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Self-Defense Tip #101 — Defense Against Knife Attack: Empty Hands

What would you do against a blade-wielding attacker in a sterile environment, no equalizers around you, and you can’t run away? This is a question asked by a reader of Self-Defense Tip #98 — Defense Against Knife Attack: Table. Below is the entire exchange between the reader and me.

If you could give us subscribers some tips, perhaps in another video, on unarmed against the blade. Hypothetical question, set in a sterile environment, no equalizers around you, and you can’t run away: What would you do against a blade-wielding attacker? Thanks in advance. I’m aware that this is a tough question so sorry about that.

You mean, being attacked with edged weapons while naked in a room with no moveable furniture? This looks like prison, with the attacker or attackers armed with shanks by guards. For situations other than that, you will find realistic defenses in self-defense tips from 69 to 73 at

Clarification of the Question:
That would be the environment I had in mind even if you were being sarcastic (I don’t know if you were though). And I visited your website more than once. I bought your Self-Defense: Tools of Attack. In fact I bought a pair of those. And it is a great DVD. It is scary to even watch that enforcer guy wield his weapons around. But I never noticed anything specifically about unarmed against weapons on your website (in the context that I’m asking for–sterile environment). Thanks for answering.

The most common edged weapon is a knife, so my answer deals with defenses against knife attacks.

People who with consistency successfully defend themselves against knife attacks using only their empty hands are without exception masters of knife fighting. So, to sense intentions and to anticipate moves of a knifer it takes a better knifer. To become that better knifer, you need to spend at least a few months practicing nearly every day with knifers and then keep on maintaining the acquired skills. The knife-fighting skills will serve you equally well against people who understand the knife’s potential and those who don’t.

In a knife fight–as opposed to sneaking up on someone and stabbing them–knowledgeable knife fighters attack the nearest targets first, such as hands, then inside of arms, and then progress to lethal ones such as throat, chest, abdomen, and groin. Such progressions may take just a couple of seconds from the first knife contact to the last. This concept is shown on Self-Defense: Tools of Attack. People who do not understand the knife’s potential go for lethal targets first–even if this requires making steps to reach these targets. They also tend to put too much muscle force into their stabs and cuts (but don’t get your hopes up–if their moves connect, they are no less lethal than those of a pro).

So, first take a look at defenses against “ignorant” attacks in which attackers insist on first stabbing far targets (defender’s abdomen or chest) rather than first stabbing and cutting near ones (his hands and face).

Now take a look at an example of a rational knife attack: quick, relaxed, noncommitted, to a near target:

Ray Floro has a DVD on knife fighting and unarmed defenses against knife attacks. Lesson Three on that DVD teaches empty-hand defenses, but do view all five lessons. More about Ray Floro and his DVD at Self-Defense Tip #45 — Review of The Essential Ray Floro DVD set.

Another DVD I recommend is KNIFE: Unconditional Mastery from Systema Russian Martial Art. Most drills on the DVD apply both to knife attacks and to defenses against knife attacks. The DVD’s content is available for download, in two parts. Part I is the best value for the money. See its preview:

I prefer the teaching style of Ray Floro, but for best results I advise adding to his method drills from KNIFE: Unconditional Mastery.

Applying any of the techniques mentioned above is your sole responsibility.

Neither Never-Thought-of-It LLC nor the author of this self-defense tip, nor persons pictured in this self-defense tip, make any representation, warranty, or guarantee that the techniques described or shown in this tip will be safe, effective, or legal in any self-defense situation or otherwise.

The reader or viewer assumes all risks and hazards of injury or death to herself, himself, or others, as well as any resultant liability for the use of the techniques and methods contained in this self-defense tip.

Specific self-defense responses demonstrated or described in this self-defense tip may not be justified in certain situations in light of all the circumstances or under the applicable federal, state, or local law. Neither Never-Thought-of-It LLC nor the author of this self-defense tip makes any representation or warranty regarding the legality or appropriateness of any techniques described or demonstrated in this self-defense tip.

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Ideal self-defense weapons are those that are legal to carry everywhere, do not attract attention, are simple to use, and do not require practice.

Self-defense tip from Thomas Kurz, co-author of Basic Instincts of Self-Defense and author of Science of Sports Training, Stretching Scientifically, and Flexibility Express.


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