Why is a knife a wonderful defensive tool? Well, they are:
Quick to deploy
Doesn’t jam
Small and concealable (more so than a firearm)
Wounds can have great psychological impact
But knives do have a down side:
In a knife fight you WILL get cut
They are a close-range tool. Touching range.
First, let’s talk about types of knives and their usefulness.

Folding blade knives:
Pocket knives: A good pocket knife is a great friend. Some, like a Swiss Army knife, have lots of extra little tools that can be very handy. Small and easily carried, hard to lose, but slow to deploy; some have a blade length that is useful for defense. But ANY blade is better than none, so your little Swiss Army Classic with the fingernail file and scissors may just have to do.

Clip knives: Named for the metal or polymer clip that attaches them to a pocket, belt, etc. This allows speedier deployment and usually allows for a longer blade. Most are single-blade with a locking mechanism to keep the blade from folding in on your fingers if you use it incorrectly. The clip allows for a variety of carry methods. Inside the belt, on the belt, in the front, back, or leg pocket. Roll up the sleeves of that work shirt and clip it along the inside of your upper arm. Hard to see and super fast to deploy, particularly from a folded arm stance. My youngest boy has a CRKT Big Dog M16 that is a highly rated 4 inch blade, and darn near takes the place of a fixed blade. This is a big, scary knife. I love it.

OK, on to fixed-blade knives:
Depending on blade length and clothing, these are harder to conceal, though the increase in blade length is a factor to be considered. The farther you can stay from your adversary and still inflict damage, the better off you are. And hopefully, the less cut you will get.
I carry a ‘neck knife’ on a lanyard around my neck all the time. Only a 2-1/4 inch blade, but it is a thick Tanto shape and razor sharp. If you can carry a fixed blade on your belt, that opens things up a lot. I like the Moro Swedish knives. The blade is too thin to abuse, but it is a great camp knife and hides easily. I have the carbon steel as the stainless model doesn’t sharpen as easily or hold an edge as well. JMHO.
There are lots of good fixed blades out there and you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a decent one. I’m quite fond of the Glock Field Knife. It has a 7-inch blade and a locking polymer sheath. The lock is easy and fast for me to use but my wife just can’t operate. So for her it’s a classic Buck with the shiny hardware and glossy black grip. Just get a decent knife that you can afford. I’d suggest taking a look on and read the reviews. Just separate out the Mall Ninja idiots from the real knife users.
OK, let’s take the Glock knife or a really nice Cold Steel with a medium blade against the Marine Raider Bowie from Ontario Knives. The Bowie is an incredible knife, but if you had to use it in a fight, you’d better be hitting the weights every day. Swinging a 2lb blade is real work. Slow will get you killed, so if you want to carry a heavy blade, work out. The faster, thinner blade (on a quality knife) is easier to manipulate than that big chopper. But each has their place and I like them both.
There is way too much subjectivity in choosing a knife, so again, you have to put on your thinking cap, do some research, and try some things out.
“SO WHICH SHOULD I CARRY?” Simple: One of each. Consider that each has specific applications and strong and weak points. Also consider the “rule of threes.”

I am no expert at knife fighting, and few people are, so be careful who you listen to. Check out for some great info and training videos. (and great knives)
There are two schools of thought on knife fighting, and both have their applications.

This is, of course, inserting the pointy end of the knife into the soft parts of your opponent. Simple, right? Except your opponent is going to be trying to avoid that pointy bit while trying to stick you with his pointy tool. Like I said, in a knife fight you WILL get cut. Or stabbed. Neither is good juju. Stabbing a person to death or into submission requires a little strength. I would suggest looking into the old Sykes/Fairbairn commando training (on-line info). This technique was developed to silence sentries and other bad guys, usually by stealthily sneaking up behind and/or surprising them. The biggest problem with stab wounds is that they probably won’t be instantly incapacitating, so you may have to apply the pointy end multiple times while your opponent fights back. A great technique when applied in the right circumstances with appropriate training.

This is the technique I taught my kids. The first lesson was to conceal the knife until the opponent’s blood is already on it. Hiding the blade behind one’s thigh is a good idea. Your blade should seem to appear out of nowhere. Second lesson was to slash whatever was closest. Forearms, hands & fingers, chest, whatever you can reach. If the perp wants to pull you in close, so much the better if he has no idea you are armed. So keep the blade out of sight until his blood is on it. So he pins your arms to your side? OK, you should be able to reach the inside of their thigh, where the femoral artery is. If you cut that, even if your attacker kills you, they will bleed out in about 3 minutes unless you are fighting in a hospital emergency room where care is seconds away. So slice and dice. Keep attacking no matter what. Keep slashing, slicing, hacking, and throw in a kick or two for good measure. This is not a competition; you are fighting for your life.
Slashing can open up wounds with a lot of blood loss which helps to create a psychological advantage and shock. But it will NOT be a guaranteed stopping move. I have collected some pics and articles (quite graphic) of officers that survived slashing attacks. One was a defensive tactics instructor for his department. The emergency room pictures would scare the hell out of anyone. Another case was a small town officer that got nailed by the drunk he put in the back seat of his cruiser after picking him up from a Wal-Mart parking lot. Over 70 stitches, but he lived. Point being that both of these guys had been trained never to give up, but to fight back and win. The average mugger is a coward and will freak out when his hands are covered with his own blood and you’re still attacking him.
One important pointer on slashing: Limit the width of your swing. In other words, if you swing wide, your attacker can trap your arm and take the knife away. You also expose your shoulder, ribs, and back to his counter-attack. Not good. So practice slashing a swath no wider than about 14 inches. That should keep your knife within the chest or belly area where it will inflict the most pain and damage. Hang on tight to your knife because blood is very slippery and you should be getting some on your knife. Keep it moving: Slash and slash again. Some recommend using a figure 8 pattern.
So there are the 2 basic techniques. You choose your character: Mack the Knife (from Threepenny Opera) the classic stabber, or the Shropshire Slasher from the Warner Bros. cartoon.
PS: The training I received from a deputy in another department used both slashing and stabbing, avoidance techniques, and other useful things. It was based on Russian Spetznatz training which was developed from Filipino Kali.
Recommended viewing : Surviving Edged Weapons, an 85 minute video used for LE training.

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