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For some time I have been gathering information on the truth behind what knives good guys and bad guys carry and how they are likely to use them. First we will discuss the good guys, then the bad guys.

Judging from my experience, talking to people at shows and classes, and from those answering the polls I have posted in several forums, it appears regardless of our affinity for large combat fixed blades, around 70% of us carry folders with blades less than four inches and many blades with less than three inches. Since most of us carry multiple blades, I asked that people vote using what they consider their primary defensive blade. I am not surprised about my findings, since I have found that when it comes to firearms that many folks who go on and on about the best 1911 usually carry a J frame 38 day in and day out. For many it comes down to comfort and wanting to be armed but still not attract unwanted attention.

Since it seems that so many people are carrying folders and plan on using them in self defense, it is logical to conclude that it is important to have a plan for when and how to get their knife into action. The last several years of watching people, ranging from experienced knife folks to beginners, has shown me that getting a folder out of your pocket and then deploying the blade with any sort of real or perceived stress is a tricking thing. Considering all the other options I have been able to come up with has only made me more confident in the way we teach students to deploy their folders. With a tip down, manually opening folder carried against the strong side pocket seam-

1) With your thumb between the knife and your side, draw your knife closed in a hammer grip. If you begin to fumble the knife, your natural reaction is to trap it against your body. Don’t panic, just do it, if this is your primary deadly force option you cannot afford to drop it.
2) Bring the closed knife up in front of you somewhere between your belt and nipple line. If you do not have time to deploy the blade or deadly force is no longer needed, you can hammer fist with the closed folder.
3) When warranted by the totality of circumstances and ability to do so, open the knife with your thumb using the disk, hole, or stud on the blade.



Whether discussing the carrying of a firearm or edged weapon to defend yourself, we seem to come to the same problem…deployment. Being able to get your tool into play when you need to. I realize that for many involved with edged weapons it is their concentration and many practice it as a stand-alone martial art. Survival can be like Trivia Pursuit. You don’t get to pick the subject matter. If your training is rooted in counter attacking someone with a knife already in your hand, and in reality you carry a folder, you really can’t expect to fare very well.

Most people reading this are familiar with me from one of the several forums that I frequent. It seems that lots of folks have more confidence in their skills and abilities under the stress of a real attack than I do. Where this really seems to come into play is with those who train extensively in edged weapons that believe that during a confrontation they will stab no matter what. This is largely based in common wisdom that stabs are more lethal. Again drawing from shootings we know that under stress it is almost impossible to target specific anatomical targets with a firearm there are still those who choose to believe they will be able to do so within arms distance with a blade.

First I will look at stabbing from the standpoint of blade length. Without getting scientific, it is commonly agreed upon that the typical stabbing targets like the heart and lungs are 3-4 inches into the body and that is before taking clothing into consideration. So this would be at the extreme limit of our 4- inch folder. In comparison to this, major arteries are less than 2 inches below the skin.

Watching a cross section of students from all levels has led me to believe that stabbing is very likely if the person with the knife is able to aggress forward. However when moving rearward, the body’s natural reaction not to fall, forces the arms out and up to the side, which better allows for slashing.

Being an instructor that believes in training over entertaining, I am not interested in what I can do some of the time but rather what my students can do most of the time. Because of this, I believe the following is true when it comes to the average person using a knife to defend themselves.

1) They will not have spent 100s of hours learning how to use a knife
2) They will be using a folder
3) Their heart rate will be in excess of 200 BPM
4) Their fine and complex motor skills will be rapidly deteriorating
5) They will be likely to slash violently with the knife in an effort to stop their attacker and keep the blade between them and their attacker as much as possible

For these reasons, I am now more confident than ever that Inverted Edge Tactics are the best option available for people who want to be able to effectively defend themselves with a knife without dedicating tons of training time to do so. Except for the opening of the folder, no fine motor skills are needed and weaknesses in your attackers body are targeted by default.

Now for what I feel is the most important part of this article is what edged weapons do bad guys carry and how do they use them. Bad guys have two environments, in jail and on the street. Some time ago I took my collection of nasties that was collected from clients over the years. It was more or less an assortment of box cutters, razor knives, screwdrivers, pot metal fixed blades, and folders. What was interesting was that the average blade length was almost exactly the same as those favored by good guys, right around 3-4 inches.

