krav maga knife defense

 Learning knife defense these days is crucial. Knives, and all edged weapons, are dangerous, very dangerous. No matter how well trained you may think you are it is always best to avoid a knife wielding attacker. Do not try to "test your skills". Avoidance is always the best policy. Even if you carry a side arm you may not be safe; in close range a knife often beats a gun. 

knife defense, Maaleh Adumim, Israel

Before we discuss defending against the blade, we must break down this topic into two categories; Knife Threats, and Knife Attacks. Knife attacks will then be broken down further to two more categories; committed and non-committed.  


You need to have in your arsenal self-defense techniques for all types of attacks. Knife attacks refer to a knife in motion; the assailant with a knife in hand is actually in motion and attacking you. He is moving towards you with the intent of stabbing you right now. He is not talking to you; he is not making any demands. You might have two options; Defend - Fight back, or escape. I say you "might" have two options because escape is not always an option; you might be cornered.

If you do have the option to escape, that is best. Police studies have shown that an "orderly retreat" is best. What does that mean? It means that just turning your back and running may not be the best option. It might encourage the assailant to chase after you, it might excite him. It is best to find some way to retreat (rather than just run away), use the environment, throw an object; make the escape a little more dignified. This will discourage the attacker from pursuing. 

If you cannot escape than you must fight back, defend yourself. But first...before the physical attack. 


Generally the physical fight is preceded by a  verbal confrontation or some sort of threat. This is the time to react; attack his preparation, strike before he strikes you. This of course requires hands-on training. As a rule of thumb; if you sense trouble, keep your eyes on his hands, it is the hands that kill you. If you cannot see his hands - there is a problem. A hidden hand may be concealing an edged weapon. This is the time to react; either retreat or attack his preparation. 

THE TWO TYPES OF ATTACKS; Committed and Non Committed

The two types of attacks can be compared to two types of baseball players, in terms of hitting. The home run hitter takes a big swing; he strikes out a lot but when he connects, it is often a towering home run. Then there is the Pete Rose model; the guy who chokes up on the bat and just wants to get a piece of it. He will hit very few home runs but he will almost never strike out, and he will connect with many singles and doubles. Either way, having the right attitude will make the difference. 


A committed knife attacker is like the home run, or strike out, king.  He will move forward in a direct line with every thing he has. He is certainly dangerous but these attacks are actually easier to defend against (not that any knife attack is easy).

The Krav Maga approach to knife defense is to do three things; Evade the knife strike by side stepping or pulling back while simultaneously striking the knife arm (Best to strike at the forearm) of the attacker. The third step in knife defense is to trap or control the arm while simultaneously moving in with extreme intensity to strike vital points and "shut down the computer". Although these techniques are much simpler and more direct than knife disarms taught in most styles you will still need an instructor and plenty of "mat time" to master these skills. The beauty of Krav Maga is that this same principle can be applied to a variety of knife attacks from different angles. 

Our philosophy, born out of combat experience, is to learn only "High Percentage" moves; moves that not only work but also allow for mistakes. Once you get the idea, even if you don't do the technique perfectly, it will still work rather well. 


One of the key elements of Krav Maga knife defense against a committed knife attack is bursting. We use our Universal Block against the knife attack with a busting motion that will cause shock to his arm. The burst into the arm deadens the arm causing severe shock and often causing the assailant to drop the knife. We then move in against the body, we strike to the body, neck, face, throat or chest. The effect is to shock the entire nervous system. The defendant, now the fighter, can either disengage and retreat or continue with more strikes, elbow strikes, knee kicks and powerful forward moving takedown. The defendant can land with his knee on the ribs of the attacker, and disable him. 

With slight variations this knife defense principle can be applied to nearly all attacks'. However, before you even begin training in knife defense you must first understand the nature of knife attacks. Read Principles of Krav Maga Reality Knife Defense 


The non-committed knife attack is hard to stope and disarm; he is hesitant, dancing around, waving his knife in all directions. If you move in and try to catch his knife you are likely to get cut. Raise your forearms in a defensive posture. If you are going to sustain a cut, the forearms are the safest area. Areas like the wrists, abdomen and neck are far more vulnerable if cut. The best solution is to dodge and weave, stay in motion and try to pull your body away from the attacker. If he strikes towards the stomach, pull your stomach in as you jump back, if he strikes towards the legs - move your legs back, if he strikes towards the head - bend your head back or block. 

Krav Maga - Defense vs. Every Possible Knife Threat

The latest from Israel, over an hour long, defense against threats from all angles, with shirt grabs, chokes, standing, against the wall, on the ground etc.  

