Defending Against a Weapon Attack – A Visual Study

A couple of weeks ago, I was sent a video showing an older gentleman being attacked with a knife by a younger, bigger man. I am not 100% sure of the context, but from all appearances, it looked like the older person was a worker at a jewelry store that the younger man tries to rob. Take a look:


There is a lot going on here. A number of my friends on Facebook talked about this video and made some comments that were repeated by different people. One of them, obviously, is how cool it was for the old dude to fight so hard. Rather than give up, he did everything he could to survive. We can all agree on that. One of the other comments though gave me pause. That comment generally followed the line of “he should have used the knife like x, y, or z to win the fight”. While that on the surface sounds good, it wildly misses the point. And that is what I want to cover in this article.

It is a crucial problem, yet one that comes up over again and people keep missing – that of the fixation on the tool to solve the problem. The knife is NOT the overwhelming problem at this moment. The overwhelming problem is that the defender has no control over the limbs of the bad guy. And so said limbs can do whatever it is they see fit to do – in this case, stab. The tool is just that, a tool. What is making it dangerous are the limbs powering it. Notice how the assault starts to change at the: 19 second mark. Why? Because the good guy manages to get a grasp on the knife arm, and the bad guy’s other arm is uselessly wrapped around the good guy’s head. Then notice the next major part at the 1:18 mark. The good guy now has the tool and gets in a couple of good thrusts. Why was he successful? Because his limbs were free due to the bad guy holding onto to a dumb headlock. Then, it changed again when the bad guy grabbed GG’s knife arm. Then comes a lengthy involvement where many of my friends talked about how if old tough dude just stabbed the right way, the fight would have turned out different. Sure, but why did he not use the knife well? Mostly because both people had essentially equal control over the other, but the BG was younger and bigger so he could negate much of the weapon use.  That became even more apparent when the fight broke off and went to a slightly longer range where BG could actually move away and throw punches. When there is no dominant positional control, the fight goes to whoever has the superior attributes. Fortunately, BG decided that he was having too tough a transaction and got out leaving the older gentleman to seemingly be okay.


Now let’s look at a somewhat similar incident that turned out even better, and try to see why that was the case.


Similar circumstances – unarmed good guy versus knife wielding bad guy. Why though in the second video did the fight work out so well for the good guy? Yes, he started with catching the BG by surprise and hitting him with a chair, but it sure didn’t seem to have that much impact of the BG. So the chair from behind, while helpful, was not the main reason for the success. What was? Dominant positional control. Whether through design or luck, the GG managed to get to the bad guy’s back and stay there. He even put Mr. Knifer on the floor and put downwards pressure to keep him there, all of which made it nearly impossible for the knife to be used with any effect and was for all intents and purposes a very good way of controlling the bad guy’s attacking limbs.. All in all, an excellent example of positional dominance trumping the weapon. This is what we need to strive for in an entanglement with a weapon either in play, or there is a possibility of a weapon coming into play. Don’t overly fixate on the tool as the magic talisman that will solve all problems. Make sure it can’t be used first, then that you have freedom to do what you want to do, and only then does using a weapon yourself make any sense.

We do need to be mindful of what the weapon is doing and ensure that it is not being able to be used effectively against us, but the best, most reliable, and most consistent way to do that is control the position and the other person’s limbs. Do that and you go a long way to staying safe.

Emphasize The Fun!


Why don’t more people actively train in self-defense oriented activities?


This is something that many people in the training community have been talking a lot about. Karl Rehn of KR Training wrote a fascinating study (check the first part out here:  ) where he looked at how many people who took the time to get a Texas concealed carry permit then followed up with more training. His estimate, based on a ton of sources and data, was that one percent (1%) goes on to do either other training, or shoot in organized competitions. That is simply stunning, especially considering the popular notion that Texans are all carrying guns and go shooting all the time. Other experienced trainers such as Tom Givens of Rangemaster have said similar things based on how much they travel around and conduct coursework.


It is probable that more people train in some form of martial art with the express purpose of self-defense (after all, that is the main role of martial arts traditionally), but even then, the numbers are not huge. It is rare to see any kind of martial art school have more than a couple of hundred students at the maximum.


And we all know of most of our family or friends who join a fitness gym every January 1st, only to quit soon after.


So what is the problem? Why aren’t more people joining in and becoming more capable and more dangerous? While there are probably a number of reasons, I strongly feel one of the biggest is a perceived lack of fun and enjoyment.


Face it. One of the reasons we are apt to do certain things is that there is a component of fun. Having fun creates a positive feedback loop that keeps us coming back for more. If a task is drudgery, even if it is seen as beneficial to us, there is little incentive to jump into it with full vigor and focus. Pretty much anyone who smokes knows it is bad for you, but trying to quit is sheer misery for almost everyone. That is why there is such a high recidivism rate. We need to enjoy on some level the process we are in.

Unfortunately, the training community tends to sell the value of training as “you will get kilt in da streetz if you don’t take xxxx training course!” or “your family will die a horrible death from a criminal predator if you don’t carry your Callahan Fullbore Autolock (nerd reference!)!” I myself have been guilty of this as well. None of us are immune. But we need to move away from Einstein’s definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. If we are only reaching 1% of the population, then we are doing it wrong.


In my weekly classes I teach, one of the things that sold most of the new people who signed up was seeing how much fun the other students were having. The prospective person saw a large group working really hard at choking each other out, but also saw how big the smiles were on both parties face. Why would you not want to join in on something so obviously joyful? Once that lesson sunk in enough times with me, I realized that is a good avenue to pursue.


Let us go out and show everyone that when we are on the BJJ mats, in the weight room, on the shooting range, or doing a demanding training course like Craig Douglas’ ECQC or Mike Pannone’s Covert Pistol Carry, that regardless of outcome, we are having a great time! Put up pictures of people laughing and smiling, even if they are dirty and bedraggled and obviously worn out. That is what will help reach the rest of the public and convince them it is a good idea to step into this world. Not one more picture of some tatted up, bearded dude all decked out in Crye and showing off how cool he feels with that weapon in his hand. Or that example of that Guru trainer who thinks he has all the answers and anyone who dares thinks otherwise is a wuss.

Don’t present the image of the warrior at war with the universe, but the average person having a good time while working to become more capable, more dangerous, and just a general all around better person. That is what will make those “outside our world” pay attention. Don’t scare them, or berate them, but show them this lifestyle is just plain rocking fun!