Knives for self defense


Sep 6, 1999
I'd like to comment on a topic I'm seeing on this forum. I fear, however, that my comments may upset some folks..but here I go anyway.
The idea of using a knife for self defense is not a wrong idea but one which requires some real careful analysis. Life threatening situations do not occur according to one's fears or expectations. Rather their potential suddenly appears, hopefully on a well developed sort of "radar" well before they grow into full fledged combat. Once the potential for violence looms in our awareness of what's going on around us, what we need are options. Can we avoid the escalation into violence by taking some sort of evasive action? THAT'S THE BEST OPTION. What tools (ie...weapons) do we have at our disposal? For this we need the most potent weapon at our disposal and that, although now a cliche, is our mind. Preparation, of course is absolutely necessary and that means having the foresight to pack a "force multiplier" such as a knife or a firearm or maybe something else. Such preparations are problematic. In the first place are we skilled enough in the weapon's employment to use it effectively? Where knives and fighting are concerned, training and practice are absolutely essential otherwise we are flailing around hoping less damage is done to us than to the other guy. What are the legal risks of carrying such weapons? Are the potential benefits worth the risk? I began studying martial arts 30 years ago. I've practiced with hands, feet, knives, nunchucks, the wooden staff and a few other weapons. I've owned and practiced with firearms for longer than that and absolutely DO NOT CONSIDER MYSELF INVINCIBLE. Once again the use of a firearm or any deadly weapon requires lots of skill obtained through practice..not to mention really good judgement and the ability to distinguish between a real threat and an imagined one. In fact, the older and slower I become, the more I realize how vulnerable I really am to those who would do me harm.
A gun, a knife, a cannon or any other weapon does not guarantee our safety. All we can do is stack the odds in our favor by being aware of personal behaviors or signals given by others which could indicate impending violence. We can try to avoid locations and situations where violence is likely. That said, sometimes all I carry is a knife as a fall back weapon but against a knife I might choose not to employ it because it limits my options. Defensive postures which force the knife wielder to commit himself offer a greater number of offensive openings as a counter. I have a 3 foot piece of wood, very stout. It's called a cane. Sometimes I carry that with me. I would choose it over a blade to defend against a knife attack in almost any circumstance.
You've heard the one about the guy who brought a knife to a gunfight, I'm sure. Most badguys are going to select the most intimidating technology (ie; firearms) possible to force their will upon their intended victims. Having been heldup at gunpoint several times in retail stores I've managed supports this supposition. Folks I am a realist. If I really think violence is unavoidable, which means beating feet is not an option, I hope I've got some 20th century firearms technology in my hand rather than the latest flavor of knife steel.
I realize we are talking in the vacuum of a knife forum about violence we hope never occurs, for which our only option is the knife, but let's not forget that these discussions don't necessarily reflect reality.
OK. I'm ready to get hammered.

Uh.....uhuh........could you repeat that????

I agree about the Cane! We have several walking/hiking trails around the town I live in and I always carry my "staff". Its probably the most powerful weapon that has no laws governing its carry!! I have also been trained in using it and have used it to beat the living snot out of a guy that tried to steal my pack!!!!It was not even in self defense, he would have just ran off with it!
I always carry a knife or two and usually a gun, so far it's been the staff that I have used to "defend" myself!

