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The Blade Awareness Myths

Having read through all of The Warrior Project's Master Chim Letter (email) on "The Top Ten MYTHS of Knife-Fight" I began to consider how these myths apply to my LE experience, specifically in reference to blade use both legal and criminal.  Master Chim is going to be hosting a VioPrep Ground W.A.R. 101 class on 2/24/18, I would have been already registered to go if I did not have other commitments.  His instruction is designed around the "what to do" when you are involved in a physical confrontation and a blade is introduced into the situation.  Having seen/experienced this before,  I wanted to go through his ten myths and inject some of my LE experience so that others may benefit from it.  The goal of this article is to help inform and education others based on real world experience, the main mission is always to come out of a violent situation victorious.  Just an FYI - none of these are meant to be any form of legal advice and they are situations I have seen first hand, you should always follow your local laws and conduct yourself in a legal manner at all times. 

#10 You'll get it out in time

One thing I see in the area I work in is a lot of people carrying pocket knives.  The type you clip onto your front pants pocket and it usually has a weird blade orientation.  This is very common and I usually ask the people I see with those pocket knives why they have that blade.  Most often they reply "for protection."  Other than a visual deterrent, that pocket knife is not going to help you in any way.  I have carried various pocket knives everyday, like the DPx HEST folding knife which is a great blade that has a quick deploy function to have it open instantly by "drawing" it out of the pants pocket, like Emerson's or Kershaw's.  Unfortunately for those people, they do not understand or were never taught that a pocket knife should not be anything more than a utility blade.  I carry one because I may need to cut stuff open, cut seat belts, packages of drugs, clothing, and not for flesh, that is what I carry fixed blades for.  Why would you bring an already broken, hard to deploy, blade to a situation you need a purpose made fixed blade for?

I remember one situation where a guy got jumped walking home from work.  He walked through a crappy area and must have not been paying attention as some of the locals were looking to make a quick buck by taking his.  Well he got hit in the back of the head and as one guy was kicking him in the head area, the other one was going through his pockets.  The victim here tried to deploy his folded knife from his front jeans pocket.  He was able to get the knife out, but could not deploy it because he was kicked in the face so hard he went unconscious.  When we showed up he was still unconscious and still holding the knife in his hand, not deployed.  The locals took his wallet and iPod/headphones.  He went to the hospital and after speaking to him a little bit he said "I tried to get my knife out but I could not get it out," meaning the blade deployed.  Hard lesson for him, easy one for us.  Having the wrong tool for the job is going to work against you.

#9 He doesn't have one

If you are going about your daily life believing you are the most well equipped and mentally prepared person around, you are not only fooling yourself but worse yet, you are setting yourself up for serious failure.  It does not matter how well equipped or well trained you believe you are.  Tuhon Tom Kier always says that you are training to defeat yourself, you are always looking to be better than yourself from the day before and every single day you need to do something to become more lethal.  This basics of this concept are either never learned or absolutely lost on some people, especially so on the criminal element which infects our respective communities.

One particular night a guy is out walking around a pretty sketchy area looking for someone to rob of a few dollars.  He happens up on a vehicle which has just parked and several people exit the vehicle while talking.  This guy approaches them and presents a deployed pocket knife, of standard size, blade length in the 3-4 inch range.  He points it at the closest of the people who were standing next to this vehicle, going tip on.  What he does not see is that one of the guy's whose waistline and hands were obstructed by the vehicle was slow drawing a pistol, took a side step and put 7 rounds into the would-be robber's chest.  At the same time, seemingly coordinated, one of the other persons drew a fixed blade from his boot and impaled the male in the neck.  They got into the vehicle and drove away.  I showed up about forty seconds later as I heard the shots and was a few blocks away, it is difficult to pinpoint gun shots in an urban setting as the sound bounces off of buildings.  The only reason I know what occurred was because there was a grainy video camera on the corner which caught it all in black and white.

