Evading a knife

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Defence against a knife

A person only carries a weapon because they are afraid, and their intention in carrying the weapon is to promote fear in others.
In modern self defence you should expect your assailant to be carrying a blade. This is an unpleasant reality which you cannot afford to ignore.

Knife drills

Our lower grade training introduces the foundation exercises for 'playing the attacker'. Defence against a knife is offered later in the syllabus.

No promises

A knife is a very dangerous weapon to be faced with. We offer you no promises or guarantees. The best defence is not to be in the situation in the first place.
If you are caught unawares and have no choice but to defend yourself, do so with utmost care and ferocity.


Your mind must be silent and your instincts completely alert. Be present. Be composed. Be cautious. Make every movement count. Do not second-guess yourself.

Success is a variable

It is important to remember that there is no guarantee of success in a real life confrontation. Never underestimate the opponent. Lao Tzu's statement demonstrates the irony of weapons:

Weapons are the tools and instruments of fear.

(Lao Tzu)



Awareness is fundamental. If you blithely train your self defence with no consideration of a knife attack, then you leave yourself vulnerable and exposed.
Realistically you should expect your assailant to be armed. The way in which you use the tai chi must be carefully considered. A real knife is not a toy and it is not cool.


Your assailant can stab or slash in any number of ways and may not reveal the existence of the knife before they strike. It is important to evade, yield and withdraw.
Counter-action needs to be surgical and decisive; increasing your options whilst decreasing your opponent's.
Mistakes against an armed attacker are unwise; you are unlikely to get a second chance. Your best defence is the ability to identify the potential threat and keep your distance from it.

Types of weapon

Your assailant could be carrying any manner of knife. Some are very subtle and small, whilst others are more obvious (like a hunting knife).
Certain knives are designed to be concealed and then drawn stealthily - so you may not even see the weapon until it is potentially too late
Other weapons to be aware of: syringe, mace, sharpened screwdriver, dog lead or hammer.

Yielding/chin na

The yielding/chin na skills are called upon to evade the stabs and slashes of the blade. Yielding and circularity are paramount.
It is important that you do not attempt to block, grab or lock the knife-wielding limb. Keep the momentum going and avoid the blade. Do not hold your arm out - it is an invitation.


Countering a blade is somewhat different to punches, kicks and grapples.
A sharp knife only needs gentle contact in order to tear your skin. If you are in any way tense, it will make the skin far easier to cut. As your confidence and skill increases, you must close the distance.


Folding allows you to get much closer to the attacker without increasing your risk of injury. You can use folding to limit the available options and seal the joints.
Aim to crumple the attacker. The closer you are, the more you can use wardoff, stickiness and listening.


The ability to employ specific jing increases your ability to counter without commitment. Jing will project the attacking limb away or strike deep into the body without the need for a conventional strike.
This can have a disorienting and powerful effect upon the attacker.


Legs are not so easy to manipulate when your attacker has a knife but do not neglect them because of this. A well-timed leg sweep, hook, trip or strike can offer a distraction or an uproot.


Gravity striking can be used with all previous strategies. It also offers the means to significantly crumple the attacker by using well-timed blows.
We can only train this skill for short periods of time in class because it has some risk of injury.

Moral high ground

If one of our students were ever found to be carrying a knife, they would be immediately expelled from the school. There is no reason to be carrying a knife around with you.

Weapons are not toys

We do not teach people how to use a knife. We learn how to defend against it. We do not learn how to fight with knives.
If you see yourself as a knife fighter, then type knife wound into Google image search (with the Safe Search off) and take an unflinching look at the results.

school database

Page created 18 April 1995
Last updated 10 November 2023