around- or dig, gouge and cut if you like. Messy job, but it works like that.

If you need to kill someone with a knife, and you get chance to stab him, you need to be prepared that it will likely take multiple stab wounds. One stab rarely works unless you are really know what you are doing.

The final sad truth is, that during the knife fight, when you get chance to stab your opponent, he is having the same chances to stab you, so there is a very good chance you will be hurt too.

Make sure you are not ‘over simplifying’ you options and training. Many preppers I hear carrying things with them to kill folks or defend themselves. You need to understand your full range of defense options, train with your tools and train with an understanding of the realities of these things in mind.

We discuss the realities of violent encounters a lot and much, much more during our flagship course in Croatia. If you are serious about your training there are still some spaces available.

More details can be seen here:

Also, I am sure our readers have many great experiences and lessons on this subject to share. Please get involved in the discussion by leaving a comment below…



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11 Responses

  1. Great follow up info to the original post, Selco. Important takes on your points are, understand and be aware that fighting, hands, knives, guns, sticks, is not Hollywood and most likely will be very ugly and take time. Choose your tools wisely through functionality and your own personal ease of use. In our world of marketing cool and sexy stuff, it’s too easy to get sucked into buying something that is worthless in real life applications. Our modern day bayonet knives can be the best to have since they were designed for killing and survival tools. Work with your tools, use and train with them and if you find faults with tools, fix or replace. If a person with a knife is charging you and you have a holsters gun, don’t believe you can get your gun out and effectively shoot/hit the person before they get to you and slice you up! Work with partners, one charging and one with the holstered gun, to train and understand “safe” distances where you can unholster and effectively shoot versus defend against the knife before going to your gun. To defend first, you have to reach the goal of giving yourself time to safely unholster and shoot, by doing things like moving and/or fighting if you have defensive knife training. Anyone who may have the opportunity to take any Kali knife classes, please do so, as you will learn offense and defense. There is a fine line between over-simplifying and keeping things simple so when that fight comes, your response comes easily.

  2. since we’re talking knife fights, my USCCA group just posted an excellent article about the same subject and there are some very good comments below the article. Hope this is permissible; if not, please delete.
    Knife Attack: How Do You Respond?

  3. Nice writing and very positive. In Brasil knife kills are very common due to strong gun control (Yes many still get illegal Guns) and I too have seen and known about some gory details.

    The silly Kitchen knife known here as the “peixeira” (fishing knife) is the most used in these killings.

    As a defensive weapon better than bare banda even a box cutter is useful and for multi purpose combate, as another poster Said, baionet knives are great, but I like the USMC ka bar better.

    Forget about bushcrafters knives. The most loved are either too small (mora) or too clumsy (BK 2 and such). Both are great for wilderness, but not that much in a fight.

    Also machetes are excelente tools and weapons.

  4. Knife fights are one of the things that can be seen as very complicated or very simple. My non-expert opinion is it’s simple… avoid it if you can, and if it happens, distance is your friend.
    Lots of little strokes will likely be necessary before your enemy is hurt enough to give up or fall to your kill shot.
    If it gets close fast, they’ll likely go for deep stabs.
    Distance shots will likely be slashes.
    Alertness, speed, stamina, and fearlessness will be very helpful to you.
    Don’t assume you’re going to get cut… bad visualization… but don’t be shocked if it happens.
    Mix defense and offense and don’t give up.
    He has to die, and you have to live.
    Don’t fight the knife, fight the person… just be mindful of the knife.
    Other than that, get some training knives and spar with a partner.
    Research and think.
    Don’t make it complicated or fancy… there won’t be time for that.
    Make it swift, simple, and effective.
    Know where arteries, veins, and tendons are… there are charts for that. That knowledge will allow you to disable your attacker enough to get him gone or to where you can hurt him worse.
    Don’t just fight to hurt him… fight to kill him. Hurt him only enough to get near enough to kill him… then kill him so he can’t come back and hurt you later.
    Oh, don’t issue me with the legals about killing him… we’re talking SHTF here. Who ya gonna call?… Nobody.

    …that’s all I’ve got.

  5. Is a machete,or machete-like knife a better choice for defensive use? I’ve no experience with knife fighting, but it would seem a lot of damage to hands and arms of your opponent as you stay out of his reach could incapacitate him at least.

  6. In my opinion ordinary machetes are poor fighting weapons compared to a short sword or long fighting knife, but they give you distance. They are too flimsy, too flexible and are useless for stabbing. Slashing is generally less effective than stabbing. As N.B. Forrest said regarding sabers, “Give them the point!”

