How do you protect yourself against someone with a knife?

I've been thinking about this a lot since Canada's mass stabbings in September. Eleven people lost their lives in that killing spree in - or near - Saskatchewan’s James Smith Cree Nation.

Stabbings have been on the rise in New York City of late. Just yesterday a man died, and two other people were injured in "separate, unprovoked" attacks at subway stations.

Making the biggest headlines of the week were the random and shocking stabbings in Las Vegas. Six people were wounded, and two others died. This was in broad daylight, on the strip, near the prestigious Wynn Las Vegas resort and casino. Spokane woman Maris DiGiovanni was among the victims, and she died from her wounds.

It's all a senseless crime, and tragedy. And it can happen again. So here are some tips to increase your odds of surviving a knife attack.

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Photo by Mohammad Hossein Mirzagol on Unsplash
Photo by Mohammad Hossein Mirzagol on Unsplash

Self-defense training will do more for you than this article. But if they get to you before you get to class, keep reading.

Try to De-Escalate the Situation

Assuming someone approaches you with a knife, as opposed to a surprise attack that is already underway, stay calm. Breathe deeply. Do NOT make any sudden moves.

Try to find out what they want with you.

  • Are they a mugger? Give them what they want.
  • Are they bullies looking to fight? Tell them you are not going to fight them.
  • Are they unstable or under the influence? Calmly talk to them and back away.

Of all of these scenarios, someone on drugs, drunk or mentally ill are the most dangerous. Because they are unpredictable.

Yell for Help

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash
Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

Yelling for help seems obvious, but it's worth mentioning, especially if you are around other people. And who knows? Maybe it will cause your would-be attacker to run away.


Speaking of running, it may feel cowardly to do so, but it can also save your life. Experts say running is the best defense against a knife attack.

If You Have No Choice but to Fight...

You may be cornered, you may be under attack already. And it may be impossible to run without making contact with the knife holder. If this is the case, make that contact count.

  • Hit them in the throat.
  • Knee them in the groin.
  • Jab them in the eyes and push down hard into their sockets.

And then get to safety.

If They Drop the Knife

Grab it, or kick it out of the way. If you can run, run. Get to safety.

Call 9-1-1


Call 9-1-1 as soon as you are able and describe your attacker. It may help prevent a future attack on someone else.

Here's more information on what to do in a knife attack, as well as general self-defense.

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