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Nine Essential Self-Defense Tips for OTF Users

Self-Defense Advice for OTF Users

The 1998 summer-movie smash The Mask of Zorro did more than merely fill the coffers of Sony Pictures and establish Catherine Zeta-Jones as a bankable star. It also featured a hilarious performance by Antonio Banderas, and nowhere was it more humorous than when he was trying to learn the art of swordplay. When Banderas brandishes a blade, his mentor (played by an always excellent Anthony Hopkins) asks, “Do you know how to use that thing?” He responds, “Yes! The pointy end goes into the other man.” Of course, Banderas soon learns that fighting with an edged weapon is a much more complicated matter.

That’s a lesson that all knife owners — including those with OTFs — should learn. Blades make for effective weapons, but you need to understand how to effectively use them. In this article, we will provided nine essential self-defense tips for OTF users

Tip #1: Avoid the Confrontation If At All Possible

Sixteenth-century Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi famously said, “The ultimate aim of martial arts is not having to use them.” He also added, “If you wish to control others you must first control yourself.” One biblical proverb states, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” Physical conflict is the last thing you want to involve yourself in, and it must only be undertaken as a last resort. Knives are deadly weapons, they can take lives — and if you use them, you must reconcile yourself to that fact.

Tip #2: Know Your Local Laws Regarding Knife Use

Different municipalities have different rules about what you can legally carry and how you can legally use it. For example, in Florida, state laws are somewhat relaxed regarding the carry and use of OTFs. Not so in the city of Miami where simply having an OTF knife on your person can result in jail time and a four-figure fine. Make sure that you understand and follow federal, state, and local statutes so that your self-defense efforts don’t get you in trouble with the law.

Tip #3: Decide on Your Preferred Grip

Now on to more practical, hands-on tips — literally. If you’re planning to use a knife for self-defense, there are two generally accepted ways of holding it. The first is called the forward grip, and it’s as simple to use as shaking someone’s hand. If you stretch your hand out like you’re going to welcome someone then place a knife in your palm with your thumb along the spine and your remaining fingers curled along the handle, you’ve employed the forward grip. This grip is versatile, working well for both slashing and stabbing.

Starting with the forward grip and rotating the knife so that the blade faces 180 degrees in the opposite direction will result in the reverse grip. This holding method works particularly well with downward stabbing motions. Recall the shower scene in Hitchcock’s Psycho that famously featured the reserve grip.

Tip #4: Don’t Let Your Knife Arm Wave Wildly

Knife fighters typically weave their weapon through the air, which keeps opponents guessing about their next move. Too much wild gesticulating, though, can leave you exposed before and after an attack. In its knife-fighting program, the United States Marine Corps describes something it calls “the box,” a space on one’s body stretching from chin to waist. Keep the knife within the box to maximize your own protection.

Tip #5: Maintain a Disciplined Stance

Opinions abound about what kind of stance is the most effective when using a knife for self-defense, but simple works well with most situations. The previous point about the box applies here, but you should also consider holding up your off hand so it’s perpendicular to your body, thus shielding your trunk. Keeping your feet roughly shoulder width strikes a good balance between stability and mobility.

Tip #6: Don’t Switch Up Your Grip

Experienced knife fighters from Southeast Asia have made an art out of switching up their knife grips on the fly, but unless you’ve specially trained — and, honestly, probably not even then — you shouldn’t attempt it. Fancy flipping is one thing when you’re practicing and something else entirely when physical injury is a distinct possibility. Your biggest risk is dropping your knife mid-fight, leaving yourself at the mercy of your assailant.

Tip #7: Don’t Throw Your Knife

In classic action movies and sword-and-sorcery epics, you’ll often find some plucky character who saves himself from certain doom with a last-ditch knife throw. Reality doesn’t work that way. OTF knives aren’t balanced like true throwing knives, and even those weapons aren’t much use in a self-defense situation. Plus, the chances of inflicting an incapacitating injury with any thrown weapon is small. So keep your OTF firmly gripped in your hand!

Tip #8: Don’t Attempt to Disarm Your Opponent

Don’t misinterpret this tip: You may very well end up disarming your opponent during your fight, but it shouldn’t be your main goal. A strike that hits a hand could very easily cause an antagonist to drop a weapon. Similarly, many will let go of a knife after suffering a grievous wound. However, attempting to disarm instead of trying to fight effectively is the fastest way for you to get stabbed yourself.

Tip #9: Remember That You Have Weapons Other Than Your Knife

Pete Seeger and Lee Hays simultaneously upbeat and slightly sinister 1949 anthem “If I Had a Hammer (The Hammer Song)” features a narrator putting this construction implement to dubious use, including fostering fraternal brotherhood, however unlikely that sounds. But you know how the old saying goes: To the man with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

The same could be said about the individual with a knife. Even if you can’t run from or talk your way out of a confrontation, know that you aren’t restricted to solely using your OTF. Knock over furniture to impede your attacker. Chuck a nearby bottle if the person is far enough away (but keep hold of your knife!). If the assailant is close, try kicking, kneeing, or head butting. The goal in these scenarios is survival.

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