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Using One of Your Critical Everyday Carry Tools: Folding Knife

by admin on November 23, 2011

Aside from your brain, one of the key every-day carry tools is the popular folding knife.  Most of us can use one effectively to open boxes and bags of chips, but how can you use a knife for self-defense purposes?  Take a course like “Defensive Folding Knife” – then you’ll know.

Do you carry a folding knife?  Have you thought about carrying a folding knife but just aren’t ready yet?  And why do/would you carry one?

If your reasoning includes self-defense, in a very bad situation, keep reading, because I learned some things you should know too, at the Defensive Folding Knife course at Insights Training in Bellevue, WA.

A few basics for those of you who aren’t sure about why you’d carry a defensive knife (credit to Ralph Mroz for his article in Tactical Knives magazine) in the first place:

  1. Anyone can use one, old or young, fat or skinny, weak or strong, man or woman
  2. A knife is easy to use very quickly
  3. A knife is very easy to carry – pocket, waistband, etc. (more on that below)
  4. A knife is legal to carry almost everywhere (research your local laws before you carry!)
  5. Depending on where you live, it may not be legal to carry a gun, and for you a knife may be the next best thing
  6. If you travel, a knife is relatively convenient, and legal in many more places, especially internationally (do even more research here – some countries carry stiff penalties for silly things)

As you read further, you’ll learn even more about why a knife can be very handy in a pinch.

Let’s start with a couple things:  1) Why I took the course and 2) Who are these Insights folks?

I took this course for a couple reasons.  I took a similar course previously several years ago, from Eric Remmen.  It was good stuff.  When I saw one of the InSights Training Center flyers at the  local gun store, it looked like similar curriculum, already knowing that their training would be very high quality, I decided to give it a go.  That’s one reason – because I like to learn, am interested in self-defense stuff, and I knew this instruction would be good.  How good?  Here are the bios for a couple of their instructors:

Greg M. Hamilton, Chief Instructor:  “Greg  is the Founder and Chief Instructor for InSights. He is internationally recognized as one of the best firearms and tactics instructors in the world. He is a veteran of the US Army Rangers and Special Forces, and is certified by the Army as a Close Quarters Combat Instructor and Anti-Terrorism Instructor.”  And two more paragraphs with more details…

John Holschen:  “John Holschen is a frequent guest instructor with InSights. John served for over 20 years in the Special Operations and Intelligence branches of the U.S. Army. He is a former US Army Special Forces Weapons Sergeant and Special Forces Medic. John taught at the JFK Special Warfare School and was the Senior Hand to Hand Combat Instructor/Master Instructor for 1st Special Forces Group.”  And two more paragraphs with more details…

They are bona fide bad-asses, and at the same time, easy-going (at least with this civilian crowd), excellent teachers.  How could I help but learn a lot?

The other reason for taking the course is that I often carry a folding knife, and use it to open boxes, bags, bubble-packed stuff, and the hundred other things that seem to come up regularly when you have such a tool available.  The techniques used to open & cut stuff in this context are relatively easy to acquire intuitively.  However, when it comes to using a knife for self-defense purposes, critical behaviors and actions are not so intuitive for many (even for some martial artists, who are taught some wacky concepts sometimes).  I thought I had a good foundation with what I learned in my previous course, but wanted to be a little more sure, since I would be relying on this training to potentially save my life or the life of a loved one.  I wanted to be able to use this tool to protect myself, at least somewhat effectively.

So I showed up at about 8:00 A.M., ready to go, wondering what I’d find.  You may be a a little surprised.  While there were a few more men than women, the class was not full of ex-military, muscle-bound, buzz-cut-sporting, tough guys itching to fight, but “regular folks”, from the overweight woman in her late 60’s and her 30-something daughter to the couple in their 20’s who wanted to take better care of each other.  And my wife.  I dragged her along.  She loves to learn too, and is generally a real trouper when it comes to indulging me.  (Thanks Baby.)  Essentially, it was a little cross-section of society.  I wondered how they would be able to tailor their curriculum to fit this group, most of whom were not “fighting-fit”.

One of the wonderful things I learned about a simple folding knife in a life-or-death, self-defense scenario is that it can be used very effectively by weak and strong, tall and short, young and old, with devastating effects.  And Insights set up the class so that anyone could take it.  Kudos to whoever owns the training plan – it seemed to work well for everyone.  Their fitness level didn’t matter much.

