Don’t attack the weapon, attack the unit.

I will use knife in this setting but just to clarify the knife is interchangeable with any bludgeoning weapon. The gun is in a category of it’s own. Over the years I have noticed that some of the most successful knife defense strategies don’t involve the knife in the equation. What do I mean be this? What I don’t mean is ignore the knife and hope it goes away, because it won’t. What I do mean is full concentration of your intent on the knife seems to be worse than ignoring it. When I teach experienced martial artists how to elevate what they already know to work in street reality situations, the first order of business is to put their intent in the right place. In order to defend yourself successfully in the street your intent has to be everywhere and nowhere all at once. When I train my military clients I explain it like this. Don’t attack the soldiers, attack the commander. If you continuously engage the soldiers they just keep coming, but if you take out the commander the battle is over. Let me explain. Kicks and punches are soldiers. They carry out the will of the commander. The commander is the attacker himself, the control center, the brains behind the operation, so to speak.


In defending yourself in an altercation with a knife wielding attacker you have to do two things simultaneously. This is not easy. We are not made to multitask and the more stressful the situation it becomes even harder. That’s why the longer you train, those two things should become one. That should be the goal.

The two things are:

1. Stop the knife from stabbing/cutting you

2. Injure/incapacitate the attacker

This seems like common sense. Stopping the knife from attacking you seems like a reasonable priority, and it is. The problem with setting out with the mindset of stopping the knife from attacking you is, it does just that. It stops the knife from attacking you, but then the knife attacks again, and again, over and over until eventually it is going to find you. You have to practice stopping the knife on the way to stopping the attacker. Stopping the attacker has to be the priority, the knife is an errand you handle on the way there. As your knife defense training progresses you will start to blend the two in a manner that stopping the knife and attacking the unit/commander/attacker becomes a single task motion.


Published by

E. Thompson

I make movies. Sometimes people see them. I have been a martial artist for a very long time. I'm in a personal war with the Oxford comma.

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