Should I Train to Fight With A Knife?

This question comes up often in the current climate of concealed firearm permits…Should I train to fight with a knife, since guns are so common?

The answer is a resounding yes, for a few reasons. Let’s discuss why first, then I’ll give some practical exercises and resources.

Reasons to train with a knife:

  • There are many places that you can’t carry a gun, but that you can carry a knife.
  • Knives don’t jam or run out of ammunition.
  • Knives have a multitude of other uses and are generally good to have around (for example, whether your evening involves cutting cheese or stabbing an attacker, a knife is HANDY).
  • Knives can be found in many places to pick up and use for self-defense.
  • Knives are psychologically frightening to attackers.
  • Skill with a knife, like unarmed defense skills, builds self-confidence and a warrior mindset/ethos.

The Three Blade Rule

A common tactical precept is the “Three Blade Rule”. Generally, you should have these three tools available at all times. There aren’t many situations which one of these three can’t solve for you.

  1. Folding Knife – Generally a pocket folder, used for everyday tasks, but can be used for self defense. Carried in your pocket.
  2. Multi-Tool – Also great for everyday tasks, and has limited self defense utility, but it could be used. I carry two Gerber multi-tools in my EDC laptop bag, along with a second folding knife.
  3. Fixed Blade Knife – A full sized fighting knife. I use a Gerber LMF Infantry knife or a KaBar USMC Fighting Knife. I keep this in my emergency backpack in the back of my SUV.


First, the very best defense against an attacker who has a knife is a firearm.

Second, any attack with a knife is deadly force, so respond accordingly.

Take a real knife course from a real knife instructor. There are thousands of videos on the internet about the topic, and nearly all of them are garbage.

Go and attend a knife fighting course at a professional facility, or find a school that specializes in it, like Filipino Martial Arts schools.

Another good source of instruction are Krav Maga Instructors, as they have a reality-based knife fighting program, born of necessity for Israeli soldiers.

A great book on the topic with outstanding techniques is the Complete Michael Echanis Collection. It is based on the Korean Martial Art of Hwa Rang Do, and the book includes knife defense, knife combat, and stick combat.

Solo training is possible, once you’ve learned the basics with an instructor.

Don’t work on fancy defense against a knife moves, because if you’re ever really in a knife combat situation, OFFENSE is the ONLY way to win. Keeping the opponent on defense keeps him from sticking the pointy end in you. Learn the 8 basic slashes and 9 basic thrusts and you’ll be able to develop hundreds of offensive combinations.

Again, don’t get stuck in systems that train exclusively on responding to the attackers attack…If you miss the block and he stabs or slashes you, you’ll never be able to show off that cool deflection/jump spinning crescent kick combination because you’ll be too busy bleeding out.

Learn to attack with a knife because action is faster than reaction and if I can keep my attacker focused on defending, he can’t think about attacking me.

One knife skill I will mention, however, because a lot of schools don’t due to liability. I’m more interested in your survival. Cutting out refers to, once you’ve conducted a thrust into an opponent, twist the blade 180 degrees. If you inserted the blade palm down, twist til your palm is up, and vice-versa. This creates a larger wound channel, causing more bleeding and pain, and prevents suction from holding your knife. I don’t say this because I want you to give grievous wounds to your attacker, I say it because a larger wound may end his attack before he gets hurt worse, or you do.


I’m not going to go into the 8 angles of attack or 9 basic thrusts, because you need instructor interaction to learn those, but there are some basic drills you can use with a kicking bag to develop your skills.

Buy a good training knife that resembles your EDC knife.

When building combinations, it’s easiest to put the next technique where the last one ended. For example, after a slash attack, thrust (stab) at the end of the slash. Conversely, after a thrust, drag the blade in a slash from where the thrust was. Combine two or three techniques.

  • Practice slashing and thrusting combinations on the bag while keeping your empty hand covering your body, static at first, to develop muscle memory.
  • Advance to stepping to the outside and parrying with the weak hand across your whole center-line, followed by slash and thrust combinations from a 45 degree angle to the bag, to simulate stepping outside of the attack.
  • Once you’ve mastered that, incorporate low-line kicks to the knee, thigh, or solar-plexus between the parry and knife combination.

Again, see an instructor to learn actual physical skills (no, not YouTube).


It’s vital that you completely understand the local knife laws where you live and where you work. They can vary widely from city to city.

In conclusion, knife training should absolutely be a part of your training regimen and you should learn those skills at first from an actual instructor who knows what they are doing. Keep training to retain those skills.

Anyone interested in self-defense should strive, as they say in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, to become a “Master At Arms”, knowing the use of every defensive tool from empty hands and feet out to a rifle at 500 meters.


Published by JD

I am the author of the Tactical Wisdom Series. I am a personal protection specialist and a veteran of the US Marine Corps. I conduct preparedness and self-defense training.

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