In This Hub:
Adrenal Decay
An Intro to Self-Defense
Body Sacrosanct
Bonding Process
Dealing with Difficult People
High Risk Behavior
Fight or No?
Lizard Brain
Mental Preparation
Never Again
Provoking An Attack
Reality vs. Actuality
Sanity (in Instructors)
Self-Esteem vs. Self-Respect
Survivor's Guilt
Unintended Consequences
Weapon Disarms
What If Monkeys
Western Ethics and SD

Rape Hub
Robbery Hub

Self Defense Hub
Streetfighting Hub
NNSD Home Page

Search the Site

Marc MacYoung?
Dianna Gordon MacYoung?
Animal E-list
Crime Avoidance Lectures
Crime Blog
Colorado Classes
Contact Us
Hosting A Seminar
   Crime Prevention
   Expert Witness
   Knife Defense
   Law Enforcement
   Martial Arts
   Movie Consulting
   Women's Self-Defense
Our Linking Policy
On-line Store
Train with MacYoung
Terms of Use
Topics of Interest

I wish that I knew what I know
now when I was younger
I wish that I knew what I know
 now when I was stronger.
                     Rod Stewart
                     "Oh La La"

The cost of using a knife...

On this page:
The cost of using a blade

The following was a letter I posted to the Animal list. A young man had narrowly avoided being mugged by some street rats and initially asked the list about the legal issues involving knife use. He was advised to get training in judicious use of lethal force, given advice on awareness and told tips on strategic avoidance. Which -- aside from going miles to keep you from having to use a blade -- is both an integral part of a solid legal defense and a external set of standards to assist you do what you need to do to survive a situation of  immediate threat of death or grave bodily injury.  

Although the last sentence is very clumsy and hard to read, it says something very important. And that is there a strong correlation between acting and legal self-defense.

We disagree with the often spouted idea that knowing the laws of self-defense will cause you to freeze from  fear of prosecution instead of defending yourself.  

Basically we feel this is an attempt by individuals -- who revel in the macho fantasy of knife fighting -- to dismiss the importance of knowing legal requirements and standards of self-defense. Knowing when you are justified to use force and when you are not justified force doesn't interfere with you defending yourself, in fact it helps you. That's because it isn't based in emotions and fear. It is based in knowing what is and isn't an immediate threat.

The only time it would interfere with your ability to move would be when you are in the wrong. In other words, when you are fighting, not defending yourself. Many instructors, who make their bread and butter off selling the warrior mythology and the espousing the deadly street effectiveness of their art, are very guilty of promoting this misconception. We consider this to be a dangerous dismissal of reality by people of questionable motivations, whether student or instructors.

In short, the young man was told to get this training before he even considered carrying a knife on the streets. Then ... the young man asked what we call a "27 Ninjas question." 

The term 27 Ninjas is an abbreviation of the all too common, What if I am walking down a blind alley with $20 bills hanging out of my pockets, and I get jumped by 27 Uzi-wielding ninjas? type of question. Twenty-seven Ninjas questions are commonly asked on self-defense forums and at knife fighting seminars.

By their nature, they are worst case scenarios where the questioner has no choice, but to resort to violence.

More realistically though they are What If Monkey types of questions. They are devoid of common sense. In order to have found yourself in such a situation in the first place, you already have committed many errors in avoidance and strategic movement. People who ask 27 Ninja questions are -- in essence -- asking: Now that I have done everything else wrong, how can I get out of this no-win situation that I've put myself in without injury?

. Putting it bluntly, these kinds of questions often are asked by the young and inexperienced--or worse cyberwarriors, people who fantasize about getting cornered, and therefore have the excuse to unleash the deadly fighting/knife fighting skills they think -- in the safety of their homes and dojos -- they possess.  Now, in a blaze of commando, kung-fu, killer prowess, keyboard warriors and dreamers fantasize fighting free of the mess.(1)

One older man who answered was a member of a Special Forces team in Vietnam. Who had killed several people with knife during sentry removals. Unlike what the crop of knife-fighting experts and their cults of uber-warriors loudly preach about the idea, the use of knives on other human beings traumatized him. The young man's inexperienced question irritated him; because it seemed that the youth was actually seeking an excuse to--next time--bravely fight off a horde of evil doers with his knife.

