We spoke with Patrick Vuong, founder of Tiga Tactics, about how his...
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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.
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:
Every advantage brings with it disadvantages. Below are drawbacks to be aware of when using a folding knife for defense.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.