Let’s talk about what we learned.  I’m not going to give you a minute-by-minute description, even though the course was sufficiently content-packed to do that.  You’ll need to take the course yourself to get that level of content (and I recommend the course to anyone interested in taking care of him-/herself).  We covered the following topics (and other stuff I don’t have room to include):

  1. When to use deadly force
  2. Color codes of awareness
  3. Mental conditioning
  4. Techniques/Skills
  5. Equipment

You’ll notice something that our instructors didn’t actually call out in the class (that I recall).  The listing above is generally covered in order of importance, from most to least important.  For those of you who think having the super-cool knife is all you need to defend yourself in a life-or-death situation, you are dead wrong.  You should know when it makes sense to use a knife, practically and legally, what your mindset should be, how you can avoid a dangerous situation and using a knife altogether, the basics of how to use the knife in a variety of situations, and lastly, some good knife options.  All of the information leading up to which knife you want is much more important.

Again, this material will NOT replace taking this course or a similar course.  THIS ARTICLE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, and anything you decide to do with this information is at your own risk.  Consult your doctor, lawyer, local law enforcement, law-books, etc. before you do anything with a knife where you live.

Let’s go over some things I learned.

1. When to use deadly force in self-defense

As I referenced above, you must know the laws in your city, state, province, and/or country.  And aside from what your local laws allow, what’s covered in this course is only defensive in nature.  Do your research – your and your family’s well-being (at least) could depend on it.  You can’t defend your loved ones if you are in prison, and your opinion of what’s right and wrong may not matter to your local lawmakers, law enforcement & judges.  According to many laws, the following conditions must exist before you can use deadly force (which you should also learn in any self-defense-related shooting course):

  • Ability – the attacker must be able to use deadly force against you (or someone else – the same applies to “you” below).
  • Opportunity – the attacker must have the opportunity to carry out the attack.
  • Jeopardy – the first two aren’t enough.  The attacker must use the opportunity and ability to actually put your life in danger by doing something.
  • Preclusion – Bonus points!  While this is not a legal requirement in most states, it may be a good idea nonetheless (and while you’re busy “precluding”, you may have extra time to call 911 and let the police show up.  They get paid to risk their lives for stuff like this, and you can avoid the liability and probable civil lawsuit hassles).  Essentially, it means that you try every other option to get out of that situation.

2. Color codes of awareness

Most firearms courses out there teach these color codes, or one of the few variations on them.  Here is the quick version.

  • White: unaware – you should only be here when you are asleep
  • Yellow: relaxed and alert – you are aware of your surroundings
  • Orange: you are alert to a specific danger or potential danger
  • Red: a fight is imminent – you are in danger and ready to deal with it
  • Black: you are fighting – retreat is not an option, you are in danger and actively dealing with it

We spent a solid chunk of time on this material – what you see above is only a basic outline.  Go learn this material and the accompanying scenarios from a pro.

3. Mental conditioning for self-defense

This was the most fascinating part of the course for me, and that’s saying a lot, because the whole course was fascinating!  The instructor obviously knew what he was talking about, and the amount of information he had to offer made me feel like I was drinking from a fire-hose.  This was all about psychology.  But not the psychology you’d get from your textbook in Psych 101.  Instead, this was the psychology of behavior on the street, in a bar, wherever you put alphas and betas.  We discussed submissive vs. aggressive behavior, NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), verbal and non-verbal communication.  Here are some key pieces of info I remember.  (And there was a lot more content we covered that I’m not going into.  This part of the course was well worth the entire cost.)

  • If you look like food, you should expect to get eaten.
  • Aggressive/dominant behavior can often attract other aggressive/dominant behavior (which is presumably not desired).  In other words, you need to be the gray man.
  • Do you want to change your mental state?  Raise your chin one inch.  You just became more assertive and at least slightly changed your attitude.  Oh yeah.
  • Let go of your big, fat ego.  If someone cuts you off, let them go ahead of you and be on their crazy way.  If you make a mistake, admit it and apologize sincerely.  If someone flips you off, don’t do it back – pretend you never saw it.  Allow their ego to stay intact.  This type of an approach will help you avoid all kinds of hassles in the first place!
  • And much, much more…

4. Techniques

We started with drawing and deploying from the front pocket or concealment (I describe my personal preference below), learning how to do it quickly and under stress.  Then we did about 100 other things.  We were busy, and did wreaked some real havoc with our training knives.

