“I carry a gun so I don’t have to get in knife fights.” Anyone who’s been around the self-defense industry for any length of time has probably heard someone say that.  In fact, I’ve been guilty of saying it once or twice myself.  The problem with that statement is that even as concealed carry expands across the nation, there are plenty of places where an armed citizen still cannot carry their firearm.  Post offices, schools, bars (in certain states), and of course many people are barred from carrying firearms in their place of employment.

Spyderco Native

Spyderco Native - pink

Enter the humble pocket knife.  The Spyderco Native pictured wouldn’t raise many eyebrows, whether it was pink or black, it’s just something that you can carry around in your pocket to open boxes with, cut an apple, or take a thread off a shirt with.  Most small knives are so innocuous that the majority of the population doesn’t think it’s odd when a person carries one, because it’s just a useful tool for everyday life.

What many people don’t realize though, is that with the right practice it’s also a serious self-defense tool when your gun is unavailable.  This past weekend, I took InSight’s Defensive Folding Knife 1 class, which focuses on using the common folding knife as a life-saving tool.  This isn’t a knife fighting class, but in the words of the instructor David Roberts it is an “anti-grappling class”.  The focus of the class wasn’t about trading cuts in a knife fight – instead it took a look at realistic self-defense situations that the average person could find themselves in.

The class mantra is “strike, cut, move”.  In a situation such as a rear choke, the armed citizen should do

David Roberts demonstrates an escape from a rear choke

exactly that – strike their attacker to put the attacker off balance, access your knife when available, cut the attacker someplace he doesn’t want to get cut, and then move away as quickly as possible.  In the “strike” face, the student would look to damage vulnerable areas of their aggressor, the instep of the foot, groin, etc – any area where repeated impacts would cause that person to lose concentration on their attack.

The “cut” phase involves deploying your knife, and finding a part of the attacker that you can cut.  In the rear choke situation at right, a good target area would be the back of your attacker’s leg, the hamstring area.  Once the attacker has been sufficiently dissuaded from continuing, move away while remaining conscious of your surroundings.

Those are only the basics though; the class itself covers much more in detail – vocalization to psychologically stop an attack, when and where lethal force such as the use of a knife is authorized, ramifications of that force, knife selection, and in a most interesting section a live cutting demo.  The live cutting demo showed just how effective a knife can be at causing significant damage even through thick clothing.

A single cut from a Blade-Tech PH Lite

Just a single well-executed cut went through two layers of thick clothing, and created a slash wound over two inches deep and four inches wide.  There is no question in my mind after this class that a knife is absolutely deadly force.

The bottom line is that if you carry a firearm for self-defense, you should carry a knife.  And if you carry a knife, you should train with it, and learn how to use it effectively just as you would your primary firearm.  Having your knife in your pocket and thinking that you’ll be able to use it in an emergency without any sort of practice or instruction is a dangerous mindset to have; if I take what I learned at Defensive Folding Knife and practice, visualize, and train it then I’ll be much better prepared to use my knife in self-defense.