One glaring difference between the knives of the good guys and the bad guys was that whether they were improvised or not they were usually either intended for cutting or stabbing, seldom both.

Recently while putting together my lesson plan for Edged Weapon Survival for Correction, I had the opportunity to speak to several correction officers in addition to touring a local prison after a briefing. What I found was that the average size of the weapon seized behind the walls was about the same as those on the outside. It was also noted that most improvised weapons by design were limited to either being really good for stabbing or for cutting and seldom for both.

These findings are interesting but tend to make sense. Whether an offender is incarcerated or on the street, if he decides to carry a weapon it will be one that he prefers. Since like a good guy, offenders realize that for a tool to be any good to you it has to be carried all the time, it is only logical that it be easy to conceal so that is does not attract unwanted attention.

What separates the average offender from the average good guy? Their willingness to do violence. Criminals understand the value of intimidation and overwhelming violence. They also realize that if you have something in your hand that is only good for stabbing or cutting you better be fast and violent about doing either one before you are pulled off or attacked yourself.

So taking into account what we now know about the tools we are likely to be attacked with, what are the training implications? The first and most obvious is that some of us are guilty when it comes to being generous during training by using training knives with large blades or even using “knives” at all. The truth is that as previously documented we are very unlikely to ever see what cuts or stabs us even in favorable lighting conditions.

If you can’t see a weapon, there is a pretty good chance that you will not have seen something that would cause you to draw a weapon of your own, so your initial defense needs to be open handed, and depending on your situation you need to know how to end it open handed. An example would be that of a correction officer armed with only a radio and handcuffs.

Defenses need to be based on gross motor movements and begin in response to furtive moments. They should move you off the center line and to the outside of the attacker where you can break contact and transition to a mechanical force option or maintain contact and employ joint destruction.

I figured some of you might find this information helpful.
 

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I think the problem with our society is that carrying a large knife "attracts attention" as you say. I think it's a problem that people see carrying weapons as a problem. It has not always been that way. 200 years ago, seeing a civilian carry a saber, or large knife was commonplace, and sometimes expected. Now we depend on the police to protect us, which is about as ignorant as it gets. No one has a cop around them 24 hours a day.

And I think cops are part of the problem anyway. Many of them are just jerks on a power trip.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I think the problem with our society is that carrying a large knife "attracts attention" as you say. I think it's a problem that people see carrying weapons as a problem. It has not always been that way. 200 years ago, seeing a civilian carry a saber, or large knife was commonplace, and sometimes expected. Now we depend on the police to protect us, which is about as ignorant as it gets. No one has a cop around them 24 hours a day.

And I think cops are part of the problem anyway. Many of them are just jerks on a power trip.
And the same could be said on just about any group of people who are in a position to exert power over other people.
 

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It is true that back in the 1800's and even the early 1900's just about every citizen carried a knife with them wherever they went. I remember watching somethin about this on the history channel actually. In any case, they not only used it for self-defense but also for eating, and common utility work. Nowadays, its often looked down upon and sometimes totally banned to carry a knife around. As for me, Virginia and county laws permit me to carry a larger fixed blade knife which gives me the ability to have an advantage in self-defense. As for attracting attention, I normally carry it wherever I go except for school and people never mind really. Its an Ontario Spec Plus Marine, 7 inch blade.
 

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It is true that back in the 1800's and even the early 1900's just about every citizen carried a knife with them wherever they went. I remember watching somethin about this on the history channel actually. In any case, they not only used it for self-defense but also for eating, and common utility work. Nowadays, its often looked down upon and sometimes totally banned to carry a knife around. As for me, Virginia and county laws permit me to carry a larger fixed blade knife which gives me the ability to have an advantage in self-defense. As for attracting attention, I normally carry it wherever I go except for school and people never mind really. Its an Ontario Spec Plus Marine, 7 inch blade.
Knife laws in this country are a whole other kettle of fish and each time you cross a county line or city/township boundary you have a whole new set of rules to work with.

