Everything you need to know about empty hands knife defense

Lotta stupid stuff out there taught for empty-hands knife defense. Was back in the 80s when I got interested in it, and still is.


Stupid stuff includes all manner of “strips” such as this:


and the ubiquitous block and counter-attack like this:

knife block

So in this case I didn’t really mislead you with the title.  Because (almost) everything you need to know about defending against the knife when all you got is what you were born with is this:

  • The knifer has all the advantage and his knife is your only concern.  Don’t worry ’bout nothing else until you neutralize that threat ’cause that will kill you first and fastest.
  • You neutralize the knife threat by momentarily stopping the knife attack and then putting down the man behind the knife.  You can’t try and remove the knife from the equation – the threat comes from the man.
  • You momentarily stop the knife by grabbing the knife arm with both of your hands because the knife has such an advantage that it can’t be controlled with only one of your hands.  The grab looks like this:


  • Then use the mere couple seconds that you have the knife arm controlled to inflict ruthless damage on the knifer with your other weapons: your feet, head and body.

Yes, it sucks and the odds are against you.  But nothing else works, and you can easily prove this by gearing up and going full force and full speed with a dummy knife.  Please don’t tell me I’m wrong until you have.

There are some excellent instructors out there teaching this one workable approach…and far too many still ripping off students with the BUMF above.


9 thoughts on “Everything you need to know about empty hands knife defense

  1. Your correct about correcting the initial threat (knife) by neutralizing the person behind the knife. The knife is extremely dangerous and is your primary danger. But more so It’s the rampage of repeated attack and THE Only way to stop it is to change the attackers mindset. Have you ever been attacked by someone so fucked on drugs that neutralizing the weapon hand is impossible (especially with two hands… You’ll miss because of the recoil.) The only way which you stated and is the thing correct in this is by striking and stunning your opponent allowing you time to grab hand of knife and continue to attack, followed by disengage your attacker. But the picture above of Krav Maga by the way effectively does that. It effectively blocks the attack and stuns your attacker! You defend the attack and counter as soon as possible or simultaneously! I do several martial arts and self defense systems. To say a counter and block aren’t efficient when studies show they are and the technique speaks for itself is just wrong. If you publish shit like that no one will follow you and I sure won’t.
    Review your pictures and techniques. Look from different perspectives like Law Enforcement vs civilian. There is only one part of this blog that is right. I’ve been there!
    Good luck,


    • The likelihood of seeing a knife attack like the Krav Maga one pictured above is slim to none. Maybe a Jim Carey comedy sketch or a Krav Maga class. A majority of knife attacks are not seen, at waist level and are sewing machine fast. You’re only option is to control the blade arm and inflict damage. All these fancy Kali, KM, Jeet Kun Do techniques are worthless.


      • Having spent years training japanese martial arr and Kali ,i am regretfully in full support of your opinion.i have tried FoF with rubber knives ,Airsoft-guns and all .Uncooperated. Well ,it does not happen like in the DrillLand dreamy -shit videos.On Krav Maga i will restrain my opinion-maybe they have some “uber-secret realistic”stream but i doubt it,again you never know .And with the emergence of knife systems purely focused on proactive knife use with Zero chance for the receiving side. Well, let me put it this way – the more i know about tbe knife ,the more i want to shoot with taking-off-the-X footwork the knifer, provided i was not in Condition Brown.All other “techniques” might work 50/50 with not fully determined and physicly and mentally unprepared adversary.A well trained, secretive and skillfull oponent fully determined to ACTUALLY KILL YOU within the diatance of knife attack -you are fucked.


    • Everyone gets cut in a knife fight. With that said, defend against the weapon and attack the attacker. Krav Maga techniques teach counter attacks should be simultaneous with the defensive action. Without countering the attacker just gets to keep attacking. Weapons work is very fluid and takes a lot of practice but having a plan is so much better than no plan.


  2. Situation will dictate always. How can one say one technique is the be all end all? Both article and comment above have valid points. But I believe any time a weapon system like a knife is involved your In for a bad day. Whatever method u choose to train, I just hope that come the time of the attack your training kicks in as a natural reflex (due to repetitive practice and training of course), ur flinch factor is minimal and your response is effective. Words I live by are Assess, plan, act, speed and aggression!


  3. Way back in the day, I was pretty good at MP-School Judo, and was confident that I could throw a knife-wielding attacker. Then, one evening at Ft. Lewis, WA, I entered a barracks room where two great big guys tried to beat up a little bitty guy who had a knife and knew how to use it. As I was literally wading over the toes of my boots in their blood on the floor, marking the position of their bodies, I resolved that anyone coming at me with a knife would absorb just as many .38 Specials as it would take to stop him! Nothing has changed in the ensuing years, except now it will be .45 ACP HSTs.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. If you MUST defend against a knife attack with empty hands, the best response I’ve seen is from Haganna: (if possible), grab the knife arm with both hands bu NOT with both thumbs on one side like in the picture, immediately follow with a groin kick, then finish the attacker.


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