Israeli Krav-Maga: One of The Best Self-Defense Techniques Against Upper Knife Attacks

Updated: Feb 6

In this article, we will go over: What is a knife fight? What is a knife attack? What is the time before a physical attack? What are knife protection strategies in combat? What are the main ranges in knife protection? What is a long Upper Knife Attack? What is a frequent short Upper Knife Attack? What types of training knives and protective equipment are used in Krav-Maga training? What types of real attack knives exist?

 

Warning!

The concepts presented here are for illustration purposes only. Seek professional training from a reputable instructor before attempting any technique discussed or presented in this story.

 

What is a knife fight?

A knife fight is a violent physical confrontation between two or more fighters in which one or more of the participants is armed with a knife. A knife fight is defined by the presence of a knife as a weapon and the violent intent of the fighters to kill or neutralize each other; Participants may be completely untrained, self-taught, or trained in one or more of the formal martial arts in knives such as tactical Krav-Maga, Arnis, Combat Sambo and more ... Knife fights may involve the use of any type of knives, although there are knives designed for this purpose. Let’s face it, a confrontation that includes knives is pure chaos in motion, in this battle one has a great chance of not coming out alive or at best coming out with some painful souvenirs on the body. Studying knife protection nowadays is critical. Knives, and all sharp weapons, are very dangerous. No matter how trained you are, it is always best to avoid using a knife. Avoidance strategy is always the best policy but it is not always up to us, i.e. in cases of robbery with intent to murder; School bullying, and more ... As a result, we always have to be prepared for the worst-case scenario in our lives. The goal is to give ourselves a chance to cope with the problem and survive the disrespectful assault with knives. According to Mark Fesler (6th Dan in Krav-Maga), "A distinction should be done between a knife fight and a knife attack”. In the first case, “Two or more participants in a knife-armed battle”; In the second case, “The attacked is unarmed".


What is a knife attack?

It is worthwhile to have in our arsenal as many self-defense techniques as possible, for every possible scenario and type of knife attack. According to Mark Fesler (6th Dan in Krav-Maga), "Only the techniques you have practiced several times will be the techniques you will use naturally". When knife attacks in motion are characterized by the initial intention of the attacker to stab you at this moment. That is, he does not speak to you and he does not demand anything. In such a scenario you may have two options such as defending or escaping. When escape is not always possible ... we may be pushed into a corner or any other scenario where it is not possible to escape. In Police, studies have shown that "orderly retreat" is best, but turning your back and running, is an incorrect application tactic. The implication is that the attacker may be chasing us. What we offer is to find a way to retreat and not just run away, use every available object in the environment you are in, and make the escape a little more dignified. This may deter the attacker from pursuing. The implication is that the attacker may be chasing us. What we offer is to find a way to retreat and not just run away, use every available object in the environment you are in, and make the escape a little more dignified. This may deter the attacker from pursuing. If you can not escape you must fight and defend yourself. There are scenarios where before a physical attack a brief verbal conversation takes place between the attacker and a victim.


What is the time before a physical attack?

There are scenarios where before the physical struggle a verbal confrontation or some kind of threat takes place. This is usually the most recommended time to respond. Not to wait for the knife attack from the attacker, but to precede it and gain a strategic advantage. This of course requires practical training to carry out an instinctive attack. We recommend keeping an eye on the attacker's hands and trying to see if the attacker is hiding a hot or cold weapon. If you do not see his hands, uncertainty grows because you do not know what to expect from the attacker. For any scenario, whether it is a hot, cold weapon one must be prepared with instinctive movements, i.e. perform without thinking at the level of instincts and this requires practice in groups and with the couple. According to Mark Fesler (6th Dan in Krav-Maga), "There is more of a legal problem and it must be proven that there was a real danger and that you felt threatened".


What are knife protection strategies in combat?

