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Knife Tactics for Survival and Court Defensibility

An Interview with Michael Janich

by Gila Hayes

Several months ago, the Network’s journal started a discussion about courtroom defensibility of self defense with pocket knives. Last month, an industry convention provided the opportunity to further explore this topic with knife and self defense expert Michael Janich, a lifetime martial artist, knife skills trainer, and author of books and DVDs on the topic. Let’s get right to what Janich advised during our interview about knife defense tactics and training.

eJournal: We feel considerable concern about Network members using pocket knives for self defense when they are not able to carry a gun. We emphasize the need for training on any weapon system one carries, but that leaves members wondering, “What should I study?” Not only must the defense techniques be effective so the member survives the fight, the techniques used need also to be readily explainable to a judge and jury as legitimate self-defense actions that any reasonable person might undertake under similar circumstances.

I am especially pleased with the opportunity to interview you, having recently read Contemporary Knife Targeting, a book you co-authored with the late Christopher Grosz, which made a scientific study of knife stopping power, and also addressed legal concerns about knife technique. Linking the justifiability of WHERE we apply the defensive knife is rarely taught—even in law enforcement.

Janich: What is amazing about law enforcement is that we have officers who carry guns, Tasers® and batons for which they’ll have training doctrine and use of force requirements. Everything is plugged into the use of force continuum. They have very finely structured application of force for everything that they carry EXCEPT THE KNIFE. It is the one lethal weapon in their kit for which they have not accounted.

eJournal: Are you ever asked to write use of force policies as regards knives?


Janich: I’ve only done it a couple of times. Most departments don’t want a knife policy, because as soon as they quantify it, then they have to train people and like shooting, they have to be able to maintain that skill. What they do instead is lump the knife into officer survival. Look at documented cases where an officer beat somebody to death with a radio. They don’t teach them how to do that, but we get into that grey area where all the standard tools and skills are not working, so we are in the grey area where anything goes.

eJournal: Perhaps law enforcement also views the knife, as do many of us, as a last-ditch weapon, brought out only after every other defense has been stripped away.

Janich: That is very much a parallel.