Some dude gets in your face. You’re bigger, stronger, and (probably) better trained than your opponent. No problem, you think to yourself. I can take this guy.
You parry his first strike, close the distance, and move in ready to drop him. He lands a couple of blows to your ribs, but they aren’t terribly hard. You knee him and he drops, which is when you notice the blood streaming from your torso.
What you didn’t know before is that he just stuck you with a knife; now you’re bleeding out and are in big trouble.
Here’s a video that shows what an exchange like this might look like…
Many people who have been attacked with knives report that they didn’t notice getting stabbed at first. They thought they were in a fist fight, and the thud of the knife hitting them felt like a punch, in the adrenalin-soaked heat of combat. Only later did they discover they had been stabbed.
Depending on where you get stabbed, finding out later could be too late.
Assume Everyone Is Armed
Basically, you have to assume that anyone you are fighting is armed. Knives are the most common concealed weapon. From the dickhead at the bar to the homeless junkie with his shopping cart, they are easily concealed and more people carry them than you might think.
The type of guy who wants to pick a fight with you is a bad guy and is probably armed.
Apart from knives, syringes, and broken bottles, even items like hammers can be concealed and used against you. There are many ways these objects can be hidden, so learn to watch for them.
Always Watch the Hands
If you can’t see your opponent’s hand, you should assume there is a weapon in it. If his arms are crossed, he may be carrying something in the hand tucked under his arm. If he approaches you at an angle, with one shoulder toward you and one behind him, you better be highly alert.
Even if the knife isn’t in his hand, there are many ways it can be carried on the body. The most common is a folding knife on the belt of course. There are ways to conceal one in the small of the back, and on chains around the neck, hidden under a shirt. Other carries include pockets and boots.
(We covered a bunch of examples of these hidden carries in our knife awareness video on Youtube).
You can train your awareness skills by scanning people you pass on the street or are standing close to around the water cooler. Can you see both their hands? Are they empty? Is there one hand hanging back behind the thigh? Even if you can see both hands, the knife may be palmed behind a closed fist. Has he got his hand in his pocket?
Maintain Your Range and Be Ready to Run
If for any reason you cannot see both hands and be sure they are empty, you should maintain extra range when engaging your opponent. If he is approaching you, or standing in front of you having a dispute, make sure you are more than arm’s length away from him. It takes very little time for a concealed knife to come lunging at you, and the blade increases your attacker’s reach.
You should be constantly scanning the face and each hand of your opponent, and if a hand disappears or your opponent takes a sudden step toward you, then you’d better jump backwards.
No matter what your training is, if you see a knife coming at you, your first, best option is to run, and you want to make sure you’ve got enough distance between you for a good head start!