WARNING!
The concepts shown here are for illustrative purposes only. Seek professional training from a reputable instructor before attempting any techniques discussed or shown in this story.

Social collapse brings many problems. Thirst and hunger will slowly kill, but violence can end life in a heartbeat. It may be a gangbanger looking for an easy target, a bandit who likes your expensive-looking MultiCam bug-out bag, or one of the many unprepared souls who blocks your path because a disaster left him desperate. Threats come in 1,001 different flavors. How violence is served up is difficult to predict.

Naturally, having a force multiplier in the way of a firearm is highly desirable. Alas, we’re not always so lucky. There may be many reasons why a firearm may not be available outside the home (if at all). The most common one is simply that the majority of U.S. citizens (94.8 percent to be exact, according to Crime Prevention Research Center) don’t have a permit to carry a concealed handgun.

Enter the ubiquitous and humble everyday carry (EDC) knife.

We already know many of you carry a folding knife, because besides coming in handy as a cutting instrument and potential survival tool, a folder can be used as a deadly weapon. Hence, we’re delving into what it really means to carry, deploy, and use a blade — especially when SHTF. Whether you’re an experienced knife handler looking for a review of fundamentals or a prepper adding to your self-defense arsenal, you’ll find helpful, and possibly life-saving, information here.

Gain an Edge

Having a folding knife as part of your EDC is a no-brainer. Folding knives can give you the following advantages over other self-defense weapons:

  • Good Things Come in Small Packages: Because the blade can fold, overall size is reduced, resulting in a comfortable and easy-to-carry package. This means you’re more likely to have it with you.
  • Socially Acceptable: Folding knives are like Starbucks — you can’t go anywhere in the USA without spotting one in spitting distance. Even in “nanny states” like New York and California, you’ll find thousands and thousands of people carrying folders. They’re so ubiquitous that they won’t attract undue attention.
  • Multitask: Some folders come with a seatbelt cutter, glass-breaker, or other features a fixed blade can’t provide.
  • Affordable: There are high-quality knives out there for a song. Even imported blades can be of high quality.
  • Widely Distributed: Knives can be purchased at any sporting goods stores and big-box stores like Walmart.
  • No License Required: Unlike for a concealed carry firearm, you need no license or special training to carry a folder.
  • Quiet: Firearms are loud. Not looking to let everyone in a ½-mile radius know your location? Use a knife.
  • Never Runs Out of Ammo: Knives can slice and puncture repeatedly without reloading, jamming, or going dry.
The Benchmade 808, right, and the Emerson CQC-15 are high-quality, everyday-carry knives that are also serious self-defense tools.

The Benchmade 808, right, and the Emerson CQC-15 are high-quality, everyday-carry knives that are also serious...

Drawback

Every advantage brings with it disadvantages. Below are drawbacks to be aware of when using a folding knife for defense.

  • Butter Fingers: Opening some blades requires fine-motor control, which can deteriorate quickly during a fight. Consistent practice is required to successfully deploy your blade during a SHTF scenario.
  • Slippery Grip: Without realistic training performed under pressure, the odds of acquiring a secure grip is greatly reduced. Have you ever practiced your draw while a training partner swings a crowbar full speed at your head? Trust us, it’s not as easy as you think. Also, a poor grip can lead to improper opening or, worse yet, to dropping the knife entirely. Add in rain, snow, or gloves, and things get dicey very quickly. Luckily, these issues can be mitigated with regular practice.
  • Fold Failure: Even with a sturdy locking mechanism (like a lock-back or frame-lock), there’s no guarantee that the knife won’t fold on you when in use. If the locking mechanism isn’t fully engaged, the knife can fold up like cheap lawn furniture and ruin your day really fast.
  • Breaker, Breaker: Folding knives have moving parts whereas fixed blades don’t. The extra joint is where the folder can fall apart. Screws can come loose, springs can wear out, and locking mechanisms can fail.
  • No Sheath: There’s always a safety concern when carrying a folder, because the blade is really not sheathed. If the blade is accidentally opened just a few degrees, there’s more than enough exposed blade to cut flesh when reaching for the folder. This concern is especially relevant with the tip-up carrying method (discussed later) or with automatic and pocket-opening knives.
  • Close-Quarters Weapon: Having a knife is definitely a step above going at it empty-handed. However, it’s not a lightsaber or a magic wand. Using the knife effectively against multiple opponents or against another weapon requires proper training to come out on top in any life-or-death encounter.

Carry On

It used to be that a folding knife was called a pocket knife because it was carried in the, well, pocket. (Some people with the money would kit up with a belt-attached pouch.) It wasn’t until 1981 that knife manufacturer Spyderco reportedly became the first to introduce the clothing clip into the designs of its knives. With a simple, yet ingenious little clip, folders can now be “clipped” in a variety of static positions. This allowed for easy carry and hereafter, the modern folding knife freed itself from the atrocities of pocket lint.

The Tipping Point

There are other locations to clip a knife, but for realistic self-defense, front-pocket carry and appendix carry are your best bets.

