Edged Weapon Tactics and Counter Tactics:

Copyright 2002, by Darren Laur

Edged weapons are amongst the most ancient of implements used by human adversaries engaged in interpersonal conflict. Their use tends to culminate in the premature extinction of one and sometimes both parties. Unfortunately the potential lethality of the blade is not always realized or taken into account when confronting a knife-wielding attacker. There is a commonly held view that a person armed with a knife is less dangerous than a person armed with a firearm. The truth is that within their practical ranges both weapons are capable of fatal life stopping wounds. Some interesting facts include:

U.K. studies:

  • Edged weapon assaults are the most commonly used weapon for killing people (7 in 20)
  • In half the incidents of muggings on men the offender is armed with a sharp instrument

North America:

  • One in three chance that if faced with a subject who had an edged weapon, you will be attacked and injured
  • Attacks with edged weapons usually occur when you least expect them
  • In Victoria BC Canada, our police department has found an increase of 35% in the number of calls that they deal with where an edged weapon was involved
  • In 1994, out of the 7 murders in Victoria, 6 were committed with knives
  • The majority of “street” type people carry some kind of edged weapon be it legal or illegal.

FBI Statistics:

  • Edged weapon attackers are responsible for 3% of all armed attacks on police
  • Firearm attacks account for 4%
  • Both of the above stats represent fatalities
  • Subject shot, 10% die from their wounds
  • Subjects stabbed, 30% die from their wounds

Calibre Press:

  • Since 1980 the number of people routinely carrying knives in North America has increased by 92%

I have personally gathered research form around the world on edged weapon assaults and the following facts emerged during my research:

  • The most popular assault technique utilized by the attacker was found to be the hammer strike – either straight down or diagonally
  • The victim tends to squat in an effort to take a path which offers perceived escape
  • Many people seldom saw the edged weapon that penetrated their body. They failed to recognize the danger cues due to faulty perception
  • Knife attacks were found to be exceptionally accurate, to penetrate deeper that some bullets, creating remarkable permanent cavities and rip through numerous organs in one stroke
  • In reality, within their respective ranges, knives are superior to firearms as far as lethality is concerned

Within its range, a Knife:

  • Never runs out of ammunition
  • Never jams
  • Never misfires
  • Rarely misses target
  • Cuts bone, tendon, muscles, arteries, veins with one thrust
  • Can bring about sudden shock, pain, and extended wound channels
  • It has better stopping capabilities
  • Is psychological defeating
  • Has superior concealment capabilities
  • It occupies a permanent wound channel until extracted, at which time, if the blade is withdrawn from a lung, consciousness is rapidly lost

I have also attended several autopsies involving edged weapon deaths and in speaking with Forensic Pathologists have found the following medical facts:

  • Typical death of a stab wound in homicide cases is 1 inch to 1.5 inches through the rib cage
  • In most edged weapon attacks the victim received multiple knife wounds. The usual cause of death are usually the last few wounds of the overall attack
  • Even short bladed knives can penetrate the abdomen by 8-10cm
  • 3cm allows penetration of the ribs
  • 4cm allows penetration of the heart
  • because of the small surface area of a knife, the amount of force per unit area is TONS per square inch

The above noted information shows the importance of training to deal with such encounters. A person’s ability to deal with such situations will be based on his/her TRAINING AND EXPERIENCE. Experience is something not easily acquired, proper training can save lives by preparing you both physically and psychologically. Remember that most edged weapon assaults take place unexpectedly and so quickly that it is not unusual for the defender not to have time to realize that an edged weapon is involved. The attacker who possess an edged weapon usually does not want to convey in any way that he has one, and will usually conceal it until such time as he can deploy it quickly against you. Although a reality, it is a rarity that the attacker will produce his weapon in full view prior to an assault.

As I continued to conduct me research into edged weapon assaults on both police officers and the general public I was also able to identify three common denominators that seem to be present in many edged weapon assaults:

  • In most edged weapon attacks, the defender is already involved in the physical encounter way before he or she even has time to realize that a knife is being used
  • Most defenders see a thrust or slice with a knife as just another punch or kick and not an edged weapon assault
  • It was difficult if not impossible for the defender to differentiate between an attack with an edged weapon or an attack using hands of feet. This was especially true when the defender was not aware from the start of the assault , that the attacker had a knife

