by Gila Hayes

Do you carry knives? Silly question, right? Who doesn’t?

Admittedly, the knives most of us carry are used most for such mundane functions as the simple utility of opening packages, slicing food for an impromptu lunch, or cleanly severing the stems of wild flowers impulsively gathered for a bouquet. In the background, however, is the idea that we consistently carry a knife or two as a backup to a gun or as a primary defense in locations where guns are prohibited.

Like any weapon, training makes self defense with a knife not only more effective in the moment of necessity but also less risky in the legal aftermath. Whether your last input on knife use was at the cinema watching The Hunted or a traditional Indonesian martial arts class that taught knife use, what you’ve seen as knife fighting may not stop hostilities as quickly as needed. But let’s say your knife technique works well enough that you survive, now you face justifying a dozen or more deep cuts you inflicted while fending off the ongoing assault?

While knife wounds certainly can be deadly, instantaneous stops is not the knife’s strong suit, so the length of time over which you have to fight creates not just a survival problem; it magnifies the post-incident legal issues because of the difficulty of justifying the myriad of wounds inflicted.

Long-time readers will remember the interesting article Court Defensible Knife Tactics in the March 2013 edition of this journal in which Michael Janich explored just those issues. Now, completing a project that has taken a lot longer than we ever expected, we have posted a video presentation for members to stream from the member-only portion of our website outlining Janich’s work on knife defense

Network President Marty Hayes hosts the wide-ranging presentation. In it, Janich touches on equipment selection including a discussion of common prohibitions like blade length, commenting, “You don't want to have a felony in your pocket when you start to defend yourself. You want to have something that is going to be considered to be a legal knife.” Other topics focus on effectiveness in cutting, targeting to disable an attacker’s ability to grasp and attack with a weapon, targeting to limit an attacker’s mobility, and legal issues commonly raised by prosecutors and plaintiff’s attorneys.

Consider Janich’s articulation to justify cutting an attacker. Suppose you were attacked and used a knife to sever the quadriceps so you could run away and the attacker couldn’t come after you to continue the attack. Your statement to investigators might be, “I cut his leg to make him fall down so I could get away, so he couldn't attack me anymore,” Janich suggests, explaining, “It shows your intent as disabling the attacker versus the idea of trying to kill him.”

Later, if responding to charges that you tried to kill the attacker, Janich explains that if employing targeting taught in his Martial Blade Concepts you would be able to say, “No, I had access to his entire body when he attacked me. I was close enough to have a choice of targets. I cut his leg to disable him. I cut his arm to disable him,” adding, “Again, that shows your clear intent; it shows that you acted responsibly and ethically.”

Responsible citizens, forced into violence to survive, have trouble grasping how cutting or shooting distorts opinions of who and what we are. We see ourselves as good citizens, not the danger we may be accused of being. Our new member education video The Use of Knives in Self Defense contains important lessons about responsibility and articulating survival decisions to counter those who would distort self defense as malicious, mentally unstable or irresponsible.

To read more of this month's journal, please click here.