Training for Knife Attacks: Yes or No?
A post online recently sparked a discussion here regarding teaching defence against knife attacks in class. Do they still have a place in the martial arts classroom? Or would it be better if they were taking out of teaching syllabuses altogether?
We thought we would argue both sides of the discussion, and then let you decide where your opinions lie.
Stop Teaching Them
Teaching these techniques could in fact put your students in more danger than if you didn't teach them.
The reasoning for this is simple enough. Showing your students how to disarm a knife attack could actually give them the confidence to take on an attacker if ever presented with the opportunity. Whilst this might seem like a good idea in practice, in reality this is a risky thing to do.
It takes a long time to truly master knife techniques, especially to the level where you can disarm someone in "the real world" who won't drop the knife and "tap out" as soon as you have applied a half-decent wrist lock. You need to really apply the technique perfectly for it to work on a thug.
Also, someone who carries a knife around and uses it almost for a living is going to be pretty decent with it, and in the dojo you are not trained to deal with someone who has decent knife technique. If you tried to disarm someone who knows how to use a blade you are going to struggle.
The whole reason that gang members carry knives is because they are easily concealed, and because it is a lot faster to become proficient in using a knife than it is using your hands.
Surely it would be safer to tell your students that the much safer way to deal with a knife attacker is to run away? Better that than risking your life or a serious injury?
"But the same can be said for a punch or kick?" I hear you cry! That is true, but a punch or a kick has a lot lower risk of serious injury or death.
There is no shame in telling your students that running away is an option. In fact, a lot of them are probably there to learn how to protect themselves, not get beaten up, and to survive. I can't think of a better way of doing that than to teach them how to avoid fights and run away.
They Must Be Taught
The reality of most knife attacks is that running away is rarely an option. They happen when you are trapped, with loved ones, or when you are ambushed. Knifes are easily concealed, and that makes the chances of you knowing about the attack in enough time to run away slim.
No martial arts teacher will ever say that facing an armed attacker when unarmed yourself is a good situation to be in, and one that you should look for. But a good instructor will recognise that giving their students the skills needed to at least have a chance in that situation is a must, especially today when more and more gangs are carrying knives as standard.
Here is a video illustrating the realities of knife attacks:
As far as we can tell, every attack on this video is real, and in each case running away or avoiding that situation was never an option. A little bit of proof surely that disarming techniques must be taught?
And concentrating on disarming techniques is not a necessity. A more effective method in real life might be to use incapacitating techniques rather than disarming, especially if you are against a skilled knife user.
The important thing for the instructor to remember is to make training situations in the dojo as life-like as possible. Use a rubber knife, make the attacks full strength, have multiple attackers, make sure the attackers don't give in easily. Also, things like making the defending student tired and dizzy first help, as they learn to face these situations with reduced motor functions.
Even if your student were to lose a fight where the attacker had a knife, the skills learnt in training could mean that they suffer less serious injuries. Just knowing how to parry a knife away correctly could make a huge difference to the outcome of the situation, lowering the risk of serious injury or death, and surely that's a good thing yes?
If you have any thoughts about this topic, please post them here. We look forward to your comments.