Over the years of working in security and escorting female staff to their vehicles, we would often chat about various topics pertaining to self-defense. One of the most common things I would hear some of the ladies tell me is that their fathers or boyfriends bought them a gun for self-defense. The problem here is that none of them actually took any firearms training or sought out their carry permits. As a result, they did not carry it on their persons. Unfortunately, these and many other self-defense blunders are not just limited to the gentler sex. Many men out there who fancy themselves “prepared” for the possibility of violence may be laboring under false notions of their own capabilities as well as those of many common defense tools.
Pepper Sprays and stun guns are also another popular form of self-defense tools marketed specifically to women. A few ladies I know did carry pepper spray, however, when I asked them to show it to me, they would have to dig around their purses for 30 seconds or more to find it. In real life, you cannot call a time out in a violent attack in order to acquire your weapon. Additionally, pepper sprays and stun guns do not always have the same effect on all individuals, especially if the individual has experienced being sprayed in the past. It is not that someone can build up a physical tolerance to the chemicals, however an individuals individual pain tolerance and psychological response to the spray can be unpredictable. The momentary incapacitation achieved from pepper spray might not be enough to stop the attack and facilitate escape. Additionally, in close quarters and in the tight confines of an elevator or stairwell vapors and splash from pepper spray may also affect you adversely impeding your ability to flee the scene quickly. Please check out this video of Marine Corp CS training. These guys are being sprayed and learning to fight through the pain by staying calm and not panicking.
With all these points considered, here are the Top 10 Reasons why the blade should be considered a viable option for every day self-defense
1.) Concealment and Deployment: A knife can easily be carried or concealed on your person regardless of attire. As compared to even compact firearms that many women and some men still consider too bulky and may not be readily carried in many places, the blade is something that can be comfortably carried which means you will most likely do so and have it when you need it most. Whether you are carrying in a light jacket or in the elastic waste band of pocketless work out attire, you can do so with minimal discomfort and bulge in your clothing. In his book Escape the Wolf, former Navy SEAL Clint Emerson presents a simple axiom for approaching personal security. Comfort/convenience are a trade off for security. The trick is finding a balance that is perfect for you in your day to day life. I have personally found the blade checks this and other boxes quit nicely.
2.) The Great Equalizer: A blade in anyone’s hands is a force to be reckoned with. An individual of diminutive stature and physical attributes after a modicum of training can employ the blade against larger and more physically gifted assailants. Compare this to many empty hand self-defense systems that take years of training and require far more strength and conditioning to be effective. In principle and theory, many of these arts are excellent, but leave a little of room for operator error. As Mike Tyon said…
The blade is also a great backup weapon for you gun guys. Most of my military and law enforcement students who literally make their living by the gun all carry a knife as a back up/weapon retention tool. We often train and drill it for these applications.
3.) Dangerous from Any Angle: Unlike firearms, stun guns, and pepper spay, the blade can inflict damage in a wider array of angles and can quickly change direction in the hand of the most novice of users. As compared to a firearm and pepper spray which can do its job when the bad guy is in front of it. This makes it much easier for a larger and stronger assailant to wrestle it from you. There is an old self-defense axiom that states “run from the knife, and charge at the gun.” The firearm is an incredibly useful tool up to a certain distance and under the right circumstances, but take into consideration the time and dexterity it takes to draw it from concealment, and you are adding lots of potential for failure. A small folding knife can be inconspicuously carried in your hand ready to deploy when you are entering into a potentially dangerous situation like walking to your vehicle alone at night.
4.) Mechanical vs. Pain Compliance: From my experiences in military combat operations and private security, I have seen lots of injuries. And while gunshots are painful, one or two is often not enough to stop an individual who is truly committed to doing you harm. Unless you are able to score a center mass head or torso shot, you cannot reliably count on your firearm to stop an individual in close quarters. The knife, when used to attack major blood vessels and muscles, can be counted on to impede the mechanical ability of an assailant to continue the attack. In Filipino Martial Arts, this is called defanging the snake.
5.) Shock and Awe: The momentary shock of realizing you have been cut or stabbed is enough to give anyone pause. It is an instinctual reflex to pull away and even retreat from the initial cause of the trauma. It is in this moment where you can escape the situation. Even the gross motor movement of slashing the face and harassing the eyes as we do in the beginning stages of Counter Blade Tactics will often be sufficient to stop the attack.