[This message has been edited by Dr.Lathe (edited 08 September 1999).]
You are talking sense, so no hammering from me. However, I do not feel that there is anything wrong about carrying a knife for defense as long as it is legal. I read a newspaper article about some tourist killed in SF by some street punks. What made this story even more sad was that the tourist tried to run, but after one and a half miles the guy caught up to him and shot him in the back of the head, then took his wallet. Not that a knife and training may have helped him, but I hate to leave my house with nothing to even the odds just a little. There are more effective defense tools, like pepper spray baton combinations, but aside from pepper spray, most of those things are hard to carry everyday.
I dont think anybody here is gonna hammer ya for your opinion, smack ya around a little maybe, but not hammer
Anyways, I dont think anyone here wants to go out and have to use a knife to defend themselves. I agree, much better methods could be used if you knew what was coming, but I suppose most attacks happen when ya least expect it. Many people dont carry guns for one reason or another. Why would I choose a knife? Well, for one my type of work puts me outside alot, and a firearm really would be in the way and almost impossible to accomadate most of the time. I would look really out of place with a ball bat, and I dont trust sprays. For me a knife comes in very handy for work. It rides in my pocket and is completely out of the way. I have no illusions that I could draw it and fend off a crazy attacker if I never saw it coming and he was already on me. That is where being aware comes in. I casually watch my surroundings and people around me. I try to be aware. All situations are differant, but to me if you do find yourself cornered against somebody you truely believe is going to hurt or kill you then having that knife may just increase your chances of surviving. If you use a knife for a truely defensive reason and it comes to legal trouble, is it worth the hassle? You bet it is, I have a wife and two children. I dont want my wife to tell my kids I am dead because I didnt want to get myself in legal trouble. You have started a good thread here and I will be interested in hearing other responses. Heres to hoping none of us will ever be put in that situation.

[This message has been edited by Richard (edited 08 September 1999).]
A little reality never hurt anyone.I think your editorial has a lot of merit.I practice constantly with my knife and can tell you:if I ever end up in a confrontation with a large cardboard box or roll of 1" hemp rope I believe my years of training and hard work will pay off.
One's mind and mental preparedness is always the best defence and can help you to avoid or evade most situations.

However, the time may come (and I hope it does not for anyone, although it has for me) when one may need to use force to defend yourself. A weapon is then a valuable assest in having a favourable outcome. In my opinion and gun is the best choice if the the need arises. But, if you don't want or cannot by law carry a gun where you live, then what is your next option.

Staff, can work well in many situations. Knife is another option and is easier to carry although it does require one to get down and dirty with your assailant.

Telescopic batons, with the correct training are a good option too.

But when the s--t really does hit the fan, a weapon, whatever it may be, is a valuable asset.
Almost all of the truly experienced and or intelligent people here do keep harping on the concepts of awareness and staying out of trouble, so you'll get no argument there; but, every time I read that old crock, Don't bring a knife to a gun fight, I want to scream. It is so utterly useless as a self-defense creed as to border on stupidity. As an experienced martial artist, you know that when the ship hits the fan, you look around for anything that can be used as a tool to increase your chances of survival or the quality of your survival. I like knives, and I am always carrying at least one for utility and pleasure, so in a life threatening situation, it is what will be available to me. I do not like guns so much, nor do I really need to carry an object which has no other use than as a weapon. Even if I did, I could not get a permit to carry one. As a defensive tool, I would also prefer to carry a stick (well, a short sword
), but that is also illegal where I live.

So sure, awareness and preperation are the most important self-defense tools, but in the situation where a force multiplier would come in handy, a knife is what I will have available on account of personal preference and legal issues. And no, one does not have to be a Kung Fu master to increase one's defensive viability with a blade. A one hundred pound female a lot of determination and a knife is far more formidable than one without a knife. One can learn enough about knife defense on a weekend seminar to greatly increase one's chances of escaping or surviving a violent attack using a knife as a defensive tool.

So, hey, I agree with you half way.

Well, assuming i have to use a knife, and i must defend myself, I have had one occasion where i thought someone was breaking intio my house. I grabbed my Ka-Bar next generation. I have knives that are bigger than it, but it's the one I felt most comfortable with. Hell, I had a sword, and grabbed the Ka-Bar still (hallways are too narrow to swing a sword now that I think of it).
I read Steve Harvey's belief that one can learn something useful in a weekend seminar with interest.
I recognize that I should get some instruction, and this information will make it easier to write the check and make the commitment.

Regardless, I do not see myself in a knife fight.
The phrase "force multiplier" certainly has some credibility in a multiple adversary situation, and a knife could make enough of a difference to actually make me put it in my hand.

Ironically, I carry a self defense knife with me at all times, but I think more as a confidence piece, or a "pacifier".

