Defending against an edged weapon is one skill which, no matter how proficient you are in executing, you will choose to avoid. No matter how good of a fighter you are, dealing with an edged weapon will most likely result in cuts, lacerations, and possibly stabs. Of those, the stabs are the most risky due to potential damage to internal organs and blood vessels. This is not to say that a cut or a laceration is not dangerous, but between the two, the chances of surviving a cut are significantly higher than surviving a stab. Exceptions will include cuts at the femoral artery, carotids, and alike.
Whenever defending against an edged weapon we must think in terms of trade off. This means that if a person attacks with an overhand stab then blocking, and risking cuts to the arm, is probably a better option than getting stabbed in the torso. What we are trying to accomplish is damage-control by minimizing the amount of contact between the blade and our body, as well as the location (a stab to the femoral artery will be more devastating than a stab to the calf muscle).
Throughout my career as an operator and as an instructor I realized there are two schools of thought out there: those of believe that if you are good enough you can avoid getting injured, and those who think that some sort of damage is inevitable when defending against an edged weapon. I concur with the latter. The risks associated with defending against an edged weapon are great, and chances are that some injury will occur. Whether or not the defender survives the attack depends on how effective was his defense, and more so, his tactical approach to the fight.
This tactical approach becomes even more important when defending against an edged weapon in an extremely confined space. Take, for example, an elevator, a bathroom, or any other small area, where movement is limited, where creating space and offsetting is not an option. The situation just got worse.
Going back to the trade off, what the defender must do in this case is determine what he could do without. What can he put up as a barrier knowing that the attacker will be slicing into it? What can he use without risking fatal injuries, or severe bleeding which will prohibit him from continuing to fight, and hence assuring death? More importantly, what can the officer lose and still win the fight? This is a hard decision to make, and more so, when under attack, the notion of exposing a body part purposely is counter-intuitive.
This is where training comes in. Although for the most part we would like to go with our instinctive gross motor skills, which in this scenario would be to flinch (or Startle Response) and raise our hands to shelter out vital organs, doing so may hinder our options. Sliced arms, and continuous stabs and/or lacerations will be a death sentence. When the Fight or Flight mechanism kicks in we must choose Fight, and we must do so in the worst manner possible: sacrifice a limb so we can address the knife wielding attacker. The longest limb we, as humans have are our legs.
In my experience, the best way to address an edged weapon attack in an extremely confined space would be one of two possible techniques: the defender can either drop down to the ground and use his legs to keep the attacker at bay. Or, he could use a front kick to pin the attacker against a wall. There is no doubt that the knife will cut into calf muscles, tendons, and possibly reach as high as thigh, but the defender will be able to protect the vital organs in his torso, neck, and face. The drop and kicks will buy him time, time that must be used correctly to deploy his sidearm, or to disable the attacker by breaking his own knee and incapacitating him, creating such amount of pain that the knife will no longer be his focus.
A few notes: Be aware of your weapon side. Dropping on it may make access an issue, especially in a confined space. I prefer dropping onto a side defensive position and exposing one leg, over getting on my back and exposing two legs. The side ground position also allows for better coverage and protection of vital organs in the torso. When kicking aim for knees. Kicking too high will not be as effective, and kicking too low may cause the attacker to fall forward on top of you and stabbing you. If you use a firearm, make sure to shoot from a close to the chest position and not to extend your arms to where the attacker can have a go at it, making a bad situation worse. Try not hitting your own foot when shooting. And most importantly, expect and anticipate to be cut.
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