A knife attack is considered by many professionals in this field to be the greatest nightmare. Self-defense from a knife attack is very difficult and there are high chances that some injury will occur even in the case of neutralizing the attacker. According to Mark Fesler (6th Dan in Krav-Maga), "Statistically, and according to the studies, not every knife attack ends in death". Israeli Krav-Maga is among the martial arts, that are focusing primarily on those scenarios. Acquiring effective technical tools for self-defense against a knife attack takes a long time, and there are no shortcuts. The only tips that can be given are to put some object between the knife and your body. That is, this object may be a chair, a bag, a trash can, or even a coat. You should make a supreme effort to take over the hand holding the knife. There are knife fight management strategies and tactics, meaning the way we attack and defend against the knife has a lot to do with the range we are in. As an example, when we are in ranges: intermediate and close while defending against a knife, we will have to use the empty hand to deceive, hit the opponent, and keep the distance. If we do not do this, we may be harmed. We usually prefer to be as far away from the knife as possible. If we are long in range, there is no need to use our empty hands to check that our opponent is far enough away from us. That is, there are three main ranges when it comes to combat applications with the knife.


What are the main ranges in knife protection?

Close knife range:

The attacker is closer to the victim than an outstretched hand. There may be a wall behind or a struggle on the floor. At knife threats close to our bodies, usually, the attacker wants something and uses the knife as a lever to get it. The knife defense techniques are very different from the knife attack techniques themselves. The defense techniques will begin with a submissive, obedient stance, to the message "I'm not looking for any problem." There will then be a quick response to the knife hand control with neutralization blows in vital body areas until the knife danger passes and the opponent can be taken over. Although there are scenarios where the main purpose of the attacker is to eliminate the attack, in this case, the chances of being hit are the highest, because you usually do not see a knife ... after all, it is hidden in the hand of a professional.


Intermediate knife range:

Our open hand can touch an opponent during the fighting when it is fully extended. This is a very dangerous situation for the attacked because the fight usually can't be avoided and the victim must defend himself using any technique at his disposal. Within this range the knife can reach any area of the attacked body, hence the instinctive response of the attacked is of great importance. First of all, identify the grip of the knife whether it is forward or reverse. It is immediately necessary to understand what kind of defensive strategy to use. After all, there is no time to isolate the hand in a shirt or coat ... unless the victim manages to take a scheduled kick that hurts the attacker's basic motor skills ... that is, the attacker's knee. This may give time to isolate the hand using the shirt and cope with a continuous attack by the opponent... or there is also a possibility to escape until the attacker recovers from a blow to the knee.


Long knife range:

Our empty hand is unable to touch the opponent when it is outstretched. In this scenario provided, we have identified the intention of the attacker, there may be time to step back to protect our hand in a shirt or jacket by wrapping around the forearm. Long knife range very quickly is reduced to an intermediate and near term, and again we are faced with identifying the intent of the attacker when in case of A - he is interested through threat to the life achieve a particular goal, or case of B - his purpose is to harm the victim, as a result, one must defend himself in every way possible. For people who mastered such scenarios, the chance of surviving the attack is several times higher than for a person who is unfamiliar with self-defense and gets into atomic pressure and at that moment loses the battle and lives.


What is a long Upper Knife Attack?

From above a long-range knife attack - is most common among the attacks carried out in terrorist incidents against civilians and security forces. The attacker uses one of two forms of reverse knife grip of the knife (with the blade out or in). When the main goal is to use all the body mass, strength, speed, and increasing acceleration to make a stab in the head, neck, and chest area of the victim. On the one hand, it is a deadly and powerful attack, and on the other hand, the victim has a very short period to respond to this scenario. Due to the nature of the stubbing, i.e. being long and reaching from above. To a person skilled in such scenarios, there is an ability to react instinctively. In Israeli Krav-Maga are several approaches to self-defense in similar scenarios. Approach A: Retreat if there is room and stay away from the first knife blow; Approach B: Using triangular steps step aside and let the knife pass; Approach C: Use your opposed forearm to the knife to perform handbrake i.e. the Filipino approach from "Cali" which requires high skill in moving the transferred knife. According to Mark Fesler (6th Dan in Krav-Maga), "I do not recommend using this technique In Krav-Maga". Let's go over all of these options in detail:


