How to use a Pocket Knife for Self Defense

One of the most common questions when it comes to how to use a pocket knife for self defense is whether it is legal or not.

However, there is a lot more to it than that. We will answer that question for you as well as address:

  • Why a pocket knife is great for self defense
  • Benefits of using a pocket knife over the benefits of a gun
  • Types of martial arts that train using knives
  • How to choose a great pocket knife when using it for self defense

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Why and how to use a Pocket Knife for Self Defense?

A knife is easily concealed on your person so it can be used in the event of an attack. Plus, if you don’t have a knife on you, but you know how to use one properly, you can always improvise an object to use one as a knife very effectively.

However, let me explain why many choose to carry a knife:

  1. They feel more in control of the weapon they are carrying
  2. Trained martial artists have the upper hand in the situation even though when in close quarters
  3. You don’t have to rely solely on brute strength to fight off an attacker

These are just several examples, and I’m sure you will recognize more when you learn how to use to protect yourself with a pocket knife.

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Should I Use a Gun Instead of a Knife?

Many people choose to carry a gun for self defense instead of knife thinking a firearm will protect them much better. However, this may not be the case in every situation. In fact, more often than not, a gun can be a liability.

I find that there are several disadvantages to carrying a gun for self defense. For instance, you often need a special permit to carry a gun and may need to take hours of classes and pay fees. Also:

  • It may not protect you in close quarters as it is most effective at range
  • It is more likely to cause death which, even in self defense, can cause legal trouble
  • You will need to understand the complexities of how a gun operates, how to clean it, and how to shoot well
  • You will need to pass a background check and it can take up to two weeks

As you can see, carrying a gun brings a lot more hassle than it is worth and a knife can not only help protect you but also be used in everyday activities. Ever used a gun to open a box you got in the mail? Knives can be handy for more than just self defense.

What are the laws regarding pocket knife use?

The laws in each state vary regarding the use of a pocket knife when it comes to self defense. Some states allow the federal laws to dictate their use and some make additional regulations.

Any type of carryable blade, from pocket knife to sword, are covered under two sets of laws. The first one is an Ownership law which tells you what you can and cannot own at all, even in your home not to be used. The Carry law tells you what you can and cannot carry out in public, whether concealed or in plain site.

I know this is getting a bit confusing, but let me clear it up a bit for you.

The federal law applies to anyone living in Washington DC as well as anyone traveling internationally or anyone traveling between states. The Switchblade Act of 1958 outlawed all automatic knives in the US.

In addition to that, you will need to follow the state laws for the states you are travelling from, to, and through, as well as all the towns in between. This can make it very difficult because you will need to research ahead of time to find out what those are.

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An example – Alabama’s knife laws

For an example of a state law, take Alabama’s knife laws. I found these laws online relatively easily and the laws for all 50 states were listed. Alabama has very open knife laws, allowing:

  1. Balisongs
  2. Switchblades
  3. Stilettos
  4. All folding knives
  5. All knives that fit in your pocket
  6. Double-sided knives
  7. Bowie knives – whether carried concealed or open

As you can see, Alabama is very lenient when it comes to owning and carrying knives. However, not all states are like this. Do your research and understand what’s legal.

There are also laws that govern when you can actually use your pocket knife with deadly force in self defense. You must be in fear for your life or the attacker must draw their weapon first, assuming they have one. I cover these rules a little more in-depth in my self defense weapons buyers guide here.

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What Types of Martial Arts Teach Bladed Weapon Use?

Here are a couple examples of blade-based martial arts, or arts which integrate bladed weapon training at some point:

Filipino Martial Arts

Arnis is a Filipino martial art that has become so popular it has been a national sporting event in the Philippines since 1972. Unlike many martial arts, Arnis students start with weapons training, including training with knives. It’s an integral part of the overall training, unlike many other arts which save the weapons training for advanced students.

Not only do those trained in weapons as Arnis martial artists use knives, they also use impact weapons like sticks, and even flexible weapons such as belts, whips, and other impromptu items.

If you are trained in Arnis with knives, you are able to adapt to your surroundings and use any available weapon, including a pocket knife.

Here’s a clip of Arnis knife training (with a karambit, in this clip) to give you an idea of what’s involved:

Wing Chun

Another that teaches the use of weapons is the Chinese martial art of Wing Chun. Wing Chun students only learn weapons after other forms are mastered, unlike Arnis, which teaches the use of weapons first.

Ng Mui, who was a Buddhist nun at a Shaolin temple, originated this martial art. Shaolin monks have their own very powerful martial arts and Ng Mui developed an effective martial art herself that could be mastered outside of the temple. According to legend, the style was created so that a “smaller” woman would be able to defend against bigger male foes.

One form of Wing Chun is to use Butterfly Knives (Baat Cham Do), which are small versions of swords that measure just 11” to 15” in length. Just like with Arnis, one a student has mastered using traditional weapons, improvising to use a pocket knife or whatever is available to you, is possible. This is because Wing Chun teaches in a “principled” manner, which allows the skills to translate.

Check out this video for an idea of what Wing Chun knife training involves and how it transitions to more usual pocket knives:

Although personally, having trained in both, I would stick with the Filipino Martial Arts for a more realistic experience.

How do You Choose a Good Pocket Knife?

When beginning the search for a good pocket knife for self defense, you need to first understand the regulations that govern the use of pocket knives. You need to know the length, how it can be closed and opened, as well as whether it can actually be in your pocket or needs to be exposed.

Once you know that, you can begin searching for the exact one you want. I recommend going with a reputable knife company who makes well-reviewed products.

Remember that a pocket knife should hinge closed and open easily when you need it. Some are stiff when first purchased so you may have to loosen it until you are happy with how it functions. Honestly, you should be opening your blade up many times (hundreds) to get proficient at it so you’re ready to go when you need it most.

Your pocket knife should also be easily used as a tool. This way, it can multitask when you don’t need it to protect yourself or others.

The pocket knife you choose should have an ergonomic handle so you can grasp it well. If possible, a pocket knife with multiple blade surfaces, mimicking a double-edged knife, will work better in self defense.

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Are you ready?

If you feel the need to carry protection for self defense, a pocket knife works well provided you are comfortable doing so and you’ve received some training.

Finding the right pocket knife is essential and you need to make sure you are completely comfortable with it in the event of a self defense situation.

Got any more suggestions? Leave them in the comments.

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