For instance, when taking a motorcycle ride from Casa Grande, AZ to Flagstaff, AZ (about 200 miles) you pass through a dozen or more different municipal jurisdictions, each with their own laws and restrictions. Carry of a fixed blade over 6 inches is fine in one spot but illegal in another. Possesson/carry of a double edged blade regardless of length is illegal in yet others. In some locations I'm perfectly fine walking into the grocery store with a Kukri one hip and a saber on another. You might get some weird looks but are otherwise perfectly legal. Carry a folder with more than a 3 inch blade in another location and you may end up in jail for the next year. It's irritating as hell.

My usual EDC fixed blade is a Buck model 650 Nighthawk. It's large and sturdy enough to do the things I need it to do, and is relatively unobtrusive, has a single sharpened edge yet balances and has a strong enough point for defensive work. Oddly enough, the yellow stitched "BUCK" embroidered on the sheath help make it more acceptable than say, a Gerber Mk II or Fairbairn Sykes commando knife. Wearing it I hardly ever get a second glance, but replace that knife with a KA-BAR or CS Recon Scout/Recon Tanto and they shy away from the 'dangerous' big black knife.
 

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I appreciate the laws here in florida. It is perfectly legal for me to carry my assisted opening folder. This enables me to pull my knife from my pocket (clipped next to my wallet) and open it with just a slight push of my thumb. I could carry this even without my concealed weapon permit. WITH the my concealed weapon permit, I can carry a Kukri if I wanted to.. as long as it is concealed. It has never made sense to me why other states will allow you to carry a gun, but not a fixed blade knife or other non-firearm weapon.

I can't really see foresee any reason why I would pull my knife instead of one of my guns in a life and death situation... but I carry it anyway. It gets used often for opening boxes and such.
 

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For more than 50 years I have carried at least two knives. Often one of them was illigal. I always had a good utility three blade pocket knife, that no one considered offensive, and a defensive blade of some kind that would have landed me in trouble.

The defensive blade was always a cheap knife that I could ditch in a trash can if I were aboput to get caught with it. I could also wipe it down and leave it right were the body was bleeding out if I had to use it and scoot.

Legal carry tends to get the better blade. The expensive stuff that one can be proud of. Clandistine carry is always going to be something cheap the worried person can ditch and replace at the convinience store five minutes latter.

I find it the same with firearms. Before I had a CCW I would not carry a "good gun" because if seen or found it would be confiscated, even if I did not go to jail.

Once I got my CCW I began carrying my good stuff, firearms and knives, since my CCW covers all deadly weapons.

Sometimes 50 years of habit dies hard. My favorite everyday folder is still a $5 lockblade from the plastic bucket at the hardware store.

Has anyone else noticed that many of the "better knives" have the pocket clip on the wrong end of the knife for fast deployment?
 

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In my state a knife can't be carried which exceeds 4 inches, switchblades are illegal, I think hawkbill knives as well.
 

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Let me add a couple of anecdotes on the types of knives bad guys tend to carry since you did inquire earlier in your post. Please understand this is from my personal experience only and by no means a definitive answer.

One night I was returning home from an out of town visit and forgot to gas up my car before leaving for home. The low fuel gauge lit up and I decided to make the tactical mistake of pulling into an AmPm store in a not so nice neighborhood. I reached over to the passenger seat a grabbed my stainless steel thermos with a nylon hand strap to take inside the store and refill.
As soon as I got out , some thug ran up and pulled a 6 inch butcher knife from a make shift cardboard sheath wrapped in duct tape from his waist band and demanded my wallet.
He jabbed the knife at me and I reflexively parried the thrust with the thermos , "reloaded' and clocked him across the bridge of his nose on the back swing. He screamed in pain , dropped the knife and ran back across the street into some funky apartment complex.
I immediately jumped back into my car , started it up and dialed 911.
Apparently a few other patrons witnessed the attempted robbery and called 911 as the ordeal was going down . Soon two Sheriffs' Deputies rolled up with lights flashing. One Deputy took the report and recovered the knife while the other Deputy called for back up to search the apartments the robber had ran into.

Another incident involved some drunk and belligerent homeless man that decided he was going to express his displeasure by stabbing me because I was a " church boy talking s**t " .
I was waiting outside a restaurant ,in what I thought was a fairly nice part of town, with two female friends that were waiting for another girl friend to swing by and pick them up. I tried to get them to stay inside but they insisted in waiting outside because they wanted to hop right in the car when their friend drove up. We chatted while waiting and I had mentioned how much I appreciated the hard work a local church had put in trying to help people find jobs.

