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Martial Arts Fail of the Week: Stop a Knife Attack…WITH A TOWEL!

(They’re wearing camo so they must be for real.)

By Eric Linderman

Hey, everybody. I don’t know you, and you don’t know me. Frankly, I don’t care that you don’t care. But I’ve done this stuff for at least a decade, so I hope that adds some credibility to my destruction of bullshit martial arts techniques. I could go and list and all my belts and experiences, but really you don’t care. You just want to know this week’s Martial Arts Fail.

So what do you do in a knife attack? What is my defense? Do I stay out of range? Obviously not, because that would actually make sense. Do I get in really close? Yup, and not only do you get in really close but you also block and strip your attacker of his weapon.

I have seen a number of movies, YouTube videos and martial art seminar that come with a blistering array of stupid “katas” and series of moves to disarm a knife attack. As a result, it spawns all kind of stupidity.

Remember that movie Jason Bourne with Matt Damon? Yeah the one where he fights that foreign guy who has a knife and Matt Damon prevents being stabbed by stopping the knife wielder’s attacks with a towel? Yeah? Good. Sounds dumb when I spell it out don’t it?

Jump to the 1:10 mark to remind yourself.

In my time, I’ve had many good teachers and I’ve seen lots of crap. My problem with “cool moves” in action movies is that it spawns kids to go and find out what martial art style will teach them to fight “like that” or a martial art instructor who will teach them “crap” because it is what kids want to learn. So here, we go with stupidity demonstration number 1:

Personally, I like how the video starts with the title of “Real World Self Defense”. You know it has to be totally legit with a title like that. In fact, only menacing, bright red pants could make it more legit. In the video, you see a guy try to stab his victim only to leave his arm hanging out there. The heroine will STEP INTO HIS ATTACK and wrap his forearm in a towel and goes for a weak standing Americana, followed by a leg sweep. The attacker will allow all this to happen to him. That’ll work (that’s sarcasm if you couldn’t tell). The situation of being attacked with a knife while you’re holding a towel is so circumstantial anyway. Do people just prowl the streets clutching towels for safety in case of knife attacks?

Moving on to stupidity demonstration number 2:

This guy is much more legit because his attacker uses a shock knife and because it’s “In the name of science” (yeah he really says that). He is going to show you how to disarm a guy with a knife.

This clip is a little better in terms that the attacker doesn’t leave his arm out there. However, the attack is a bit over committed and the victim does the same thing by stepping into the attack! Not only does he step into the attack but also he goes to grab the arm and work his way down to the weapon. Seemed great right? Maybe you are thinking, “Wow, this guy’s Kali system really works!” WRONG. Notice the attacker does nothing to respond to being attacked. The attacker is not fighting back but instead is entirely concerned about losing the knife. Towards the end of the video, the victim is in a turtle position completely open for any secondary attackers and potentially just knees and punches to head from the primary attacker, while they scramble for this knife. I’m still confused as to how he disarms him. It looks more like the attacker just let go of the knife and ran away hysterically.

If you know where this stuff is taught legitimately, please tell us!

Let’s quickly discuss the reality of a fight between a guy with a knife and a guy without one.

I have never seen a self-defense technique that is foolproof against a knife attack; such strikes are dynamic and it’s difficult to protect oneself against them. Lyoto Machida is the master of getting out of the way of being attacked and he still gets knocked out!

Anyone who teaches a foolproof system is full of more crap than Yoel Romero. A knife attack is quick, up close and personal, and it is $&#@ing brutal! There seems to be two schools of thought: Some people teach this concept of grabbing the weapon hand, and other people teach to strike the attacker and forget the weapon hand. There is nothing that I have found to date that is 100% functional. If you have the unfortunate experience of getting into a confrontation with a person with a knife. Expect to get cut.

So what do I say to you? I would recommend that you get out of the way. No one will ever criticize you for giving up your wallet to guy with a knife. People will criticize you for trying to fight a guy who had a knife (unless your name is Guy Mezger).

If you see any video that’s good (or bad) enough to make the cut, let us know! Send it to

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