Knife Defense Principles
By Moshe Katz
Israeli Krav International

July 20, 2023

A real knife is very dangerous, yes this is obvious, or is it?

Based on some of the defenses I have seen taught at Krav Maga schools I would say that this simple fact is not so well known. The disarms they teach would suggest that it is like taking candy from a child, which, by the way, is also not so easy. Wake up time.

Knife Attacks, two small words that can turn your world from a dream into a nightmare. Recently one of the murderers from the so-called Manson Family was released on parole after serving 53 years in prison. In my opinion she should have been executed. Leslie Van Houten was released on parole on July 11, 2023. For those who are not squeamish, go back to that deadly night of the murder of the LaBianca couple. On August 9, 1969, Van Houten, Tex Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, Linda Kasabian, Susan Atkins, Clem Grogan and Manson went to the house of Rosemary and Leno LaBianca. The murders, the stabbings, that took place that night are too brutal for me to describe, just as the murders of Sharon Tate and her guests the night before. The Manson gang has remained notorious to this very day. Manson told his gang to leave a mark so that people would remember them, they did indeed. They carved the word War into the chest of Mr. Leno Labianca and used his wife's blood to write "Death to the Pigs" on the wall, and Helter Skelter (which they misspelled). The girl who acted as the lookout recalled the blood curdling screams as the couple was murdered in the comfort and "security" of their own home.

Your home is your castle, right? You think so? You ready?

Knife Attacks.

We take this matter seriously. So, we drop Ego, we drop "looking cool", we drop "looking Bad Ass", we drop all the Hollywood bravado, and we focus on real life survival. Too many instructors today are concerned more with the Tough Guy image rather than with real survival skills. We say, leave the show, leave the acting, to Hollywood. I am not a performer; my personal appearance, what I look like, is no concern of yours.

Leno LaBianca was 44 years old. He was not an athlete; he ran a grocery store. I tell you this because our slogan at IKI is, "The perfect defense for imperfect people." Anyone can be attacked, and everyone should be able to learn enough self-defense to avoid what happened to this lovely hard-working couple. This is not a competitive sport, this is survival. You will not face someone in your age, weight, or gender category. 

The following is a "clean" version of the events...(excerpts) 

He (Leno) began to struggle and Watson stabbed him in the neck with a bayonet.

“Don’t stab me anymore!” Leno cried. Then, in an eerie echo of Abigail Folger’s last words, he moaned, “I’m dead, I’m dead….”

In the bedroom, Rosemary LaBianca could clearly hear the struggle and her husband’s screams. She fought back against Krenwinkel and Van Houten. Angry, Van Houten went to the kitchen and brought back several utensils, including knives. Rosemary pleaded for her life, saying they could take anything and she wouldn’t call the police.

She held Rosemary down while Krenwinkel stabbed her in the neck. “We started stabbing and cutting up the lady,” Van Houten testified.

Using blood from the victims, they wrote “Rise” and “Death to Pigs” on the walls, and a misspelled “Healter Skelter” on the refrigerator door. Then the killers showered, eat some food they found in the couples refrigerator, pet the LaBianca’s dogs, and left.

The attacks were described by police using words such as Savage, Brutal. Witnesses testified how the helpless victims begged for their lives, made all sorts of promises, and cried in pain.

Knife Attacks, are you ready? Do you feel safe? Is the image or "cool Bad Ass" look of the instructor even a factor to consider?

I want to take this opportunity, on this inauspicious occasion of the parole of this brutal killer, Van Houten, to summarize my peronsal opinions about defense vs. a knife attack. 

1. Awareness is paramount (not to be confused with Paramount Studios in California) - We must know that anger and violence exists in this world. We must realize that anyone can potentially be a threat. Without this we stand little chance. We must realize that we cannot count on getting out of this by talking our way out of it, by begging or pleasing for mercy. 

2. Home protection - The best way to deal with a problem is to avoid it in the first place. Be careful where you go and be careful whom you allow to approach you. If you choose to go to bad bars, expect trouble. Your home may be your castle, but a castle should have a moat surrounding it: Alarm systems, a watch dog, electric fences, you need a security system that matches your needs. 

