[I believe it was Aesop who said that. Aesop O’Malley of the notorious Westies street gang.]
The good news is that you can survive a stabbing
An Israeli soldier was stabbed Thursday by a Palestinian man during an arrest operation at a crossing on the Green Line near the West Bank settlement of Oranit.
The soldier suffered light wounds to his head and shoulder. He was treated on the scene by Magen David Adom paramedics and was later taken to Beilinson Hospital, Rabin Medical Center, Petah Tikva.
The attack occurred while Israeli forces were detaining a number of illegal Palestinian workers in the Rosh Ha’ayin region in central Israel.
The bad news is that there’s no guarantee that you will:
This is an extra-curricular comment, but my first line of defense against a knife threat, potential or actual, if, say, I bump against someone in a bar, or he against me, would be to say “I’m sorry.” Or “My bad.” Or “Excuse me.” “I beg your pardon.” “Please accept my apology.” Even “I am a lowly worm, sir, whose flesh is not deserving to take the edge off your fine blade, or whose blood is unworthy of besmirching your most excellent garment.” If instead we were in a dark alley, and he brandished the knife and demanded my money, I would ask “Tens and twenties okay? What a winter, huh? How do you think the Sox rotation will do this year?” Any and all craven responses beat a shiv between the ribs. In my opinion.
There is a counter-argument that appearing too submissive may invite aggression. I acknowledge that. But appearing too aggressive would seem to be an engraved invitation to aggression, sealed with a kiss, RSVP, regrets only. That fine line between servility and sniveling is narrow indeed, and best tread upon cautiously.
The soldier above did not have the option of sweet-talking his assailant into submission. He had to fight to stay alive. It is reassuring, if still terrifying, to know that that can work too. Judging from the weapon used and the wounds it inflicted, he was both lucky and skilled to survive.
Knives are widely available, easily concealed, and can be employed before the victim knows what hit him—even without the victim knowing what hit him. My default assumption in a public place is that anyone and everyone could be carrying one. That’s why I’m such a nice guy. Nice guys may finish last, but they finish, and in one piece. Once I determine that someone is not packing steel, I revert to my natural state as a putz. There’s always time to be a jerk. No need to hurry.
Without knowing how exactly the IDF officer defended himself, we can’t be sure how his training (the basis for our training) triggered his response to the attack. All we know for now is that he survived a stabbing, subduing his assailant with his hands alone.
We might guess that it looked something like this:
Minus the blond pony-tail. And with blood from wounds sustained before controlling the weapon. Wounded and unarmed (or at least unwilling or unable to use any weapons he might have been carrying) his aggression training kicked in. Judging from his position in the top photo, the soldier knew a thing or two about grappling for submission. That too comes from training. (The natural response to shield and cower is more common, and more fatal.)
UPDATE: Sgt. Yoav Leitman explains:
The soldiers asked the suspects for their identification when the teenager jumped Leitman and stabbed him in the hand. “I pushed him away, but he came back and stabbed me in the upper portion of the head. I trackled him to the floor within five seconds; he no longer had the knife.”
Leitman said he and the soldiers held the suspect down but “he was very agitated and struggling to escape but we calmed him down. I received a lot of kind words and the incident was concluded quickly.”
The soldier further added that he believed the attacker seemed suspicious even before the stabbing. “I trackled him quickly to the floor, hit him a few times with my hands and the rifle, whatever was needed.”
Whatever was needed.
As Patrick observed here a couple of years ago about a knife-drill class:
Benefits and Lessons of the Drill
This stuff is really difficult. It very quickly highlights any weaknesses in your technique. Is your 360° Defense a little sloppy or not correctly angled? You get stabbed. Is your Inside Defense a little slow or not “snappy” enough? You get stabbed. Is your initial counter punch not strong? You get stabbed more.
Everyone thinks they can take a punch, but it’s quite clear how much trouble you’re in every time that rubber knife touches you. Or perhaps you’ve never been really punched or you have no experience with live firearms, but you’ve certainly cut yourself before and know the shock that sets in even when there’s no subsequent danger. This instantly heightens the levels of seriousness and focus.
You must be explosive and vicious if you want to “survive.” Because the knife doesn’t need much space to maneuver and can change angles so quickly, you’ve got to smother the attacker and get control—or get the hell out of there—as quickly as possible.
Followed by this:
The Not-by-Any-Means-Exhaustive List of General Observations on Training Knife Defenses
Knife attacks are terrifying. Anyone who disagrees has never done training like this. FULL STOP.
Even trained knife fighters commit, however fleetingly, to a slash or stab. This is the opportunity to defend and counterattack.
To inject a bit of statistical reality into this, the majority of attacks do not involve knives, the majority of attackers who use a knife are not trained knife fighters, and few if any trained or untrained attackers expect you to fight back with matching (preferably greater) ferocity.
When the attack comes at extremely close range, it’s almost impossible to make a defense before you’re hit with the knife once, twice, three times… even when you’re expecting it! This is the nature of the knife as a weapon: it requires very little space or strength to change angles and cause tremendous damage.
You must get your weight into the defense and counter. If there is time and/or space, burst forward with your feet to “attack the attack.” If there is not time and/or space to burst, get the mass of your upper body behind the defense as much as possible.
The initial counter punch is every bit as important as the defense. KNOCK THE HEAD OFF. This is the best and perhaps only way to stop ensuing assaults.
Be aware of distance and your environment. Where’s the exit? Is there an old-timey jukebox directly behind you? Can you make it to the exit before having to engage? Can you stomp the advancing attacker in the chest with a Defensive Front Kick, or do you need to make a hand defense?
Do not focus on disarms. The only reason you would ever need to perform a disarm is if you could use the knife as a force multiplier against other threats. [Insert use of force legal jargon here!] Disarms are important to understand should the opportunity present itself, but they are technical, fine-motor movements that leave you vulnerable if the attacker is not completely neutralized. Rather, make your defense, get to a control position, and rifle off combatives until the attacker drops the knife and is no longer a threat.
Even if you make an effective defense, there will probably be incidental cuts when transitioning to control positions and/or disarms. Some may be alleviated with improved technique, some are unavoidable.
DO NOT STOP. Perhaps you’ve heard the quip “No one wins in a knife fight” or that a good knife defense means “the difference between going to the hospital or to the morgue.” This is not a nonchalant response to being slashed and stabbed, but an acknowledgement of the very high stakes in a knife attack. Being aware that you will most likely not walk away unscathed is not in any way preparation for such an assault, but it hopefully puts you in a mindset to fight tooth-and-nail for your life.
What did I miss?
Not a thing. I trimmed a few observations not relevant to this situation. (For example, the soldier had no choice but to subdue his attacker. Not least because it was his duty as a soldier, but also because there was no jukebox behind which to hide.) You can reread the whole post at the link.
You might guess from this and earlier posts that I am scared shirtless by knives, and you would be right. I know of too many instances (and one is too many) where a simple disagreement or mild altercation turned violent or even fatal with the application of an edged weapon. But if fear and forbearance can avoid such a situation, they can also help you survive one. Living is winning.
Take this stuff seriously. As the prophet (A.J.) Draven says, go home safe.
PS: I am trying to employ this live-and-let-live attitude in more situations, not least in potential road rage instances. I tell myself that not flipping off the son-of-a…gun who cut me off will win me bonus points in Paradise. And a lot longer on earth before I find out if I was right!
PPS: Lest I appear too passive, know that I draw the line at those who try to carry too many items in the express lines at the drug store. It’s either me or that tube of anti-fungal ointment, hoss, but one of us is going to get rung up.