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In recent times on social media I have seen many individuals asking the question what is the best Martial art or fighting system to learn how to defend against a knife attack?

As always there is plenty of response some good and some bad.

It reminds me of the joke.

How many Martial artists does it take to screw in a light bulb?’

‘Answer 100.

1 to screw it in and 99 to say that wouldn’t work in the street!’

We will always have varying opinions on this subject and it really can become an endless debate with many variables to take into consideration.

The answers will never be black or white.

The point of this article is not to explore those variables but to look at an angle that most people miss all together or do not pay due attention to.

Awareness; The corner stone of any good Self Protection system.

Good situational and tactical awareness can go a hell of a long way to make sure you are not a victim of knife crime.

In recent times you would think that the danger of being attacked by a knife is lurking on every street corner but the reality of this is down to many factors.

The risks of becoming a victim can rise drastically if you are engaged in criminal activity, are a gang member or live in a high crime neighbourhood.

Other circumstances that can increase the risks are being out late on the weekend in most city centres once the bars and clubs turn out and there are a melting pot of people all congregated in one place.

Also travelling to foreign countries were blade culture may be high and the norm on the streets.

We all could certainly potentially become a victim of a mugging, robbery, carjacking or some random act of violence.

We can all just be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But generally, these occurrences really are far and few between for the ‘average person.’

You have to look at your lifestyle and examine it. You would have to conduct a risk assessment on yourself to determine how likely is it that you personally may fall victim to knife crime.

e.g. (A door supervisor vs a supermarket checkout person).

‘Many of us may some time in our lives become the target of violent crime but what we want to make sure of is that we don’t become victims of it.’

When it comes to knife defence awareness is top of the priority list.

Awareness of walking into a potentially dangerous situation. Awareness of how a knife attack occurs. Awareness and appreciation of distance and how crucial it is. Awareness of a person’s body language and demeanour, can you see both their hands? Awareness of the effects and affects of adrenalin on your Tunnel vision, depth perception, fine motor skills deteriorating. Awareness not to rush into a situation with your heart ruling your head and not even seeing a knife. Awareness to avoid using your Chimp brain and act rationally. Awareness of your surroundings. (Are you alone and isolated, can you run, escape, hide, shout for help, put up barriers or pick up and use a makeshift weapon.)

This list is by no means everything to be considered but hopefully you are getting the picture.

All these things are more important and should take priority over actual bare -handed defence against an edged weapon.

“To survive 1000 battles, know yourself and know your enemy.”


We must realise that there is know magic bullet when it comes to bare handed defence against a knife.

You could be the best fighter on the planet but if you are not aware of the threat in the first place and get ambushed you will die.

There is no perfect Martial art but then we really need to examine what we might believe a Martial art to be?

Martial arts were arts of warfare and used in time of war. They were primarily weapons arts.

Bare handed skills were way down the pecking order and quite rightly so.

Would we send our troops into war now unarmed? Hell no.

Before the invention of gun powder the blade was ‘King’.

Bows and arrows before a spear, a spear before a sword, a sword before a dagger, a dagger before a bludgeoning tool, a bludgeoning tool before bare hands.

When swords were only carried by military, farmer’s and peasants fashioned weapons out of farming implements and tools (nunchakus, sai, tonfa etc).

In the UK we cannot carry weapons but like the farmers of old we can fashion a makeshift weapon from e.g. A torch, belt, rolled up magazine, mobile phone, laptop case etc, to use to defend ourselves against a blade.

A street criminal will get right up in our faces because they have no fear of the average member of the public drawing a weapon on them. In the United States of America that can be different.

In any time of conflict going into battle without a weapon was unthinkable and probably suicidal.

Even in World War 1 &2 were there was extensive hand to hand combat. Unarmed response although certainly taught did not take precedence over using a knife, entrenching tool or your helmet if you lost your firearm.

As the old saying goes.

‘You don’t bring a gun to a knife fight.’

Nobody really wants to fight for their life unarmed, but the law of our country states we cannot as a member of the public carry a weapon. So maybe therefore many of us view Martial arts as we know them now as our saviour.

Let’s not forget many a police officer who are armed with CS gas, an asp baton or maybe a taser have still be stabbed. So how will unarmed fare?

Human beings throughout history were never designed for unarmed combat. Look at us. No claws, no fangs, no scales, no poison, no incredible power or speed.

Stack us up against an Apex predator in the animal kingdom and we are fucked……..unless we have a weapon.

Even then it still relies on awareness. Awareness of the threat and how fast we can access our weapon.

Before our prehistoric ancestors learned how to pick up a rock and use it as a weapon or eventually fashioned a crude blade from flint we were a sorry second to any other predator.

That should tell us something when it comes to real world combat.

Once more if we consult our history books unarmed hand to hand fighting or unarmed against a weapon was mainly used as a blood thirsty sport to entertain people. (Usually royalty of some kind.) rather than it be a method of self- defence.

Not unlike today were the big percentage of fighting arts are combat sports designed for the ring, cage or mats for people’s entertainment and pleasure. Most are a million miles away from real world combat.

I have devoted 44 years of my life to Martial arts .I have experienced all types of combat from the streets, to the ring to the cage to the mats .I love the Martial arts and have indeed made my living from then for a long time.

What I have learnt over that time is there are no best systems just some exceptional individuals that are the exception not the norm.

There are no magical techniques. No 100% guaranteed finishers. No indestructible ninja killers.

Every dog has its day and then we all get old and we eventually die.

You might be today’s news now but soon you will be tomorrows.

Nobody is bullet proof.

When it comes to the practical side of Martial arts treat them for what they are.

If you train hard and diligently, they give you a much better chance of successfully defending yourself than ‘Joe Bloggs.’

But they are not some magic coat you can wear.

I teach knife defence to my clients, but I will always emphasise first and foremost that being aware and avoiding is always going to be your best options.

Let me leave you with this thought.

If you were looking for a good Self Protection instructor would you choose the person who has had 100 fights or the person who has avoided 100 fights?

A bit like the chicken and the egg. Personally, I would choose somebody who has experienced a bit of both.


Personal security 90%..........................................Physical techniques 10%

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