In his defense, the young man was scared and thought it was a reasonable question. What he didn't realize was that the extent of his question went no further than his immediate fear. It did not take into consideration long-term, post traumatic stress disorder issues that arise from violence.

What follows is my reply. It is an attempt to build a bridge of understanding between the inexperience of youth (and its fears) and the nightmare of experience. Names have been removed.

The cost of using a blade

From: Marc MacYoung
Sent: Thursday, November 20, 2003

***** said
> What do you mean by gray area? Are you stuck? Are you in the place that you are not supposed to be? >Or your ego makes you want to stay?

*sigh* Here is where I put on my other moderator hat. The one that allows me to see both sides. Let me start out by saying as Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young said it in "Teach Your Children Well"

Teach your children well
Their father's hell did slowly go by
And you, of tender years
Don't know the fears that your elders grew by

A) ******, he doesn't know what hell lies on the other side of a knife. B) (Kid who had posted) as a civilian, there is a legal hell you will probably go through, but...even if it is a "cleanest of the clean" self-defense application...there is another hell that awaits you. A hell that is made worse if it wasn't a 100% clean. That is to say that you allowed pride, anger or ego put you into a place where you seriously hurt or killed another human being.

This "experience" stays with you for your entire life. And when you are young or when it is sort of fresh, you can push it down and lock it away (too fresh and, no. Years later, no. It will always come back to haunt you. But three months afterward -- when you think you got it handled -- yes. Ah the confidence of inexperience). The thing is, it never goes away. You may have a large locked door in your psyche where you think you have safely locked it away , but the thing burrows out and disguises itself as it runs through your mind/life and plays hob with all kinds of other things.

It will affect you in all kinds of ways. It depends on who you are, but one thing is for sure, it will be in your "unconscious basement" and fuck with various systems (plumbing, electric, structural support, foundations, etc). And a lot of times in the calm of the night, or when you are too tired to keep the restraints on the door, it will pick the lock and creep upstairs to smash shit and jump on you as you are sleeping. And all of a sudden, you are right back there again; reliving that moment and the horror. Think Amityville Horror, but the "house" is your mind and the demon is attacking it too.

It doesn't go away...and it is very, very real.

As Barry Eisler recommended The Gift of Fear, I recommend Dave Grossman's On Killing. In it, he talks about the resistance to kill anyway and resistances about killing at different ranges. Knife work...well...let's just say, it's too fuckin' close. The resistances get stronger the closer you get. And that is the case for many, many reasons. I tell you what, even if you don't believe in it, it's like being at ground zero of a bad juju explosion. You may not even know that you have a psychic basement, but, after that kind of situation, the lock on the door to it has been picked and, guess what? Amityville Horror time.

Why do you think so many criminals burn out? Do you have any idea how hard it is to keep those doors locked and barricaded with a constant supply of self-rationalization and self-justification for what they did? When you get tired of doing that, you dope yourself. You keep on stacking shit to numb it and give yourself freedom from the pressure. You don't allow yourself to see the source of the problem until you either fall into addiction, burn out or are shuffled off into the corner and viewed as some dangerous wierdo by normal society.

And, yes, there are true sociopaths /psychopaths who don't feel this stuff...but statistically speaking, they are incredibly rare, even in "The Life." Most crims end up wrecked, warehoused, burned out, addicted or dead. And if this stuff can do it to them, what is it going to do to a normal person? Someone who doesn't have the egomania of a criminal?

I must admit, I have a serious problem with the current "knife fighting" trend...especially when it is these cyber-studs who roam the Internet and go to these stud-ly, knife fighting seminars where they practice committing mayhem on their fellow beings. I've watched tapes, and I've listened to what a lot of people promote as "knife use." Quite honestly, what too many instructors are saying will either get their students killed or thrown in prison. Killed, because if you are in a situation where you are legally justified in using a knife, then that move had better have a block inherent in it because something lethal is heading your way. In prison because they teach the guys to attack with a blade sans that kind of threat. That makes it murder or at the very least manslaughter, neither of which are justifiable or legal.