  7. FWIW, WW1 trench raiders – often used heavy blunt weapons. Granted, they were often trying to make captures for interrogation, but they were also often trying to get out of there before the machine guns could put up a wall of fire across their escape route.

    In any case being hit hard by a blunt object in the head may not be an instant kill, but has a chance of an instant knockout. Not sure how well it would work on someone wearing a helmet though.

  8. Twenty-One Foot Rule

    When I was given defensive handgun training by Uncle Sam, we were taught the “Twenty-One Foot Rule”. The Rule is based on an average assailant, in average conditions, and an average officer, armed with a pistol holstered outside his clothing. The Rule is that the officer needs a minimum distance of 21 feet, between himself and a suspect, in order to have sufficient time to employ his handgun, if a suspect charges him. Obviously, the more deeply concealed a firearm is carried, the longer that minimum distance needs to be.

    We did most of our practice shooting at… 21 feet. We also practiced a drill, where we faced a target, less than an arms-length away from us. At the instructor’s signal, we had to push away from the target, with our weak-side hand, while drawing the pistol from the belt holster with our strong-side hand, and firing two rounds into the target, before it turned. It’s not as easy as it seems. Our “penalty” for either missing the vital area in the silhouette, or failing to get both shots off, before the target turned, was three laps around the range building.

    We repeated the drill, after doing 20 push-ups, then with increased levels of noise, and decreased levels of light.

    I then understood how two shooters, less than 20 feet apart, can fire a dozen rounds apiece, and neither gets hit.

    1. At 21 feet, I can throw a knife good, at 28 to 30 feet much better and harder.
      But the best advice I can give anyone is: Never bring a knife to a gunfight.
      Should I stab or slash? Answer: Both, a stab in the belly and a rip will result in not being chased, so run.
      As a butcher for 28 of my 58 years in life, I prefer a “Semi flexible” 6 inch boning knife and follow the bone. When breaking down a 900 lb hanging beef, there are three knifes used: 1, The breaking knife, a curved sort of ridged knife either 8 or 10 inches. 2: The boning knife described above. 3. a 10 inch curved cemetar or steak knife. Used mostly for trimming fat from steaks.
      Knowing where to cut is key, otherwise it can not be done, still can’t remove much without a saw.
      To the point of knocking them out with a rock, at the slaughterhouse that’s how it’s done .We don’t use a rock, we use a “Knocker” looks like a maglight and takes a cap. that cap drives a rod into the steers head thus knocking it out, the throat is slit and the hind legs chained, lifted and they bleed out. After 300 a day one gets use to it. Muscle memory and speed are the key to anything physical. I think attitude is much to do with any kind of fighting be it knifes, fists or guns.

  9. A big problemen in fighting with tools, is that people forget that there are more options than just the TOOL.
    Like some said earlier, trying to get to a firearm while a guy is charging you takes to much time and thus gets you killed.
    We have 4 extremities that are highly capable of responding properly to a sudden knife attack, and something far more dangerous to go along with it… a BRAIN!!
    This also means that, contrary to earlier well-meant suggestions, distance is NOT your friend! Because at a distance you cannot stop the guy from using his tool/weapon… You need to get in there and start taking the man apart!! And that does not mean some non-specfic trauma like cuts, bruises, black eyes and broken teeth. But destruction of things that enable the guy to function…

    In short if you find yourself unarmed in a fight and the other guy is holding a knife in his hand… You should be holding his severed, bloody and now non-functional windpipe in yours!!…

  10. I am out in a dimly lit and not great (not The Hood but not great) neighborhood every evening on a route. I plan on using the same technique in a breakdown situation that I use today during normal times. I carry a Ruger LCR .357, shrouded hammer, with Hornaday Critical Defense rounds. It is in my jacket pocket. I don’t have to draw it, I just have to have my finger on the trigger and tilt it into the aggressor and pull twice. It is a double action revolver so not a lot to go wrong with it. My head is on a swivel ALL THE TIME. I place myself as far as I can from blind corners and other places that would minimize my time to effectively react.

    I don’t have time or the inclination to learn how to eviscerate someone with a knife. I can’t practice for every weapon I might meet, including garbage cans, bricks, metal signs or bare hands. So…I carry a very powerful weapon that is effective at a distance and I use my eyes/ears/brain to maximize the chance I won’t get caught off guard by a rapidly evolving situation that I don’t have time to avoid or effectively protect against.

    Not foolproof but I believe a very pragmatic approach. BTW I have a quite ample supply of ammo stockpiled for all my guns. The .357 is just for pocket carry now.

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