Another reason not to depend on your firearm in this situation? Getting your gun out is not enough to stop someone with a knife; you also have to get accurate shots off. Then you have to hope those shots will actually stop the assault. In 2006, the FBI produced the research summary "Violent Encounters: A Study of Felonious Assaults on Our Nation's Law Enforcement Officers." According to the report, officers only had a 40 percent hit rate when shooting at a suspect in deadly force encounters. Again, don't just draw your firearm; deal with the blade.
It is important to remember when dealing with blade attacks that there is a strong possibility your assailant will cut you. The trick is not to get cut in the wrong place. Knife fighters have a saying that when two good blade fighters meet, the winner goes to the hospital and the loser goes to the morgue. Don't be the latter. When you are confronted with a blade, you have three options: block it, pass it, or trap it.
Blocking the Blade
A block uses strong force, generally with the outer forearm to keep the blade away from the defender. When blocking, keep pressure on the suspect's arm. This will make it harder for them to press the attack. Use the outside of your forearm to block. The veins on the bottom of the wrist are too exposed and easier to cut. As you are blocking, draw and fire your gun until the threat has stopped.
Passing the Blade
If you are unable to block, another option is to pass the blade. Passing involves going with the suspect's arm momentum and pushing their arm across their body. This technique differs from the block in two ways. First, the officer keeps contact with the suspect's arm by using arm and body pressure to keep the blade from returning at him. The officer's goal is to glue himself to the suspect's arm. Some blade instructors call this cohesion or sticky hands. Secondly, the officer moves his body away from the threat (Photos 1, 2 & 3).
Trapping the Blade
When you have no room to move, you may need to trap the blade. This is the riskiest option. If you decide you must trap the blade, one of the best options is to wrap your arm over the top of the suspect's arm (photo 4). Wrestlers and mixed martial artists commonly refer to this technique as an "overhook." When using the overhook to defend against a blade, it is imperative that you grab the suspect's tricep muscle to limit his ability to continue attacking your body with the blade. You must also pull the elbow of his arm that is overhooking to your ribs. This will additionally limit the mobility of the suspect's blade. As with the other techniques, you should draw your gun while you are defending against the blade.
Remember that being attacked by a knife is a deadly-force encounter. Unless you are in surgery or at the barber shop, persons that invade your personal safety zone with sharp weapons probably don't have your best interests in mind.
The 1985 Supreme Court decision Tennessee v. Garner is the cornerstone case on police use of deadly force. That case makes it clear that officers have the right to use deadly force to protect themselves and others when faced with a threat of great bodily injury or death. Unfortunately, some officers are confused as to when they are legally and morally obligated to use deadly force. No one wants an officer to overreact or to use excessive force. But underreacting can also have consequences: It can get an officer killed.
Get the Training
Coming home in a safe condition is your responsibility. If your agency does not provide blade defense training, use your own time and money to educate yourself. I have heard too many cops say, "If the department wanted me to know it, they would have taught it to me and paid me to sit through the training." The suspect that wants to cut you doesn't care.
You don't want to wake up in a hospital disfigured or not wake up at all. There are numerous books and videos on blade defense. Get some. Or better yet, find a good trainer and practice. Defending against small blades can be extremely difficult, but if you take the time to practice it can save your life. Find out what works for you and get proficient. Be safe and don't get cut.
Mike "Ziggy" Siegfried is a detective, instructor, and use-of-force expert with the San Bernardino County (Calif.) Sheriff's Department. He teaches courses in blade defense.