Knife Fighting

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Knife fighting is an act oft romanticized, however very few understand the cold realities of what exactly it entails. Knife fighting, in west side story Hollywood version that most people imagine is a total fallacy. Real knife fighting is closer to a prison style shanking than a real fight. Before engaging in a knife fight, keep in mind that statistics tell us that in over 60% of all knife fights, both fighters end up seriously injured or dead. Is that a risk you really want to take?


Read this first. Have you read it all? Good. Read it again.

Now, that said, if your opponent can see that you have a knife before it's too late to prevent his stabbing, you have failed. Brandishing your knife only gives your adversary more time to react. You should close distance, draw your already opened knife and stab your adversary as many times as possible as quickly as possible. Do not attempt to slash unless you're using a straight razor, as this is a slow waste of effort and not near as fatal as a stab. Go for the chest and stomach, as these are the easiest to hit and hardest to really defend. A few good stabs and your opponent will almost always go into shock, and without medical attention, will most likely die. Do not depend on this, however. Continue to attack until you are certain that your opponent is dead or at least incapacitated. Engaging in knife fights is a foolish game requiring almost suicidal aggressiveness in order to win. Remember, this isn't West Side Story. If you have a knife and need to kill a man with it, you have no time for circling and fooling around. Close in and kill him before he knows what hit him to maximize your own chance of survival. Statistically the puller of the knife is 50% more likely to be stabbed. The good news is if you survive a knife wound can usually be repaired with surgery, nerves and all.

If your opponent already has a knife, things change quite a bit, but many of the same rules still apply. Don't bother with gimmicks like bio-mechanical cutting. Don't circle like you're in a Jets vs Sharks rumble. Close the distance and go for the kill. Every shot you throw should be a kill shot. Also, don't think you can take a good cut or stab and continue fighting. Chances are, if your opponent has dealt more than a scratch, you'll go into shock and will be killed. Only trade a cut for a kill. Hold your knife with a fencing grip, pointed towards your opponent. This maximizes your reach and allows for lightning fast stabs.


If you have a jacket and no weapon either wrap it around your arm since you are going to use your weak arm as a sacrificial shield anyway or whip at your opponent to distract. Don't forget to use your other arm to either grapple or punch your opponent so he will be distracted. An old mobster trick is to take off your belt and use it in the off hand as a whip. A good blow with a belt buckle will seriously hurt and can cause your opponent to drop his knife. A quick hard hit or knee to the groin on a guy will end most knife fights. A baseball bat, walking stick, or even a cane has a longer reach than a knife, a stab or two to the face or abdomen with a umbrella might take the fight out of your opponent. Don't be afraid to swing a shopping cart, chair, or stool at your enemy to slow him down.

Game Theory[edit]

The moral of the story is you have several choices when you see a knife:

  • Run away - You probably won't get cut and you'll look like the good guy to the cops, too bad if you feel like a wimp, die at a ripe old age.
  • Pull a gun and shoot/not shoot - might get cut, could end up in jail for a long time, probably won't die.
  • Pull your own knife - win or lose you will probably get cut and could end up in jail or be killed.


To practice knife fighting, use markers. Training knives also work, but unlike a marker, you can't see where you've been hit by them. A common technique for making hits visible with a training knife is to cover the training knife in red lipstick.


Abbie's recommendation of a switchblade is probably not a good suggestion, although the blade flies open in an instant, the blades can break just as fast or even open in a pocket, besides, most of these are real junk if they are foreign made (several US brands are quality like Benchmade and USA but they cost over $100). The Balisong, or butterfly knfe is more sturdy, but unless you know the basic skill to open it, it will take forever to open. A pocket knife with a pocket hook to keep it available and a thumb hole or stud to let you flip the blade out quickly is a better suggestion, CRKT and Spyderco are two good brands. A good pocket knife draws little suspicion, it has great utility value and it's inexpensive. Even if you don't intend to ever fight, you should carry one for its value as a tool. The CRKT M16 is an especially good deal at around $30 for a good quality folding knife. Practice drawing and opening when bored, but not around other people (it makes you look a little crazy). If you are the Rambo type you might like the Gerber MkII style, but this double sided commando knife is useless for anything other than combat and if you are not an expert or end up grappling it will probably also get you cut, commando daggers are for surprise sentry kills not squared off fights. Keep in mind that a large knife like this is very difficult to conceal.

Throwing Knives[edit]

Our advice is no matter how cheap the knife, don't throw it at your adversary. The chances of a tip on hit are ridiculously low and in any case most thrown knives don't have enough force behind them to do much damage. If you really need a thrown weapon to use as a distraction you could go the Hollywood ninja way and carry throwing stars or darts. Darts are easy to make, just grind a sharp tip onto welding rod and tie yarn or some sort of fringes to the tail to keep it pointed in the right direction as it flies. Realistically pepper spray, a handful of sand in the eyes, or even a well placed rock is usually more effective than throwing stars or darts for giving you the space you need to escape, it also raises less questions if the cops get their hands on you.

