Preparing for an unarmed knife or machete attack is something most of us law-abiding citizens just don’t think about in our usual daily routines. This may sound like it’s supposed to happen somewhere else, but we have to face the facts—it’s happening everywhere, and you need to prepare now before you are chosen as the next victim of an aggravated assault. Today, statistics say you have a one in seven chance of this type of encounter happening sometime during your lifetime. Luckily, you can survive this situation by learning a simple step-by-step defense maneuver.

“When you see a bladed weapon, expect to get cut,” said U.S. Marine Corps veteran, anti-terrorism security team member and weapons expert JD Shelley. “The big difference in how badly will depend on how you react. And that depends on your preparation and training.”

So let’s get you prepared.

Strike & Escape

First, think “Look up and look around.” To make yourself less of an easy target, you need to be more aware of your surroundings as you go through your daily routine. We are all in a hurry, and this rush forces us to lose perspective of the environment around us. Remember, criminals hate it when you pay attention.

Second, think “Move and dominate.” Don’t comply and become an easy victim. Your mindset has to switch into domination mode where you turn the tables on your assailant and take control of the weapon, which will better your odds of getting home safe to your loved ones. To start off, let’s assume you are unarmed and the attacker surprises you from the rear with a regular knife grip (called the saber grip) to your throat.

Step 1: Grab the attacker’s knife arm firmly with both hands, pulling the weapon arm down to create space between the blade and your neck. Maintain control by pinning his arm to your chest. At the same time, lower your hips and your center of gravity in a wide stance to gain stability.

Step 2: It’s time to escape out the “backdoor.” Raise your right elbow up, creating a hole where you will step back through with your left foot. This allows you to pop out under the aggressor’s right arm.

Step 3: Slide your left arm under the attacker’s weapon arm and “snake it” around his to lock his elbow and put shoulder pressure down with your right arm. This will force the aggressor to bend forward in pain.

Step 4: Dominate your attacker and the situation by creating “justifiable damage.” In this case, you would utilize your surroundings by face-planting him into a car bumper. Another finishing option is to bring your right knee to his face while he’s bent over. Either way, you want to give this thug enough pain to disorient him, so you can get away safely and call the authorities for help.

Ready To Defend

Remember, this is all going to happen very quickly, typically in less than six seconds. You can prepare by practicing this lesson safely at home by envisioning this situation happening to you and building muscle memory by moving through these four steps in the air. Repeat this until you get it down. Ask a friend or family member to help you practice. This will help develop the neuromuscular imprints that your body will follow and react to when this happens because you trained beforehand. The worst thing to do is to panic and freeze. This is when you get hurt. If you want to, use a practice blade or other non-sharp object to replicate a knife.

Always use extreme caution during training, and never use a real knife as a practice tool.

Prepare now so that you’re not the next person on the news who had an unfortunate or deadly encounter. You owe it to yourself and especially your loved ones who count on you as their protector. You can start your defense prep by finding a good local expert teaching non-sport-style close combat. For more information, visit

This article was originally published in the SURVIVOR’S EDGE™ Spring 2016 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.

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