There is No Such Thing as a ‘Knife Fight’ – Some Common Sense Self-Defence

By Bryan Mennie

Just like all of you, I get irritated by certain things. Most of the times I am pretty proud of myself, and I ignore it or leave the situation without saying a word. On occasion I allow my impulsive nature to get the better of me, and I just cannot help being sarcastic or, if the situation is one where I sense the person is genuinely seeking knowledge, providing my opinion. I always ask permission before I do that, though.

Now for all the times I have walked away, been the better person, and allowed common sense to override my more base instincts, I have decided to put my ‘pen to paper’ as a foil to building up on an overload of sarcasm or suffering a ‘mordant caustic infarction’.

No, this is not a breaking down of gun myths follow on – this is a recognition of stupidity which has congruency within the gun world, training world, martial arts world or whatever moniker you want to foist upon yourself to artificially limit your thinking in your quest for belonging to a group.

  • Lets start it up with this “don’t bring a knife to a gunfight’ and its ever popular polar opposite ‘never bring a gun to a knife fight’. Unless you are illustrating a point, this is a ridiculous statement to make. There are no knife fights or gun fights – there are only fights. A fight is not about the type of weapon you use but describes that physical, mental and physiological interaction where you will do whatever needs to be done to survive and get home. The type of tool is meaningful only in so far as it dictates the tactics you use at that moment. STOP limiting your own ability to see, understand and resolve a problem by channeling it only to one response bucket.
  • “Violence is never the answer”. Wrong. Just plain wrong. Also stop telling your kids that. Violence is sometimes the only answer. A closed mind and a lack of understanding is never the answer. Face it, sometimes you have to fight to survive. That is just a truism of life today. What violence cannot be, is your only response mechanism – you need to have variety, but above all you need to be able to see, assess and understand the situation.
  • “I don’t need to fight, I have a gun”, or “only cowards have a knife”, or “I don’t go to dangerous places, I don’t need a gun”, or finally “these hands are lethal weapons!” EEERGGGHHHH. Whenever I hear people make one or all these statements, I have a mental image of “peaceful protestors” setting fire to cars. It is (to quote the great Jeremy Clarkson) “stupid, stupid, stupid”. You need balance, you need options and no – your hands are not registered as lethal weapons. In fact no one but you cares about your martial arts exploits. It leads me back to my point about driving all problems to one solution bucket.
  • That previous point supports a natural segue into this one. “I don’t go to the gym, I go to the range”. Now I am not going to rewrite articles I have written, or that Rouen Heiberg has written. We have made the point that fitness is important, far more for your general quality of life than for just your self-defence capabilities. However, if I were to dwell on that specific element, then understand the basic psychology of the predator. Yes, the criminal is a predator. They will seek the easiest target first. If you move with awareness, balance and confidence (ABC) you are less likely to be selected as a viable target by a criminal. Being fit, strong and competent adds to that projection.
  • Stop seeking the cut and dried answer. Yes, yes – I wanted to say stop seeking the black and white answer, but then I would have created something for small minded people to fixate on. For those of us who have the mental capacity to ignore stupid “isms”, I will expand. Defensive situations are rarely definitive until they are. We often seek positive affirmation of another’s actions before initiating any of our own. We look at the robberies, attacks and critical events as having a defining, easily recognisable moment when they occur, and we shape our response to flow from that. Yet reality does not reflect that pipe dream consistently. Criminals are adept at disguising their intent in a myriad of fashions, and whilst they always exhibit signs and indications of an attack, these signs are far more subtle than most people appreciate.
  • When I say signs, I didn’t mean those patterns of twigs, or the coke tin under the rock at your back gate which provides a veritable Rosetta stone of information to some would-be housebreaker. No. These urban legends are, however, symptomatic of a lack of understanding of the criminal dynamic and a result of so-called experts who pontificate on what criminals always do. Criminals always seek the easiest target with sufficient value to offset the risk that they must face in the simplest manner possible. What they don’t do is leave coded signs for each other, fixate on a singular modus operandi, or pick up trash on the curb.
  • Another irritation point is “they burnt CDs and sent our entire family into a deep sleep before they broke in.” Despite the fact that remedial science disputes that categorically, parent logic indicates that if that were the case, parents of young children would be the world’s most prolific buyers of CDs and lighters in their quest to gains some sanity and alone time from their insomniac brood. People sleep, some more deeply than others. People also justify a lot of nocturnal sounds because they don’t want to get out from under the warm covers. People believe that if they keep really still and quiet they will be ok. During my career as a police officer I served thousands of warrants, many of those on suspects who were armed and had a history of resisting arrest. In the vast majority of cases, we were through a security gate, the door and standing at the person’s bed side before they woke up or had processed a cognitive thought.

Now I could go on and on, and I probably will revisit this or expand upon it going forward, but for today I wanted to leave you with this thought; the most effective self-defence tool you will ever possess is the liberal application of common sense, and the ability to shut-up and walk away from an argument with a fool.


Bryan Mennie is a professional risk and crisis manager. He has taught kidnap avoidance and hostage survival to various international organizations and has managed protective and security operations in over twenty countries in Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

7 thoughts on “There is No Such Thing as a ‘Knife Fight’ – Some Common Sense Self-Defence

  1. You use all you can when confronted with violence. In SA there is no winner or loser. One survives and the other is dead. Use gun, knife, hands, chairs, spades, bricks or whatever is at hand to win. Train in proper hand to hand (no sporting codes with rules) , proper combat shooting and get fit enough to run around the block at least.

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  2. Just like you I guess…I have a tendency to get emotionally “extracted” by some comments and article’s that I read and use to find myself way to often making comments that ends up consuming (rather wasting) to much energy and time. I am actually not sure what made me read this but I think the heading grabbed my intention. I am not going to elaborate on all the things you mentioned because it would just be repeating what you have already pointed out. I have been in a few hairy situations in my life and I think staying calm and let common sense prevail is always the best option. This pretty much goes for all things in life not just when faced with a life threatening situation. My point being is that I wish more people would read things like this instead of main stream horse sh!t. But then we are not all the same and therefore your and my common sense probably also differ dramatically from a lot of other people., But you already knew that because you make a living teaching other people what you see as common sense – LOL. But nice one bud. Good read and true in most cases. a Bit like don’t steal candy when the store owner is looking at you. But then some still do…..Cheers.

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  3. My state has no castle doctrine and doesn’t want the average law abiding citizen to be able to protect themselves but at 67 years of age there is only so much retreating, running and “physicality” that I can muster no matter how fit I am. I am not the guy I was 35 years ago and I was a fit and aggressive LEO and an Infantry Vietnam Vet. I am sure now I’m at the top of the human predator’s victim list. I know that there are certain things at my age I can do to avoid being a victim mostly be aware of my surroundings. But if the SHTF I would be 0 to Gun pretty quickly as running and fighting are mostly out or limited as an option for seniors such as me. Just saying.

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    • Your comment makes perfect sense to me, for what it’s worth. Age and/or infirmity has a way of limiting one’s options, sad to say.

      On the article itself, excellent job from my layman’s perspective. I’m too lazy to type the story of an incident that happened while in line at Starbuck’s a couple years ago (a place that will never get another dime from me, but that’s another subject), but being deferential to the person ahead of me who, apparently, had a huge chip on his shoulder, calmed a needlessly tense situation (man, that was a long sentence!). I was armed, of course, but I kept my ego in check and went about my day. Someone down the line will probably school the fool, it just won’t be me.

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