Last Resort[edit]

As stated above getting into a knife fight is generally not a good idea, they are dirty messy affairs in which someone always gets hurt. It is never a good idea to deliberately hurt someone when there is a viable alternative, we're revolutionaries not sadists, you want to hurt someone, join the cops. However if you find yourself with your back to the wall and some nasty fucker bearing down there is a certain science to knife fighting. In a knife fight there is only one objective: kill your opponent. You cannot try to simply injure your opponent or you will end up in a puddle of your own blood. To this purpose, in a knife fight there are 3 main areas of attack.

  • 1: The Brachial Artery. This is situated in the upper arm only 1/2 an inch below the skin. A slashing cut should be made to the opponents weak arm, if the cut is correctly delivered, the opponent will lose consciousness in approximately 14 seconds.
  • 2: The Radial Artery. This is the artery that supplies blood to the hand, which is why people attempt suicide by slitting their wrist, as you may know most suicide attempts using this method are unsuccessful. This is because the cut is often made in the wrong place. The Radial Artery is only 1/4 inch beneath the skin, but is also smaller than the Brachial Artery making it harder to cut. The correct attack is a diagonal attack to the opponents left forearm (assuming that you are right handed.) If made correctly this cut will ensure the opponent loses consciousness in approximately 30 seconds.
  • 3: The last method that is useful when facing an involuntary knife fight is to slash the at the opponents stomach. There is no set way to do this, the intended effect is more psychological than physiological even a slight stomach wound can easily cause an opponent to panic, which is a opportunity that can be used for escape.

I realise that this advice seems to contradict the above advice on stabbing being superior to cutting. While I admit that in most every situation stabbing soft tissue will cause more damage than slashing it, the intent of this small guide is to instruct some rudimentary knife fighting. In a fight it is not practical to attempt to slide a knife into your opponent, as it leaves you far too vulnerable to counter attack and is the reason why most knife fights end with both participants seriously injured. It is for this reason that slashes to the arteries are preferable as they incapacitate an opponent quickly while allowing you to keep as much distance as is practical. The hacking motion, which is a lunge as performed for a stab followed by a short arc slashing motion from the wrist, is perhaps the most effective, controllable, and destructive way of hitting these targets.

I would like to say once more that hurting people is not smart and that these tactics should only be used self-defense.


All knives can be sharpened with a number of different tools, although serrated knives require a rod sharpener. There are four tools for sharpening a knife: a rod sharpener, a motorized sharpener, a "V" sharpener, and a stone.

Rod Sharpeners[edit]

Rod sharpeners, also called sharpening steels, are all but useless for making a dull knife sharp. They're meant for keeping an already sharp knife in pristine condition. Forget any nonsense you've seen in the movies where a man puts a knife over a steel rod and it is razor sharp: if it was that sharp after the steel, it was damn close before. Sharpening steels work by removing small bumps and dents along the length of the blade, usually not visible to the naked eye, but you can typically feel them when you pass the blade across the steel. A good steel should be heavy, sturdy, and slightly magnetic. If you could bash someone's head in with it, and it will pick up a paperclip, you're in business.

If you have nothing else to work with, and your knife isn't in great shape, pass it over a steel; it's better than nothing. You should also pass a knife sharpened by other means over a steel before use to give it that extra edge. To do so, fold a small towel or other thick cloth and place it on a flat surface, like a table. Hold the steel upright, and use your other hand to place the knife against it. Tilt the blade so it is at a 25 degree angle to the steel, and drag it across. You can either alternate sides, one after the other, or count a certain number on one side, then repeat on the opposite side. It won't take long to get the hang of it. It shouldn't take more than 20 passes on each side to get the job done. More than that is usually a waste, and you risk dulling it by messing up the original sharpening job, since the steel is actually too hard for heavy sharpening work.

Motorized Sharpeners[edit]

In general, these are terrible devices. The old saying "you get what you pay for" doesn't normally apply, especially to those of us that pay as rarely as we can, but it does apply here. Motorized sharpeners were developed to satisfy an increasingly lazy market of people who either don't know or don't care enough about knife maintenance to actually take care of their knives. More so than any other device mentioned here, motorized sharpeners are meant for kitchen knives, and may be very hard to use with certain combat varieties as well as run of the mill pocket knives. Assuming you work out this part of the problem, most electric sharpeners either do a poor job, or risk damaging the blade. They are not the models of efficiency and ease the manufacturers would have you believe. More expensive models are worth the effort, but the best are usually too expensive to get a hold of yourself. The best ones are the exact opposite of their cheaper cousins: fast, reliable, and result in a perfect edge superior to hand-sharpening.

If you've got some cash to burn, and really want to get a perfect edge, inquire about a knife-sharpening service. Head to your local army surplus store if you're not sure where to start. Another great resource for contacting knife services is an upscale restaurant. Speak with the chef there about where to go, although they might not be as helpful as the surplus folks, since you aren't likely to be a customer. A third option is to get a job at such a restaurant. Restaurants are notorious dens of transient, often questionable workers; chefs and owners pay little attention to ID documents they're given by new hires, since so many of their employees are illegal immigrants with forged ones. This gives you easy access to money while you lay low, and when the chef calls in the knife people to sharpen the kitchen's knives, ask them if they'll sharpen yours, too. Most will do so without even being offered a bribe of some sort. Just wait an hour and it's back, razor sharp. Make sure it's a nice restaurant though; cheaper places don't care if their blades get dull. A third possible bonus to the restaurant employee option is that most cooks and chefs use all manner of drugs; inquire discreetly within (speaking Spanish helps gloss over any reservations the likely dealer will have, see Spanish for the Revolution).