Even if the "knife fighter" doesn't go to prison, do you have any idea what that is going to do to his psyche? I'm not even talking legal here, some part of him will know what he did was not justified.

Also referring back to Grossman, violence is THE most "toxic environment" known to mankind. Now a lot of people, can get away with it because they are the ones committing the violence. But, in truth, it fucks everyone else up, some more, some less. Head-to-head violence, however, really fucks up everyone because you are both the offender and the victim. With this dual citizenship, you can't hide in either convenient definition.

And quite honestly, I suspect the awareness of this dual citizenship is one of the reasons many crims will avoid attacking someone who is calmly prepared to do what is necessary to survive. I can't quite put my finger on it, but it is over and above the "he might get killed messing with the wrong dude" fear/deterrent.

(Kid who had posted), the incident that you had was a mild taste of the hell that is out there. A situation occurred where the door was cracked open just a bit. And it is not uncommon to be scared shitless when you get a peek. But one of the most important things to do is NOT to let fear/ego/ emotion put you into a situation where you are likely to throw the door wide open and jump in.

Putting it bluntly, that is a what a whole lot of the knife info that I've seen taught is assisting people to do. Despite their huffing and puffing about what bad asses they are, all they are focusing on is their fear of the event. They don't pay enough attention to legal, moral and psychological issues that result from knife use. But from where the person is, it looks like he is taking steps to close that door. They're really convinced they're taking care of the problem. In fact, they are opening the door still wider. And, worse, setting themselves up to fling it wide open and dive through.

This is why establishing withdraw/evasion protocols is so important. It keeps you away from that door. No, it is not as emotionally gratifying or ego massaging as carrying a weapon and telling yourself "If I ever had to use it I'd...." but it is far, far safer on many, many levels. Your emotions can hijack you (read, Daniel Goleman's: Emotional Intelligence). What's worse is that they can set you up to catapult you into hell. If you just think carrying a knife and asking the list "would I be legally justified in doing this?" is enough then you are not seeing the full scope of the problem. The fear arising from that quick peek into hell is guiding you, not calm, rational, critical thinking.

Now on any other forum, you would have been bombarded with "Ook, Ook, slobber drool, see how big my dick is" responses. What I want you to see is the fact that you're getting solid, dependable advice about getting information from a credible source about the legalities of use of force. You're getting damn good advice on awareness and strategies to create a buffer between you and the criminals. As well as creating a rational, reasonable set of standards and behavioral track record (I did A, he did B) -- that you can articulate to the police and DA -- about what 
1) you did to avoid it,
2) what he did that told you it wasn't "innocent" and
3) why it was necessary to do what you did. And on top of this, you are getting a better understanding of the hell that lies in wait on the other side of the door. Once you understand that, all this other non-macho, practical, rational stuff is way more appealing because it keeps you out of that hell.

For the record, (Kid who had posted) is one of the people on this list who knows what it means to use a knife on another human being. He knows the demon that I talk of here, as do others. Talk to them and see what this demon has done to them. And heed their warnings: Don't let fear, emotion or pride cast you into hell by learning only enough about this subject to calm your immediate fear. The truth is, it will never work.

The door is still cracked and despite all of their blustering and posing when you go to these knife fighting forums, populated by ultimate cyber warriors...they stink of fear. They have never taken the rational, logical steps to close the door. Fortunately for most of them, they don't live lifestyles where they really would have to use this stuff, but they still have become fixated on it. Never there, but never able to let it go. The only reason that door stays cracked open is that they keep it open. Never able to fully close it, but never brave enough to go through it either. And forever dismissing, deriding or just never getting around to coughing up the cash for any information that would bring it out of their fantasy and into reality.

Don't fall into that trap. Because if you think a peek of hell is bad, wait until you end up getting catapulted there because you were lingering by the door, peeking in. Either close the door or go in fully prepared.