Carrying the knife with the blade tip up or tip down is something else to consider. Both carrying methods come with risks and rewards. Tip-down carrying with the blade toward the front is considered safer. When reaching to draw the knife in this position, you won’t be meeting the business end of the blade, if it accidently opens. “Safety first” is the motto of the tip-down camp. The downside is that it’s difficult to acquire a full grip on the handle when drawing the blade. Plus, you’ll have to readjust your grip before you can open the blade, so that the business side of the blade points away from you.

Carrying tip up with the blade to the rear gives a more solid purchase on the handle, making your draw-stroke smoother and more reliable. The shortcoming of this carrying method comes into play if the blade accidentally opens a few degrees (which can happen) — then the only thing you’ll be drawing is your own blood. If carrying tip up is your preference, reduce the chances of meeting the pointy end of the blade by seating the knife to the rear of the pocket. This will place the spine of the blade against the seam of the pocket, keeping the folder closed.

At the end of the day, the location of the clip and the design of the knife will often determine tip-up or tip-down carry. Some knives feature configurable clips, but others have fixed clips and must be carried the way they were manufactured. The majority of these pre-clipped knives are offered in the tip-down carry position.

The tip-up carry positions are often seen in knives with a catch or hook on the spine of the blade — think Emerson Knives’ “wave-shaped opening feature.” The hook or wave is designed to catch on the posterior of the pocket and opens the knife as you pull it out. [Editor’s note: For more on pocket-opening knives, see Issue 24 of our sister publication, RECOIL.] No matter the carry method, regular practice (of drawing, slashing, and stabbing) will keep your knife skills sharp.

Get a Grip

Gripping a knife is similar to gripping a firearm — you want as much surface area of your hand on the frame. While there are many variations, including reverse grip, beginners should focus on these two when using a folder: the hammer grip and the saber grip.

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Hammer Grip: Just as it sounds, grab the knife like you’re gripping a hammer. Keep the wrist straight and get as much thumb on the frame as possible. This gives you the strongest purchase on the handle, making it the preferred grip of many knife users.

However, an increase in stability means a decrease in mobility. You’ll sacrifice reach and agility during cutting and stabbing motions.

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Saber Grip: It looks similar to the hammer grip, but the pad of the thumb rests on the spine of the blade. Some knives have a small rise and with jimping (ridges) at the base of the spine to accommodate the saber grip. The wrist will slightly bend down (AKA ulnar flexion). A variation of the saber grip that’s popular among martial artists is the Filipino grip, which places the entire thumb on as much of the blade spine as possible; achieving this grip properly is dependent on whether the blade’s spine is completely straight.

The saber grip allows for a longer reach during cutting and stabbing. For many, this is a more natural grip. The disadvantage of this grip is that, with the thumb on the blade’s spine, more handle is visible. The result is reduced grip stability.

Folder Access Denied

Don’t be fooled. Drawing a knife during a violent encounter is no easy task. Trying to deploy a folding knife at the wrong time during a sh!t storm is a recipe for disaster. The following are situations in which whipping out your blade will lead to serious repercussions.

When the Threat is Immediate: Only deploy your weapon (whether blade or firearm) when you have enough space and distance between you and your assailant. How much space and distance? As much as possible. If a bad guy is within arm’s reach, the situation can go sideways in a blink, as your attention and hand are focused on drawing your tool rather than on the incoming attack. If the thug is too close or already on top of you, your first option should be to slow or neutralize the threat with your empty-hand skills before reaching for the weapon. The reality is empty-hand fighting skills are necessary in many situations.

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Here Conrad Bui makes the mistake of drawing the knife while the bad guy is already within touching distance.

Here Conrad Bui makes the mistake of drawing the knife while the bad guy is already within touching distance.

It’s Flipping Dangerous

Every prepper, hiker, and soldier knows that ounces equal pounds and pounds equal pain. So if you’re forced to go up SHTF creek without a paddle, the fewer but more functional the tools, the better. An EDC knife can serve many purposes in a crisis scenario, and chief among them is self-defense.

Any way you cut it (pun intended!), a folding knife is a deadly weapon. Only use your blade in a confrontation when your life is in danger, and when you’re willing to take another life to save your own or that of your loved ones. (See sidebar “Closed for Business” for use of non-lethal force.) No matter if you pocket carry or appendix carry, if you carry tip up or tip down, getting the correct training and regular practice is paramount in using your knife to save your life.

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Conrad Bui has no time to draw his weapon when Michael Guadamuz goes for a choke. He buys time by eye jabbing and controlling Guadamuz before drawing his weapon. Bui keeps the blade closed and uses the handle to attack the groin. Then he executes a takedown followed by a butt-end strike to the face.

Conrad Bui has no time to draw his weapon when Michael Guadamuz goes for a choke. He buys time by eye jabbing and...

Front-Pocket Carry

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When utilizing the clip, there are two major carry positions, front pocket and appendix. Both positions are solid locations for a folder. Clipping your knife to the front pocket (on the side of your dominant hand), is the most common way to carry.

Pros:

  • Pocket carry places your tool in a location where your hand naturally hangs when you’re standing. This helps make it faster on the draw than other positions.
  • Clothes (like shirts and jackets) aren’t in the way of the draw-stroke. This helps reduce the “Oh fudge!” factor when deploying the weapon quickly.