In a real self defense situation, I think, realistically, I would tend to punch, gouge and bite, and possibly shoot before pulling a knife.

Maybe with instruction I will see it differently.

Luke 22:36, John 18:6-11
When I hear someone repeat the old "never bring a knife to a gun fight", I have to assume one of two things;

1. They've never faced a firearm

2. They've only faced firearms in a military context.

The simple fact is that the sole advantage a firearm has over a knife is range. In reality, nobody is going to try to pull a gun on you from accross the street. It's going to be up in your face at smooching distance.

When belly-to-belly there really isn't any advantage to a gun. In fact, it has several limitations, like;

limited ammo
only dangerous in one diretion
easy to grab

Actualy, there is one other advantage a gun has over a knife, people are more affraid of them than is reasonable. Guns are not magic, they are not panacea, and they do not grant invincibility to their weilder. Guns actualy wound in much the same way as a knife, but cramming a piece of metal up inside you. Well, they also have hydrostatic shock, but that's another issue altogether.

If you're going to be fighting an enemy at a distance, get a gun. If it's going to be close up, a suitable knife is just fine.

Oh, one other situation where a gun would be preferable to a knife; when you're physicaly impaired in some way.

Yeah, if you know nothing about knives and fighting, going to a weekend seminar will probably help quite a bit. Be careful and choose a good one though, the bulk of what I have seen out there in the "tactical" scene is complete and total crap. And yeah, that goes for a number of big names and popular shows too.
Well, without knocking anyone, who would you recommend?
Oh, go ahead and knock someone.
Still, do you know of a West Coast seminar that would justify the travel and expense?
I injure easily. In fact, I hurt myself about twice a month in Judo, a truly gentle form.
The list of qualifiers grows.
West Coast, Cost Effective, Safe for Old Guys?

Luke 22:36, John 18:6-11
Rather than worrying about using a knife,stick or 'shooter', people intrested in self defense should get instruction and training from an expert. By expert I mean the likes of Massad Ayoob or others who have studied the subject and can give real world advice.
I have practiced martial arts for some years and it is obvious that many instuctors do not understand what self defense really entails.
There is a nice book by Jeff Cooper on self defence available from Paladin press.
Finally remember "problem two". If you carve up an attacker with your knife you could find yourself being the "main course" in jail!


P.S. In fights that I have been in I didnt have time to draw a weapon before the 'game' started anyway

[This message has been edited by mjjbecker (edited 09 September 1999).]
I think this post is very important because I believe alot of people have a skewed concept of self defense. From a legal standpoint, a knife is deadly force. If anyone uses a knife on another person, the person with a knife needs to be able to convince the police or maybe a DA or judge that he/she was reasonably fearful for his/her life. This means that in most instances a knife carrying person would do well to always be aware of his surroundings, and avoid situations where one could reasonably expect trouble.
Specifically, a knife carrier really needs to avoid pulling a knife at a club or any kind of social situation. Although it may hurt one's pride, sometimes it is simply better to walk away if you can. It takes maturity to responsibly carry a weapon (gun) or tool that can potentially be a weapon like a knife. All people who carry implements that can be used for self defense must always remember that the major argument used by gun control and weapon control advocates is that a large number of people with weapons will result in the escalation of what otherwise would be non-lethal confrontations. Knife carriers must always be on guard not to let the confidence they gain from knowing that they could potentially protect themselves turn into cockiness or undue aggressiveness in the face what is only a mild irritation or avoidable problem.
I like the tone of this thread better than some of the others as in my opinion it seems that some in the 'knife industry' are doing the unknowing public a great disservice, by suggesting that some folding knives will offer not only more protection than other 4in knives, but even good protection in a bad situation. First one needs to consider how much more effective an expensive tactical knive with fancy steel and handle is than a $8 Mora knife, or even a $1 knife from the thrift store, in a typical self defense situation. Next one needs to consider one one might be facing, and how effective a knife can be. Finally one needs to be aware that brandishing a knife may result in the loss of some rights.