Approach A: Retreat if there is room and stay away from the first knife blow

In a long-range knife attack from above, there is a clear intention of the attacker to hit the victim (common in terror incidents), usually, the attacker is so quick that a person armed with a gun for that matter, cannot pull - aim and fire from 11 meters away when the attacker was detected. Consequently, empty-handed self-defense skill is of paramount importance in such events. Instinctive retreat backward if there is anywhere is of great importance to protecting with the forearm that is supposed to absorb the first blow with the knife. The protection can be a shirt, coat, or any fabric that can be wrapped around the forearm (cuts on the protective forearm are unavoidable). A person skilled in such scenarios instead of getting into stress, in a very short period learns the timing of knife attacks, and at the most appropriate moment performs a striving for contact with the attacker. When striving for contact can be through:

  • Option A: Yoko-Gary foot strike (side-kick) or Mae Geri foot strike (direct-kick), to stop the attacker's inertia by repelling. Also, these blows can be aimed at the attacker's knee to cause damage to his motor skills. Note: There is a danger when performing these kicks that the knife can injure the leg of the victim and the risk should be taken into account.

  • Option B: Stopping the knife through the forearm of the victim, it must be noted that this is very dangerous braking even for the skilled people in these scenarios. According to Mark Fesler (6th Dan in Krav-Maga), "In my opinion, this is a stopping blow and not braking". The strength, speed, and power of the knife when performing this stab is tremendous, and the knife can easily penetrate through the defense, slip on the forearm if it is straight and injure the body, one can simply miss the blow and then inevitably the hit of the knife is critical to the body areas. As a result, in these situations, it is not possible to be one hundred percent prepared, but the chance of survival can be increased through frequent training and self-defense material refreshes. The difference is life or death. According to Mark Fesler (6th Dan in Krav-Maga), "I do not think only braking works, I would recommend working on a neutralization blow along with the forearm and not risking just braking".

Approach B: Using triangular steps - Step aside and let the knife pass

In a long-range stabbing scenario, more skilled people strive for contact with the attacker through triangular steps and protection with the forearm opposite to the knife. When performing this technique, the timing of entry towards the attacker is critical meaning, do not enter, a millisecond before or after, meaning is death. There are in this technique the same warnings, similar to approach-A such that the blow may be missed or it may be slipped on the forearm. The meaning of a triangular step towards the attacker should place the victim in a better position in front of the attacker, i.e. at a 90-degree angle against the knife's blow trajectory. If the defense was performed correctly, then the knife should pass due to its inertia and the victim's forearm performs a backup provided that the defense was not performed perfectly. The victim's other hand during a triangular step performs neutralization blows to the attacker's jaw until he releases the grip of the knife and as a result, the knife can be unloaded using a powerful blow to his hand. Note: Performing this technique requires years of training and practice, preparation and mental stability, many exercises in pairs with high, medium height, low students, etc... And all this to cover all possibilities and be ready at the level of instincts, i.e. when the exercises are performed at the level of animal instinct. According to Mark Fesler (6th Dan in Krav-Maga), "I would have given priority to the Approach A".


Approach C: Common in "Kali" The transfer of the knife

Filipino Kali's approach to defenses against the knife is completely different from Israeli Krav-Maga's approach, and what does that mean? In a long-range stabbing incident in "Kali", it is customary to use the force and inertia of the attacking hand, by braking with the victim's folded wrist towards the outside of the forearm muscles (towards the elbow muscle) at an angle of up to 90 degrees. When, if the attack was carried out in the right hand of the attacker, then protection is carried out in the same hand of the victim. The goal behind this complicated technique is to capture the attacking hand at an angle of up to 90 degrees of the defending hand and then to transfer the knife (very dangerous) in a circular motion to the other side (i.e. to the same side of the defending hand). Later in the exercise, the wrist is taken over (the subject will be discussed in the following articles). When in Krav-Maga is not recommended application of the technique due to its complexity and high risk of injury. That is, mastery of the subject is required which is developed through years of training and practice. According to Mark Fesler (6th Dan in Krav-Maga), "I do not believe it can work under pressure, it is too complicated timing, and has the high risk of injury, both back, and forth".


What is the short and frequent Upper Knife Attack?

