Friday, September 16, 2011

Five Key Principles: How to Defend Against an Edged Weapon

Liberi: “And against me, neither arms nor armor are to be of value.”

Fairbairn: “There is no more deadly weapon than the knife. An entirely unarmed man has no defense against it.”

Obviously these two were really proud of their offensive knife skills. However, those of us that teach defensive knife skills to law enforcement officers can’t let our students just believe them and give up. Arms and armor are of value — a knife may be the deadliest weapon, but an unarmed man can defend himself against it.

Bruce Siddle, founder of PPCT Management Systems and the Warrior Science Group, designed and implemented the Spontaneous Knife Defense program to defend against an edged weapon attack. He chose a simple, yet effective way to defend against a spontaneous attack using five core principles that have been taught around the world. These principles are:

  1. Avoid the Attack
  2. Control the Weapon
  3. Stun the Offender
  4. Ground the Offender
  5. Disarm the Offender


First and foremost is to Avoid the Attack. This can be accomplished in various ways, but simply put it means to stop the edged weapon from stabbing or slicing you. Obviously the best way to avoid an edged weapon attack is by using a firearm. When I teach this principle, I tell my students the more time, distance, and cover they can get, the better off they will be. Preferably I will be behind my car with an patrol rifle! However, what if I can’t gain distance or cover? What if the attack is spontaneous while I am standing in my interview stance at the edge of my reactionary gap? Then I need to avoid the attack by keeping the weapon from striking me through redirecting the person or the weapon, passing the weapon, or blocking the weapon. Then I need to move on to the second principle.

Controlling the Weapon can be done in various ways, but it boils down to pinning the weapon in one place. This can be done by grasping the arm that has the weapon or by pinning the weapon to the ground, or to you, in order to immobilize it. If you are going to get cut, this is when it is going to happen. You have done all that you can do to avoid the attack and it didn’t work. You need to concentrate on minimizing the damage that is going to be inflicted. This is also where the warrior mindset comes into play. I can accept a few cuts and scratches in order to live — I can withstand this attack so that I may repel it — and I really am going to go home tonight to my loved ones!

Now that the weapon is controlled, we move on to Stun the Offender. We move from defensive to offensive tactics. If necessary, may I use my firearm? Absolutely, as long as your gun hand is free or you are able to draw and shoot with your support hand. But, if you can’t use your firearm for whatever reason, stun them. Siddle defines stunning as overwhelming sensory input that is sudden, intense, and unexpected. Strikes can be delivered to the head, side of the neck, or anywhere else on the body that you have the ability to strike — and you want to continue to strike them until they are overwhelmed. As you are stunning them, ensure that you continue to trap the weapon so they can’t use it on you.

Grounding the Offender, although not necessary, does aid in the ability to disarm them while allowing you to control them and the weapon at the same time. 

Finally, we Disarm the Offender. Some thought must go into this step before actually doing it. What are you going to do with the edged weapon? You have to secure it somewhere on your body, so where is the best place for this? Look at your own equipment and find somewhere that is stable and strong, that won’t be cut away when placing the edged weapon in it, and then practice finding that spot during a high stress encounter. After disarming, you should finish with a handcuffing technique.


Remember these five key principles when defending against an edged weapon, and always remember the first is the most important – Avoid the Attack. If I can see the weapon quickly enough and recognize it for what it is, I can increase the distance (the farther, the better), gain cover, and use an implement of deadly force if necessary. If they are too close, block the weapon to keep it from getting into the core of the body and then trap it to stop the attack. After that, it is a matter of stunning, grounding, and then disarming the attacker.

It doesn’t really matter what system you use or how you choose to protect yourself – by following these key principles you can prove Liberi and Fairbairn wrong. You can survive an edged weapon attack, and go home at the end of your shift.

Larry Frye is Training Coordinator for the Public Safety and Security Training Division of the Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX), which is a part of the Texas A&M University System. Larry has over 20 years of experience in law enforcement, including 12 years in instruction.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Remembering 9/11.

September 11th was a day filled with disbelief. The news media had reported that an aircraft had flown into the towers, and to see it replayed on television, you had to think it was a mishap. Then, all of a sudden, LIVE, for everyone to see–there was a second plane, and you’re really thinking, “My eyes are playing tricks on me.” But it happened, and it happened on U.S. soil.

I got a call very early that morning, saying, “Turn the news on, turn the news on!” And when I first saw it, I was stunned. I was paged immediately by FEMA: “Get to New York!” My responsibility was to interface between the military and all of the FEMA teams coming in and out of New York City, including all of the urban search and rescue groups. Ultimately, 17 of the 28 national urban search and rescue teams assisted at Ground Zero. Flying in that night from California in the cockpit of a C141, we landed at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey. Off in the distance, you could actually see the lights and a smoke plume. Later as we drove into New York City with the other FEMA responders, we were all shocked and dismayed.

We arranged for the first helicopters that flew over Ground Zero on the 12th, and we saw the vertical view. It was so amazing because the destruction was so confined, just within a few blocks. And to see ALL of the activity from an aerial viewpoint was incredible — almost an orchestra of pieces and parts in motion. The first time that I was actually on the rubble pile was a surreal experience. There was every color of smoke that you can imagine. I remember learning the colors of the rainbow in science class, and I was thinking, “Wait a second, there are more colors here.”

There was a heat about the pile, about the ground—it was not just a construction site, it was not just another area, it was very, very unique. To me there was almost a silence about it. Certainly you heard the cranes, you heard the cutting, but it was almost like stepping into a church. You wanted to lower your voice, you wanted to be respectful— that experience has really stayed with me.

Seeing the devastation, we knew there were losses. And since the community of emergency responders is relatively small and close-knit the world over, we were thinking about the people that we had lost. And we thought of the people who’d had no idea of what was going to happen to them. Had it actually really happened like we’d seen on the news? But we couldn’t grieve then, because we were asked to do a job that day. I think the general feeling was that we were called upon to use our particular skill set to help others. We’ll never know what difference was made, but just being able to offer some service was our job. And not only at those major events like 9/11, but firefighters, police officers, emergency medical personnel – they do these things every day, every time someone calls 9-1-1. In some way, people’s lives are affected and the call is being answered. This was a bigger event, but our response was just an extension of what a community’s emergency response group does day in and day out.

The thing that I will never forget is the incredible resilience and attitude that Americans can show. We have disagreements, politically and socially, but during and after 9/11, everyone came together, and I have to say I was never more proud to be an American. The streets of Manhattan were lined with people who were thanking the rescuers. For our part, we didn’t need thanks. We were doing a job that our training and family support allowed us to do. We were actually more worried about the local community and making sure that they were okay. It was just a very special time that reminded me that the American spirit is an amazing thing.

Unfortunately, the reality that struck us was that terrorism had come to American soil. As we remember 9/11, we’re going to continue to be prepared and vigilant. We’ve learned to communicate better between different jurisdictions and with the federal government. Today, as a country, if something bad happens, we know we can pull together.

September 11th will remain a defining moment for our country, just as other world-changing events such as Pearl Harbor, the assassination of JFK and the loss of the Space Shuttle Challenger have marked generations before. And as we pause to reflect on the events of 9/11 a decade later, we stand renewed in our resolve to never forget.

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J. Robert “Bob” McKee is the director of Texas Task Force 1 and TEEX’s Disaster Preparedness and Response Division. He was with the Ohio Task Force One on September 11th, 2001, and was deployed to Ground Zero in New York City.