3. Psychology - If you do encounter a violent person with a knife, make sure you have training and make sure you have psychological preparation as well. We stress scenario training so that your brain recognizes a situation and responds with, "Been there, done that, I can handle this, I know what do to", rather than a panic response or a freeze. 

4. Do not Overcommit - Imagine a baseball player, a batter, and this is a concept I was taught while in Baseball Camp, you do not chase after the ball. What does this mean? You are at the plate waiting for your pitch, you want a pitch that you can hit, connect with, a pitch that comes over the plate, i.e., in your Strike Zone, but if the pitch is too high, or too low, or inside, i.e., too close to you, or outside, i.e., too far from you - Let it go. If you chase after it, you will either miss it entirely or hit it poorly and be "out".  

It is the same with a knife attack, if the knife is not in motion, it can still change directions. If you commit too soon, or overcommit, you will get stabbed as the attacker can still change directions. If the attacker is in motion and fully committed, that changes the situation. If you overcommit and fail, you are done! Like running in towards the knife. It fails as soon as the attacker adds a fake and a change of direction. 

Do not go Running INTO The knife. but, no, we are not "waiting", we are reacting.

Never reach out for the knife, just as you would not reach out to hit the ball. 

5. Train for the multiple stabs - In case we are not able to fully block the first stab and control the attacker, we must prepare for the possibility of him pulling back and multiple attempted stabs from a variety of directions. 

6. Distance is your best friend - Are you being asked to move in CLOSER!  We only move in close if the attack is already very close. we don't move in close if the attack has some distance, because there could easily be a fake.

From Professional security at clubs - Wait for them to Commit, wait for them to enter your space (both in terms of tactics and the law). I have worked with Israeli counter - terrorism experts, police, as well as law enforcement from countries around the world, and all confirm these principles. 

If there is some distance - I am aware, very aware, and watching his every movement. Perhaps defend, perhaps escape, depending on the circumstances. 

7. Universal block - because you often will not know it is a knife attack at all - We have a block we use that is effective against a multitude of different attacks because if we wait until we know the specifics of the attack, it will be too late to react. (To learn this, come to our classes or seminars)

8. The Free Hand - As aggressors so often lead with their free hand (usually the left one), victims end up being stabbed in the neck, or to the chest on their left side (where the heart is located!)

9. Grab and Stab - We have been amongst the first to advocate Grab and Stab training, i.e. the assailant may grab a limb or clothing and stab. We must train for this. 

10. Balance - Another consequence of such close-range attacks is that victims tend to fall as they move backwards trying to escape their aggressor. We need to train for balance in our defense. 

11. Surprise or Threat - On certain occasions you might have two people facing off in a bar, or in a prison cell, one pulls out a knife and makes a threat, but in other cases the knife attack will come as a surprise. We need to be prepared for both. When facing a knife, if escape is an option, then I believe it is the best option, but if not, one must train to watch body movements. The attack itself will still be in the category of a surprise as you still do not know the exact angle and trajectory of the attack. Therefore, in both cases we must assume a surprise and have a suitable defense ready.

12. Awareness of the weapon - In many cases not only is the attack a complete surprise but the victims had no awareness that a weapon existed. The knife is often kept hidden until the very last minute. That is why we need to learn to look for pre attack signs. We need to observe behavior and always assume that a weapon may be present. 

13. The Attack can come from any direction - We must be aware of our surroundings at all times. We must not allow ourselves to be distracted by conversation or anything else that looks interesting around us. You like window shopping? fine, but keep scanning your surroundings, never allow yourself to become distracted.

14. In summary - Never use fine motor skills. Use only Gross Motor moves. Never rely upon your skills, always be aware of what is going on around you. Use Body Motion more than relying upon your own speed or precision. Train with scenario training, review past cases of knife attacks and imagine new possibilities. Look around you and imagine an attack from this direction or imagine a guy jumping out from behind that corner. Do not let anyone get too close to you. Distance is your best friend, Be aware, train for the worst. 


The IKI Knife Defense Approach

  • Keep everything simple
  • As few steps as possible
  • Use the same defense in as many situations as possible.
  • Get away from the blade as soon as it is safe to do so.
  • Train your family how to respond in the case of a knife attack, an earthquake, or any other type of emergency. This must be a team effort, not a "Rambo will take care of you" situation.

IKI Krav Maga training, South Carolina, Laura.

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