The role of stabbing and slashing in knife combat
You’ve got to know your weapon because your survival would depend on it. In knife fighting, you’ve got to know what damage a blade can do to the human anatomy.
Stabbing and slashing are the two fundamental ways of inflicting trauma with a knife. This is evident in the basic principle of Filipino knife fighting that says, “In every thrust there is a slash and in every slash there is a thrust.”
Stab wounds are considered more lethal than slash wounds because of the greater possibility of internal organ damage. Considering the application of force and the positioning of the weapon, stabbing has a greater chance of puncturing a vital organ than slashing. But the latter can be deadly too if it severed an artery.
Death by either stab wound or slash wound is often caused by shock. This kind of shock is different from emotional state of shock. “Hypovolemic shock is defined as decreased tissue perfusion and oxygenation with circulatory collapse caused by acute loss of the intravascular volume secondary to various medical or surgical conditions.” (from Greenberg’s Text-Atlas of Emergency Medicine edited by Michael I. Greenberg).” This condition occurs when a person loses large volume of blood because of an injury. Generally speaking, the body goes into shock when it loses 20 percent of its total blood volume. Blood carries oxygen and various nutrients throughout the body and serious disruption of its circulation would result to death.
Given that both stab wound and slash wound are both deadly, which of the two then possesses greater stopping power?
The basic principle of Filipino knife fighting says, “In every thrust there is a slash and in every slash there is a thrust.
Knife combat expert and author Michael Janich did an excellent research on this topic. After thorough analysis of forensic data, modern trauma medicine and consulting with experts on the subject, Janich’s research concludes that when it comes to knife combat, stabbing and blood loss will not quickly incapacitate an attacker.
In an article titled “The Realities of Knife Stopping Power” published in Stag Arms presents Wartac CQC (a 2011 Guns &Ammo publication), Janich mentioned a case wherein a combatant received 50 stab wounds and yet still managed to fight for a full five minutes before collapsing due to cumulative blood loss.
The point of this case is every second counts in a self-defense situation and the faster you incapacitate an assailant the higher is your chance to escape injury or death, “After all, if you mortally wound an attacker, yet he still has the ability to do the same to you, you still die,” Janich wrote.
I agree with Janich’s findings because I personally know two cases of stabbing wherein the victims were not incapacitated instantly despite the severity of their wounds. In the first case, the guy got involved in a fight in a watering hole and because of drunkenness did not realized he got stabbed with a steel barbeque fork. The man managed to go home and only discovered his injury after he began spitting blood. He survived though he spent some time in the hospital recuperating from a punctured lung. In the second incident, the victim was stabbed with a kitchen knife but was able to run away and seek medical treatment. He too survived the knife attack.
Janich favored cutting on muscles and tendons over stabbing the torso or severing arteries when the objective is immediately incapacitating an attacker, “In FMA [Filipino martial arts] knife tactics, as well as the tactics of many battle-proven Western systems, the primary target is the attacker’s weapon-wielding arm. To grip a weapon, the muscles of the forearm contract and pull on the flexor tendons, which pass through the wrist and attach to the fingers. By severing the tendons or the muscles that power them, this connection is broken and the hand can no longer close to grip anything. The ‘fang’ (weapon) is taken from the ‘snake’ (arm).
Physiologically, this concept applies to all muscle groups, tendons and limbs. If you sever the tissues responsible for moving a limb, you destroy or at least severely inhibit that limb’s function. Sometimes called ‘biomechanical cutting,’ this approach has been used by edged-weapon cultures around the world for centuries. It has also been validated in countless home and industrial accidents where people have been cut and immediately lost use of the affected limb. As such, it is predictable and reliable – exactly what’s needed to achieve stopping power.”
Janich specifically recommends the following targets for biomechanical cutting: the flexors tendons or muscles of the forearm, the biceps and/or triceps muscles of the upper arm and the quadriceps muscles just above the knee. He put extra emphasis on targeting the latter, “Just above the knee, where the muscles narrow and connects to the patellar tendon, it is typically covered by a single layer of pants material. This area is below the bottom of most jackets and below the keys, coins and pocket thrash that could spoil the effect of your cut. Although it is a specific target, it is also a relatively large target, and if you’re close enough to reach the torso, you’re close enough to reach the quadriceps. Cutting this target is called mobility kill.”
In ending, I would like to stress that I wrote this piece for the good guys and it was never my intention to promote or romanticize violence. So many young men today are attracted to the study of knife fighting without realizing the great responsibility that goes with learning this killing art. May the following words of Dan Inosanto serve as a solemn reminder to all practitioners of the blade arts: “There is no excuse for taking a man’s life for life is precious. Any man can take a life but no man can give back a life. Killing is then a matter between a man and his own personal conviction of right or wrong. It is therefore important to train the mind before training the body.”