Basic Knife Fighting Tactics


Knife combat is possibly the scariest and most traumatizing type of encounter that anyone can experience.  While we hope that this information is never necessary, the reality is that knife combat happens.  It is a life or death situation that requires trained skill and knowledge.  Reading this could save your life.

Surviving a Knife Fight – Vital Principles

There are five things that cannot be overlooked when you find yourself in a combative situation when your opponent is wielding a knife:

  • You will get cut or stabbed.
  • You must disarm your opponent.
  • Control yourself; control the situation.
  • Timing – both of yourself and your adversary.
  • Survival is absolutely paramount.

Surviving a Knife Fight – Stance and Posture

Your positioning and stance are very important in knife combat.  Your lower body controls the rest of your body and provides a stable, but agile base to maneuver.  The forward fighting stance is one of the best ways to remain mobile.  If you sense an opportunity to escape with your life, do so immediately.

  • Your weight should be evenly distributed between both feet and rested on the balls of the foot.
  • Bend your front knee slightly.
  • Your elbows should be tightly to your sides, but not tucked.
  • Both hands should be at shoulder level for protection.
  • Your lead hand should always be forward to assist the cutting hand.
  • Tuck your chin to protect your throat.

Surviving a Knife Fight – Entering

Many instructors teach a method which is heavy in side-stepping and blocking your attacker.  Our methodology focuses on ending the encounter quickly.  Entering is simply closing the distance between yourself and your enemy.  The key to entering is speed.  Step deeply and as directly at your foe as possible.

Surviving a Knife Fight – Covering, Closing, and Clearing

Avoiding being cut or stabbed can be accomplished by deflecting or pushing away, though our method focuses on covering both the higher and lower gates.

  • Take your checking hand and cover across your upper gate, palm facing your attacker.
  • The checking hand moves across your body in an arching motion, stopping past the ear of your non-checking      side.
  • Your knife hand should cover your lower gate, in an arching motion across your legs and groin.       Upon reaching the opposite hip.  Continue the circle towards      your face.
  • Combining these techniques with stepping in is absolutely imperative in setting your opponent up to disarm      him and quickly end the situation.

Surviving a Knife Fight – Disarming Your Enemy

You’re obviously at a distinct advantage when you’ve disarmed your opponent.  Doing so allows to completely control the situation and end the encounter.

  • Use both of your hands to feed your opponent’s hand, preparing to attack his wrist tendons.
  • Attack his arm with your knife, aiming for joints above the elbow or above the wrist.  If your      assailant cannot hold a weapon, he cannot cause damage to you.
  • Aiming for the brachial artery (inner bicep) or the axillary artery (armpit) are spectacular targets for      blood loss.

Surviving a Knife Fight – Controlling the Situation

Remember that removing your opponent’s weapon from the situation does not mean the fight is over.  You must maintain control of the situation until your attacker has submitted or the authorities have become involved.  Remember that just seconds ago, this person was attempting to seriously injure or kill you.  You must do your best to prevent further attacks.

  • If you control the head, the body shall follow.
  • Position yourself deeply in the grappling zone.
  • While maintaining control of his arm, thrust your knife into the hollow cavity below the jaw and take      him to the ground.

Surviving a Knife Fight – Finishing

Ending the fight is the goal, so finding an escape route is your best course of action at this point.  There will be some situations where this is just not possible.  While this person was attacking you with a knife and a clear intent on killing you, your actions may still have to be justified legally.  Some jurisdictions have prosecuted victims for continuing the fight after disarming their opponents.  You should be honest and convincing – you were in fear for your life and had reason to believe there was further danger after disarming your opponent.


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