It is difficult to assess how dangerous a threat could be at first glance. Critical Thinking lets you see them coming and avoid them altogether.
What Not To Do A Play-by-Play Analysis of the Granville Street Stabbing written by Danny Y; Audio by Jonathan Fader

On January 14, 2023, a passer-by, a Good Samaritan, was stabbed in the chest while trying to help a homeless man who was being robbed on Granville Street in downtown Vancouver.

The VPD released video footage of the full altercation on February 3.

At first glance, this is an incident that could have ended without injury to any of the parties involved. There were many points along the way where things could have ended without physical harm. It is difficult to determine from the video alone the actual state of the individuals involved, but what we see speaks volumes. The entire altercation lasts less than 45 seconds, and afterward people continue on as if nothing happened; the accomplices may not even know a knife was involved.

First, some key moments of the footage:

Frame 1 (0:02): We see in the video a homeless man in a yellow jacket (“YELLOW JACKET”) asleep on a sidewalk bench. Three males walk past and notice YELLOW JACKET is largely unaware of his surroundings. At his feet lies a black bag with white stripes. He is clearly being targeted as the three males convene next to him. Something bad is about to happen.

Frame 2 (0:14): One of the three (“CAMO”) takes a picture of the man while a second group of males walks past. A man in the red sweater (“RED SWEATER”) witnesses the picture taking, and the state of the man on the bench is brought to his attention.

Frame 3 (0:18): The 2nd group move out of view as one of the original three (“RED HAT”), carrying his own black bag, steals YELLOW JACKET’s hat while his other friend (“BLACK HOOD”) continues walking. Seeing no reaction RED HAT quickly returns to grab the striped bag and starts to run away.

Frame 4 (0:20): RED SWEATER moves to intercept RED HAT.

Frame 5 (0:28): RED SWEATER takes both bags from RED HAT and tries to keep both bags away from him, initiating a brief scuffle. At this time YELLOW JACKET wakes up and follows.

Frame 6 (0:30): RED HAT’s accomplice, CAMO, sucker punches RED SWEATER. RED SWEATER drops both bags, and RED HAT promptly collects his.

Frame 7 (0:36): YELLOW JACKET recovers his striped bag as RED SWEATER, pulling up his pants, takes steps towards RED HAT and CAMO, who at this point are retreating.

Frame 8 (0:38): Presumably, a verbal altercation ensues, and RED SWEATER continues to move towards RED HAT and CAMO; now rejoined by their third member, BLACK HOOD. RED HAT can be clearly seen reaching and fumbling in his pocket for a few seconds.

Frame 9 (0:40): RED HAT stabs RED SWEATER with an object drawn from his pocket. Note that RED SWEATER is caught off guard, with both hands down until the last moment when he tries to push RED HAT back with his left hand. His right hand is still down by his waist.

Once RED SWEATER is stabbed in the chest, the party of three walk away briskly. RED HAT splits off from his compatriots when he reaches the corner, fleeing down the street. The entire interaction is over.

Reviewing this footage, we can make five observations that relate to core tenets of Krav Maga:

1. Critical Thinking

Consider where you are. Granville Street at night is sketchy at the best of times. Why are you there? What condition are the people on the street in? Is it the weekend? Are people drunk, high, looking for a fight? Police may be present, but can they see you and are they available to help? Critical thinking is a filter that guides our actions preemptively to avoid places of risk. Obviously, people are looking for a good time, as you well may also be. If that is the case, at least know what you are getting yourself into and arm yourself with a proactive mindset.

2. Awareness and Positioning

With critical thinking comes awareness. What is happening? Who is there? When RED SWEATER saw the bag being stolen, he should have counted at least two threats, RED HAT and CAMO. Could he handle multiple opponents? When he was holding both bags away from RED HAT, he should have known that CAMO was nearby and he should have backed away from both. Instead he focused only on the RED HAT and on the bags, forgetting about the accomplice and ends up turning his back towards him. Having a threat in front of you AND behind you is the worst possible positioning.