6.) Not Much Training Required: I would like to clarify something here before going further. Using the blade against someone armed with a blade is very difficult, and going empty-handed against someone armed with the blade is even more difficult still (some say impossible). When I say not much training required I mean specifically in utilizing the blade against unarmed assailants or as a backup to a firearm when legally justified to do so. With some practice in deploying the blade from a variety of positions and some training in how to clear obstructions and holds on the weapon hand like those covered in CBT, it will be very difficult for anyone to stop your counter assault.
7.) It is Not Just a Weapon: I never go anywhere without a knife and neither should you. This is not just based on the desire to “go armed” for self-defense, but more out of the utility of always having a cutting tool at the ready.
8.) One Art many Applications: In the Counter Blade Tactics (CBT) Curriculum and Balintawak Eskrima, we emphasize functionality and utilitarianism. When you study the blade with a qualified instructor, you quickly realize that the applications of geometrical, physical, and anatomical principles allow you to quickly see how anything in the hand can be used as an improvised weapon as long as you train to understand the application of edged vs impact weapon tactics.
9.) Affordability: Purchasing a firearm of reasonable quality is a hefty investment. Most firearms will begin the price tag of about $400. Compare this to a quality knife like those produced by Cold Steel (Espada, AK47, Rajah to name a few) running in the sub $80 range, you can easily justify the decision. Take into consideration the fact that more and more guns are being banned from public spaces and the utilitarian nature of a good knife, it makes the investment that much more sound.
10.) Fun and Empowering: While the previous entries on this list are some seriously heavy topics, we cannot ignore the fact that weapons training is just plain fun. Getting together with your friends to practice challenging and engaging drills to develop real life practical skills is a blast with benefits extending further than just self-defense. The sense of confidence and personal empowerment instilled from quality training in a positive environment as well as the cognitive benefits of high dexterity movement drills are a great way to get fit, socialize, and combat the ever increasing isolation of our modern electronic based lives.
A few notes on choosing a knife:
“What kind of knife should I get?” I get asked this question pretty frequently. I used to say the sharp kind. I did this deliberately because there are plenty of knife manufactures out there selling pieces in upwards of $200. As in most cases, expensive does not always mean the best. One of the first questions I ask when people ask me this question is “what do you think you will use it for?” This question will pretty much cover all your bases when choosing a knife. For our purposes, I will specifically be discussing the choice from a good balance of utility and self-defense. When it comes to choosing a blade for tool, a good quality steel is a must. There has been a lot of emphasis put on high carbon steel over stainless, and while this makes a huge difference when talking about longer blades, a sub 4 inch stainless blade will do just fine. Also, not all stainless steels are created equal. Cold Steel uses an AUS 8 Japanese stainless in many of their folding knives. As a fan of Cold Steel, I owned at least five Cold Steel folders over the years and I have put them through their paces and am very pleased with the results. Cold Steel also has great customer service and warranties.
Overall durability of a knife is not just in the steel of the blade. The blade locking mechanism is equally as important. The rigors of day-to-day use and the increased demands of using it in a self-defense situation put lots of stress on the small components in your blade’s hinge and lock system. Cold Steel’s lock construction is some of the best for the price. Take a quick view of their youtube channel and you will find lots of torture tests on their products and, spoiler alert, they hold up.
Another consideration is ease of deployment. Under stress and pressure, fine motor skills are diminished. This is why I prefer all my knives to have an assisted opening feature at minimum. This means that when I press the thumb opening on the blade, a spring system deploys the blade to its open and lock position. Some of the best blades available at a reasonable price tag that you can find in any sporting goods or box store are Kershaw and Benchmade.
Going a step further, the Emerson Wave feature and other proprietary designs like it, allow for the blade to be opened in the same motion as the draw from your pocket. This is achieved by a small protrusion from the spine of the blade catching on the lip of your pocket. This same protrusion and be used to open the blade on an assailant’s skin or clothing as well. Fox Knives, Emerson, Cold Steel, and other designer’s produce blades with this feature, Cold Steel, in my opinion, beats them outright in overall durability and warranty.
Let us know what you think in the comments and feel free to like and share. You can follow Guro Jerome Teague on Facebook (Balintawak Eskrima Bull Chapter USA) and Instagram to stay up to date on training events and instructional content via his Youtube channel.