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The Most Effective Way to Defend Against a Knife Attack

Updated on September 18, 2013

After a lot of inquiries I have finally given in to writing an article about defending against an opponent fighting with a knife. Before I get into the details, I have to emphasize that if you are ever confronted by a person threatening you with a knife and you have the opportunity to run away, do not even consider taking the person on. The biggest problem defending against a knife, is that it requires the defender to have faster reflexes than the attacker and even if you are trained to react in such a situation, the probability that you will be cut is quite big. The reason for this is because of the diversity of a knife attack. 90% of the time it won’t be a single attack, but a series of continuous attacks. It is very seldom that a person will only try to stab you once, especially if the attacker has some knowledge regarding knife mechanics. This could be in the in the form of slashes to either keep you away from him or stabs to try to kill you. Or a combination of the 2, making anticipation of the attacker’s next move difficult.

The most important thing when you find yourself in a situation, is to study your surroundings and then to make sure you are not forced into a corner. If you get caught against a wall, your space to move and defend the knife becomes extremely limited and will likely get you cut or even killed. Use your surroundings against the attacker.

The second most important thing when facing a knife attack is to protect your face, neck and organs, since a stab to one of these vital parts can neutralize you, giving complete control to the attacker or result in death. It will also prevent you from escaping when the opportunity presents itself. Defend with your forearms. The chance that you will be cut is still quite big, but the cuts will cause minimum damage and will not affect you main functions. The best solution is to dodge and weave, stay in motion and try to "pull" your body away from the attacker. If he tries to stab your 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.

If you cannot escape and have to fight, do not rush into the situation. Keep a cool mind and block the attacks patiently. Counter attack with each attack if possible, with hits to the attacker’s face. For example block with left arm/hand and immediately deliver a punch with the right hand. Do not try to disarm him while he delivers a non-committed attack. since in my experience. you won’t be able to properly grab the knife and will expose yourself to stabs in vital areas and probably get your hands cut. Knife wielders with some experience will never deliver an all out committed killing blow, immediately exposing themselves to be disarmed. They will play with the knife and try to deliver slashes and non-committed attacks cutting, but not necessarily killing you. This will slowly but surely break down your defense. This is why counter attacks are so important. It will damage the opponent possibly forcing him to flee or anger him to deliver a proper committed attack which will enable you to disarm him.

If possible, keep a distance between yourself and the attacker at all times. If you do engage the attacker, but start to lose a proper grip of the situation, let go of the attacker and get distance again. Be patient. Distance is important for 2 reasons: Firstly it will enable you to study the attacker and read his next attack better. And secondly, it will buy you an extra second or two to defend yourself when he attacks. Although it may not sound like much it might just be the difference between life and death.

Defend with a plan, work your way to an escape or disarming the attacker. Don’t just defend and hope the attacker will get bored and leave. You will probably get killed. Always keep your attention on the knife even if the attacker tries to divert it. You have to understand the knife is the main threat to your life, not the attacker.

The best way to defend against a knife will be from Krav Maga especially if you are not so well versed in martial arts. The proper technique is shown below:



Study the defenses as shown and practice them till you understand the mechanics of the techniques. Work on your reflexes.  I want to just repeat myself again by saying that if you have an opportunity to escape do not hesitate to take it. Just make sure that it is a proper opportunity though and not a chance for the attacker to stab you in the back.


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    • profile image

      karan master 3 years ago

      No way systema krav m.

      A fellow with a good intuition and a sharp knife will never get blocked in that way

      Wish martial arts stop teaching fantasy method, the reality is fast short and very cruel when getting attack from knf

    • gramon1 profile image

      Guillermo Ramon 5 years ago from Miami

      My Sifu told me to grab a (plastic) knife and attack him. I was hessitant. He told me that there was no way I would break his deffense. I took the knife and stayed ready. The moment he moved, I swong the knife, cutting through his top and skin. He was bleeding and surprised. Thank God the knife was plastic.

      Many years later, I was walking down the street at night. I man started walking towards my, increasing his speed. I saw his hand go into his pants pocket and his eyes fixate on my. I stepped towards him and punched his chest as he was taking his hand from the pocket. He had a knife. His knife and he flew away in different directions. He bounced on the wall and fell on the ground, convulsing.

      Having grown up facing the streets, I know there is only one real deffense against a knife, a gun, a kick, or a punch. Being alert and acting before they are ready is the only street deffense I understand.

    • profile image

      Darnell Washington 6 years ago

      What is best way to defend against a Piper attack?

      The best defense is to run.

    • profile image

      Daniel 7 years ago

      Thanks for the article. I still don't see techniques that will helps agains a Piper Knife attack. Do you have any ideas how to defend yourself againts a Piper Knife attack?

    • Martial Artist profile image

      Martial Artist 7 years ago

      I have indeed practiced Systema but not for very long period, Krav Maga is mostly based on natural reactions. Very good system to study since its so simple yet effective

    • William R. Wilson profile image

      William R. Wilson 7 years ago from Knoxville, TN

      Some of this advice reminds me a little of Systema - have you practiced this style? I'm not too familiar with Krav Maga.

    • Martial Artist profile image

      Martial Artist 7 years ago

      Hey William,

      Glad you enjoyed the article, all the best.

    • William R. Wilson profile image

      William R. Wilson 7 years ago from Knoxville, TN

      Good info. Glad to see that the first word of advice is to run. If you can't run, I would also add, find a weapon of your own if possible, and use the environment to block and slow your attacker.