The recent knife attacks in the Minnesota mall that left nine people injured — before an off-duty police officer shot and killed the attacker — adds great credence to the fact that we are facing an ever-escalating threat that challenges both law enforcement and private citizens.
The fact is that lone wolves and small cells require far less planning, are more difficult to detect and can execute these types of attacks with little skill or training.
Traditional knives, machetes, ice picks and other edged and pointed weapons have historically been overlooked as a potential threat to public safety because they are so common in our daily lives.
We use them every day in the kitchen and for a variety of tasks around the house and at work. We see many people carrying pocket knives for a variety of purposes, which desensitizes society to the risks they pose.
As if criminal acts with knives or the numerous random knife attacks and mass stabbings we have seen in the last several years aren’t enough, the emerging threats of knife attacks with a basis in terrorism that we are all now bearing witness to is a real paradigm shift that should scare you into preparation!
Let’s take a quick look at some of the knife-related attacks in the last several years (and this does not include street crimes):
- Nine injured in terror-related knife attack in Minnesota mall.
- New York City 900 slashings, stabbings this year alone!
- NYC subway knife attacks.
- Chicago mass stabbing leaves 6 dead.
- University of California, Merced stabbing spree.
- Mass stabbing in Anaheim, California.
- Mass knife attack at a Texas college.
- Machete wielding New Orleans airport attack.
- Mass knife attack Franklin Regional High School Murrysville, Pennsylvania, 21 students wounded.
- University of Calgary 5 killed in knife attack.
- 19 people killed and 26 injured in a stabbing spree near Tokyo.
- Swiss train attack in August.
- Russell Square knife attacker in Central London.
- Egypt attack at hotel.
- Kunming Railway Station attack in China.
- The wave of terror known as the “knife Intifada” in Israel starting in early September 2015 with 217 Israeli casualties.
Sound like open season on private citizens around the globe?
I personally believe it’s going to get much worse. One of the challenges I face as a tactical, edged-weapons instructor is getting people to understand the pure dangerousness of a knife. If you think knife attacks look like those typically seen in a martial arts class, you are unaware and unprepared!
Real knife attacks involve the element of surprise, distraction and a blur of a quick series of stabs and slashes that are going to overwhelm your senses and your ability to respond.
Even in untrained hands, an attacker’s movements will paralyze your rational thought and make it practically impossible for you to defend yourself. And an experienced attacker will move very quickly with a flurry of slashes and stabs to your limbs so you can’t stop him from targeting your vitals such as your heart, throat, neck, eyes, head and other major organs such as your liver and kidneys.
You may have some level of training in which you were taught to “ax” block the knife or grab the hand holding the knife. But these tactics will do nothing more than make you vulnerable and expose more targets for the attacker.
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And what about those who legally carry a concealed firearm? This inevitably comes up at every workshop I have ever done, whether it is to law enforcement, military or concerned citizens. They say, “Jeff, I carry concealed and know how to press the trigger. I’m not worried because I will not hesitate to shoot them.”
That may sound good in theory, but there are a number of issues surrounding the employment of a firearm in dealing with an edged-weapon attack, and that does not even include considerations should you manage to deploy the weapon and incapacitate the attacker.
Always integrate instinct and decision making to seize or create opportunities to defend efficiently and intelligently.
Remember, a knife is a point-of-contact weapon. So an attacker will need to close the gap between the two of you in such a way that you will be unaware of the vicious plan.
An attacker typically does this in a manner that will seem unobtrusive and innocuous. They know they have to appear non-threatening so you won’t run or call for help or have a chance to draw a weapon.
|Criminals use tactics to appear non-threatening.|
A common tactic they use is the pretense of asking questions. This normally works, and doesn’t set off any alarm bells because most people are kind and want to help others.
The questions they will typically ask to get in closer proximity to you are:
- “Do you have the time?”
- “I seem to be lost. Can you give me directions?”
- “My car broke down. Can I borrow your cell phone to make a call to my family?”
- “Do you have a cigarette/or a lighter?”
- “Excuse me, ma’am/sir, I think you dropped this.” … an obvious distraction that catches your attention, as you want to see what you could have dropped.
So you have a handgun and the attacker is now well within your “sterile zone” (that 5-foot invisible radius we all draw around ourselves).
The challenge then is getting your gun out when this person is literally two feet from you. Sure, you go to the range regularly and shoot lead at targets, but there isn’t any pressure there. Your life is not on the line at the shooting range.
When an assailant is close enough to touch you, they can very quickly launch any number of tactics that could foil your ability to deploy your weapon, including grabbing your hand that goes for the gun while stabbing you with their knife.
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And let’s say you are very well trained with your firearm and you get off a round and it hits the perpetrator in the gut or hip. Adrenalin is now pushed up several notches and the attacker continues to stab you.
I can’t stress to you enough the fact that many police officers have been severely injured or killed with a knife, unable to draw their weapon in time to ward off these types of attacks.
Bottom line: No matter the modus operandi of the attack, there are four critical principles you must enact to effectively deal with a knife attack and mitigate risk.
- Identify the threat as quickly as possible
- Disrupt-cause pain
- Neutralize-do whatever it takes to stop or disable the attacker
Five other things concerned citizens can do to mitigate the threat of a knife-wielding attacker:
1. Concerned citizens need to be aware of the presence of knives and other edged weapons to reduce the delay in their reaction times. They need to understand that unlike shooting a firearm, slashing and stabbing with a knife is a primitive action that the perpetrator can execute in seconds.
2. People must also learn that responding to this type of danger begins long before they are staring into the cold, lifeless eyes of a knife-wielding attacker. They must accept that the world is a dangerous place and adopt the survival mindset. One in which they recognize that they are ultimately responsible for their own safety.
3. Once you accept the possibility of being targeted at any time and any place, you must then adopt and practice a keen sense of situational awareness as you move about your daily routines.
4. As a society, we need to band together and adopt a “group reliance” mentality to help level the playing field in regards to these knife-wielding hostiles.
5. Get proper training to prepare for this potentially lethal encounter!
Knife attacks are violent and unpredictable. With the proper training (with and without a weapon) and awareness, your odds of surviving such a horrific encounter increase significantly.
I strongly suggest you come up with a plan and rehearse that plan in the event you are ever faced with a knife-wielding attacker set on harming you or your family.
Until next time, stay alert, check your six, put your back against the wall and stay safe!