In this scenario, the attacker uses fast, agile, frequent, and shorthand movements to inflict as much damage as possible through multiple stab wounds to the attacked body (short-medium range). When the target of the attacker is not a specific organ but several random injuries into the body of the stabbed. This tactic is fatal and very difficult to detect because the stabbing was carried out in the short to medium term when the knife is usually hidden. In this attack, the chance of being hit by the first stab is very high because the victim is not ready to attack. But if the knife did not hit a vital organ in the body of the victim there is little chance of repelling the subsequent stabs if we are skilled and practiced in this kind of sudden attack. The goal is to stop the attacking hand with a knife that comes from above when there are several salient approaches:

  • Krav-Maga Approach - A: In braking with the forearm opposite to the knife. When the goal is with our opposite hand to perform neutralizing blows to the opponent's jaw until he lets go of the knife grip.

  • Krav-Maga Approach - B: A triangular step in the opposite direction of the attacking hand with the stopping of the knife using the forearm. When the goal is with our opposite hand to perform neutralizing blows to the opponent's jaw until he lets go of the knife grip. Krav-Maga approach, braking with the opposite forearm and locking the attacking hand with the other hand of the victim.

  • The "Kali" Approach - D: Is used to stop the attacking hand by the victim's wrist, folded towards the outer part of the forearm muscles (towards the extensor wrist muscle) at an angle of up to 90 degrees. When, if the attack was carried out in the right hand of the attacker, then protection is carried out in the same hand of the victim. The goal behind this complicated technique is to capture the attacking hand at an angle of up to 90 degrees of the defending hand and then to transfer the knife (very dangerous) in a circular motion to the other side (i.e. to the same side of the defending hand). Later in the exercise, the wrist is taken over (the subject will be discussed in the following articles).

Note: During our rotational movement in the opposite direction of the knife, it is imperative to slide our hand and grasp the hand with the attacker's knife. When in a conventional technique in a Krav-Maga, it is straightened and locked with the holding of the attacking hand with the knife. The danger passes when neutralization blows have affected and the knife can be unloaded from the attacker's hand using a powerful blow. In this scenario, cuts on the protective hand are inevitable, and it is at best.


Important future questions related to this article: In what form is better to hold a knife and when:

Forward Knife Grip Technique: Hammer?

Forward Knife Grip Technique Saber?

Forward Knife Grip Technique Modified Saber?

Forward Knife Grip Technique Filipino (Thumb on Spine)?

 

What types of training knives and protective equipment are used in Krav-Maga training?

It is very important to practice Krav-Maga using rubber training knives and even more important during training to wear appropriate protective equipment: such as glasses designed to protect the eyes; a body protector; a head-shield against receiving an unwanted blow. The following is a list of recommended equipment for knife defense studies in Israeli Krav-Maga:

  • Rubber knife.

  • Crotch shield.

  • Foot protectors.

  • Forearm Protectors.

  • Body protector.

  • head shield.

  • Mixed martial arts gloves.





What types of real assault knives exist?

Warning!: Real and dangerous combat knives have been attached below, do not use them for training purposes! Do not use them to intentionally hurt someone! They are for illustration only! That is, to recognize existing threats and be prepared for them! The following is a list of real attack knives for illustration only (there are dozens of different types of attack knives):

  • One size tactical knife.

  • Folding pocket knife.

  • Raptor Crabbit knife.

  • Damascus steel survival knife.





 

Summary of defenses against knife stabs from above

In this article, we have scanned several sources from the world of self-defense, Krav-Maga, in the context of stabbing a knife from above. When we focused on issues such as: what is a knife fight in reality and how important is it to be psychologically and physically prepared for this type of event; We have seen what it is like to attack knives in motion, and character and intent to harm an opponent; We have seen that in some cases there is a very short time before the attack, and how a skilled person can exploit it for self-defense; We went through knife defense strategies; The main ranges in knife protection; What is a long-range with several self-defense approaches; What is a frequent short stabbing from above and several approaches to self-defense; We also raised future questions about optimal knife grip shapes at such events; we saw some training and attack knives.

 

Written by Gil Peleg.

Professional consultant in Krav-Maga Mark Fesler.



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