Using knives for self-defense

While I’m far from an experienced, well trained knife fighter, there are a few things I can share with those who carry a blade for self-defense reasons.

First, if you find yourself having to use a knife for self-defense, that means at some point immediately prior to the confrontation, you screwed something up. Perhaps you weren’t paying close enough attention to your surroundings and ended up cornered. Whatever the case may be, you are now in a very bad situation. By its very nature, knife combat requires you to get in close to your opponent. Generally speaking, this is exactly where you don’t want to be, given almost any other option.

Never, ever throw your knife at your opponent. Unless you really, truly know what you’re doing, you’re going to miss. No two ways about it. Throwing your knife at your opponent is about as sensible as taking your knife and tossing it in the complete opposite direction. This isn’t Hollywood, don’t think you’ll get lucky with the throw. If you’re using the knife for defense, odds are that is your ONLY weapon, right? Why throw it away?

If your knife has a lanyard on the handle, do not loop it around your wrist during a knife fight. If you thrust the blade into the body of your opponent, it may stick there. The body’s natural reaction is to turn away from the pain. When that happens, if the lanyard is around your wrist, you’ll probably get pulled off balance. That particular bit of advice was given to me by one of my closest friends who was a former British intelligence operative.

If you fight with a knife, you are going to get cut. No way around it, just accept that fact. It is all just a matter of degree.

Much has been written about the recommended size of a fighting knife. Smarter men than I have produced scores of books and magazine articles about it. In my opinion, the length of the blade has to meet two requirements. First, it has to be short enough to be handled comfortably. Second, it has to be long enough to do the job. You aren’t going to do much damage to your opponent with a little 3″ folding knife. If they’re wearing a jacket and carrying the typical layer of fat common among most folks today, three inches isn’t going to get through to much of anything vital. However, if you plan to pull out a bowie knife large enough to make Crocodile Dundee proud, you better know what you’re doing with it. Wide, sweeping slashes sure look good on TV but they aren’t much good in real life.

Fighting with a knife is an absolute last resort. But it is still better than giving up.

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Jim Cobb

Jim Cobb has been a student of survivalism and emergency preparedness for almost thirty years. As a young child, he drove his parents nuts with stockpiling supplies in the basement every time he heard there was a tornado watch in his area. Of course, being a child, those supplies consisted of his teddy bear, a few blankets and pillows, and random canned goods he grabbed from the kitchen cabinets. Later, he was the first (and likely only) child in his fifth grade class to have bought his very own copy of Life After Doomsday by Bruce Clayton. Today, he is a freelance writer whose work has been published in national magazines such as Boy’s Life and Complete Survivalist Magazine. He is a voracious reader with a keen interest in all stories with post-apocalyptic settings. He maintains the Library at the End of the World blog and is also the Content Director for He currently resides in a fortified bunker in the upper Midwest, accompanied by his lovely wife and their three adolescent Weapons of Mass Destruction. Jim's first book, Prepper's Home Defense, was published late 2012 and his second book, tentatively titled The Prepper's Complete Guide to Disaster Readiness, will be out in mid-2013, both coming from Ulysses Press.

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