Knives, knives, and more knives…
By Lawrence Kane
Do a little drill for the next week or so: As you’re out and about look at other people’s pants pockets throughout your day. You will begin to notice metal clips that secure folding knives there and, if you look closely enough, outlines of pocketknives carried therein too. On their belts, you will find holsters for multi-tools, fixed blades, and folding knives. Knives, knives everywhere… so many knives, in fact, that an estimated 70 percent of the adult male population in the United States carries one on a regular basis.
Most knives are designed to be tools, but often they are seen as weapons. Consequently, if you are looking at young men when you do this drill you will likely find more knives, older men somewhat fewer, and women even fewer still. Young men often carry a knife as a security blanket, a subtle way of saying, “I’m dangerous.” Here’s the kicker, they are… even if they don’t know it.
When it comes to violence there are two kinds of people who carry knives—those who know what they are doing and the vast majority of others, those who don’t. It doesn’t really matter though. Skilled or unskilled, nearly anyone can cripple or kill you with a knife if you unexpectedly find yourself on the wrong end of it. For instance, if you are thinking feet and fists only to discover a weapon in the middle of a fight you are in for a world of hurt. A stark reality is that most victims of knife attacks do not recognize the severity of the threat in time to react properly.
Imi Sde-Or, the founder of Krav Maga, wrote, “Victims who survived a violent confrontation against a knife-wielding assailant consistently reported that they were completely unaware of the existence of the weapon until after they had suffered stab or slash wounds. In essence, these survivors of edged weapon attacks state that they believed they were engaged in some sort of fist fight; only later, after sustaining injuries, did they realize that the assailant was armed.”
Realities of Knife Fighting
From time to time I teach a seminar on the realities of knife fighting. It is primarily designed to scare the tar out of people who don’t fully appreciate what a blade can actually do to another human being. I also try to enhance students’ awareness of how to avoid running afoul of a knife and implement strategies that can keep them from getting cut if they do, of course, but the biggest takeaway is a visceral lesson on how dangerous such encounters can be since there’s not enough time in a short seminar to build fighting skill that can withstand adrenaline during a real life-or-death battle on the street.
To show what live steel can do, I take a leg of lamb, cover it with jeans material to represent clothing, and hang it from a rope. I then take a legal-length 2 ½ inch blade folding knife and make three cuts—a horizontal slash, a vertical slash, and a stab, and then gauge the results with a tape measure. I can consistently make five- to six-inch-long by two-inch-deep gashes in the meat, but guess what, so can just about anyone else—virtually all students can duplicate that feat when given the opportunity
I can also reliably strike the bone with the stab too, even when it takes two to four inches of compression to do so providing that I strike hard and fast enough. The noise of the blade hitting the bone is particularly chilling, by the way… After showing what a legal-length blade can do, I duplicate the experiment with a larger bowie knife. That can get truly scary indeed.
So, the end result of contact with a knife, whether in the hands of a pro or a punk, is the roughly the same. It takes no special skill or training to slip the pointy end into the other guy and wiggle it around a little. But, it does take a certain mindset to slice somebody up close and personal. It’s psychologically much harder than pulling a trigger from a distance. Many such attacks are made from behind and multiple wounds are commonplace.
On average there are more than 570,000 knife assaults a year in the United States. In order to remain safe you must be vigilant, aware of everything happening around you in places where potential adversaries may be present. Use good situational awareness to constantly scan your environment, being sure to listen as well as look for anything out of the ordinary. Beware of people acting strangely. Stay out of bad neighborhoods and dangerous locations whenever possible. And, take special care near potential ambush sites such as building corners, doorways, parking structures, and ornamental foliage, especially when traveling through fringe areas near the outskirts of more populated places, especially at night.
Nearly everybody has a knife and it changes everything if they decide to use it in a fight. Consider this carefully before you wander into an ambush or throw the first blow in an argument.
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