That's what I told this young man.

For people who want to learn knife fighting in order to "defend themselves," think long and hard on this post. It deals with the realities of using a knife on another human being. Before you've gone there, all sorts of things look more important. Once you've gone through that door, they are shown as nothing but silly pride and baseless fears. That's because what's on the other side of the door is far, far worse. Unfortunately, I speak from experience on this issue, and I would not wish this hell on anyone. Don't go through that door.  

Although I am talking rather poetically in this post, there is a serious psychological basis to the subject. It addresses post traumatic stress disorder, post traumatic event disorder, legal, criminology, social and ethical issues that lead to all kinds of problems. The long-term ramifications of these issues are seldom addressed by martial arts or reality-based combat proponents. Although they are not part of the fantasy of violence, they are very much the reality of the aftermath of violence.

Oh, for the cyber studs who will read this page and go off and rip me apart on their ultimate combat forums...well, Eric Hoffer said it best: Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.

Grow up, boy, this is real life we are talking about. And that goes beyond your fears, pride and fantasies. It involves people's lives and complicated adult issues. You aren't the first one to go down that road, and some of us have gone even farther. Do yourself a favor and don't scoff at the stories of trouble coming your way from further up the road. If you don't have the wisdom to do that, at least have the good manners NOT to lie to younger more inexperienced people than yourself about what it takes to be on this road.

'Cause you ain't made the trip yet...and we both know it.


Return to top

1) The answer to a 27 Ninja question is: "You die...what were you doing there in the first place?" While it is technically possible to survive the kinds of scenarios that are painted with these questions, the person who has the skills/commitment/ferocity to do so will hardly ever put himself into that kind of situation. Return to text.

Street Safe: How to Recognize and Avoid Violent Crime
Learn More >
Order Now!

Judicious Use of Deadly Force
Learn More >

Order Now!

Surviving a Street Knife Attack
Learn More >
Order Now!

Post Shooting Trauma
Learn More >

Order Now!

Survivor Personality
Learn More >
Order Now!

Learn More >
Order Now!

Turning Fear Into Power
Learn More >
Order Now!

Experience- & Reality-Based Self-Defense
Learn More >
Order Now!

Knives, Knife Fighting and Related Hassles
Learn More >
Order Now!

Warriors: On Living with Courage, Discipline and Honor
Learn More >

Order Now!

Psycho-Physiological Effects of Violent Encounters
Learn More >

Order Now!

Surviving Workplace Violence
Learn More >

Order Now!

Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement
Learn More >
Order Now!

Cute Lawyer Tricks
Learn More >
Order Now!

The Bulletproof Mind
Learn More >
Order Now!

The Missing Link: Self-Protection Through Awareness, Avoidance and De-Escalation
Learn More >
Order Now!

Street E&E
Learn More >
Order Now!

Cheap Shots, Ambushes and Other Lessons
Learn More >
Order Now!

The Combat Perspective: A Thinking Man's Guide to Self-Defense
Learn More >
Order Now!

Escape Combatives
Special Bonus Feature
Learn More >
Order Now!

About navigating this site | Animal List | Bibliography | Bullies | Burglary while on vacation | Classes in Colorado | Car Jacking | Children and Martial Arts | Child Safety | Criminal Mindset | Cults in MA/SD | De-Escalation | E-mail Dianna | E-mail Marc| FAQs | Have MacYoung speak about crime avoidance | Home Page | Home Defense | Hosting a Seminar | Fear | Five Stages of Crime | Knife Fighting | Legal Issues | LEO/Correctional Officer/EMS | Linking policy | Links | Martial Arts | Photo Gallery | Property Crime | Psychology | Rape | Robbery | Safe Dating | Self-Defense Training | Selling your books/DVDs on NNSD | Seminar Schedule | Stalking/Domestic Violence | Street Fighting | Terms of Use | Testimonials | Train with Marc MacYoung | Who is Dianna Gordon MacYoung? | Who is Marc "Animal" MacYoung? | Victimhood | Workplace Problems | Zero Tolerance