by Gabe Suarez at Suarez International

PsychoIts funny that in this day and age, there are guys that still assume the knife guy or guys are unskilled buffoons that are too poor or too stupid to use guns. And it is astounding how many gun guys snicker at the soccer mom that fears the gun, but they themselves will turn into a pile of fecal fear when a knife is flashed. As well the myth, and it is just that, that a firearm will always trump the blade. All weapons are special niche weapons. Some of those niches are larger than others, but in its own world, each weapon rules the day. At ten feet, with a skilled and athletic gunfighter, the knife will not prevail. Make that gunfighter slow and overweight and the scale tips to the knife. Make the distance 21 feet (yes, I have seen the videos), and the fit, athletic skilled gunfighter wins every time. Change the battlefield and make it in an elevator, a bathroom stall, a confessional, or similar confined space and the knife has the advantage over the most powerful holstered, or drawn pistol. All the preceding is why my staff are not “firearms instructors”, they are combat instructors…but I digress.

0You often hear about “surviving the knife attack”.  First, that is the wrong attitude.  One survives terminal disease, an unprepared night in subzero blizzard conditions, or a plane crash. A fight is something one enters into, willingly or not, with the idea of fighting like a man possessed and with as much evil intent toward your attacker that the words “controlled rage” begin to describe your mental state.

This is no time to worry about legalities or niceties.  You will break any law or any social mores to prevail.  In other words, there are no limits.

I will discuss very briefly my background in the world of the knife so you will understand where I am coming from.  It was my first real weapon and I carried it against my parent’s wishes and against the law probably.  A lifelong martial artist, I trained with the knife back in my teens. I studied the flourishing moves of tanto justsu as that was all I could find in those nascent years of American Martial Arts.  Later I trained with a gentleman who had been a “tunnel rat” in Vietnam.  His material had no flourishes and was violent and direct.  His first instructional words were, “OK…this is not martial arts”.

Years later I studied with the Filipino systems and with guys like Mike Janich (whose system is the most organized and repeatable), Tom Sotis (the man I’d want next to me if I was going to get into a knife fight – and whose students have been in multiple knife events), and James Keating (a true master of the classical style and a national treasure).  I also studied with guys who were, and probably still are, criminals.  One gentleman whose name I have forgotten on purpose was quite experienced at street and prison “shanking”.  His stuff reminded me of the tunnel rat’s system.

Operationally I have had occasion to experience the knife both offensively and defensively in my time with the Gang Unit, and in a couple of other places over the river. Yes, I know what it feels like to stab someone. Fortunately, I have not been stabbed or cut.


Incorrect assumptions about the knife:

1).  The knife man will be unskilled.  This comes from the knife prejudice that the knife is the weapon of the fool, the pauper, or the unskilled thug.  While there are fools, paupers, and unskilled thugs with knives, the same can be said for the gun world…perhaps more so.  One look at Mr. Sotis and his students will quickly dispel such foolishness.  Assume the knife man is skilled and experienced.

2).  You will always get cut:  That is like saying in a gunfight, you will always get shot.  We know that is not true and it is the same for a knife fight.  Is it possible…even likely?  Of course, but it is not inevitable.  Knowing the probabilities should increase your degree of violence dramatically and rapidly.  There is a loose corollary that the more violent you are, the more likely you will win.  The longer the fight goes, regardless of weapons, the more likely you will get hurt.


3).  The knife man will attack you like in the movies…or (gasp) like in the dojo.  When I teach a gun-centric class, I teach the gun guys to maintain the status quo of distance past arm’s length.  We teach them how to move quickly and dynamically.  The reason is simple.  The gun can project force whereas the knife must be within touching distance.  Our guys defeat the 21 foot rule at 6 feet!

But if I was teaching the knife against the gun, I would tell the knifeman to keep the knife out of sight.  I would tell him to set the fight up where the gun man was in a confined area such as a hallway, restaurant booth, elevator, etc.  Then I would tell him to close surreptitiously and attack suddenly.  Don’t assume that others haven’t figured this out.



1).  Its easy boys and girls.  Study the knife to defeat the knife.  When I was seeking wisdom, there was no Google and no internet.  Today, there is knife training available everywhere.  I would suggest my staff as our program reflects the material I discussed. You don’t need to be a Sotis or Janich to win the fight…but being ignorant about the knife and assuming the myths are facts will get you killed.

2).  Learn some hand to hand skills for the zero to five foot realm.  The guy with the one second draw that has zero hand to hand skills will die not matter how good a shot he is, or how fast his draw is, if he does not have some way to deflect or nullify the initial attack.  Disagree with me?  Cool…come to a force on force class and show me.  The beauty of today is that we can test everything.

3).  Learn to move.  There is no compromise here.  A close range knife attack is not an egalitarian event where everyone gets a trophy so their feelings are not hurt.  If you are too fat to move, you will lose.  That can be fixed with a little discipline and some dieting, but a severed jugular cannot be fixed.  If you can move, you can evade an attack and create the circumstances to access your weapon (pistol or knife).  If you cannot move, your firearm will not save you.

4).  Consider where you carry.  Where can you get to your blaster the fastest?  Where can you carry that will allow you to align your pistol on target with minimal preparatory work?  Where can you carry so you can draw in a clinch, on your back in the guard, or pushed up against the wall while holding the attacker’s knife at bay?  Where can you carry so you can draw and kill with either hand?  I’m not going to tell you…you need to develop your own answer here.

The knife, like the ground fight, is a reality of possibility.  To ignore it due to fear, or to make assumptions out of laziness, is the sure path to failure.  Do your study.  Gather your intel and data.  And then organize your skillsets so that the knifeman is in as much danger from you as you are from him.



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