You sure learn how to defend againt knife attacks, but how does it even feel to get stabbed? Would an average human stay under shock? Or Would you still keep fighting and defending after you get stabbed? Or will the pain hurt so much, that you wouldn't be able to use any techniques anymore? Do Martial Arts or Krav Maga help hardening your mind and body against such attacks? Would even a beginner still have a better chance to survive than someone without any fight/sparr experience?


Wow, that are plenty of questions out there ... let's try explaning it like this:

I'm in Martial Arts for a long time, was very active in Boxing for a long time and been a Krav Maga instructor and bouncer for many years. And NO Martial Art nor Self defense system will bring you in a position to defend yourself against a knife attack - At least not without leaving you bleeding or wounded badly if trying.

There are situations where you see the knife before an attack, my personal proposal is to turn your back and run.

If you don't see it, and notice that you are stabbed, as depending on the situation and the power of the 'swing' or hit you might not even notice it as a stab, you have at least to try to avoid additional stabbs and this is where something like a martial art or krav maga can help - IF you are able to recall the movements in that situation.

I've been stabbed a couple of times and had the luck to still walk around and I can tell that the only time I have felt it was in the muscle areas. I received a stab in my leg and I can say that it felt like a very good low kick where the stab in my back, in the kidney area, I did not notice a all. Just after everything was over I felt a wet shirt- from the blood and a weaknes in my knees. I guess it is the adrenaline that don't let you feel the pane actually.

However, my suggestion in any case, if you see someone with a knife approaching you, don't try to fight, run.

Don't believe the Marketing hype - you will NEVER leave a knife fight without injuries - weather you are successfull in defending it successfull or not. This is nearly impossible.

  • 3
    Forgot to mention that a stab to heart, liver or lungs will definitely make you - not being able to defend anymore!
    – mitro
    Jan 29 '16 at 21:31
  • I know, it's nearly impossible and I think even for the best fighter, if some one knows how to stab or even comes with 2 knifes, I had this already sometimes and it is pretty hard. in my eyes knife and gun are the most dangerous ones in common assaults and I think if even 2 at same time would charge, then at least then everyone would run, okay except you gotta protect a person that is important to you, but I wonder if it's right to give other people time to run away while stopping the attacker, I mean you never know how fast the attacker can run
    – DeathToxic
    Jan 31 '16 at 19:58
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    If you try to defend someone being attacked by someone with a knife make sure you have something available that is at least longer than his arm including the knife ex. Baseballbat, chair - this one if used unproperly can be even dangerous :-(, throwing objects from a distance to distract the attacker is also good. And in any case CALL THE COPS.
    – mitro
    Jan 31 '16 at 20:19
  • yeah that's what I would do, I would tell person near me to run away and call the cops while I try to hold the attacker, no matter if I survive 10 seconds only or 5 minutes. every second gives the person near me an advantage to get safe, at least i think like that, what would you say? If I would be alone I'd sure give up and run, just don't give them a reason to attack me.
    – DeathToxic
    Feb 1 '16 at 7:50
  • @DeathToxic - I can not give any advice really how you should behave in such a situation, as everybody is different - I have seen people 'big mouth heroes' transforming to 'whining washcloths' when they got stabbed. Distracting for a couple of seconds helps the other person to get away. I just hope that you never encounter such kind of situation - really! But if you under any circumstances can not avoid facing an attacker and need to hold him, try at least to focus/pin his knife holding hand - MUST NOT LET GO - and shout for additional help of bystanders ... and .. (you/they) CALL THE COPS.
    – mitro
    Feb 1 '16 at 8:03


The Journal of trauma and acute care search on stabbings should be a good research starting point.(1) Wikipedia's article on stab wounds have a large reference section you should check out. Turleskin stab armour has a white paper on stabbing targets but clearly is biased towards selling armours. Finally, Prof Sarah Hainsworth has published several papers on the force of stabbing. Oh, one last thing: No nonsense self defence section on knife fighting is a must read.

Most, if not all, martial arts are fooling themselves that they can teach anything useful against a skilled knife fighter. Even a knife vs gun fight is not going to go as you think it should as Dan Inosanto demonstrates in these videos. Note that the original video showed Inosanto attacking a LEO. This has since been taken down for obvious reasons in 2017…

Even a skim read of the above should tell you one thing: Stabbing is bad news! Thus:

(1) Clearly this is a medical journal thus contains graphical material related to trauma.


There's a number of arts that deal specifically with blades combatively - that ranges from traditional to modern military styles. There's common elements among them all, which kind of tells you there's probably some baseline truths involved if you see parallel evolution across cultures and time periods, especially since knives are among our oldest weapons and tools.

