Thoughts on Carrying a Knife

SpyderCo Knife

For years when I taught in Fresno, California, I carried a knife to school everyday. I put a safety pin in my upper right pocket so that my Spiderco clipit knife would hang invisibly, rather than profiling at the bottom of my pocket. I had decided that if I were ever assaulted by a student I was not going to go out without a fight.

My uncle Jimmy almost always carried a knife. Once he was in a restaurant when his wife took offense at something a waiter had done. “Let him have it, Jimmy!” she urged him.

“I can’t, I’m not carrying,” Jimmy replied referring to his knife.

“You don’t have to carry anything, just him him,” was her reply.

Fortunately Jimmy had enough sense not to start trouble.

I was talking with a prospective student today who said that he didn’t want to carry a knife. He had studied with someone, and I’ve seen those styles, whose style is knife-based. Some of these guys look very impressive, but there are problems.

These are the problems of knife carrying for self-defense, as I see them:

Are you really prepared to cut someone? Knife fighting is not pretty. I like to think that if my life were on the line, I could get very very ugly with a knife, but I realize that’s a hard threshold to cross.

If you have a knife, and they have a knife, the conflict is knife vs. knife, which is not much better than empty hand vs. knife. I don’t like those odds.

It is harder to do a non-lethal, less violent response. In my post the other day, my friend stopped a drunk roommate with a pair of nunchaku by hitting him in the groin. What would the outcome have been if my friend had stabbed his roommate in the groin? The legal ramifications of using a knife on someone are very serious, indeed.

The knife is a very effective weapon. You definitely should learn how to defend against it if necessary. But you should think long and hard before relying on the knife as your primary means of self-defense.


8 Responses to “Thoughts on Carrying a Knife”

  1. A knife is a weapon designed to cut things. Our stone age predecessors have known that. A knife will have difficulty dropping some one however. Tommy the felon says “I stabbed him four times… he got up ready to fight.”

    A knife will stop some one through severing tissue, shock, or killing them through blood loss. None of these really have a “non-lethal” approach.

    A big stick on the other hand can stop a man without running the risk of him dying immediately from blood loss. Mirko Cro Cop’s kick has been compared to a baseball bat hitting a slab of meat. He seems to take trained fighters fairly regularly. I know getting hit with a bat hurts bad. Blunt trauma is not something people can take for long

  2. Darrin Cook Says:


    The Thai boxing round kick is like a baseball bat strike, which is why for me Thai boxing is the empty-hand phase of Big Stick Combat –Thai boxing and the big stick operate under similar principles and are compatible with each other.

  3. Well if the Thai round kick is the bat of kicks. How about using hammerfist/forearm strikes as the “clubs” of empty hand striking? If you’ve studied any form of Kail/Arnis/Escrima, then you can substitute the sticks for your own “built-in clubs”. 🙂

  4. Hope he ain’t referring to me as “Tommy the felon”..LOL.
    If you carry a knife and the sh@t goes down you’ll be tempted to try and use it, especially if you’re on the receiving end. The legal justice system takes a very negative view of someone who uses an edged weapon in an altercation. If it is absolute life and death I say it is better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6, but you may be 100% in the right and still end up doing some time. Its a personal choice, and each of us walks our own paths. I would rather bust a guy up with my cane/ walking stick and have him explain why he was picking on an invalid than shank a guy over some pocket change and end up in Corcoran sharing a 6′ x 9′ with Charlie Manson.

  5. Rhino K Says:

    Hi buddy, I live in South Africa & we have a big knife culture over here. I carry pepper spray, knives[hissatsu fix blade & folder] & a kubatan. I use pepper spray & 1 of the other weapons together. I have been stabbed & have stabbed people. Our laws are not as strict as yours, which is a mixed blessing.

  6. First of all, great write up and excellent site. There are a lot of great ideas for self defense here and I’m going to subscribe via RSS.

    My work involves using knives extensively. My friends always ask for my recommendation for a “self defense knife” and I usually tell them how a knife can work to their disadvantage if they ever had to draw it defensively. Now I am going to email them this article to give them a better idea as to what I am talking about.

  7. first of all,i’m a french student,so PLEASE do not take care of the quality of my english,which is of course worse than yours…
    I’ve readed what you have said about knife and,well…sorry but I disagree: fighting with a knife is not ugly: i depends of the way you are using it…of course if you are targetting the guy directly in his face,he will dye!but with a knife you are still able for example to cut take his weapon out,to menace his vitals without hiting him…that way you are dissuasive enough without spilling blood,and that is not possible with a stick(i’m fighting with a bo till years,i know what i’m saying)because people are scared of knife,and sometimes more than they are scared of guns.
    I do not know anything about your life,but think that making a student pissing himself while scaring him ‘rambo_style” with a knife is easyer than scaring him with a stick…and i know and you are right:a stick is more effective(‘l’allonge” in french:it is longer than a knife:mid distance fight is better)).
    it’s only my opinion,and i’m glad to read other opinions.

    • Vignez,

      Thanks for responding.

      I think you make a good point, that people hesitate to rush someone with a knife. I’ve mentioned this in my posts on espada y daga (stick and knife). A lot of the traditional techniques involve closing in on someone with a knife and trying to tie him up. While these techniques look pretty when they’re demonstrated, I think in real life a person will hesitate to close on someone with a knife, and if you could overcome your instinctive fear and try to tie up someone with a knife, it would be foolish.

      I just think that in those rare occasions when you get a determined knife attacker, the ending is not going to be pretty, even if you do end up “winning,” especially if it’s empty hand versus knife or knife versus knife.

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