I’m a big believer in, “don’t tell me, show me” so in early 1992 I conducted an empirical video research study. I had 85 police officers participate in a scenario based training session where unknown to them, they would be attacked with a knife. The attacker, who was dressed in a combatives suit, was told that during mid way of the contact, they were to pull a knife that they had been concealing, flash it directly at the officer saying “I’m going to kill you pig” and then engage the officer physically. The results were remarkable:

  • 3/85 saw the knife prior to contact
  • 10/85 realized that they were being stabbed repeatedly during the scenario
  • 72/85 did not realize that they were being assaulted with a knife until the scenario was over, and the officers were advised to look at their uniforms to see the simulated thrusts and slices left behind by the chalked training knives

When I reviewed the hours of video tape of the above noted scenarios, I also made several other interesting observations in how the majority of officers reacted to the attacks:

  • most attempted to disengage from the attacker by backing away from the threat. This usually resulted in the attacker closing quite quickly with their victim
  • Those officers that did engage the threat immediately, proceeded to block the initial strike of the attacker and then immediately began to grapple with the attacker using elbows and knee strikes, but FAILED TO CONTROL THE DELIVERY SYSTEM REUSLTING IN A LARGE NUMBER OF LETHAL BLOWS WITH THE KNIFE.
  • Most of the scenarios ended up on the ground

After making these observations, I began to ask myself why I was seeing the above noted reactions. In my research I had the opportunity to read an article authored by Bruce Siddle and Dr. Hal Breedlove entitled “ Survival Stress Reaction” . In this article Siddle and Breedlove sated:

“ research by numerous studies provide two clear messages why people will place themselves in bad tactical situations. The common phenomena of backing away under survival stress results from the visual systems deterioration of the peripheral field to attain more information regarding threat stimulus. Since the brain is demanding more information to deal with the threat, he officer will invariably retreat from the threat to widen the peripheral field. Secondly, the brains normal ability to process (analyze and evaluate) a wide range of information quickly is focused to specific items. Therefore, additional cues, which would normally be processed, are lost. This explains why people can not remember seeing or identifying specific facts which were relatively close to the threat.”

The above noted research by Siddle and Breedlove not only confirmed my findings but also answered why our officers were acting they were. It also explains why one officer, who had actually caught the attackers knife hand with both of his hands and was looking directly at the knife, stated “I didn’t see any knife” It was not until I showed the video that he believed there was a knife.

Based upon all the above noted observations, I began to research a number of edged weapon defensive tactics programs that were being offered to both police officers and citizen. I attended several programs across North America and in doing so, I found that many of the programs although practical in a training environment, were totally unrealistic for the reality of the street. Many of these programs had several pitfalls:

  • Most assumed the defender knew that the attacker possessed an edged weapon. ( what good is this assumption when we know that the majority of attacks with knives the defender did not know the attacker had a knife)
  • Most techniques being taught were to complicated for people to remember ( to many fine complex motor skills which we know do not translate when survival stress clicks in no matter how well trained)
  • Most techniques neglected the not so frozen limbs which the attacker still possessed and would use if not neutralized.
  • Most techniques being taught concentrated on controlling the knife hand rather than the delivery system. ( the hand moves faster than the eye in a spontaneous attack. As well if cut, blood is a very good lubricant and makes grabbing the knife hand, even with two hands, very difficult if not impossible. To replicate this, use some baby oil during your next edged weapon defensive tactics class)
  • Most techniques being taught were designed to be used against a static (stemming) attack.. (Real knife assaults are not static but fluid and dynamic in nature)
  • Most techniques were designed to be used against what I call wide “Hollywood” motion attacks. ( most knife assaults are short and multiple in nature)
  • Most techniques were designed to be used under perfect conditions of the dojo or training studio. ( most would not work if fighting/rolling around in the mud, the blood, and the beer of an “open” rather than “closed” environment

When looking for a Realistic Edged Weapon Tactics/ Counter tactics Program you should ensure that you pick one that teaches:



Awareness strategies start with the above noted information on stats and facts.

Types of Attackers:

There are two types of attackers that you will have to deal with, Skilled and unskilled. Although it is a nicety to know the difference between the two types of attacker, it is very important to remember that both are as equally as dangerous. Remember it is not the skill level of the attacker but rather the desperation factor that makes him so dangerous. As well, in a dynamic spontaneous assault involving an edged weapon, you will probably not have the time to assess your attackers skill level. This is why it is so important that any counter edged weapon program you use, it must work against both the unskilled and skilled attacker. I say:

If the subject pulls a knife, consider him to be an expert

The best defense against an edged weapon is to not get into one in the first place. Watch for edged weapons, this means watching a person’s hands. I have stated for years that the only assumption I make in a fight is that the person I an dealing with may have a concealed weapon that I don’t see.

