Author of The Blackout Book and the online course Bloom Where You’re Planted
The last trip I was able to take before Covid-19 erupted in the United States was to Columbus, Ohio. I went there to take a defensive knife course from a fellow blogger, Greg Ellifritz of Active Response Training. I’ve been enjoying his articles and his posts on social media for years, so when the “stars aligned” and there was a course within a few hours of where I was staying, I jumped at the chance.
Why did I decide to take a defensive knife course?
When I told friends about the course I was taking, a lot of them asked why I wanted to take that instead of another firearms course to improve my skills. Firearms courses are great, and I’m a big fan of guns, but the fact of the matter is that there are more and more places you can’t take your gun these days without risking federal felony charges. As well, I travel internationally quite a lot (when there isn’t a pandemic going on) and I wanted a quick-to-learn option for overseas, too.
More than that, I had a personal experience that made me realize I wasn’t at all prepared to use the knife that’s always in my pocket.
One day late last summer, I was enjoying a cool day in a beautiful shaded park in a safe part of the city. It doesn’t matter where the park was because a situation like this could happen anywhere.
I sat on a bench with a book, splitting my time between reading and people watching beside a beautiful fountain. When a young man who appeared to be in his late 20s or early 30s came to sit beside me, I’d already seen him.
He began to talk with me and I instantly felt uncomfortable. I said, “I’m sorry but I’m just waiting here for my boyfriend. He’ll be here any minute.” I hoped the man would leave when I said that, but he wasn’t at all put off by it. After the de-escalation course that I took from Dr. Tammy Yard-McCracken of 500Rising I knew that this was a bad sign.
I got up to leave the situation. He also stood up and began swearing at me and making obscene comments. He grabbed my left arm and began to pull me away from the bench.
I had my knife open in my pocket and in my right hand as I struggled to get free and then I froze. “Oh crap!” I thought. I had no idea what the most effective way to use it would be. Did I cut his arm that was grasping my wrist? Did I try to stick the knife in his eyeball? Should I randomly slash away at him? He was a lot bigger and stronger than me, and I knew whatever my choice was I needed to make it count because I was unlikely to get another strike if I failed to make enough of an impression with the first one.
It sounds like I stood there frozen for 5 minutes pondering this but the thoughts rushed through my head at lightning speed – it was probably less than 2 seconds. A group of people turned down the sidewalk where we were struggling, I managed to break his hold, and I took off running toward the group. When I reached them, a couple of the gentlemen in the group gave chase but the would-be attacker was already gone.
So…now you can see why I wanted to learn more about using a knife. I didn’t ever want to be in a position again in which I felt uncertain about what to do or how to use the weapon at hand. The more defensive skills we can add to our personal arsenals, the more likely we are to be able to defend ourselves in a wider variety of situations.
What I learned in the course
I showed up right on time to the Blackwing Shooting Center just outside Columbus in Delaware, Ohio. It was a large, bright sparkling clean facility with several classrooms. I found the room with the class and sat down, surrounded by mostly guys. There were 3 other ladies in the class so I wasn’t totally alone.
Greg, the instructor, was friendly and obviously very experienced at setting a class full of nervous newbies at ease. In no time at all he had everyone feeling very comfortable. He was professional and respectful throughout the class but it was definitely not stodgy or boring. In fact, it was a lot of fun.
We learned a wide variety of things, such as how to choose our defensive knives. He was very open to a variety of choices for all the different reasons we had to make our choices. Greg knows I travel a lot and had a recommendation to keep me on the right side of at least some European knife laws.
I liked the fact that although a fixed blade is definitely better for fighting, often it’s just not an option to carry without the risk of criminal penalties, so we did a great deal of work with folding knives. We used practice knives which you can find on Amazon, to go through the motions in a way that nobody would get hurt.
The course was focused on “defensive” knife training – so scenarios that aren’t necessarily “knife fights.” This is pretty realistic because often we face attacks from someone unarmed who intends to win the altercation through greater size or force – and that is particularly the case for women. So, we weren’t squaring up to thrust and parry. We were learning how to shut down an attack as quickly and efficiently as possible.
We learned a couple of different ways to hold knives to figure out what felt most comfortable for us. (I was surprised to discover I’m a big fan of the reverse grip that Terry Trahan wrote about recently.) We learned about the different targets on the body we could aim for and the result of each. We learned how to intensify the effects of our stab or slash. We learned how to defend against specific common attacks.
About half of the class was discussion-based where we could sit and take notes, and the other half was getting up and practicing the things we were learning. This method was very helpful for reinforcing the lessons, and it also kept everyone alert and interested, rather than spending 4 hours just listening to lectures. I’ve gone over my notes several times since returning home to keep the lessons fresh. I’ve purchased quite a few knives, too, because I seem to have developed a small addiction to useful pocketknives.
I left feeling pretty confident that while I might not be some kind of pro, I could definitely put up a pretty good fight, and likely inflict lethal damage, if I had a blade in my pocket and no option to leave the situation.
How to get this kind of training
I strongly recommend the instructor I used, Greg Ellifritz, and luckily, he travels around the country to give classes. You can find his schedule here to see if he’s offering any courses near you. I drove several hours and got a hotel for the night, and it was worth every single penny.
As with learning any skill, the instructor really matters.
I remember the difference between my first firearm instructor and the second one. The first one was a blustering braggart who was downright scary. I’d never held a gun in my life and when he was explaining how not to sweep the room with a loaded weapon he said, “If you do, I’ll shoot you for my own protection.” Lovely. That really sets a learning kind of mood. I never went back and it was a couple of months before I tried again. My second instructor was warm, friendly, and calming. She had me completely comfortable using my firearm safely at the end of the first hour and instilled in me a love for shooting in the first lesson.
Greg is the kind of instructor who makes learning enjoyable and safe. He creates a group dynamic of fun, while the lessons he provides are very serious. Every person in the course I attended left happy. I strongly recommend taking a course from him if you can at all.
If you can’t, look at the reviews for the instructor you’re considering. Look for words like “safely” and “enjoyably.” You don’t want a teacher who is boring or who treats students in a way that makes them feel embarrassed.
Next, look for a course that is pertinent to you. I didn’t take a knife fighting course because it’s relatively unlikely I’m going to find myself in a knife fight. This doesn’t rule out taking that kind of course in the future, but learning to use a bladed weapon defensively is a good way to break down the knowledge into smaller pieces.
Think about what is a more likely scenario for you. In my case, it’s far more likely that I’d defend myself with a knife from someone who tried to grab me than it is that I’d get into some kind of duel with a knife-wielding attacker.
This was the cherry on top of the other courses I’ve taken in the last few years. In the past year, I’ve taken a hardcore women’s self-defense course, an urban survival course, and a violence de-escalation course. In previous years I worked on honing my firearm skills in both live-fire environments and simulated ones.
No matter what your desired method of self-defense is, every additional skill you add makes you a harder target. Whether you carry a gun, regularly practice a martial art, or have a can of pepper spray attached to your keychain, adding one more method is just another layer of safety.
And in these crazy days, we need every layer of safety we can get.
Daisy Luther writes about current events, preparedness, frugality, voluntaryism, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, The Organic Prepper. She is widely republished across alternative media and she curates all the most important news links on her aggregate site, PreppersDailyNews.com. Daisy is the best-selling author of 4 books and runs a small digital publishing company. You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.