knife attack comes quickly

Knife Attack Comes Way Too Fast to React

Have you thought through how you would practice Active Self Protection against this kind of knife attack? It’s not easy nor simple to defend against, and the follow-up actions to the ambush are critical as well!

Original video with some details (Google Translate from Portuguese required):


What does this knife attack teach us about protecting ourselves against any kind of knife attack?


  1. The eyes may be the windows to the soul, but the hands are the windows to the intent of a person. If you’re in a potential conflict, ALWAYS pay attention to what the aggressor is doing with their hands. They might have a force multiplier in their hand, or they might be hiding their hand so that you can’t see what is in it or using their hand to conceal something. If their hands are empty, there is a difference between someone with fists and someone whose hands are open and relaxed. As a self-defender your situational awareness must include seeing the hands of any potential threat in your vicinity, so watch the hands! In this knife attack the only clue the bouncer had was that the man kept his hands in his pockets.


  1. The concept of a reactionary gap is important to consider as self-defenders. This is normally taught as something like the “21-foot rule,” though that’s a principle and not a rule. As a self-defender if you’re in a situation where an attack is a possibility, leaving yourself some distance to allow for additional time to respond to an attack from ambush is very smart. Even 2 or 3 feet of additional space allows the reactionary gap to successfully defend the ambush knife attack and get into the fight. Of course, that assumed that you’re reading a potential threat!


  1. It’s important to be trained and ready to protect yourself against a knife attack as it is against an attack with a firearm. FBI homicide data says that about 4 times the number of people are killed with handguns as with knives, but since gunshots are about four times more fatal than knife wounds, it means the number of attacks are probably similar! (if you look at the FBI data, hands and feet kill a lot of people, too!) This leads us to the principle that we must be ready for knife attacks that begin at close distance, and have the empty-handed skills to defend ourselves. This officer had advanced warning of the type of attack (his radio told him so!) and so he was able to get his firearm out early.


  1. Many times the best solution to being attacked is simply to run. Escape is a fine choice if nothing compels you to stand and fight! Clearly if you have kids or other vulnerable loved ones with you, you won’t be able to run away, but if that’s not an issue then running away may well be the best strategy available. If you can run from an attack and get to safety, then by all means do. Both bouncers here decided to run when they had a lull in the knife attack, and that’s totally fine.


  1. Very seldom does a knife attack happen like you’ve seen in Hollywood. They are brutal, fast, and mean. Stabbing attacks do not generally come from slashes or from any notice whatsoever, but tend to come from concealment and repeatedly stab at a rate of 2-3 stabs per second. In this knife attack the attacker stabbed twice and then stopped to assess, which is rare in itself. But it’s clear what the real kind of attack we must defend against is.


  1. First aid skills are important. If you’re going to train and prepare to take a life to defend yourself, you should also have skills, training, and equipment to save life should you need to. (I carry an individual first aid kit at a minimum: ) Often that will not involve defensive encounters, and in a defensive encounter your primary responsibility is to yourself and your loved ones. In this knife attack both victims need immediate trauma first aid and then to get to the hospital ASAP.


Attitude. Skills. Plan.


(music in the intro and outro courtesy of Bensound at




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1 reply
  1. Emiliano
    Emiliano says:

    How to defend a knife attack is actually a pretty common question I get from people who have never taken my class or know I am an instructor. They always seem taken back when I say “Shoot them, hit them with your car, run away” I guess they expect me to explain guiding, catching, and disarming a knife wielding attacker that thrusts at me from an easy range. I tell them that a gun can be controlled with muzzle control, it can be taken out of battery, pinning the trigger finger is even an option if you can find the opportunity. But a knife is always dangerous, point control can only get you so far, and it’s unrealistic to think any technique guarantees you won’t get cut. I would rather deal with a gun in my face than a knife. But I really liked how you threw in the first aid. The best type of knife defense dictates that it is not if you get cut but where. And I tell my students that it’s easier to apply a tourniquet to a limb than deal with a sucking chest/neck wound or abdominal or thoracic bleed.


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