Krav Maga – The Knife

Krav Maga: The Knife, a basic self-defence strategy guide

Krav Maga 360 Knife Defense from Below

Often people think the most problematic weapon to deal with is the gun, yet if you ask most experts they would say the knife is far worse. Knives are readily available, easy to create (from a variety of things), and can be a fatal tool in the hands of anyone.

On average, a mass knife attack will see higher casualty rates than other types, as they are silent and require little skill to be lethal. When a gunshot goes off and screaming starts, people know to run. But when screams are heard and no one knows what is happening, there is often a delayed sense of panic, and by then it may be too late.

To deal with knives you must first understand Attack Patterns: Committed vs Non-Committed, as well as “blender mode.” From there, the basic knife principles are based on the Attack Type; straight line or circular.

To Survive an attack know the following:

Difficulty Levels of the Attack Pattern:

  • Committed is the easiest to deal with – Basic techniques will work well, running is the best option.
  • Non-Committed is more difficult – Basic techniques, combined with faster reaction time and good footwork, will be needed. Running is still the best option.
  • Blender Mode – Novice and Advance techniques may work if you are committed, acting without hesitation. Running is still the best option.

Disarming Knives:

While many styles of Krav Maga and other martial arts will teach a knife disarms while both parties are standing, UTKM does not, nor do we endorse this approach. The reason being that an attacker with a knife may be faster, stronger, or more aggressive; thus attempting to control at the wrist, while defending against their advance, and then disarming the knife, is more about luck.

We only teach, and practice, disarms after the attacker has been taken to the ground and reasonably been controlled; on the ground they have lost a vast majority of their explosive energy. This also makes it easier to run without them catching up, and allows, if necessary, for control and arrest techniques with minimal risk to others.

How to Deal With Knife Attacks:

No matter the attack pattern or type, dealing with knives always starts with the following three options. If they are not an option in this order, then you must use your hand to hand combat skills.

  1. Run – This is always the best option if you are able to. You may not always be able to, or you may need to protect others.
  2. Use a Gun – In Israel this is real knife defence. However, you need to ask your self the following.
    1. Is it legal where you are to have a gun on you for self-defence?
    2. Do you have a legal gun on you?
    3. Do you have the required skills to control and safely operate the gun under duress?
  3. Use Weapons of Opportunity – Use whatever you can around you to give you an advantage. Use sticks, bags, bricks, jackets, obstacles, and anything you can think of to increase your chances to survive .

Attack Type: Straight Line

  1. Re-Direct the Attack – It is preferred that you re-direct in such a way that you end up in Reference point 2 (Dead Side), but you can also redirect to Reference point 1 (Live Side). Either way, you must be quicker and add in an attack.
  2. Control the Weapon Arm – Control the arm holding the knife while Causing Pain, Off Balancing and Disrupting your attacker.
  3. Disengage – Safety and forcefully push your opponent away, ensuring as you do that it is difficult for them to slash the knife at you. Keep your hands up, create space, and run.
  4. Takedown and Control – If you are unable to disengage due to the qualities of the attacker, the environment, or the requirements of your job, then you must take them down. This must be done with two things in mind: You must maintain control of the weapon arm, you must take them to the ground while you are still on your feet, you must have put them into a “control position.”
  5. Disarm – Only that they are on the ground, in your confident control, may the disarm be attempted. No matter what happens on the ground, your focus is to get control of their weapon arm and get the weapon away from them. However, you must still be aware of possible additional attackers. Once disarmed, put the weapon somewhere on your person that is safe. While throwing it away is an option, this will allow others to pick it up. Remember, that knife is evidence and should be easy to find after the fact.

Attack Type: Circular

  1. Block the Attack – Block the attack with good technique and structure (360 Defence). Ensure that you are exploding in if it is a high attack, and getting your lower body parts out of the way if it is low.
  2. Control the Weapon Arm – Control the arm holding the knife while Causing Pain, Off Balancing and Disrupting your attacker.
  3. Disengage – Safety and forcefully push your opponent away, ensuring as you do that it is difficult for them to slash the knife at you. Keep your hands up, create space, and run.
  4. Takedown and Control – If you are unable to disengage due to the qualities of the attacker, the environment, or the requirements of your job, then you must take them down. This must be done with two things in mind: You must maintain control of the weapon arm, you must take them to the ground while you are still on your feet, you must have put them into a “control position.”
  5. Disarm – Only that they are on the ground, in your confident control, may the disarm be attempted. No matter what happens on the ground, your focus is to get control of their weapon arm and get the weapon away from them. However, you must still be aware of possible additional attackers. Once disarmed, put the weapon somewhere on your person that is safe. While throwing it away is an option, this will allow others to pick it up. Remember, that knife is evidence and should be easy to find after the fact.

Attack Pattern: Blender Mode

At any point the attack type and pattern can switch to the flurry of hacking, slashing, and stabbing that we call “blender mode.” It also means you may have lost control. If the first 3 steps have failed you have limited options, as the attacker can switch the attack angle and speed rapidly to avoid your block and control attempts. A different approach is necessary here:

  1. Maintain Your Distance – You must manage the distance between you and the attacker. You often need more space than you think, especially against an aggressive attacker.
  2. Cause Pain, Off Balance, Disrupt – You must do something to cause a delay, however brief, in their flurry of attacks; this creates your only chance to apply step 3. The UTKM preferred method is a “low line side kick,” as it has reach and positions your torso out of harm’s way. Though anything that gives you a chance, without serious harm, is acceptable.
  3. Explode in With Hands Up – You must decide to go! When you do, you must to move without hesitation. It may look ugly, but so long as you protected your vitals and got to the next step, you did well.
  4. Control the Weapon Arm – Control the arm holding the knife while Causing Pain, Off Balancing and Disrupting your attacker.
  5. Disengage – Safety and forcefully push your opponent away, ensuring as you do that it is difficult for them to slash the knife at you. Keep your hands up, create space, and run.
  6. Takedown and Control – If you are unable to disengage due to the qualities of the attacker, the environment, or the requirements of your job, then you must take them down. This must be done with two things in mind: You must maintain control of the weapon arm, you must take them to the ground while you are still on your feet, you must have put them into a “control position.”
  7. Disarm – Only that they are on the ground, in your confident control, may the disarm be attempted. No matter what happens on the ground, your focus is to get control of their weapon arm and get the weapon away from them. However, you must still be aware of possible additional attackers. Once disarmed, put the weapon somewhere on your person that is safe. While throwing it away is an option, this will allow others to pick it up. Remember, that knife is evidence and should be easy to find after the fact.

*Topics under any principle category (Eg. Krav Maga Principles) may be updated from time to time.  So check-in every few months to see if the posts have been updated.