Street fights can be very biased, and often they can happen out of the blue, giving you just milliseconds to react and defend yourself. In all honesty, no amount of training can reduce the risk of a knife attack, but there are a few things you can do to help you come out of it alive. Often unarmed, it can often feel like an unfair fight so here are some tips on how to survive a knife attack using your bare hands.
Keep your distance
A knife is only dangerous up close. That’s why they are much easier to defend against than guns for example. If it can’t touch you, it can’t hurt you. We recommend staying at least two arm lengths away as much as possible to reduce the chance of stabbed or sliced by the knife. If the attacker does get close and grabs your wrist, twist your arm back and forth as quickly as possible and pull towards the attackers thumb and finger to release yourself. Once free, try and step sideways – this gives you the safety of not having to look around and check what’s behind you, leaving you momentarily unguarded.
Use a shield
If you can, use a backpack, tray, chair or anything lying around that can work as a shield. If you can defend with something soft and stabable (but thicker than the knife itself) then that is best, as if the attacker stabs your back, their knife can get lodged inside, giving you the chance to wrestle it out of their hands by pulling the shield away with force. Hold the shield in front of your chest, arms slightly bent. When the attacker thrusts, shove the shield into the knife and push sideways and twist, yanking it from his grasp.
If there is no shield around and you are in imminent danger, adopt the X shield – where you cross your arms in the middle of your chest around the nipple level. This protects your body against puncture wounds and your palms and wrists are turned away from the attacker, reducing the chance of suffering a fatal artery incision. This posture also protects the windpipe and most vital organs. It’s painful but the arms can sustain a number of slashes on the back side (where the hair grows) before you are incapacitated.
Trap their arm
This should be used as a last resort, only when a really aggressive knife attack is incoming due to the high chance you’ll mess it up. Ideally, this move should be practiced until perfected before a situation like this arises.
If the attack is coming down upon you, turn to grab the attacker’s wrist. Pull down and backwards with the arm grabbing the wrist and use the other arm to turn the attackers arm. Keep pushing down until the attacker is forced to kneel or is forced against a wall or table. In that case, you can often twist the arm behind their back, causing them lots of pain.
Get out of there
If you see the chance, run. This is the best advice we can give. Self-defense is about self-preservation so by running away you solve all the problems that could otherwise arise. Try to run towards a public place, make people know you’re there. Scream and shout. The bystander effect will cause the attacker to lose confidence or want to remain anonymous causing them to stop, or to even run away themselves. Just remember, try not to scream too early because some attackers may become even more enraged and go for a more fatal attack before you’ve managed to give them the slip.