Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sharp Issues

Caution! The video on the link below is graphic and shows people being fatally and near fatally wounded by a knife assault. It is included here solely for the purpose that some knowledge may perhaps help others avoid a similar tragedy.


The lady at the beginning of the video is the former girlfriend of Carlos, the man who ends up attacking the police officers. The incident occurs near the police station where the lady was reporting that Carlos has been threatening to kill her and her new boyfriend. Ironically she also states she owns a gun and when she pulled It out Carlos just said "Shoot me then"
She stated that she only had the gun to defend herself when something serious would happen.
I will breakdown some observations I made about what led to such a tragic ending as wellas some ways to avoid it


Clearly Carlos was psychologically, emotionally, and physically, prepared to use deadly force as evidenced about the 4:25 mark on the video in which he assaults the officers.
The officers however were not ready to do the same. Even after that initial exchange the officers in various states of readiness, some with guns drawn, others with a hand on their holstered pistol, one with a rifle and even some with no weapons at all; kept ordering Carlos to "Not come any closer." But Carlos did while saying " shoot me then". None of the officers that were present had mentally prepared themselves to execute deadly force decisions and actions.


We have a couple of extremes when it comes to preparing ourselves for deadly force decisions. I like to call these Camp Cavalier and Camp Ostrich. Overconfidence and Denial. Camp Cavalier members are fond of saying things like "don't bring a knife to a gunfight' or, I "train in in a knife, stick and gun system and know how to cut so I understand the knife". Camp ostrich on the other hand states or wishes that they will never encounter a situation like this.
The major problem is that, regardless of what we may think, preparation is always artificial at some level. We can never truly replicate all the factors involved in a real knife assault.
It wouldn't be remotely feasible or safe to go to a local mental institution and pay the " nice" psychopath to "come at me bro" with a real knife :-)
So preparation must occur in many levels.


When addressing physical preparation I refer to the actual tactical maneuvers that you practice to protect yourself from an assault.
In order to do this we must apply some Intelligence, and by that I mean both intellect and the collection of information.
If your knife system introduces you first to you holding the knife and practicing a variety of numbered angles for slashing and stabbing, whether its a clock system or some other contrived "number- to-angle" sequence, you are starting at the wrong end of the training spectrum.
Your are studying either a "knife dueling" or "knife assaulting" system. Ponder this for a bit. How often do you see yourself in your personal or professional life, either attacking an unarmed person with a knife or fighting with your knife against somebody with their knife. I'm not saying it would NEVER happen, I'm just saying that it is a lot more likely that you will be surprised while unarmed by a knife wielding enraged psycho; hence any responsible knife training should always BEGIN with effective survival strategies and drills for responding unarmed to a knife assault. In 9 years in the military, 13 as a police officer and 3 as a private military contractor I NEVER, assaulted an unarmed man with my knife and I NEVER had to fight knife to knife against a criminal or psycho ( only in some very specialized training) However I did have encounters where I was unarmed and the bad guy had a knife and all the knife assaults I responded to involved unarmed victims.

But you say that "we must understand all the angles in order to respond effectively! We must learn how to wield the blade to respond properly!" This isn't true for two reasons. One, people with absolutely no training and no idea of angles have survived knife assaults with minimal or no injuries. Two, human violent behavior is very predictable. Desmond Morris, a zoologist, has published works since the 1960's addressing this part of human behavior. I recommend reading his work.
I also recommend every one to research video of knife assaults taking place and you will notice some very predictable patterns on the angles used by cold blooded criminals and the once used by enraged emotionally charged subjects.
We know from observation that the more experienced criminal is more likely to use multiple quick dominant arm straight thrusts to the body when the hold the knife in what is known in some circles as the hammer grip or blade up. If the criminal is holding the blade down, or ice pick, they tend to use shorter elliptical, multiple, dominant arm, downward stabbing motions to neck or face area.
We Also know from observation that mentally unstable, and highly emotionally charged subjects will use wider broader motions and mostly hold the knife in the ice pick while stabbing caveman style downward or at a slight angle. In the occasions when they use a hammer grip, emotionally charged or crazy people tend to slash at the same caveman angle.

Gathering this intelligence is crucial in order to prioritize our preparation. If you are not training from the onset to deal with A. Multiple straight stabs to torso B. Multiple downward stabs to your neck and face and C. Downward angle slashing; your training regardless of how intense it may seem, is not preparing you for reality.
Your drills must progressively introduce these attacks gradually increasing resistance until you can do them full speed with protective equipment and training knives.


Regardless of how well and accurately you prepare physically, you must invest the same if not greater amount of time in emotional preparation.
We do this by introspection, intense visualization , and resolute affirmations.
Introspect and deeply think about what it would feel like to be in front of an experienced criminal or enraged lunatic with a knife and having them come at you. Imagine your fear and turning that into fighting energy and controlled rage.
See your self surviving, reversing the predator prey relationship and engaging the enemy with whatever force it will take to stop him.
Continuously affirm consciously that you will survive and escape the situation no matter how dire the circumstances may seem.
You must believe down to the very core of your being that you can and will succeed against the knife attacker.


Prior to the encounter you must have a strategy in place that keeps our ego in check and allows us a wide array of resolutions.
Ultimately our main goal is survival. If our choice is to run, fight,or control the situation it should be made intelligently with this goal in mind.

In cases where you are unarmed agains a knife distance control is critical. You either want to be far enough away that the attacker has to take several steps to get to you, or so close that you can completely or partially control the armed limb and minimize injury.
Being far away may help in an escape resolution or to allow you to place obstacles between you and the attacker, or find an environmental weapon.
If you or the attacker close to intimate distance, it is unadvisable to try to separate again as Pablo, the policeman, found when he backed away from Carlos. By backing away after after trying to swing the stick he stayed at a range that was ideal for Carlos, and he received a single stab wound that likely penetrated the subclavian artery and bleed out.
If you are in intimate range try your best to finish the fight there by incapacitating your attacker.

I will address here the case against "knife disarms" . Many knife fighting system will spend a lot of time practicing all sorts of disarms against a knife. This is both wasteful and dangerous. The only effective and reliable disarms against a knife are, in order of importance, attacker death or unconsciousness, attacker otherwise incapacitated through bashing of armed hand against a solid object.
Anything else is simply fetishism at best and fantasy at worst.

It is interesting to note the paradox of human resiliency/weakness. The only fatality received only one wound, whereas all the survivors, including the suspect, suffered multiple stab and gunshot wounds.
Intelligent preparation is the key to surviving a knife assault and survival is the ultimate goal.
Take your training for this unlikely event seriously and train safely and responsibly.

Tony Torres


  1. Excellent as always... thanks sir.

  2. Re: the methods of bladed criminal attack that you mention, do you mean and/or include sewing machine style attacks with grabs that keep the victim close for the repetitive stabbing, or fend-offs coupled with forward pressure that create space for the continued stabbing?

    Good stuff T.