A simple comparison on the effectiveness of different weapons, one that is easy and educational to pick apart, is to look at what weapons are used in homicides in the US and to estimate how many people have such weapons. I posted a similar reply to rec.knives a short while back which should be easy to find with dejanews. It seems that knives, in whatever a typical homicide situation is, are twice as lethal as personal weapons (hands, feet) while firearms are something like 20 times as lethal as knives. People who haven't been around firearms, especially around people or critters which have been shot, probably don't have an appreciation for how incapacitating and how damaging a firearm can be, and probably need a tag on their new tactical knife that says something like "Caution - Use of the this weapon as advertised may result in serious bodily harm". A lot of people also don't seem to appreciate how quickly a violent situation often develops and how much power can be involved, where someone with a length of pipe will often have an advantadge over someone with a knife.

For those who are concerned about home defense and are willing to emply lethal force I suggest getting a shotgun and putting a fair amont of ammo thru it. Otherwise or even in addition to get some pepper spray, a pick ax handle, and make sure that you have a safe room.

For seminars, go over to the FMA forum on knifeforums and browse through the training threads. In LA, anything associated with the Dan Inosanto blend should be respectable, but just keep an eye out for anouncements and check up on the instructor by asking about them on here.

Suro Inay puts on a weekend Cadena de Mano seminar occasionaly but not frequently. I have been very much planning on going to one of Dale Seago's basic knife seminars up in SF when the chance arrives.

The key thing to look for in a short curriculum is the use of only a few basic street tested techniques. An overview of an entire style won't be as effective.

Some interesting comments here in this thread. Steve Harvey and Snickersnee I apologize for using such a hackneyed phrase to attempt to make a point. I should have known better than to say that on a kife forum. Snickersnee, in reference to your assumptions 1 & 2; I have faced firearms, but only in this polite society we live in, never in a military context. All I can say is, facing a gun is alot different when it's a reality than what one might imagine beforehand. Anthony Cheeseboro and Johnbo, a BIG amen to your comments. As for comarison of tactical knives versus "ordinary" and/or inexspensive folders....I once had a cheap folding blade buried in my right thigh....felt pretty darn "tactical" to me. Thanks for your replies. My intent in the original post was to explain my belief that self defense is state of mind which requires wide open thinking and to borrow another comment from this thread (Big1, I think) anything that might be used as a weapon could make the difference. In one armed robbery attempt in a store I had years ago, cardboard boxes prevailed against a handgun. I think most of us agree that a mindset which heightens our awareness of potential threats can give us the best edge and that avoiding a fight is the best option. Preparation for a fight we hope will never happen is also essential but I still believe discretion is the better part of valor...oops! another make up for it, here's another one posed as a question: Have we been told for so long that violence is not the answer to everything that we now believe it is the answer to nothing? For some situations a violent response is the only choice...and that's when we need to be mentally sharper than our knives.
Ken, what is it that you want to learn exactly? Martial arts? The law? How to fight? There's different stuff.

Given that you said you have certain physical limitations, I reccomend learning a gun. The otehr weapons require you to get very physical. I'm not skilled with pistols, so I am not qualified to reccomend a pistol instructor.

PTN, no disrespect intended, I'm an abrassive a$$hole by nature. It's nothing personal, and I try not to be, but...

Anyway, I've been on the wrong end of a firearm on several occasions myself, and I can't think of a situation where I was the target and the guy wasn't toe-to-toe with me.

There was one time when I was four or something and a store I was in was being robbed and my Mother hid me in a dressig room, but the cashier was the target, not us. Incedently, the robber was right up in the face of the cashier.

Maybe you're just refering to the stress or something though. That I'll agree with. It's scary.