Cons:

  • The clip, and oftentimes part of the handle, is visible. An attacker can prepare to immobilize your dominant side or look to take the knife away.
  • A clipped blade can be lifted rather easily in a crowded setting. A few bumps here and there, and the knife is gone. This will suck a lot if you spent a few C-notes on your blade.
  • Sitting, squatting, lifting, and bending can cause the knife to shift and become dislodged from the pocket. Also, reaching into the pocket for a wallet or loose change can unseat the knife and cause it to fall out inadvertently.

Appendix Carry

folding-knife-with-front-appendix-carry-clip

Also known as front-waistband carry, this method involves clipping the knife behind the front waistband, and angled along the line of the inguinal fold (angled toward the groin). The knife (depending on the carrier’s build) will be located at the 1 or 2 o’clock position if you’re right-handed or 10 or 11 o’clock if you’re a southpaw.

Pros:

  • With the knife positioned more centrally, both hands will have access to the weapon — the greatest advantage of the appendix carry method. This lets you draw with your support hand even if your dominant hand is injured, grabbed by the bad guy, or busy (e.g. shielding a loved one or holding a child).
  • The appendix carry is almost impossible to detect if it’s concealed by an untucked shirt. Going stealth gives you the element of surprise against a bad guy and will draw less attention from people who are uncomfortable around weapons.
  • It’ll be pretty obvious if a thief is trying to swipe your blade because his hand has to reach much closer to your naughty bits.

Cons:

  • There’s a good chance your shirt will cover your knife in this position, requiring an extra movement to clear the shirt before drawing the knife.
  • The location might not work for all body types. If you’re lugging a spare tire above your beltline, this carrying method will be uncomfortable and difficult.
  • Is it legal in your area? Concealed-carry laws can vary by jurisdiction, so check your local, county, and state laws for compliance.

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Here the author demonstrates the advantages of appendix carry as Michael Guadamuz grabs Bui's dominant hand. Bui turns his right hand over, locking Guadamuz just long enough to draw with his support hand. This move is difficult to perform with front-pocket carry.

Here the author demonstrates the advantages of appendix carry as Michael Guadamuz grabs Bui’s dominant hand. Bui...

Closed for Business

Pulling out your knife doesn’t mean you must expose the blade. The blade is a deadly weapon and using the blade to cut should be reserved only for deadly encounters. Keeping the blade closed and using the handle as a pocket stick (AKA kubotan or yawara) is one advantage a folder has over a fixed blade. There are situations where a less lethal alternative should be used: You may have more buddies with you or the attacker may be smaller than you, intoxicated, or just having a bad day. In these situations, you may want to keep your folder closed, using it as a blunt tool instead.

  • How: To use your folder as a pocket stick, simply grasp the handle and cap the end with your thumb. You will use the weapon like a hammer, with the butt-end of the handle sticking out. Be extra careful if your knife has a glass breaker at the end, because this will cause more trauma. Raise your weapon up to your face level and drop the butt-end either straight down or at a 45-degree angle with a hammering motion. Make sure to put your body weight behind the strikes for power.
  • Where: Target the bony areas of the body with these strikes. The temple, jaw, collarbone, and carpal bones on top of the hand make excellent targets.
  • When Your Life Is Not at Stake: If you use a knife on someone, it should be for true emergencies only. Cutting up someone just because they pointed a finger at your chest or threatened to beat you up (but haven’t done anything) is not justified. Not only will you have to deal with your own conscience, you’ll have to explain yourself to the police and the courts.
  • To Threaten Someone: When you draw your knife, it should be to cut. Don’t draw your knife to threaten because, aside from possible legal ramifications, this will give away your tactical advantage. Sure, your blade may scare someone off, but it could just as well escalate the confrontation as well.

Defanging the Snake

Your life is in danger, the blade is out, and you need to use it. Now what? For this we look to the tactic of “defanging the snake.” This principle, borrowed from the Filipino fighting art of kali, is simple: When a weapon or fist comes at you, simply attack the flesh that’s closest. Anytime a close-range weapon comes at you, there’s a hand attached to that weapon and an arm attached to that hand. Move your body part that is being attacked (most likely the head or torso) out of the way of the strike, and slash or stab away at the closest target, most likely the attacker’s hand or arm.

Aim at cutting the inner side of the wrist and forearm. This is where the tendons used to flex the fingers are found. With the tendons on the inside of the wrist or forearm cut, it’s difficult for the attacker to grip a weapon or make a fist. If the cut is high up the arm, the brachial artery might be severed and death could result in minutes.

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Michael Guadamuz looks to aerate his victim with a thrust to the gut. The author demonstrates the tactic of

Michael Guadamuz looks to aerate his victim with a thrust to the gut. The author demonstrates the tactic of...

About the Author

Dr. Conrad Bui is a San Francisco-based chiropractor with more than 30 continuous years of practice in the martial arts. He has “street” experience as a former bar bouncer and competitive experience in Tae Kwon Do, Muay Thai, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He is also a certified instructor in silat, kali, and kuntao.


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