The Evolving Threat Of Knife Attacks – A Peril On Our Streets!!

By June 16, 2018 Newsfeed No Comments


Citizens must learn that responding to the dangers of a knife attack begins long before they are staring into the cold, lifeless eyes of a knife or machete-wielding attacker. They must accept that the world is a dangerous place and adopt the survival mindset. One in which they recognise that they are ultimately responsible for their own safety.

The constant knife, swords and machete attacks in the United Kingdom that have left many dead and others critically injured — adds great credence to the fact that we are facing an ever-escalating threat that challenges both law enforcement and private citizens around the globe.

The fact is that lone wolves and small cells require far less planning, are more difficult to detect and can execute these types of attacks with little skill or training.

Traditional knives, swords, machetes, ice picks and other edged and pointed weapons have historically been overlooked as a potential threat to public safety because they are so common in our daily lives.

We use them every day in the kitchen and for a variety of tasks around the house and at work. We see many people carrying pocket knives for a variety of purposes, which desensitizes society to the risks they pose.

As if criminal acts with knives or the numerous random knife attacks and mass stabbings we have seen in the last several years aren’t enough, the emerging threats of knife attacks as the basic weapon of choice by a terrorist is a real paradigm shift that should scare you into preparation!

Let’s take a quick look at a few of the knife-related attacks in the last several years (and a good deal of this does not include street crimes) around the globe:

  • Mass knife attack Franklin Regional High School Murrysville, Pennsylvania, 21 students wounded – 2014.
  • Kunming Railway Station attack in China – March 2014.
  • University of Calgary 5 killed in knife attack – April 2014
  • The wave of terror known as the “knife Intifada” in Israel starting in early September 2015 with 217 Israeli casualties.
  • University of California, Merced stabbing spree – Nov 2015
  • Chicago mass stabbing leaves 6 dead – Feb 2016
  • New York City (NYPD ) 900 slashings, stabbings last year alone! April 2016
  • Mass stabbing in Anaheim, California – June 2016
  • 19 people killed and 26 injured in a stabbing spree near Tokyo – July 2016
  • Swiss train attack in August 2016.
  • Russell Square knife attacker in Central London August 2016.
  • Nine injured in terror-related knife attack in Minnesota mall – Sept 2016
  • Mass knife attack at a Texas college – May 2017
  • Egypt attack at a hotel – July 2017.
  • NYC subway knife attacks – Sept 2017
  • 40,000 offences involving a knife or sharp instrument in England and Wales 2017 and 1,296 stabbings in London unto April 2018 according to Met reports (massive surge!)
  • London Harrow, Northolt, and Brixton, 3 stabbings in separate incidents. June 2018

 Sounds Like Open Season On Private Citizens Around The Globe?

The current threat level indicates the existing trend is going to get much worse. One of the challenges faced as experts in Anti-Knife Terrorism and Crime is getting people to understand the pure dangers of a knife. If you think knife attacks look like those typically seen in a martial arts class, you are unaware and unprepared!

Real knife attacks involve an element of surprise, distraction and a blur of a quick series of stabs and slashes that are going to overwhelm your senses and your ability to respond.

Even in untrained hands, an attacker’s movements will paralyze your rational thought and make it practically impossible for you to defend yourself. And an experienced attacker will move very quickly with a flurry of slashes and stabs to your limbs so you have no chance of stopping them from targeting your vitals such as your heart, throat, neck, eyes, head and other major organs such as your liver and kidneys.

You may have some level of training in which you were taught to “ax” block the knife or grab the hand holding the knife. But these tactics will do nothing more than make you vulnerable and expose more targets for the attacker to strike.

Criminals Often Use Tactics To Appear Non-Threatening

And what about those who live in countries where they are legally allowed to carry a concealed firearm? This inevitably comes up at every workshop we have ever done, whether it is to law enforcement, military or concerned citizens. They say, “Jeff, David, I carry concealed and know how to press the trigger. I’m not worried because I will not hesitate to shoot them.”

That may sound good in theory, but there are a number of issues surrounding the employment of a firearm in dealing with an edged-weapon attack, and that does not even include considerations should you manage to deploy the weapon and incapacitate the attacker.

Always integrate instinct and decision making to seize or create opportunities to defend efficiently and intelligently

Remember, a knife is a point-of-contact weapon. So, an attacker will need to close the gap between the two of you in such a way that you will be unaware of the vicious plan.

An attacker typically does this in a manner that will seem unobtrusive and innocuous. They know they have to appear non-threatening so you won’t run or call for help or have a chance to draw a weapon.

A common tactic used by perpetrators is the pretence of asking questions. This normally works, and always rarely seem to set off any alarm bells because most people are kind and want to help others.

Some questions typically asked to get in close proximity are:

  1. “Do you have the time?”
  2. “I seem to be lost. Can you give me directions?”
  3. “My car broke down. Can I borrow your cell phone to make a call to my family?”
  4. “Do you have a cigarette/or a lighter?”
  5. “Excuse me, ma’am/sir, I think you dropped this.” … an obvious distraction that catches your attention, as you want to see what you could have dropped

Assuming you have a handgun and the attacker is now well within your “sterile zone” (that 5-foot invisible radius we all draw around ourselves). The challenge then is getting yourself or your concealed firearm out when an attacker is literally two feet from you.

When an assailant is within your sterile zone enough to touch you, they can very quickly launch any number of tactics that could foil your ability to defend your space, deploy your weapon, including grabbing your hand that goes for your firearm while stabbing you with their knife.

Many police officers have been severely injured or killed with a knife, unable to draw their weapon in time to ward off these types of attacks.


No matter the mode of the attack, there are four critical principles you must enact to effectively deal with a knife attack and mitigate the risk.

They are:

  • Identify the threat as quickly as possible
  • Deflect (Redirect or Move)
  • Disrupt (Cause pain to the attacker)
  • Neutralize (Do whatever it takes to stop or disable the attacker)

Five other things concerned citizens can do to mitigate the threat of a knife-wielding attacker:

  1. Concerned citizens need to be aware of the presence of knives and other edged weapons to reduce the delay in their reaction times. Unlike shooting a firearm, slashing and stabbing with a knife is a primitive action that the perpetrator can execute in seconds.
  2. Responding to the dangers of a knife attack begins long before they are staring into the cold, lifeless eyes of a knife or machete-wielding attacker. Recognise that you are ultimately responsible for their own safety.
  3. Once you accept the possibility of being targeted at any time and any place, you must then adopt and practice a keen sense of situational awareness as you move about your daily routines.
  4. As a society, we need to band together and adopt a “group reliance” mentality to help level the playing field in regards to these knife-wielding hostiles.
  5. Get proper life-saving training to prepare for this potentially lethal encounter!

Knife attacks are violent, fatal and unpredictable. With the proper training (with and without a weapon) and awareness, your odds of surviving such a horrific encounter increase significantly.

I strongly suggest you come up with a plan and rehearse that plan in the event you are ever faced with a knife or machete-wielding attacker set on harming you or your family.

David Otto, (Counter Terrorism and Organised Crime Expert, Certified Master Anti Terrorism Specialist) and Dr. Jeff Cantor, (High-Risk Environment Close Quarter Combat Instructor and Kidnap & Ransom Response Specialist) offer comprehensive training workshops and seminars in Anti-Knife Terrorism and Crime for groups, NGO’s, corporations, private citizens and law enforcement.

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