Earlier I had noticed a homeless guy stumbling across the street one block away but figured he would not stray near the restaurant. While my friends chatted I kept an eye on him as he made his way across the street and headed towards us. He got about 30 ft away a fell back into the entry way of a nearby closed store front. I placed my self between my lady friends and the homeless guy and casually watched him while continuing chatting.
Suddenly he bolted out of the stores' entry way and bellowed " I'm tired of you church boys always talking s**t!" Closing in fast he was nearly on top of me in seconds.
He reached under his shirt at the small of his back with his right hand and whipped out what looked like to me a pointed stick wrapped in a plastic shopping bag. He stabbed it towards my abdomen yelling " f**k you , f**k you !"
I dodged to my left ,outside of his out stretched arm , grabbed his wrist with my right hand to control the weapon, stepped in placing my left foot behind him then plowed my left elbow under his chin as hard as I could. He staggered over backwards and hit the sidewalk hard. I held onto his arm and rode him down using his arm to leverage him onto his stomach ,twisting his arm into his back until he let go of his weapon. For good measure , one of my lady friends whipped out her pepper spray and gave him a good blast accidently giving me a good whiff in the process .
Restaurant security took over , detained the drunk and called the PD .

The PD arrived cuffed him and put him in the police car and took our statements. One officer secured the weapon used; it was about an eight inch piece of rusty rebar ground down to a pencil point wrapped in a couple of plastic grocery bags with about two inches of the tip exposed.

Trust me ,going "mano-a-mano' with a knife wielding bad guy is not a hobby I would reccomend . In both instances I felt I had no choice but to fight back or be stabbed. My heart was pounding so hard from the adrenaline jacking my heart rate up. I am no Jet Li wannabe and was very ,very lucky that I was not hurt. I did what I had to do .

Seems like the bad guys will use what ever they can get their hands on ; I seriously doubt that they regularly arm themselves with Cold Steel products or special order custom knives ! They use whatever they can beg , borrow or steal!
 

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Well handled and good situational awareness!

Just about the flat last thing I ever want to be in is a knife fight. I've seen the outcome of a couple of those and don't ever care to participate unless it's a last ditch-last chance.
 

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MERCOP
"It was also noted that most improvised weapons by design were limited to either being really good for stabbing or for cutting and seldom for both."

Having worked both the street & behind the walls, may I offer an opinion of why?
I think in a Correctional setting, the materials available tend to dictate how & why improvised weapons are made.

Cutting ones tend to be made from razor blades, which some facilities do a fairly good job of accounting for, but the stabbing ones seem much more common.
Mainly because it's so much easier to scrape a point onto almost anything hard by rubbing it against the concrete wall of the Rec Court than it is to sharpen something the same way.
 

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There are alots of styles of martial arts. If you defend yourself and kill another person it really is considered murder. Planning an attack ahead of time is first degree murder. You as an instructor should teach non-lethal forms of escape and tactics. This is civilian life not on a battlefield. Here just having a knife in the pocket is cause to be arrested. Harming another person even in self-defense is not very appreciated by the police. You're just not allowed to cut others to death! Fair trials with jury of your peers. Non-lethal means of escape is better.
 

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I think the greatest point mercop made was this

What separates the average offender from the average good guy? Their willingness to do violence. Criminals understand the value of intimidation and overwhelming violence. They also realize that if you have something in your hand that is only good for stabbing or cutting you better be fast and violent about doing either one before you are pulled off or attacked yourself.
There have been times during an investigation I have tried to understand the rationale behind some extreme violence that seemingly appears to be random. Often times there really isn't any reason, it's just violent men being violent.
 

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If you defend yourself and kill another person it really is considered murder.
Homicide: The killing of one human being by another human being.

Murder: the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another human, and generally this premeditated state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide (such as manslaughter).

Since you are responding to an attack it is not murder, UNLESS you intentionally provoked the attack to cover your pre-planned killing.
 

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BJJ GRAPPLER
"There have been times during an investigation I have tried to understand the rationale behind some extreme violence that seemingly appears to be random. Often times there really isn't any reason, it's just violent men being violent."

FYI, James Grigson, a Texas Forensic Psychiatrist who testified for the Prosecution in so many death penalty cases that he earned the nickname Dr. Death.

