Ottawa Stabbings - A Self Defence Take

Ottawa is a growing city, and with that growth, a perceptible rise in weapon violence has finally arrived. While shootings are at an all-time high, one of the more visceral stories is the Nov. 8 revelation in the Ottawa Citizen that three people were injured in one night in two separate stabbings.

Read it here:

Since the Citizen broke the article, we've learned a little more. One of the victims was a man who intervened to protect the targeted victim in one stabbing. He was wounded by the female attacker. In the other assault, security guards intervened and managed to subdue the male attacker.

A few things about this caught my attention, and I want to share my thoughts as a life-long instructor of combative, reality-based self defence.

Alleged Perpetrators

Often, we assume that weapon violence - particularly in the late hours, and especially in known or suspected "rough" areas of town (which the Byward Market is and isn't depending on whom you ask) - is perpetrated in a male-on-male fashion.  However, one of the wanted persons in this case is a woman.

Violence doesn't have a preferred gender. Although we have heard more about gendered violence from the male to female direction (primarily sexual violence), we hear little about female on female and female on male assaults. When faced with violence, particularly weapon violence, you must put perceptions of gender, race, propriety and any other mitigating factors at a distant second behind your own safety. If you are attacked in an unprovoked manner by any person at any time, do what you have to do to avoid egregious harm, period.


Although more information comes to light daily, we don't know enough yet about the involved parties to make a 100% judgment on the motive for these assaults, but I'll take an educated guess. Before I do, think about my position on asocial violence: "Wrong place, wrong time" is really a wrong idea. It can and does happen - witness the number of sexual assaults that we learn of - in some contexts. But when it comes to criminal, asocial violence like this, there are often (read: usually) contributing factors.

Here's what I think: The assaulters and their victims likely had history and were either settling a an old grudge or debt, or a new one had erupted into violence. There is potential here for gang and drug linkages, and many of these parties will not be strangers to the Ottawa Police. None of this was accidental, even if the level of violence employed was incidental or greater than intended. With the exception of the man who intervened, it appears there was little randomness or chance involved in the injuries, but more on that in a moment.

As the old saying goes: He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword.

I and my training partners are experts at doing violence, but we don't live violent lifestyles, nor associate with people who choose violence and anti-social behaviour as a primary strategy. We don't frequent areas of the city known to be dangerous. As such, we are never in the wrong place at the wrong time. If I wanted to get stabbed, I'd have to go looking for it.  Cavalier? Harsh? Politically incorrect? Damn right. And also accurate.

Who Carries a Knife?

Well, I do. But not to defend myself. My everyday carry is a tool and an emergency implement. I have no interest whatsoever in deploying it offensively or defensively against a human.  Besides that, it's cumbersome to draw and chamber in a tactically effective way. It's not practical as a weapon.

So, if you're carrying a knife for any reason other than its practical utility, you're a trouble-seeking shithead, period. You want to use it, you've practiced drawing it, and you're rolling with the kind of crowd that attributes status to violent behaviour because you want to be hard.

There was not only intent to employ the weapon here, there was a desire to do so. There was preparation and premeditation. All of the above are accompanied by the ironic and oxymoronic duo of bravado and low self-esteem. Whoever these hardasses are, they were cocky enough to think violence is a suitable negotiation tactic, but neither smart, skilled nor confident enough to employ it without the crutch of a weapon.


I applaud all parties for intervening to assist the targets of these attacks. Nonetheless, a word of caution: It is one thing to step into a a violent altercation as a third party, and quite another to do so in an armed altercation. Knives are a lethal force implement, and one must always accept the realistic chance of grievous bodily harm or death. Handling a knife and its wielder is something that requires patience, maturity, a particular skill set and total fear management. These third parties did the right thing for the right reason, and that affirms my faith in humanity. But we see objectively that in the one case, one unprepared man against a knife resulted in a "loss" - he was cut repeatedly and rendered in serious condition. In the second case, I suggest that the security personnel scored a "win" because there were more of them, making the logistics more complex for the attacker. In neither case does it appear that this could have ended favourably for the good guys if this were one-to-one, armed vs. unarmed.

The morality and philosophy of combat in all its forms are topics we go deep on in our Urban Combat Systems curriculum You are welcome to join us for a trial class:

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Stay safe and stay smart!