#8 He's by himself

There is a concept in LE called Plus One which is very basic in nature and is taught early on in every single academy across the country.  Most FTO's teach their boots this concept in action and help solidify it because it works and should always part of LE's "best practices" model for many applications.  This concept translates very easily into this particular myth.  You should always be discriminating targets (not race/etc that's not what I am talking about).  When I see people online, or worse, instructors say that you should not be training to scan what they are doing is setting you up for failure.  Serious failure, because not scanning violates the principles of the Plus One concept.

I went to the hospital to take a report of an assault which was committed several hours previously but the victim went into surgery due to several lacerations and deep penetrating stabs he had incurred during a "push in" home invasion type robbery.  The victim had walked up to his front door and as most people do, he did not look around before putting his key in the lock.  If he had he would have seen two persons standing several feet from him with hoodies covering their appearance.  As soon as he opened his front door one of the males pushed him into his property and began to assault him.  The victim, being slightly bigger than the first robber began to fight back and start to tussle with the robber on the floor in his living room, gaining the upper hand and punching the robber in the face several times, knocking him out.  The victim stood up and calmly walked over to his phone which was on the wall and began to dial 911.  Before he was able to do so, however, the second robber had already slashed his hand holding the phone.  The first robber woke up, then both the robbers began to kick and slash at the victim.  They took some of his property and left the house, leaving the victim bleeding on the floor unconscious.  Someone called 911 and I showed up a few minutes later to find a guy with agonal gasps, which I stopped by putting on a chest seal and rushing him to the closest ER.  He lived.

The lesson here is there is never just one, there should never be an assumption there is just one and you should always be discriminating possible targets.  Everyone is a target unless proven otherwise.

#7 You aren't cut already

There is a fight at a local bar, a few guys decide they did not like another guy drinking at the same establishment who just so happens to be wearing the colors of a rivaling sports team.  They get into a fist fight, three or four on one and when we showed up one of the three or four was on the ground gasping.  The one guy wearing the opposing colors had run away and everyone was focused on the guy on the ground.  An officer asked him what happened and the guy said something like "he got a lucky punch, took the wind out of me" and that was the accepted story until the guy passed out and the officers decided to start looking a little bit more to see if the guy on the ground had any injuries.  It was winter, so he was wearing several layers and a heavy coat.  Once they took his layers off they could see he had a single puncture wound to the high side chest area.  He had passed out due to tension pneumothorax.   He survived as one of the officers on scene was also an EMT and quickly realized what was going on.

The easy lesson here is do not get into a physical confrontation if you can avoid it, if you cannot avoid it, you had better have enough training to know how to mitigate such events and always watch the hands.

#6 Your cut will stop him
This is a funny myth because those who believe this are either living under a depressed reality and/or have zero real world experience.  I have personally see guys high on PCP fighting with broken limbs, fighting after being shot, fighting after being hit by cars and after being stabbed several times.  There is one thing which is always going to occur doing a real world violent confrontation, that is your natural chemical dump of adrenaline.  This will happen when you have to be violent or when violence is done onto you.  It will cause you to stop feeling pain and in some instances give you, perceived, superhuman ability.  If you believe that just slashing a person with a blade will stop them from their continued assault you are not only fooling yourself but whoever taught you that idea is probably not someone you should be listening to.

A waitress from a local diner got done her late shift and is walking home from her place of work, about a fifteen minute walk in the middle of the night.  She decides that she will take a short cut through a seedy area instead of staying on a main, well illuminated, road.  She gets a few minutes into her walk and a local begins to follow her at a distance but then slowly inching up to her, getting closer and closer.  This waitress has her wits about her, having lived in this area for many years, she knows what may occur.  She has a small folding knife in her bag, she deploys it and just holds it in her hand, looking back at the male who was following her and getting closer to her.  Finally when the guy gets closer and grabs her arm, she quickly turns and impales him with the knife in the shoulder.  He jerks back and taking the knife with him as he does, out of her hand.  The knife was not designed for flesh, it was designed as a letter opener or crappy box cutter.  The robber removes the blade from his shoulder and proceeds to pummel the waitress into unconsciousness. 

The robber ended up in the hospital in a different part of the area and was arrested for the violent crime.  He said, during an interview, that he did not even feel the stab, he knew he was stabbed because he saw the blade but was more angry that she stabbed him than any pain he felt.  It was not until several hours later he decided to go to the hospital because he could not stop the bleeding and his hand was hurting because she had just nicked his brachial plexus.  Good targeting, poor tool selection and follow through.

