Stabbings - the new normal?

Another day, another stabbing. Ottawa’s dance with violence continues unabated and the introduction of weapons is a game changer. In a previous post, I gave a little context around why people will resort to the use of weapons and how a weapon assault manifests primarily in demographics that are prone to criminal behaviour.

This is not to say the honest, law-abiding people who stay out of trouble are immune to the threat. It can still happen to you. But if you look at the Ottawa Citizen’s report:, you’ll see that police are investigating the “altercation.” Not the assault; the altercation. To me that suggests that both parties were somehow complicit in this event. It also suggests that the police know both parties, or at least that the reporter is inferring this.

But I digress. There are some things you need to know about dealing with knives for your own situational awareness. Awareness enables avoidance, and avoidance is a fantastic strategy for staying out of the hospital.

Nature of the Weapon: Knives are a contact weapon. What this means is that the threat of damage arises just as much from the nature of the weapon as it does from its employment. One, if not both edges are a threat. The tip is a threat. Slash, stab, pare, rip, flick or flash – if a sharp parts contacts your skin, you’re getting cut and you’re going to bleed. Contrast a pistol: A ballistic weapon is directional and purpose-built. It must be employed in a specific manner to cause damage. Not so with a knife. So remember, if a knife comes out, the odds are that you will get cut.

Managing the frequency, nature and severity of the cuts is your main responsibility. Interested? Urban Combat Systems class deals with knives every single class. It’s part of our foundation.

Concealment: Knives are most often deployed as an ambush, from a concealment position. That is to say, if you are not aware of general body language and threat cues, you’re probably not going to see a blade coming until it’s too late. So pay attention! There are obvious cues to weapon deployment, and they’re glaring when you’re used to looking for them.

From draw to grip to deployment is often cumbersome, especially with a compact folding knife. For that reason, the attack must come from knife-already-in-hand. If you’re astute and attentive, you should see the pocket check and draw before the blade is presented. This is the golden opportunity to run like you’re challenging Usain Bolt for the gold. If you can’t run, you’re going to have to mitigate the targeting by protecting your vitals and attacking the attacker. Sound scary? It is. Prioritize your awareness!

If the knife is already in hand and is concealed out-of-pocket, you must observe the nuances of hand position.

  • Can you see both hands?
  • All fingers?
  • What about the thumb?
  • Is the posture and arm positioning natural or suspect?

Don’t forget that even if you compute the odds of a concealment, a knife can get from A to B very quickly with devastating results. If you suspect an open concealment, get the hell out of dodge.

Damage Mitigation: As I noted earlier, getting cut is the cost of doing business with a knife-wielding attacker. The true danger to you is insertion injuries – stabbing – particularly to fast-bleed blood vessels, vital organs, and the eyes and throat. There are physical means of both protecting these areas, such as it were (nothing is foolproof) and allowing you to posture for a counterattack on the assailant. Done correctly, you can prevent blood loss and tissue damage long enough to effectively terminate the threat.

Suffice it to say that you can’t learn this in a weekend workshop or a self defence “thing” that you did 5 years ago. The skills are stress-oriented and habituated; they are also perishable. If you’re not training them deep, under stress and regularly, you’re guaranteed a one night stay in the emergency room if you tangle with a weapon.

You know where to find us! Don’t take chances with your life, and don’t underestimate a knife!

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