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Counter-Blade Concepts

Unarmed Combatives Against Edged-Weapon Attacks

Photos by  Michael C. Rigg, Stay Safe Media

The concepts shown here are for illustrative purposes only. Seek professional training from a reputable instructor before attempting any techniques discussed or shown in this story.

Whether it’s a junkie with a box cutter or a Jihadist with a machete, edged-weapon attacks are a very real and very dangerous threat in today’s world. Bladed weapons are cheap, easily accessible, easily concealed, and never run out of ammo. It also doesn’t take much more than a bad attitude and the physicality of a 10-year-old to wreak havoc with one, so they’re rapidly becoming the weapons of choice for sociopaths of all flavors.

Naturally, the best way to solve this problem is from a safe distance with a large-caliber firearm, but, like most things in life, it’s not quite that simple. Despite all the round-guy/square-range wisdom on this topic and the ever popular, “He shouldn’t have brought a knife to a gunfight” clichés, real knife attacks don’t mimic the Tueller Drill. If a knife-armed attacker wants to be successful, he won’t stand 21 feet, 6 inches away, wave his knife around for all to see, and then sprint toward you. Instead, he’ll think like a knifer and sidle up close with his knife hidden before he actually launches his attack. In those circumstances, he didn’t “bring a knife to a gunfight,” you brought a holstered gun — or empty hands alone — to a stabbing. And you’re the stabee.

Like any other threat, your first line of defense against an edged weapon should be awareness, avoidance, and distance. However, if someone does manage to get close enough to target you with a knife, you need solid, unarmed counter-knife tactics to survive.

Understand “The Problem”
Before you even think about learning unarmed counter-knife skills, it’s important to understand the nature of the threat — how knife attacks really happen. Many martial arts styles that claim to teach self-defense against knives are structured so their techniques only work when the attack is performed in a particular way. All too often, the “proper” attack looks nothing like what knifers actually do on the street, so the defenses you learn against it are also unrealistic.

Fortunately, everything in today’s world is available on video — including brutal stabbing, slashing, and hacking attacks from all over the world. Just visit YouTube or LiveLeak; search for “knife attack” or “stabbing” and you’ll see plenty of actual attacks caught on video. If you analyze those attacks — as I’ve been doing for nearly 20 years — you’ll notice that people who are pissed off, deranged, or homicidal enough to want to butcher another person with a blade tend to follow the same patterns of behavior.

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Based on those patterns, I’ve found that most edged-weapon attacks typically share the same characteristics:
> Knife attacks start at close range.
> Typically, the weapon is not brandished before the attack.
> Most people are right handed, so most knife attacks are right handed.
> Attackers typically use gross motor skills, which are primarily forehand motions.
> The non-weapon hand is usually used to grab and gauge distance.
> Attacks involve repetitive (aka “sewing machine”) motions, not a single cut or thrust.

These characteristics define the basic “problem” of a knife attack. If you look even closer, you’ll find that the most common types of assaults with a knife are stabs targeted at the lower abdomen. Usually, the knife is held in a normal “hammer” grip extending from the thumb side of the hand. The arm is swung pendulum style, pivoting mostly from the shoulder, to deliver repetitive arcing thrusts to the stomach and side of the body. Medical studies that have documented the most common location of stab wounds bear this out, confirming that most knife wounds are located in the center of the abdomen. The left side of the torso was the second most targeted area, supporting both the “right-handed” and “forehand motion” characteristics noted earlier.

Order of Operations
My approach to unarmed defenses against knife attacks is called Counter-Blade Concepts, or CBC. It’s based primarily on the principles of the Filipino and Indonesian martial arts — some of the most effective small-knife systems ever developed — tweaked to make them easier to learn, more suitable for Western body types, and more compatible with modern self-defense law. CBC is also designed to work both as a standalone system and a component of a more comprehensive, weapon-based set of tactics.

For a corrections officer in a cellblock or an unarmed civilian attacked in an elevator, CBC works alone. For a CCW holder or police officer, it allows you to survive the initial attack and “earn” your draw so you can finish the job with a superior weapon.

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