The universal strategy to all of these (aside from, "Don't get in a knife fight") is getting rid of the threat as soon as possible. That could be jamming the arm that reaches for the waistband before the knife gets out, it could be tearing tendons with a lock, punching the head, or all kinds of thins. There's not a single solution because knives are ugly, fast, and dangerous, and most of these styles carry a few options because you have to adapt quickly.

That said, you'll see a lot of combative knife styles spend a good amount of time on training defense, not because you're going to magically dodge/block 5 minutes of knife attacks, but because surviving the first couple of attacks is necessary for you to counter and take control.

Aside from the methods towards not getting stabbed, the other part is positioning such that injuries do the least harm - getting cut on the back of the forearms is much less risky than most other places you can get cut. You can't harden your body or your mind, you can just make sure that what gets hurt is something that you can get to a hospital with, and not something that will leave you dead. (Well, you could wear armor, which is basically what people do when they expect violence...however that's not what you're asking.)

There are accounts from people who have been stabbed or cut and felt nothing or simply numbness. A common danger to sharp weapons is not pain, but not realizing how badly you've been cut and not stopping the bleeding in time. The flip side is that many arts that work with knives often teach overkill - you keep attacking because you can't assume pain will stop an opponent.

  • so it's basically true that most people get that much adrenaline in a real fight that they feel the pain after that? I wonder how I would react or feel if I get assault charged for first time, until now I never got assaulted so I don't have that experience with the need to actually fight for my life, I am sure I won't get under shock, but I wonder if I get too nervous I wouldn't be able to concentrate myself as good as else
    – DeathToxic
    Jan 31 '16 at 20:01
  • Adrenaline is part of it, though the other part is just how blades work and bloodloss. A lot of the reports are just that people feel dizzy or suddenly weak, and that's because the bloodloss has kicked in, and they only thought they got punched - because they didn't know a knife was already in play. That said, I think you're conflating a few things under "shock" - there's the surprise of being attacked, freezing up/fear/panic responses, adrenaline rush, and then shock in the medical sense. These are different but all can impact you negatively in a situation.
    – Bankuei
    Jan 31 '16 at 23:57
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    You may want to read this book to get some idea on the layers of mental/physical stuff that freezes people or slows their reactions: amazon.com/Facing-Violence-Unexpected-Rory-Miller/dp/1594392137
    – Bankuei
    Jan 31 '16 at 23:59

From what I've seen. No, most martial arts don't deal well with knives, there is a lot of complete fantasy, wishful thinking and misinformation around.

I've never been stabbed myself, but come from the stabbing capital of the UK and know a couple who have, and in both cases they didn't realise they had been stabbed until after the event.

If we look at the past, there is a common feature that all cultures employed when they had to deal with blades. Armour. i.e. even though they had technique, they still employed armour. Put another way. Technique will not save you. It takes 1/6 of a second to throw a punch. Human reaction time is closer to 1/4 of a second. If the hand throwing the punch holds a knife, you'll see that the odds are stacked in favour of the offence rather than defence.

Armour doesn't have to be steel. Blades do very poorly against multiple layers of clothing, 3+ will often prevent a slashing attack and Gambeson worn in medieval times of 10->30 layers of linen would prevent all but heavily committed thrusting attacks. Today we have far superior fabric technologies.


There is a statistic sometimes mentioned in our school. I don't know where it comes from and therefore I can't vouch for its accuracy, but it goes like this. 1% of untrained people defend successfully when attacked with a knife. 5% of people trained to black belt standard in any art manage to defend themselves when attacked with a knife.

If the statistic is correct, the implication is that an untrained person has on average a 1 in 100 chance. A black belt or equivalent has a 1 in 25 chance of not getting seriously injured.

Or put another, if 100 untrained people get attacked with a knife, 99 will be seriously injured, 1 will walk away. If 100 black belts or equivalent get attacked, 96 will be seriously injured, and 4 will walk away.

Put still another way, if you are confronted with a knife, and running is a viable option, then run.

  • so than this means if I get stabbed it isn't like I didn't train enough? I mean if it's true what you stated then even a pro can easily lose to a knife fight. this means I don't need to feel bad if I fail defending myself. of course always run away, but was just wondering.
    – DeathToxic
    Mar 14 '16 at 9:26
  • Look for footage of trained police or soldiers dealing with a knife threat. Invariably, they try to keep their distance, and will try to use a weapon or improvised weapon in defence. These people are as highly trained as you can get.
    – user6847
    Mar 14 '16 at 12:47
  • Meant to add, in our school, we are taught that our knife defence is not to prevent getting cut, but to TRY to prevent any vital organs or arteries getting cut.
    – user6847
    Mar 14 '16 at 12:48
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    I can't make the edit, because it's so small, but I think you intended to write "1 in 20" not "1 in 25"
    – Cort Ammon
    Mar 16 '16 at 4:00

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