#5 You won't get in trouble

A woman was sleeping in her bed, by herself in the middle of the night.  She hears glass breaking downstairs.  Instead of calling 911 she goes to the kitchen (which on the second floor of a three story house) and grabs a large kitchen knife.  She continues to look around and hears some movement on the stairs, someone was walking up to where she was.  She hides behind a book case and waits for the person to come upstairs, she sees a man with a flashlight and a ski mask.  She is afraid for her life, she should be, that is reasonable.  She waits until the man us looking away from her position and begins to stab and slash the man numerous times.  I did not count, but it was more than 10, in the back.  While he laid on her floor bleeding out she called the police and said what happened.  She was covered in blood, the walls were covered in blood, he was dying from rapid blood loss.  The ambulance beat us to the house (which happens from time to time) and they were able to stabilize the criminal victim and transport him to a local hospital where he survived his injuries.  The woman, who was covered in blood was taken arrested the next day for assault with a deadly weapon by the detectives, on the direction of the district attorney's office.  Was it reasonable what she did?  No.  It was assault, and depending on where you live it may be attempted homicide.

Using a knife, even if completely legally justified, may be seen as an intentional criminal act by many district attorneys and they may end up charging or at least taking the case to a grand jury.  There is a time and place to use a blade, there is a very real and logical reason behind carrying one and its application.  You should understand your local laws first before carrying a blade and you should understand that the probability of you being charged for using a blade legally is possible.  In the situation above, the woman would have been better off shooting the criminal once or twice, that would have been more acceptable in this particular political climate. 

You should also want to consider what looks better in front of a jury.  A photo of a guy with his throat slit out or his femoral cut open with a purpose built tool or a photo of a guy who is shot in the chest and/or head?  "Good" use of a blade may not be a "good" defense in some places.  You should train to fight and be physically capable before having to resort to blades or pistols.  If you have to use a blade then you should be able to specifically articulate the reasons why you did. 

#4 Get him first and you win

There is an old SWAT saying that I cannot really attribute to anyone (if you know who originated it, please let me know) - "First hit wins the fight."  I heard that a few times over a few years dealing with various instructors both private and in the LE circles.  Unfortunately for the originator, that is just not how it works.  Obviously he was referring to shooting, but we know that is not true either, and it definitely is not true when it comes to blades.  It does not matter if you draw first blood, it does not matter if you are able to get your blade deployed quickly and get a few slashes, cuts or stabs on target.  You might get lucky, but chances are slim if you are not targeting.

What matters is the level of training you have.  It matters what type of tools you use and how effective you are with those tools.  It does not matter if you are behind the curve, although you should always try not to be, if the level of force you are met with is weak or unimpactful, you will only be able to overcome it with proper training and proper targeting.  If an instructor is teaching you anything blade related and they are not training you, or showing you, proper targeting you should seek a better instructor.  

#3 Your BJJ will work

I enjoy BJJ, I really find it useful to get the conditioning and level of physical confrontation required to be ready for a taxing violent situation.  Master Chim says often "How do you turn a black belt into a white belt instantly? Put a blade in the hand of the person he is fighting."  I train often enough with numerous people who are black belts in BJJ.  Some at BJJ gyms some at other non-BJJ related classes.  The confidence your average black belt has in defeating someone is very high until they come across someone with a blade and figures out they are unequipped to properly overcome the situation.  We bring blades to a fight because we want the other guy to be in a knife fight, because being in a knife fight really sucks, and the easiest way to overcome someone in a knife fight is to use a weapon, preferably a firearm.

You should also understand that BJJ in its modern form is taught as an "art" for sport victories.  There are some gyms which try to apply BJJ into the real world and that is good, but they are not the majority, they are vast minority.  Most BJJ gyms are looking to turn out competition winners and that means playing by the rules of a particular sport.  There are no rules in the real world, there are no rules in a violent physical confrontation, so applying a martial art which is taught within the confines of rules, sets people up for a serious, possibly deadly, failure.