"V" Sharpeners[edit]

"V" sharpeners are extremely useful tools in that they shorten a sharpening job from hours to minutes. Be warned: these actually take microscopic chips of metal out of your knife, giving it a miniature serration. While this works for the first few cuts, after a while it can wreck a blade. "V" sharpeners generally look like a squared, plastic, knife handle with a finger guard and a gap in the grip for a scissors sharpener. However, all can be distinguished by the signature two pieces of stone or carbide in them that form a "V" shape. To use, draw the knife across the center of the "V" straight up and down. This ensures an even sharpening. Always sharpen the whole of the blade to ensure a regular edge. While the knife is still dull (or relatively so), pulling it across the sharpener can result in a fair amount of resistance. This is normal; just make sure you don't stop sharpening in the middle of the blade. When the blade is sharp, this can still happen if you hold the blade at an angle. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as it narrows the angle of the edge, for a thinner cut. For a finer edge when you've evened out the nicks and rough spots, sharpen the blade at increasing angles until you are pulling the knife perpendicular to the sharpener. At this point your blade should be sharp enough to cut most practical things (wood, some plastics, Sheetrock, people, etc). Remember, all knives require occasional sharpening, some more than others.


Sharpening on a stone is a time consuming practice, but has numerous advantages. Firstly, nothing gets a knife sharper than steady honing over a stone. Second, there's no risk of damage to the blade when done properly, unlike with V sharpeners or domestic motorized ones. Third, it's easy to learn, and actually rather relaxing; sharpening a knife can be a zen-like experience if you let it. There are two kinds of stones: water and oil. Oil stones generally give a better result, since the oil adheres to the stone and lubricates better when the knife passes over. The downside is that the stone is messy, requiring a fair amount of clean up, and you have to have oil on hand to use it. Not just any oil, either. This makes it less useful for your average on-the-go person who doesn't have the time or money to pick up a fresh tube of stone oil while underground. Water stones, which can provide a less perfect finish, are much better to work with in general. They clean up easily, and all you need to do is get them wet; any water will work. This means whether you're underground in the city, the outdoors, or just relaxing without the heat on you, a water stone is equally useful for keeping your knife ready for use. The blade should be held at an angle to the stone, about 20 to 30 degrees. Press the edge of the blade onto the stone, and drag it across, moving from base to tip. Repeat four more times for total of 5 strokes, then do the other side of the edge. Repeat until desired sharpness is achieved. For maximum sharpness, run the blade over a honing steel afterwards; this removes small burrs in the steel and corrects minor problems in the length of the blade, giving it that extra-sharp finish. If you don't have a steel do like the old time barbers and strope it against a leather belt.

When done properly, a knife sharpened like this will remove the tip of a man's finger with the same amount of effort it takes to push down a stapler. So be smart - a knife can just as easily cut you.

Original KNIFE FIGHTING[edit]

Probably one of the most favored street weapons of all time is the good old "shiv," "blade," "toe-jabber" or whatever you choose to call a good sticker. Remembering that today's pig is tomorrow's bacon, it's good to know a few handy slicing tips. The first thing to learn is the local laws regarding the possession of knives. The laws on possession are of the "Catch-22" vagueness. Cops can arrest you for having a small pocket knife and claim you have a concealed and deadly weapon in your possession. Here, as in most cases of law, it's not what you are doing, it's who's doing the what that counts. All areas, however, usually have a limit on length such as blades under 4" or 6" are legal and anything over that length concealed on a person can be considered illegal. Asking some hip lawyers can help here.

Unfortunately, the best fighting knives are illegal. Switchblades (and stilettos) because they can so quickly spring into operation, are great weapons that are outlawed in almost all states. If you want to risk the consequences, however, you can readily purchase these weapons once you learn how to contact the criminal underworld or in most foreign countries. If both of these fail, go to any pawnshop, look in the window, and take our choice of lethal, illegal knives.

A flat gravity knife, available in most army surplus and pawn shops would be the best type available in regular over-the-counter buying. It's flat style makes for easy concealment and comfort when kept in a pocket or boot. It can be greased and the rear "heel" of the blade can be filed down to make it fly open with a flick of the wrist. A little practice here will be very useful.

Most inexperienced knife fighters use a blade incorrectly. Having seen too many Jim Bowies slash their way through walls of human flesh, they persist in carrying on this inane tradition. Overhead and uppercut slashes are a waste of energy and blade power. The correct method is to hold the knife in a natural, firm grip and jab straight ahead at waist level with the arm extending full length each time. This fencing style allows for the maximum reach of arm and blade. By concentrating the point of the knife directly at the target, you make defense against such an attack difficult. Work out with this jabbing method in front of a mirror and in a few days you'll get it down pretty well.