Be prepared for anything that might come your way. 

DVD Knife Defense

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Moshe Katz’s On Demand Pages on Vimeo

What you are trying to do is not to intercept the knife but to use evasive moves. Knife defense evasion means slipping out of the striking range of the edged weapons immediate swing. Use footwork and body work to dodge the attack. At that point either get clear out of the way and retreat, or use the opportunity to enter and counter attack. As you evade the knife swing try as much as possible to stay balanced, you may have to move again. You must always have your next move in mind.

You must train with the environment in mind. Are you on flat open space or in a crowded office? Are you on a stairway or in a airplane? Take this into account. You will use both footwork and dodging with your body, within the space that circumstances provide. This combination leads to successful evasive techniques. You should train moving side ways, and back stepping, always keeping in mind how much space you have.

Note: with knife defense, Practice is required. As they say in the IDF, "Hard in training, easy in combat".


Knife Threats refer to a knife in a stationary but threatening position.

With knife threats an assailant is holding a knife close to your body and threatening you; he wants something and is using the knife as leverage to get it.

The defense techniques to a knife threat are very different from the defense techniques to a knife attack.

The defensive techniques will begin with a submissive, complying, stance with the message, "I am not looking for any trouble". This is followed by a quick reaction to control the knife hand.

Distance – What is a Safe Distance from a Knife?

Unlike a gun, a knife must make contact to cause damage. You might think there is such a thing as a safe distance, there really is not. If the knife is close enough for you to see it, you are in danger. A knife wielding attacker can cover ground very quickly and be on top of you before you can draw a handgun, if you have one.

Professor Arthur Cohen, President of Target Consultants Int'l has written a booklet called, "Surviving An Edged Weapon Assault". In it he asks "What is a safe distance from an edged weapon?" and answers, "There is no such thing as a safe distance. There is only 'how much time do you have?' He taught me about the "Tueller" Drill. Sgt. Dennis Tueller of Salt Lake City Police Department conducted experiments which led to the conclusion that an attacker with a knife in his hand covers 21 feet in 1.5 seconds. Therefore anything under 21 feet is considered to be in the zone of "imminent danger of death or great bodily harm."

Thus, there is no safe distance. If you know the person has a knife you must react at once; either fight or make your orderly retreat.


Some people might ask, "Why should I even address this issue?" I will never fight a knife attacker. Even If I am confronted with one, I will just comply and give in to his/her demands, so why should I train?

The answer is that sometimes giving up without a fight is not an option. Sometimes you have no choice. Sometimes you can't run away from this knife.

How many times were people killed because they gave in without a fight, thinking that resistance would only make matters worse? How many people gave in without a fight when they had a better than reasonable chance of survival?

What if they want to take your kids away? Or your wife? What if you are on a plane and there is no one else in a position to fight back? What if you are the only person strong enough or young enough to confront the assailant? Can you risk the whole plane going down! Sometimes you must stand up for yourself and for all those innocent people around you, or someone may die. Sometimes you have to take a stand. You have a chance to survive a knife attack, "Chance favors the prepared mind". 


What can you learn about the nature of the attack by knowing the type of weapon?

Edged weapons includes more than just knives. Anything sharp is an edged weapon and is dangerous. This can be anything from a kitchen knife to a screwdriver to a pair of scissors or any number of makeshift weapons.

Professor Cohen points out that understanding how an edged weapon is used, or can be used, can allow us to plan a more suitable defense.

This requires a bit of study and research but is well worth it.

Some weapons are stabbing weapons, such as an ice pick or a pen. Others are slashing weapons such a box cutter (used by the terrorists in 9/11) A razor can also be used a slashing weapon. Know your weapons.


Grips are also an important source of information for how the assailant intends to use the weapon. If you can, closely observe his hands and his grip.

Be aware that criminal are innovative and new types of weapons are popping up all the time.


Seek medical attention

Life is not a Hollywood movie. Most people who survive a knife attack do get cut. Often people do not die from the cut but from loss of blood or infections. That is why the final step in knife defense is "Seek medical attention".

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Ground Knife Defense

for an article on Krav Maga ground fighting Krav Maga Ground Fighting

What if, God forbid, you are facing more than one assailant? Krav Maga vs. Multiple Attackers

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Knife Defense Questions


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Who has the advantage? read Gun vs Knife

Learn krav knife defense first hand, invite Moshe Katz to conduct a seminar in your area, anywhere in the world

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Approaching the Knife

Facing the Knife

Fight or Defend the Knife

IDF Krav Maga Knife Disarms