A principle of Krav Maga is the Safety of Assumption, a component of which is “assume they have friends.” RED SWEATER has tunnel vision and became completely uninterested (and unaware) of how many others RED HAT might have in his crew, and he pays for it by taking a sucker punch to the jaw. RED SWEATER isn’t even aware of BLACK HOOD, a potential third opponent, until he pursues RED HAT and CAMO.

3. Self-defence is Self-interested

Self-defence by definition is the preservation of self. That means not getting involved in other peoples’ business and preemptively removing yourself from risky situations. When RED SWEATER decided to intervene, he knowingly chose to put himself in the direct path of potential harm. From a self-defence perspective, and therefore self-preservation, it is acceptable (albeit perhaps morally questionable) to not act upon a threat to someone else, instead quietly moving away and calling for help.

RED SWEATER had many options. He could have drawn attention to the thief, he could have called on people around him as witnesses or backup. Maybe yelling at people to call 9-1-1 could have been enough to spook the trio off. Perhaps RED SWEATER himself was drunk, perhaps he felt he could take on two guys (possibly three). We don’t know his state of mind or his background, but we can clearly see that 1) not getting involved was an option, and 2) not trying to single handedly deal with the situation was also an option.

4. De-escalate

Once RED SWEATER took both bags, he could have de-escalated by giving back RED HAT’s bag (assuming that was communicated). He could have focused his attention towards the man on the bench and disengaged from RED HAT. We see about 10 full seconds from the time he has both bags in hand to his recovery from the sucker punch, during which he could have let it go. Instead, at every point he chooses to further engage. After he is punched, rather than focusing on his assailant or removing himself from a bad situation, he continues to go after RED HAT. We can see that RED SWEATER’s mindset is now ego-driven.

In self-defense, we make every effort to disengage OR proactively (and overwhelmingly) engage the opponent. Wounded pride is much less lethal than a knife laceration, and Critical Thinking should continually inform us which decision(s) will lead to less physical harm. Humility goes a long way in talking down a situation and costs nothing.

Of course, not everyone is wired this way. If that’s the case, then the principle of Krav Maga is to proactively overwhelm with some kind of directed intention. In this particular case, we see neither; instead we see RED SWEATER closing distance towards a threat without any active defensive or offensive posture.

5. Hands

Frame 9 shows that RED HAT is fidgeting for something in his pocket. This should be a clear sign that the opponent is looking for a weapon of some kind. At this point, RED SWEATER has copious opportunity to create distance and draw attention but chooses to continue to close in, a move that typically elicits an aggressive response.

Almost up until the moment he is stabbed in the chest, RED SWEATER’s hands are low, and twice he is pulling up his pants. If you are going to engage with someone who clearly is antagonized by you, the right thing to do, at minimum, would be to have your hands up and take a defensive posture. And wear a belt to keep your pants up, dammit!

If you are closing the distance, why? (In this instance there was no need for RED SWEATER to close distance on RED HAT and CAMO.) What is your intention? Without an intention, by closing distance you are simply giving yourself less time to react. What if RED HAT had a gun? Or a machete? What if instead of lunging straight, he swiped across the neck? In many ways, RED SWEATER is lucky, and we could infer that RED HAT himself was acting out of feeling threated by RED SWEATER’s pursuit.


At UTKM we review knife defense techniques at length and work to prepare our students, both in terms of defensive postures and mindset. But when RED SWEATER is stabbed, he shows complete lack of awareness. His hands are down and is looking for some kind standoff with RED HAT, not realizing that often a fight comes to you on someone else’s terms. His lack of intention, other than having an exchange of words, ultimately ends with him having to receive treatment at a hospital for “serious injuries.”

All of these events unfolded on a night that was supposed to be a birthday celebration for Mr. RED SWEATER. He could have come away without a scratch and been lauded as a minor league hero. Instead, this incident serves as a great case study in what not to do when dealing with a bad situation on the streets.

Written by Danny Y. – UTKM Yellow Belt

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