Defense Against A Knife - US Army Modern Combatives
This page focuses on unarmed defenses against a knife attack. These self-defense techniques are used in US Army Modern Combatives training. The Combatives program teaches martial arts techniques to US Army soldiers. However, be aware that unarmed combat against weapons (such as guns or knives) is very dangerous and should only be used as a last resort. Consider other options first (i.e. run away from danger).
For more unarmed self-defense techniques for use against an aggressor armed with a weapon, please visit the main Defenses Against An Attacker With A Weapon section.
Defense Against An Armed Opponent
An unarmed defender is always at a distinct disadvantage when facing an armed opponent. It is imperative, therefore, that the unarmed defender understands and uses the following principles to survive.
a. Separation. Maintain a separation of at least 10 feet plus the length of the weapon from the attacker. This distance gives the defender time to react to any attempt by the attacker to close the gap and be upon the defender. The defender should also try to place stationary objects between himself and the attacker.
b. Unarmed Defense. Unarmed defense against an armed opponent should be a last resort. If it is necessary, the defender’s course of action includes:
- Move the body out of the line of attack of the weapon. Step off the line of attack or redirect the attack of the weapon so that it clears the body.
- Control the weapon. Maintain control of the attacking arm by securing the weapon, hand, wrist, elbow, or arm by using joint locks, if possible.
- Stun the attacker with an effective counterattack. Counterattack should be swift and devastating. Take the vigor out of the attacker with a low, unexpected kick, or break a locked joint of the attacking arm. Strikes to motor nerve centers are effective stuns, as are skin tearing, eye gouging, and attacking of the throat. The defender can also take away the attacker’s balance.
- Ground the attacker. Take the attacker to the ground where the defender can continue to disarm or further disable him.
- Disarm the attacker. Break the attacker’s locked joints. Use leverage or induce pain to disarm the attacker and finish him or to maintain physical control.
c. Precaution. Do not focus full attention on the weapon because the attacker has other body weapons to use. There may even be other attackers that you have not seen.
d. Expedient Aids. Anything available can become an expedient aid to defend against an armed attack. The Kevlar helmet can be used as a shield; similarly, the LCE and shirt jacket can be used to protect the defender against a weapon. The defender can also throw dirt in the attacker’s eyes as a distraction.
Defense Against A Knife
When an unarmed soldier is faced with an enemy armed with a knife, he must be mentally prepared to be cut. The likelihood of being cut severely is less if the fighter is well trained in knife defense and if the principles of weapon defense are followed. A slash wound is not usually lethal or shock inducing; however, a stab wound risks injury to vital organs, arteries, and veins and may also cause instant shock or unconsciousness.
a. Types of Knife Attacks. The first line of defense against an opponent armed with a knife is to avoid close contact. The different types of knife attacks are:
- Thrust. The thrust is the most common and most dangerous type of knife attack. It is a strike directed straight into the target by jabbing or lunging.
- Slash. The slash is a sweeping surface cut or circular slash. The wound is usually a long cut, varying from a slight surface cut to a deep gash.
- Tear. The tear is a cut made by dragging the tip of the blade across the body to create a ripping-type cut.
- Hack. The hack is delivered by using the knife to block or chop with.
- Butt. The butt is a strike with the knife handle.
- Information from Public Domain Document, Combatives - FM 3-25.150 (FM 21-150), http://sill-www.army.mil/428thfa/FM%203-25.150%20%28Combatives%29.pdf, Added - 05/04/15
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