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09

Choosing a Knife- IKF June 2007

ikf-june-2007Inside Kung-Fu

“Choosing a Knife”

By Addy Hernandez

June 2007

Carrying a weapon for self-defense is a serious commitment. If you are going to trust your life to a piece of gear, you owe it to yourself to choose that gear carefully. When it comes to choosing a knife for personal defense, there are some specific qualities you should consider.

Strength tops the list of qualities that a good self-defense knife should have – particularly if it is a folding knife. The design, engineering and quality of execution of a folding knife lock all affect a knife’s inherent strength and its ability to withstand the physical stresses of powerful cuts and thrusts. A lock failure could cause a folding knife to not only live up to its name at the wrong time, but it could also cost you a few fingers in the process.

Functionality is another necessary characteristic. The blade style, shape of the point, edge geometry and sharpness all have a direct bearing on how well the knife actually cuts and punctures when employed in a high-speed defensive situation. The best way to understand this quality is through actual test cutting on targets that replicate the body parts you would be cutting with your style of knife tactics. For example, if you focus on disabling cuts that target the connective tissues of the arms and legs, you can make test targets using meat roasts wrapped in plastic (to simulate skin) and covered with clothing. If your knife performs well and creates the depth of cut necessary to hit your preferred targets, you’ve validated the functionality of your knife. You’ll also have a realistic understanding of the true destructive power of your blade.

Another aspect of functionality has to do with the shape and construction of the knife’s handle. A good knife handle must provide you with a secure grip and allow you to manage the shock that is transferred back into your hand during full-power cuts and thrusts. Slippery, poorly shaped handles can compromise your control of the knife and, in extreme cases, could even result in self-inflicted cuts. Imagine thrusting full force at a soft-tissue target and hitting solid bone. If the shape and material of your knife handle won’t allow you to positively manage that type of shock, you need to keep shopping.

Convenient carry must also be a prerequisite of a defensive knife. To ensure that the knife is available when you need it, it should be carried in a comfortable, accessible location on your body at all times. That carry position must work with all the styles of clothing and allow you to carry the knife in a consistent location on your body. Many knife collectors brag about their “rotation” of knives, and often have a different carry knife (or knives) and carry style for every day of the week. Knife players who truly understand self-defense, however, know that the rapid deployment of a knife is a critical component in effective fighting. Always carrying your knife in the same position is one of the keys to rapid deployment, since reflexes are based on consistent, repetitive actions.

Quick, reliable deployment of a knife begins with carry location, but there is more to it than that. That’s why “deploy-ability” – a combination of design characteristics that allow the knife to be rapidly drawn and opened to a ready position – is also an essential quality of a personal defense knife. For folding knives, this usually means a combination of a clothing clip and some type of hole, stud or disk in the blade that allows it to be opened with one hand. For fixed blades, it’s typically a synergy of knife and sheath design that supports comfortable concealed carry and a fast reflexive draw.

The final basic quality of a good personal defense knife is that it is legal to carry in the areas in which you operate. Research of the knife laws in your area – both state and municipal – will help define the types of knives and methods of carry that are legally permissible. In many cases, the terminology of the laws may seem unclear, but if you focus on key elements like blade length restrictions on double-edged blades and other specific characteristics, you can usually get a pretty good idea of what is and isn’t legal.

By choosing a knife that clearly falls within these parameters, you will not only be able to defend your life and the lives of your loved ones, but you will be in a much better position to justify your actions in court. And unfortunately in today’s world, defending your actions just as real a challenge as defending your safety. Do your research, choose your knife wisely and you’ll be well prepared to do both.

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