About that knife in your pocket...

Knives are in nearly everyone’s pocket these days. While few people will admit they hope to save themselves from assault by having a knife with them, many folks trust in that belief. The reality can be much more grim.

Have you seen the tv ad with ordinary people walking around and a banker right behind them with his hand in their pocket? Choosing to carry a knife for self defence can be like walking around with a gorilla behind you and his hand wrapped around your neck. One false move and the gorilla is squeezing, growling and shaking you like a rag doll.

Instruction is available in print and on visual media on the many ways martial artists believe to be the best way to cut someone, to save your life of course. A close scrutiny of what these often well meaning folks are selling will quickly show that some of what they teach is against assault and bodily harm laws of many jurisdictions.

Therefore it is imperative that before arming yourself with a knife for self defence purposes, you talk to a lawyer about the related laws in your jurisdiction. But if you decide to go ahead with this choice of action, here are a few of the tips I offer in my class to prepare for the use of a knife in self defence:

1. Get your life in order. If you kill someone, your life as you know it will end. If you wound someone, your life as you know it will change. This will be true even if it was a necessity for you to kill to save your own life.

People have asked me if it isn’t better to be alive anyway -and they always have a friend who did such and such and nothing happened.

Well, of course, but the whole premise of self defence is to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Part of “the worst” is that pesky gorilla, the aftermath of dealing with the court system and the social consequences.

Choose someone to take your place in the family as you will be displaced by circumstance for a long time. How will your absence affect your spouse and children? Will your boss be understanding about charges or do your employers have a good behaviour policy where you can be fired on the spot for bringing disrespect upon the company?

2. Make sure that the family income is secure as your ability to earn money may be seriously impaired for a long time by trials, lawyer meetings, stress or incarceration. The cost of defending yourself, even if you are innocent of the charges, is enormous. Do you have the resources or will you plead out just to avoid the costs?

3. Get a lawyer versed in self defence and criminal law, before you start to carry. If you trust in a public defender, you will be toasted. If you start hunting for the right one while sitting in a cell, the need to get representation quickly may fail you in the crunch. Prepare carefully and be meticulous in following your lawyers advice.

4. Prepare mentally. If you are not prepared to lose your family, the family home, your kids and dog, you will hesitate when the time comes to enter life and death combat rather than any other option. Making the decision ahead of time in quiet discussion with your spouse about what you value most and what you are willing to die for, is essential to the peace of mind of combat.

As the Samurai put it, "You must be dead to them."
because "she who hesitates is lost…"

Survivors of horribly traumatic violence often exhibit symptoms much like military post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Being prepared mentally and spiritually ahead of that day, goes a long way in minimizing the life debilitating effects of violence that you have survived.

5. Learn how to talk to the police
about what they need to hear to decide self defence on your part. You need to know also what the DA needs to hear. Don’t practice a speech, as that would indicate that you are premeditating violence.

As my friend, Darren Laur, (a serving law enforcement professional and Founder and head instructor of Personal Protection Systems) wrote to me:

"For some time I have been concerned that people are setting themselves up for legal trouble needlessly in the area of self defence. Sometimes people are in trouble for actions they had a legal right to perform but they were inarticulate before the police or a judge. Other times they didn’t know the legal limits they were under.”

(Darren graciously alllowed me to use this quote as a testimonial in my book: Canadian Law and Self Defence.)

The ability to articulate why you behaved the way you did, what the other guy did that triggered your fears that caused your self defensive reaction and the weight of the threat you perceived is an important skill.

6.  And finally, get some plastic bags. Fill one with urine, one with blood and one with fresh feces. Tape them to a tall cardboard box. Attack the box like you would a daughter raper, or any other bad guy of your choice.

Slam into it, stab the hell out of it, knock it over and roll on top of it and all the time, slash and stab the box and the bags until the box is dead. Until someone pulls you off the mess. Go puke and cry. Then get over it.

Also, get some first aid for your hand because the blood and crap on your knife made the handle slippery and you slid down onto the blade, cutting the tendons in your fingers. Don’t forget the tetanus shot and aids test.

I rather doubt that you will actually do this but if the picture I painted grosses you out, think how repulsive it will be if a jury gets to see pictures of the real thing.

Have you ever seen a knife fighting or how to use a knife to survive video? All very technical and sanitary wasn’t it? Even if meat is cut, there was no blood or innards falling all over, was there? Don’t bet you will cut Mr. Bad Guy here and maybe there and he will fall down and you will quickly run away…don’t bet on it at all.

This essay is not against the decision to carry a knife. That is a personal decision based upon personal values. Just make sure they are considered values and thoughtful choices. I teach knife work and I encourage students to be pro-active about weapons.

But I am against the ivory tower - practice the theoretical but ignore the reality - of a lot of current knife fad stuff of just cut here, then cut there and then insert tip here, and the only consequences are you win! Hurray!!

If a student can talk about knives, she / he knows how to cut someone with one. What they now need is mental preparation without divorcing the whole business from the reality of the consequences and the horror.

If you cut someone with your knife, you cut two lives. If you kill someone with your knife, you kill two lives. So be it.