Most people I talk to are surprised to hear my thoughts on knives for self defense, given how many knives and other sharp objects I actually own. While I generally consider myself a pacifist, I’m not morally opposed to harming another individual who means me or my family harm. But I truly believe that for most applications, a knife is one of the worst possible tools for self-defense. I understand that I’m probably in the minority among cutlery enthusiasts, but I do know from various discussions on the Internet that I’m not the only one who feels this way.
First off, it’s probably been 25 years since I was in a dojo or actively practiced any form of self defense. However, I have never stopped contemplating the philosophical aspects of self defense, which is where my main interest lies, though someday I may be called upon to put my philosophy to the test.
Before I give my thoughts on knives, I would like to point out that I believe that for most encounters, having to defend yourself in the first place is a failure of your self defense strategy. I honestly haven’t seen many situations in my entire life which didn’t have some non-violent way out. Most people just plain suck at even simple conflict resolution, which I believe lies at the heart of all true self defense. Like Bruce Lee said, the art of fighting without fighting. I believe avoiding a fight is the highest form of self defense.
The main reason I believe that knives make lousy self defense weapons in general is that as a weapon, it gives you the fewest options of any weapon other than a gun. With a knife, defending yourself requires killing or maiming your attacker, which again, I’m not morally against per se. But my attacker is also another human being; somebody’s son. So, I’m not against harming my attacker, but that is not my main intent, which is to remain unharmed myself. If I can plot a course through a sea of hotheads and come out the other side with no one harmed, then I would very much prefer that outcome.
Again, the goal of self defense is not to harm others, but to avoid harm yourself. I think other options like pepper spray, mace and even small batons are a far superior solution to that one time in one hundred where there’s no peaceful solution, like being mugged or something. Make your attacker reconsider the attack just long enough to get away. It seems like that should be your ultimate goal in most situations. And as such, weapons like knives and guns should be last ditch weapons relegated mostly to home defense.
Now, for home defense I do keep a Cold Steel Tanto GI knife in my nightstand, and yeah, I am a collector, with, uh, just a few knives. So, I do think knives are passable home defense weapons; not ideal, but passable. Also, I live in a semi-rural area, and something that goes bump in the night is more likely to be a wild animal, which as my dad points out, probably isn’t aware of my tendencies towards pacifism. But so far, I’ve even managed to have peaceful encounters with the wildlife.
I have been even thinking of using something like a big can of bear spray as a first line of home defense too in addition to a high lumen strobe light which I have used semi-successfully on a few wild animals. And tactical flashlights also make great Kubotans as well.