Australia is reeling this month after two fatal stabbings of unaccompanied women in public parks. Prabha Arun Kumar (41) was walking after dark in Sydney’s west when she was stabbed to death during a phone call to her husband. She told him that a “suspicious-looking man” was following her in the moments prior to the attack. Last week, Melbourne teenager Masa Vukotic (17) was killed in Doncaster, for which Sean Price (31) has been charged.
Detective Inspector Michael Hughes had this to say during an interview about Vukotic on ABC Radio National :
“I suggest to people, particularly females, they shouldn’t be alone in parks — I’m sorry to say that, that is the case.”
“We just need to be a little bit more careful, a little bit more security-conscious and we as a public need to look after each other. And I guess, just be a little bit discreet about where we are.”
While these comments have sparked outcries of both hate and support, the debate could be missing the point altogether. We all know that while we can work to create a safer society, these changes will not happen immediately. In the meantime – while we’re not living in a utopia where no random attacks happen on the street – let’s be smart about this and educate ourselves on our own safety.
To kick off this process our experienced Krav Maga trainers have identified a couple of the worst myths about knife attacks and debunked them for your reading pleasure.
5. Certain techniques never work
Let’s put this straight out there: We’re not ragging on other people’s advice. Every self-defence style has its own sworn-by techniques and its own hang-ups about others. Some of these techniques have proven more effective than others, and that’s worth taking notice of – but there’s a key factor we’re not considering when we’re giving the big Thumbs Down to a knife-defence technique:
And, of equal importance, ability.
Let’s take one of the techniques that cops the most flak from some styles, while remaining a staple of others: Kicks. This could include kicks to the knife-hand in order to disarm, or kicks to the other parts of the body to cause injury or create space.
Kicking can be a really dumb idea. It’s slow, potentially obvious and can open up vulnerable areas of the body to the knife. Getting it wrong is certainly something that could get you seriously injured or killed – but some people aren’t getting it wrong.
If you have trained seriously and properly in the use of kicks against knife attacks, then you’ve got advantages not presented by other techniques. Your legs are long and keep the rest of your body as far away from the danger as possible. Your legs are also very strong and can cause a lot of damage quickly. If you can’t make the distance or kick badly, this might not be the defence for you – but don’t discount something as a blanket rule. If you’ve got an aptitude for something, use that to your advantage.
4. Train against one stab
While clearly ridiculous, this Jim Carrey skit illustrates the dangers of drilling against only certain kinds of attacks with terrifying accuracy:
Many martial arts styles and self-defence classes simplify situations to a couple of beginner-friendly drills. In the case of knife attacks, you might train against a single under-handed stab and a single slash coming right-to-left before moving on to non-knife attacks and leaving your defence skills hanging until you progress next year. Realistically, these simplified situations don’t prepare you for what commonly occurs in reality: Multiple stabs in unpredictable patterns. Someone stabbing erratically and emotionally is just as dangerous as a well-executed attack.
If your school is training you in an unrealistic way, ask for or seek out better training. Learning these simplified drills can put you in more danger than before: You may feel confident in your skills, but when faced with a real confrontation you could be woefully unprepared.
3. Watch out for strange men at night
Contrary to the image we all carry around of knife offenders being large, hoodie-clad men between the ages 20-40, this study shows that the majority of people committing knife-related crimes are … girls. Under 18.
This doesn’t mean that we now should spend our days in fear of passing the Barbie aisle in K-Mart, and these statistics include all kinds of crimes committed with knives. However, it does serve to point out a key problem in our expectations of when and where these attacks are going to happen. While much attention is given to the random, fatal stabbings conducted at night by total strangers, knives are used in all kinds of situations. It’s not a matter of avoiding dark parks – it’s a matter of being prepared.
2. Worry about guns, not knives
Guys. Just no. While violent crimes involving guns are going to receive a lot of attention because, well, we can see what’s happening in the United States, it’s sort of like going to the beach and being scared of sharks instead of skin cancer (or the car you took to get there). In 2007-2008, 114 victims died in Australia as the result of a stab wound, compared to only 30 who received gunshot wounds. In the scope of violent deaths, knives trumped even beatings (which were still more common than fatal gunshot wounds).
What does this mean? If you’re going to learn self-defence against a weapon (which you should), knives first, guns later.
1. Self-Defence means fighting
While Krav Maga is internationally recognised as a highly realistic and effective form of self-defence, one of its key strengths is often overlooked: Not every situation needs to end in a fight. It doesn’t even need to start in one.
Are you a beginner? Are you a person who hasn’t yet put your techniques to the test under pressure? Is your self-defence still something you have to stop and think about? Are you unsure how you would react if thrown into a conflict?
Then don’t try a complex wrist-lock on that skittish kid with a knife. You have options. You could start by remembering your wallet is much less precious than your life – if that’s what they want, hand it over. You can create space between you and the attacker in a strategic move called “running the hell away” (in a controlled manner, of course).
One technique in the spotlight lately (especially in response to the murders of Kumar and Vukotic) is probably the best of all: Don’t put yourself in needlessly risky situations. No one is a fortuneteller – no one knows which unexpected situations will become dangerous – but putting an effort in to keep your environment as low-risk as possible is probably the best thing you can do. Always be aware of your surroundings. Don’t chance a risky situation. Do the smart thing!
Don’t forget – it’s your last chance to register for the free Krav Maga Systems Urban Survival: Knife Defence Workshop in North Parramatta on Saturday, March 28. Normally priced at $49 per person, we’re offering this workshop to the community to help foster a safer environment for everybody. You will learn valuable skills and receive a 12 page manual to take home. You don’t need to have any prior knowledge or skills, and there are no obligations to continue training.