I hear the refrain constantly in my DEW and Tactical knife re-certification classes… “What do I need this training for? It’s only a pocketknife. I carry it in my pocket in case I might need it, you know, to cut something like a seatbelt. I don’t need training to use a pocket knife!”

These are actually true statements if all you intend to do as a law enforcement officer is occasionally pull out your pocketknife and cut something with it.  In that case, you’re right; you certainly can do that without training. Training gives you more and better options, but the steps I offer below can save lives.

You can use your pocketknife in an untrained manner to defend yourself, your partner or a citizen from imminent injury, attack or death!  Anyone can do this. More importantly YOU can do this!

Let’s get rid of the obvious issue of cutting and how to cut. Most, if not all of you, have seen knives used in movies: the wild swinging, the tight intricate cutting, sword like slicing, stabbing moves, and thrusting moves both in forward grip (tip up) and reverse grip (tip down).   Now that you know what I’m referring to, just go ahead and forget it all. It is all pointless stuff.

Everyone actually knows how to cut.  You do it every day when you eat, cook or do chores. Using a knife to cut ISN’T about knife fighting but using the knife on the bad guy just as you do to your food, on projects or during prep work for cooking. If you hunt and or fish you are way ahead of the curve.

Let me give you an example. I was brought in to teach a group of butchers from a well-known grocery store in Florida.  The grocery chain executives were concerned because a few of their butchers had been attacked going to and leaving work by people trying to get the meat that they thought the butchers had.

The butchers thought since they used knives every day they would be comfortable learning how to effectively use them for self-defense response. After a bit of teaching, they came to me and asked, “Is this for real? We do this every day to the meat. You want us to do it to people? Isn’t there some special way to do this? Isn’t there some secret way of cutting?”

Obviously the answer is NO. There’s no secret way of cutting. What is important is getting your knife to a target where you cut the target. You’re all shooters, so think of it as sight alignment and trigger control. The knife is a tool; a matter separator. It’s an edge designed to cut flesh.  Knives were NOT designed to cut wood, clothing or fiber, or anything but flesh. Humanoids have used knives to cut flesh for 2 million years. That’s a long time. So let’s end this discussion on how to cut with the idea of the bad guy EXACTLY as you would a piece of meat. Remember EVERYONE CUTS, EVERYONE BLEEDS. There are no men or women of steel!

The two things you need to practice a bit… OK, practice a lot… accessing your knife and getting it open. You don’t have to do them at the same time or even close to the same time. But you do have to practice getting your knife into your hand from wherever you keep it and then opening the knife. WHY?  If you can’t get your knife into your hand, you can’t open it. If you can’t open it, then you can’t use it.  Therefore everything else is a moot point.

You don’t have to go to a class or training hall to practice: During the day, during routine activities such as sitting in the car, at your desk, waiting in line, talking on the phone, just randomly access your knife, pull out your knife.  Every few times you do this actually open the knife. What you are doing is training yourself to access your knife under minimal duress. You’re doing something else probably not conducive to accessing your knife.  This is a good way to make the motion of accessing your knife natural while you think and do other things. This will be the reality in an altercation or confrontation, so you must learn to safely open your knife after you access it. Use both hands to do this. Then you’ll come to the realization that you need to carry two knives so it’s easy access from either side or if one of your arms or hand is unavailable because it is engaged doing something else or it’s injured in some way.

Ok, let’s cut right to the chase, pun intended. What are you going to do with your knife when you are in the bad situation of dealing with the bad guy? You are going to cut him. Let me say that     the bad guy feels about getting cut the same way that most of you do.  The bad guy does not want to get cut.   If the bad guy grabs you with his open hand, he’s going to do damage to you with his other hand with a knife, a gun, or a stick.

Cut the bad guy’s grabbing hand off of you.  As I tell my students when I demonstrate in person, “turn f-i-n-g-e-r-s into f-i-n-g-e, leaving the ‘r’ and the ‘s’ on the floor.”  I then demonstrate using a stuffed glove and slice off a “thumb” and a “finger” from the glove, dramatically leaving two “digits” fall to the floor.

Cut the bad guys grabbing arm. Cut him in the biceps. You’ll gain space as the arm extends and the grip loosens or fails. Cut the inside forearm, you’ll gain space as the grip fails. Cut the     forearm AND the biceps. The bad guy has his knife hand back, the empty hand forward in the classic ‘urban myth’ stance of the deadly knife fighter? Cut his empty hand off. Cut his fingers off. Cut the arm.

You didn’t get your knife open? Use the knife like a Yawara stick, Dulo y Dulo or Kubaton.  Smash the grabbing hand, breaking the hand and or fingers till the fingers don’t work releasing you. NOW OPEN YOUR KNIFE! Cut the bad guy. Smash the forearm and or the biceps with the knife as a Kubaton so the bad guy’s arm doesn’t work. This isn’t rocket science.

The bad guy has the weapon hand forward and the empty hand back? Cut his weapon’s hand off: cut his fingers off. Cut the forearm, cut the biceps, cut the forearm and the biceps, and cut all three: the hand, forearm and biceps. The weapon hand will no longer be trying to damage, threaten, injure or kill you or someone else.

By cutting the bad guy, you’ll get an immediate physical attitude adjustment from the bad guy. The bad guy’s attention will no longer be on attacking you. It will be how NOT to get cut anymore. Make the bad guy the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

“Eh, what? You bleeding bastard, I cut your arm off; it’s lying on the ground!”

“No it isn’t”

“Yes it is!”

“It’s only a flesh wound: come closer so I can bite your legs off.”


The basic idea is the closest weapon (your knife) to the nearest target (his grabbing hand or weapons hand). This is a simple, direct, less than lethal response to a lethal situation that anyone can do.  Just use the knife that’s in your pocket!

Bram Frank has studied various fighting arts such as Wing Chun, JKD, and American     Freestyle Karate for over 40 years. Currently, Bram is Director of Edged Weapons training at the S2 Law Enforcement-Security Institute. He is the SME (subject matter expert) on knives for the Hialeah Police Department. For the last 10 years, Bram has concentrated on the design and use of edged weapons/ tools as an instrument of self-defense and their use in military, police, and anti-terror applications. Bram was Black Belt Magazine’s Hall of Fame Weapons Instructor of the Year 2007.  Action Martial Arts Magazine and their Martial Arts Hall of Fame in 2008 named Bram the Grandmaster of the Year 2008. He trains others in Europe, Israel, the Philippines, and the United States.