Still, nothing to lose your head over. A gun can kill you, but so can a knife, baseball bat, or some heavy boots. It's a weapon like any other, and not to be feared or reviled above any other. You just learn what it is and isn't capable of, and work with that.
Heh,I should probably keep my mouth shut but hey it never stopped me before. I carry a knife (CS L.Vaq.) and a gun (compact9mm or .45) for self defense. They each have their own uses. The knife is for situations that are at bad breath distance or where there are innocents in close proximity or behind the BG. The handgun is for everything else IMHO. A handgun does have some advantages over a knife besides range,for instance it doesn`t have to be as "mobile" to do it`s job ie.: a pistol in a close retention position can be fired repeatedly with little chance of a succesful "grab". A knife must generally move to function,slash,stab whatever,bringing your arms much closer to the target and exposing them to damage unless the range is ,like I said above "bad breath close". Also a bullet will do just as much damage if it`s fired accurately from an awkward position as it will a practiced one where a knife may do less if you`re caught off balance or with your knife arm angled away from the attacker (reducing reach) not to mention the target may step back as you slash etc. Please don`t get me wrong a knife is an awesome defensive tool in it`s niche and when used properly but don`t discount firearms either. In the few situations I`ve been in where I felt I would need to defend my life unless the problem was defused,only one was within arms reach and that time I was seated in a car and wouldn`t have had enough reach or mobility to do the job with my knife. I was very glad in these cases to have my handgun too. In other words IMHO it`s okay to take a knife to a gunfight as long as it`s at very close range. Marcus

 The topic is Knives for Self-Defense. I like a knife too, as a weapon for self defense to used only as a secondary weapon if I am armed with my pistol or any firearm, but carrying it as the only weapon I had for my daily task is not advisable to me. I am afraid of having the notion that I will be carrying a knife for self-defense (WHY?). In any parlance of law in my country Philippines, once somebody is caught or being searched with a knife especially a balisong or any single bladed knife for more than 4” long, you will be charged of concealing deadly bladed weapon, and in my whole life I don’t like to be charged of any case which I don’t have a leverage to fight in court.


 Absolutely, once somebody caught in Phils with a balisong or similar kind walking in the street or you are being eyed by a law enforcer it is already enough to incarcerate you. Well, in many cases it can be arranged by some amount if the arresting guy would like it, but if he is a straight person in uniform, you will be jailed in accordance to the penal code if how many months or years in jail. To be jailed is another story again, you can get out from it, if you have the money if the case was only when “a person was caught due to concealing deadly bladed weapon” by just paying the fine.
 I never gamble to do something of any kind that, that I am not aware that I am already criminally charged. As they say “Ignorance of the Law Excuses No One”.

 The only thing I know that it is just fine to carry knife, even 8” to 9” or a little bit longer if placed inside your clutch bag or carry bag. In that case the eye of the Police will not consider you as a criminal. But carrying a knife concealed in your waist especially a balisong or similar of a kind of more than 4” size, once a police want to catch you for that, no explanation at all you will be charged. But if carried to a clutch bag or carry bag just for everyday use with the intention using for self defense or for emergency or perhaps to skinned a mango fruit – they don’t mind it. Like when I don’t have yet a pistol, I carry a bowie knife of a 10” long with a 1-½-blade size in Manila, and even I go to the bank to withdraw some money I leave it to the guard desk and it is alright.

 Well – there are no specific laws in PI to regulate carrying knives and many are carrying still. But for me I carry a knife sometimes especially a kind like my “Leather Tools” which has different size of short blades in it. It is for general purpose. At least if searched and they will say I am concealing deadly bladed weapon and try to charged me for that matter, I think I can justify that my Leather Tools will not constitute any felony.


 But there are few who will be looking for their prey to search someone body for a knife. So, it is better to be on safe side. (I am just solely talking my countries environment) where I had many observations and experiences that had shaped my life.

 I see knives as useful for utility and for self-defense if I go for camping, fishing or do some work outside a city but I don’t carry it in a city proper. I prefer to carry my Colt because no one dares to question the legality anymore why I am carrying such thing.

 I love knives as collection too by – looking the craftsmanship then I am already delighted.


 For those who use knife as for self defense-you’re such a rare bred because using knives for self defense is a person having a sort of skillfulness.

[This message has been edited by stdalire (edited 12 September 1999).]