Prior to that, he'd worked for the Texas Dept. of Corrections & caught a lot of criticism when he disbanded a "mental health" support group held in the Prison for violent offenders.

"They ain't sick" he replied, "they just plain MEAN, that's all !".
 

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Good post Mercop,

Its nice to see a common sense approach to self defense with a blade being discussed. Deployment was the biggest training hurdle for me to overcome, by far. I'm the guy at work who you can hear random clicks from his office due to my practice. I have always known that folders present a conflict of interests. You have them with you more often than fixed blades, however, they are not at "ready". One must be able to get it out and open, quickly, smoothly, and confidently when danger occurs if one is to use it for self defense.

My challenge is that I have several that I rotate between for my edc. The methods of opening each present different challenges and benefits.

I say all this to get your take on the "wave" type of opening. Emerson, Spyderco, and Cold Steel have popular offerings and one can make a poor man's wave on thumb holes by attaching a zip tie. Anyway, the idea is that a protrusion from the blade catches on the pocket so that, as you pull the knife out, the blade is deployed (for those that dont know).

Did you do any training with that feature and what are your thoughts on it?

Personally, I do like it, but have not had the opportunity to discuss it with anyone who cares... I'm sorta unique in my circles as the knife-nut... so this place is one of the few outlets I get to spout my ...ahem... knowledge (questionable term, that) and seek it from others. Also, since I don't have a blunted training blade with that feature, there is only so far I can go with it... although once deployed its the same as any other folder. I have just not been able to use it in excersizes like the training Spyderco Endura I have, with its rounded tip and blunt edge, so there is still that unknown.

Thanks in advance for any knowledge/experience you may have...
 

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In my country (located on the good ol' socialist Old Continent) it's virtually impossible to obtain a suitable license to legally carry a firearm for defensive purposes (all other guns also require licenses and must be carried unloaded, and best unavailable for rapid deployment).

Therefore if you need to carry a defensive weapon, you need to stick to melee or pepper spray.

Here are some of my thoughts based on what I've learned carrying several defensive implements over the time:

-I could choose from telescopic baton and knife, using each in a self-defense situaltion is legally equitable in Poland (both are deemed "dangerous implements" under criminal law)

-Both the telescope and the knife could get my assailant killed (that's the purpose they serve, is it not?), unless you are trained in using a baton for self defense, you'll most probably end up bashing the assailant on their thick skull or collarbones causing fractures and life-threatening bleeding, or on the limbs, causing fractures and nerve/joint damage.

-IMHO the telescope carries worse than the knife - I could deploy my BK-9 faster when strapped to my pack, than my baton when carried anywhere. It's also as heavy as the heaviest knives, quite long and bulky too.

-tactical folders carry great IWB every day all day long (I carry two at once, yeah I'm a loony), but the speed of deployment leaves much to be desired.

-fixed blades wil deploy fastest, but they carry and conceal only a bit better than the baton.

That being said, you can opt for an inconspicuously open carried fixed blade, as long as your laws and social status allows it, or try and conceal them using some sort of armpit rig (if your local law, and attire allows for it).

IMHO a concealed fixed blade is the best option (provided the laws allow for it), I can't use it unfortunately, because of apparel limitations (it's not quite socially accepted here to see your doc strapping a bowie under his armpit crocodile Dundee style).

You'd be quite surprised, however, how inconspicuous a fixed blade can be.
I carried a Ka-Bar BK-9 for two months straight, strapped on the side of my pack, and NOBODY except a few friends ever noticed it (the pack's gray and made from cordura, the knife has a black woven nylon sheath, which blends well into the pack, despite the color difference).
It's also VERY fast to deploy (needless to say it's a huge overkill for a defense knife, but I have some minimal background in historical fencing, and do appreciate the added range and sword-like handling, plus the size might be an assault-deterring factor too).

I hope this helps a bit.
 

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In my state a knife can't be carried which exceeds 4 inches, switchblades are illegal, I think hawkbill knives as well.
In TN:

Blade exceeds four inches, not the whole knife.

Switchblades are indeed illegal for most folks, and so are gravity knives, as they are defined as switchblades also.

Hawkbill knives are fine.

ANY knife is illegal on ANY school property without extenuating exceptions.

- OS
 
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