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For example, when discussing vascular targets, they differentiate between arteries and veins, noting that “primary emphasis is on arteries because of their much higher blood pressure and the fact that they carry oxygenated blood required to maintain consciousness,” though this is only one illustration of target definition, with additional discussion of organs, nerves and muscles.

The authors outline techniques combining targets by moving from blocking an attack, to one category of target and onto others for more resounding effect, resulting attacker’s inability to continue. These sections are generously illustrated, and having read Contemporary Knife Targeting in the Kindle format, I heartily wished for the paper version’s larger photos and easier thumbing from one page to the next or back to study a previous illustration to increase understanding.

In addition to target areas, the authors define means of incapacitation including physical disability, shock, loss of consciousness and death, revisiting Fairbairn’s charts to suggest average wound depth estimates for the various arteries and organs, as well as explaining how body mass, blood volume and heart rate influences the time to incapacity.

Still, Contemporary Knife Targeting is not really a knife technique training manual. It defines wounds that are most likely to incapacitate the attacker in a minimum of time and with the fewest cuts possible. This is the great value of Grosz and Janich’s work: the fewer wounds inflicted when defending yourself with a knife, the better to assert that you did the minimum necessary to get away from the attack. This is a subtle but absolutely vital point about knife use for self defense, and one that too many who see the knife as their last-ditch weapon fail to consider.

In recommending knife techniques focused on muscular targets, the authors recommend that not only will loss of arm or leg muscle use disable their attack, some of what is illustrated is “not necessarily life threatening,” and might even be considered a less-lethal use of a knife to be attempted to stop a threat, with a tactical plan of moving to more lethal targets only if the attacker is not deterred.

In their words, “Of all the categories of targets, muscular targets have the least chance of lethality yet one of the highest probabilities of immediate incapacitation.”

They later note, “If an attacker dies as a result of my defensive actions, but I also die or suffer grievous wounds in the process, I didn’t stop him effectively and failed to keep myself safe. If instead I cut his flexor tendons to take away his ability to grip a weapon, cut his biceps and/or triceps to diminish his ability to wield a weapon, and destroy his mobility and base by cutting his quadriceps (or destroying the knees or ankles with low-line kicking), I have a better chance of staying safe.”

The book includes a segment on defending against a knife attack with empty hands, describing much of what is taught as “suicidal.” Still, the lethality estimations in Contemporary Knife Targeting is applicable here, too, since it identifies what you absolutely must protect, reflecting the authors’ preference for training principles, over “rote technique.” In photos and descriptive text, Janich illustrates deflecting and countering, controlling and countering, and “returning the blade,” as one set of tactics. Further study via Janich’s Fighting Folders video series is recommended for those wishing to more fully understand these and other tactics.

I appreciated the authors’ sensibilities, when in writing about turning the attacker’s knife against him, they note, “this can be done by first disarming the attacker and then using his weapon against him, for legal and practical reasons, we don’t like to do this. From a legal standpoint, if you are unarmed and your attacker has a knife, disarming him and then turning the tables (i.e. you now have a knife and he is unarmed) will likely be considered as excessive force. If you end up in court, you will have to prove that you acted in self-defense. Although your initial response would be easily justified, once you take possession of the knife and use it on an unarmed person, you will have a much tougher time justifying your actions.”

Contemporary Knife Targeting is an interesting mixture of historical background, modern medicine and science, and the voice of experience from police trainer Christopher Grosz combined with Michael Janich’s martial arts and knife knowledge. It is one of the few knife defense books to combine the legal concerns with effective methods for using a knife or defending against a knife attack. If you carry even a small folder to employ in last-ditch defense, or if you use knives as a primary defense, Contemporary Knife Targeting will make you think, reconsider, and realize that what you do not only has to stop the attack, but you must be able to explain what you did and why you chose to do it.

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