I won’t attempt to describe what grip to take, where you should target, how to cut, or the variety of techniques you can use for knife retention, escape from grabs, chokes, locks, holds, how to use a knife when ground-fighting or how to integrate knife and handgun.  Not only am I not qualified, but reading won’t matter.  Doing will.

I will say one more thing about technique:  If you’re wondering what it’s like using your knife on something made of real meat – you’ll get to experience that too.  (No people or animals were harmed during this course :-).)

5. Equipment – Folding Knife Considerations

Spyderco Delica

Spyderco Delica - Simple and Effective

This is the fun part for many folks, especially the gear-heads and people who use the words “everyday carry” :-).  I said it before and I’ll say it again: the knowledge is more important than the gear.  You need to get out of your recliner and go get the knowledge and hands-on, what-it-feels-like training.  But of course, the gear angle is still fun.

The quick version:  Get  a Spyderco Delica or two.  Why?  A few reasons:

1)  The quality is high.  The steel is good, the grip is easy to hold, and the ergonomics are great for most hands.
2)  A Delica is easy to retrieve and open – that hole in the blade is patented for a reason.  They made it very easy to open quickly with one hand, with no extra springs or gadgets – simply functional.
3)   The blade length is appropriate, and the blade length (approx. 2 7/8”) is legal in most areas (do your research).
4)   It is lightweight and slim – will not weigh down one side of your body, pull down your running shorts when you run, or cause unusual bulges.  The slim clip is sturdy and positioned in the right place on the handle to make it easy to conceal.  In addition, the clip is reversible two ways – top or bottom, and left or right side, which makes it easy to carry any way you chose, whether your right- or left-handed (see #2).
5)  They are not very expensive as compared to many high-quality folders: $50-$60.  You won’t have to give up meat for a month to afford it. If you lose it, you won’t be crying for a week.
6)  And if you care, you can get a variety of colors and steels (e.g. blue or green with ZDP-189), versus the plain black body with VG-10 steel.  Of course, the fancier versions cost more.  I got one with a medium blue handle, which matches the color of most of my jeans.  Not because I care about the color of my socks matching my shirt, but because I want it to not be very visible.  There’s a difference!

Of course, you may prefer another brand or style, which is fine.  If you can conceal and retrieve it effectively, the blade is legal, it can be opened under stress with one hand, and you can afford it, you’re set!  There are many great, solid folders out there from Benchmade, SOG, Kershaw, Gerber, and Emerson, just to name a few.  And Spyderco makes many other folding knife variations.

Gray man tip:

This is something they didn’t teach in class, that I have personally found to be convenient.  I carry my pocket-knife* in my waistband.  Why?  It isn’t easy to see by everyone and their brother.  I can go to work, out for a jog, to the grocery store, or wherever, without identifying myself as “the guy with the knife in his pocket.”  You know who they are (if you notice it once, you’ll always notice it), and may be one of those people yourself.  The clip is easy to see on the front of someone’s pocket.  And much of the time, that may be perfectly appropriate for you.  But I prefer to keep it low-key.

Here’s another reason.  Often you can use that visible knife clip that’s on the front of someone’s pocket as an indicator to look a little further, for the accompanying bulge of a concealed handgun.  Gun guys are also often knife guys.  Am I wrong?  Please send me an email and let me know what you think. :-)

Note:  If you have a big belly, keeping a knife on your waistband will probably not work for you.

*Did you notice the non-tacti-cool, unobtrusive, tool-focused words I used?  It is just a tool after all, not a “combat-folder” or “zombie-stopper” or any kind of “dangerous weapon”.  It’s just a tool.  Along those lines, here’s another tip (from class): if you’re out in public and need to open a bag or box or delicately slice off a piece of Camembert to go with your crackers, consider slowly retrieving your knife, opening it slowly with two hands, versus going for the speed-draw and seeing whose attention you can draw with the sudden “snick” of the shiny blade locking open.  Gray.

Summary

There you go – this was the very quick version, which will certainly not be sufficient for you to adequately defend yourself with a folding knife, but will give you an idea of what you should be able to do with one, if you can find good training in your area.

If you live in or travel to the Pacific Northwest, I highly recommend InSights Training Center.  I’ve taken a few classes from them, and they’ve been top quality.  Their website is here: http://www.insightstraining.com/

It’s hard to go wrong with a folding knife as part of your everyday carry, because these tools are so versatile.  If you want to have your knife realistically available as a self-defense tool also, please get some training.

Stay safe,

Andrew