Under: Self-defense
9 Aug 2016


When I was a kid I used to watch how Kato (Bruce Lee in the Green Hornet) could beat thugs with knives and clubs in fights! Boy he made it look easy. I said at the time I wanted to learn how to do that. The thought that one could learn some secret techniques and then walk the back streets at night in confidence was amazing!


Well fast forward 50 years and I still think it is cool but I have more of a jaded eye. My older self realizes that there is a fair chance the guy with a weapon will win. Is it possible to fight a short dagger without any weapons? Sure but is it smart? No. Unless you are trying to collect on a life insurance policy, I would advise you to hedge your bets a bit.


First take a look at this HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) club owner for his take and then we will discuss. If you don’t want to watch the video – the take away is you should fight back with a weapon – improvised or not.




I thought it was interesting he had to defend against bottles a couple of times! But you never know how someone is going to attack. I also noticed that he has very few legal options where he lives in England. I live in California, USA and I can have stun guns or pepper spray on my person and of course a gun in my home. Weapons do not do a lot of good right away as mentioned you still have to pull them out.


So is it possible to defend yourself against say a knife? That depends on the attacker and you. What do I mean? Read on.


If the attacker is out to kill you and attacks you with a knife before you have a chance to react (meaning a surprise attack) – he might give you a lethal stab/slash before you can defend yourself! So assuming the murderous intent and skill of the attacker – you might not have a chance!


If the attacker is a robber or angry at you and pulls a knife without stabbing you immediately (giving away his intentions), you have a chance.


If the attacker is inept (low skill with his chosen weapon), you have a chance.


So what are your options? Run away if you can. If you cannot run away, try to even up the odds. As a last resort try just unarmed defense.


I’ll give you three scenarios, Running, improvised weapon, and an unarmed defense.


Running: If he is attempting to rob you and you have somewhere to run (assuming you are in shape), run to a crowd or something you can fight back with – anything is better than standing your ground if you do not have to fight (no women and children to protect).


Running is very reasonable and like I said – you may want to keep an eye out for things you can use if he catches you!


Improvised weapon: As I’m not very fast anymore – this is my go to position. You have a belt, keys, phone, pocket knife, shirt or coat? You can mount some kind of defense. For instance you can pull off your belt and flick the buckle at his eyes. That will give you a second to counter attack or run maybe or even find a better weapon.


You can throw your keys or phone at the guy’s face to allow time to bridge the distance and grapple for the knife. You can wrap your shirt around your lead forearm and possibly take a couple of slashes while you are trying to figure out an advantage. You can pull your pocket knife and “block” his stab/slashes after a fashion and possibly stab his throat – even if he has a bigger knife.


Very true improvised weapons on your person will depend on your ability to fight back – so you should learn an unarmed striking martial art at the very least (boxing, karate, muay thai).


And of course do not forget all of the improvised weapons laying around you from trash can lids to old wood. If you are in a house or business – there are actually tons of improvised weapons!


Now for the worst case scenario – you are in your bathing suit and not on the sand, with nothing of any kind to fight back with and you are in no shape to run (or there is no escape): Your training will have to take over. Listen – you have some parts to protect; head, neck, torso, and to a lesser degree legs and arms. What? Yes your heart, lungs, and head are more important than your hands and arms. Assuming you survive – you can mostly survive stabs and slashes to your arms (for a while anyway).


If you are a prudent person and have trained in a striking martial art – you can still have a chance. Here is what I would do. First I would keep critical distance between me and my attacker. I would make him pay dearly by launching rear kicks at him.  Here is one example of a spinning rear kick (I would not spin but rather shuffle rear kick or retreating rear kick).



If one shuffles towards someone with a rear kick – they have to move out of the way or get knocked over (if the kick is done right). Assuming you do not miss – you leave little time for an attacker with a knife to attack and little to attack. You are bent over already – an ideal position to get away fast if your kick misses or he does not go down.


There are a lot of other strategies one can employ but you have to keep distance (so he cannot stab you) and like any other kind of fight – you have to make him respect you (making him pay as he comes in), so you have more time to try different stuff (which you should have ideas of how to do if you are a fighter).


Oh yeah – if you are caught on the beach in your bathing suit – pick up some sand and occasionally throw it at his eyes as one more improvised weapon!


Now in closing I cannot guarantee any of these methods will work for you but if your life is at risk… that old adage of fight or flight is true. Doing nothing will ensure the worst will happen.

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5 Responses to “Self-Defense Against Knives or Other Weapons?”

  1. Dr. J Says:

    Thanks for a realistic perspective on this topic. I often see videos on knife defenses that make it seem easy to defend against one. Nothing could be further from reality. Probably, at best, even Bruce Lee would get stabbed half the time. Your suggestion of a long range powerful kick, perhaps to the knee, makes a lot of sense.

  2. Stryker Toby Says:

    Great information John. One important and perhaps the most important aspect of first defensive movement is that of critical distance. Moving out of range and/or at an angle that forces your adversary to make adjustments to his/her position in order to attack. This give you that little bit of extra time to make decisions to reach for or pull your own weapon or use kicks or move for your defensive attack. Leg kicks are a great option for defense too. They will slow slow attacker down and even take him out. Also they will bring his focus to your feet giving you more opportunities to get inside, strike and gain control of his weapon.

  3. mika Says:

    I like to use this device. i feel very safe with it in my purse. It’s called salusdefence

  4. Carlo Says:

    Thanks for the tips. I like that you say that the best thing to do when confronted with someone with knife is to ran away! This is the obvious thing to do and yet most instructors aren’t even advising this. Of course they may be times when this is unavoidable, if you’re cornered or if you’re with someone who can’t ran very fast, for example.

  5. David Peston Says:

    Hey Pal,

    Nice post!!

    In today’s world self-defense is becoming a priority in everyone’s life. Everyone wants to keep them and their loved one safe. But the big question here is how….!! Proper knowledge and guidance is required.

    You have explained everything in a very accurate manner. Each scenario has been explained in such a depth. I loved reading this article. I am sure everyone who will come across this article will like it and increase his or her knowledge on self-defense.

    And those videos added a plus point. Learning from videos is always a good practice. Thanks for sharing.

    Looking forward to more such articles!!