There are many guys who I work with who have various level of BJJ experience.  Those who have applied BJJ tactics to LE will be first to tell you that the moment a blade or weapon comes out there is no more BJJ.  No more fighting for position, no more *insert cool sounding move name here* its just a race to see who can hurt the other person first as seriously as possible, a lot of times disengaging to go to guns.  This is a really hard lesson to teach and an easy, although possibly deadly, lesson to learn.

#2 Your blade skills will work

We know that during an officer involved shooting (OIS) the average hit percentage is fairly low, and completely dependent on training.  In the Aveni Study the NYPD is shown to have an average hit percentage of around 15% and the Baltimore County PD is shown to have an average hit percentage of around 49%.  We know the joke about the NYPD and firearms training (what firearms training?) but we are always interested in seeing how hit percentages go up, or down, based on training as that does not get talked about often.  What really does not get talked about often is the fact that unless you have a specific system of blade training,  you are probably looking at a hit percentages of even less than the NYPD when they shoot at criminals.  

There was a Chinese corner store in a bad part which was robbed one day.  The guy who was cooking in the back was pretty comfortable with knives, he knew how to use them, having used them all his life in a professional setting.  A few weeks later the same guy showed up with a pistol and tried to rob the store again. This time around the cook decided he was not going to have that and grabbed one of those white handled large chef knives and came out from behind the counter, attacking the robber.  He was slashing  and moving in various cool looking ways.  He had cut the robber several times on the arms and hands.  The robber did not have a real pistol, it was a starter pistol which was spray painted black covering the orange tipped muzzle.  The robber pushed the cook away and ran out of the store.  He was caught at a hospital at a later time due to the level of injuries, but he did not suffer a single serious injury.  The cook was praised for his bravery by many I work with, I found his actions to be ill advised and fairly weak in execution.  He believed his skills were sufficient to stop the threat, in reality if the robber had a real pistol the cook would been shot at least a few times and since there was a clear lack of training of targets of vital parts, he would have likely not inflicted enough damage to have stopped the robber.  

On top of all that, do you believe you will know exactly what to do when a violent situation erupts?  Have you trained drawing your blade from the ground?  What about when someone is on top of you? What about with a different hand than you are used to in case your normal drawing hand is nonfunctional?  Your skill level of blade training should be unconsciously competent.  All of your training should be at that level, and it should be there with both hands, in many positions, in various environmental situations.  You will always default to your base level of training when you are in the middle of a sudden violent physical confrontation, especially a deadly force one.  We know this because of various studies of heart rates and how people go on autopilot during them.  Training is the only way you get through it while doing the right things.

#1 You're willing to use one

There was a college girl studying in her room listening to music, she heard a loud bang on the front door and knowing that one of her room mates was coming home around that time she went to the door and opened it without looking.  There was a guy who was assaulting the room mate in the hall way against the door.  The male pushed the two girls into the apartment and began to violently assault them.  He did not have a weapon, and the college girl who was home was able to run to the kitchen and grab a steak knife.  The bigger male was hitting her room mate in the face several times and the college girl just kept yelling "stop stop" while holding that knife in her hand.  The man had knocked the room mate out and stood up looking at the college girl holding the knife.  He attacked her and was able to disarm her, he began to hit her with his fists knocking her to the ground.  He turned around and ran out of the apartment as he heard police sirens through the open window.  The room mate had to have wires in her face and the college girl suffered a detached retina.  The criminal was never found.  

Pea-cocking or bluffing in the onset of a violent confrontation is a fools gambit.  You either have the training required to positively overcome the threat or you are left to fending for yourself with whatever improvised tools, or skill sets, you may have.  Proper training will facilitate proper mindset and proper mindset will develop willingness, among other required attributes.  

All the participants in the above experiences would have greatly benefited by taking real world applicable instruction from a competent instructor.  There are very few instructors out there who have the right type of logic based knowledge they can pass on through hands on instruction, and Master Chim is definitely one of them.  If you have the ability to make it out to the VioPrep Ground W.A.R. 101 class, you should jump on it as soon as possible.