Article Index


Contemporary Knife Targeting:


Modern Science vs. W.E. Fairbairn’s Timetable of Death
By Christopher Grosz and Michael D. Janich
152 pages, illustrated, softcover
ISBN: 13: 978-1-58160-556-3
Paladin Press, 7077 Winchester Circle, Boulder, CO 80301
Retail: Softcover $27; Kindle edition $14.85

A lot of Network members carry folding knives as back up to legally carried firearms, or as their primary defense when denied the right to carry a gun. The Network does not restrict its services to self defense firearms use by a member, but at the same time recognizes that justifying knife use is a different challenge than defending defense with a gun. Both may be justifiable, but are subject to different timelines, different methods of incapacitation, and different prejudices from the criminal justice system and the community from which the member’s jury will be drawn.

The knife-armed citizen needs to understand knife techniques to affect a rapid stop. Many knife use theories base some of their doctrine on the writing of W.E. Fairbairn, especially his timetable of death published in 1942 in All-In Fighting. Fairbairn’s timetable charted target areas and estimated how quickly a knife wound of a particular depth would cause incapacitation and death. Working to provide law enforcement with scientifically-sound knife techniques decades later, Christopher Grosz began to question Fairbairn’s premises.

Grosz was developing the knife-related elements of the Pressure Point Control Tactics (PPCT) curriculum that is influential in police defensive tactics. Recognizing the need to modernize knife tactics and defenses, he collaborated with tactical and medical authorities, as well as a well-known knife expert, Michael Janich, who became his co-author and brought the work to its published form after Grosz’s untimely death in 2005.

Contemporary Knife Targeting’s introduction suggests that Fairbairn’s charts in All-In Fighting were never intended to be the basis of techniques for defending against knife attack, yet as the predominant research, it had inadvertently become just that.

The authors wrote that they “approached this topic from both sides of the knife and included information that supports both the combative use of the knife and–in the original spirit of the research that inspired this book–empty hand defenses against it.” The first quarter of the book is spent explaining the Fairbairn work and I admit that in my eagerness to reach the authors’ analysis and conclusions about defensive knife use, I sped through those early pages. I’ll return when time allows, to enjoy the history offered there.

In their quest to compare Fairbairn’s original work with “modern, state-of-the-art medical information,” Contemporary Knife Targeting’s authors write that they “began to develop a detailed understanding of human anatomy and its vulnerability to knife wounds.” Topics of particular concern include the likelihood of incapacitation from knife wounds in one target area or another, as well as the potential for physical activity and the likely duration for various levels of physical activity following a knife wound to one target area or another, since depending solely on blood loss as the means of incapacitation can dangerously prolong the fight, depending on the location of the wound. It is important not to mistake lethality with incapacitation, a theme reiterated throughout the book.

Janich catalogued a number of knife wound targets that he recommended would create a greater disability in an attacker, and thus would be more likely to stop a fight faster than depending on exsanguination. These Janich and Grosz categorized as distraction targets, vascular targets, nervous system targets, structural targets, organ targets and muscular targets. These are visited and revisited several times throughout the book with information like inaccessibility, means of incapacitation and more.

The authors debunk common beliefs about knife wound mortality, and as an example, consider their advice to reconsider the common belief that “knife attacks to the organs of the torso will produce immediate incapacitation and death…the countless survivors of stab wounds–including multiple penetrating wounds–clearly disprove this belief.” They go on to explain that “incapacitation due to injury to the organs by an edged weapon is highly unpredictable. The depths and even the positions of these organs can vary significantly depending upon the physique and physical condition of the subject.”

They succinctly identify the locations of anatomical targets and describe the efficacy of knife wounds to each.