By being aware of the ways in which a person may deploy an edged weapon may give you the advantage to with the encounter. This means, get to know the technology available. Visit you local knife/ army surplus stores and see what is available. Also look into how this technology is deployed:

  • Listen for the unsnapping of a button on a knife case
  • Listen for Velcro opening
  • Listen for the click of a lock blade
  • Movement behind the back
  • Drawing motion of the arm/elbow
  • The way in which a person may be packing a visible knife. A buck knife case that is holstered with the snap opening down lets you know that this person had thought about using gravity to deploy the knife quickly.
  • Palming

In my program I have over 50 slides of actual knife wounds that I also show to further bring to light the issue of awareness and respect for the blade.

Types of Grips and Strokes:

There are as many gripes and strokes as there are people carrying knives. Is it important to know and understand how an attacker may be holding an edged weapon when it comes to defense. NO !!!!! I believe that the only important thing for you to understand is that the attacker is attacking with a knife. Again, in a dynamic and spontaneous knife attack you will likely not know how the weapon is being held. So if you have learned a system of edged weapon defense that is dependant upon how the knife is being held, good luck using it in the real word !!!!!

What happens if you do get cut:

  • Do not panic
  • Consciously make yourself breath slower (autogenic breathing)
  • Inspect yourself and look for injuries seen and more importantly not seen
  • Apply direct pressure to wounds
  • If injury are to limbs, elevate if possible
  • If you have a chest wound, seal it and protect your airway in case you go unconscious, you don’t want to drown in your own blood
  • If you have a punctured lung, exhale first and use an air tight article to cover and seal the wound
  • Mental commitment “ I’m going to Live”

Principals of pat, wrap, and attack edged weapon counter tactics:

1. Respect the blade The person who attacks with an edged weapon has two incredible advantages.

  • PSYCHOLOGICAL: has chosen to use the weapon ruthlessly
  • PHYSICAL: usually has first strike advantage

Again remember, it is the desperation factor and not the technical skill alone that makes a person armed with an edged weapon so dangerous

2. Expect to get cut. You will likely get cut, bleed, may or may not feel pain. A program that teaches students not to expect this fact is NEGLIGENT. Your goal is to “WIN” notice I use the word “WIN” and not “SURVIVE”. Words are very powerful. The word SURVIVE is no different than the word “TRY”. Both of these words to the subconscious mind mean “FAILURE”. Our goal is to WIN, survival is a by-product of winning.

3. Neutralize the line of attack. In any kind of combatives it is important to get you body of the line of attack.. Remember in a knife fight you will get cut and stuck, the secret is to limit the amount/degree of this damage. Unlike a fist fight, you can not stand there and take multiple blows with a knife

4. Control the delivery system. In the system of Pat Wrap and Attack we do not play the knife hand but rather the delivery system ( arm/elbow) In hockey do you play the puck or do you play the man. You play the man why, the puck moves to quick. In a knife fight don’t visually lock onto the knife hand it moves far to fast when compared to the arm/elbow. We also do not attempt to grab the knife hand in a dynamic situation for the reasons that I mentioned earlier. Small target, slippery when blood is present Remember than most edged weapon deaths are associated with serious multiple blows. Why, person failed to control the delivery system. The delivery system is the arm (lever), if we can control the lever we control the blade. The only exception to this rule is in a static knife hold up where the knife hand is not moving and can easily be controlled with two hands.

5. Attack the attack.. I believe that so long as the attacker has the opportunity to continue his attack, he has a strong tactical advantage, with a strong psychological advantage as well. Both of these advantages must be neutralized as soon as possible by throwing the attacker on the defensive.

I have been involved in FOUR separate edged weapon attacks which I “won”, and I have had one person die in my arms from an edged weapon attack.. There are a lot of edged weapon defense programs out there that are designed to get you KILLED because they do not deal with reality. Do your homework. I have attempted to summarize some of the reasons for the development of my 8 hr Pat. Wrap, and Attack system in this post. This system is being used around the world and has saved many lives. Knowledge and the understanding of that knowledge is power.

Strength and Honor

Darren Laur
Integrated Street Combatives
Victoria, BC


  1. Thank you all for posting the videos and articles.
    Great stuff.