“Atlanta police say an officer was forced to open fire after a man stabbed a plainclothes Georgia State University officer with a large knife in the middle of downtown Atlanta,” wsbtv.com reports. Roger that. Also no question: it sucks to get stabbed. The best way not to be stabbed is not to be stabbable. The best way to attain unstabbability? Stay out of reach. How far out of reach? Different time zone works for me. Short of that . . .

Try to stay well out of arm’s reach. The most effective strategy in that regard: move indeed run away.

But what it you can’t? What if the edged-weapon-wielding perp take you by surprise? Or you’re mobility challenged? In that case, you’re gonna get cut.

Which is why it’s absolutely vital to get some kind of hand-to-hand combat skills under your belt, regardless of how much weight your belt struggles to contain. Using some basic hand, knee and/or elbow strikes you may be able to hurt your attacker enough to get the chance MOVE AWAY. And then, hopefully, leave. While bleeding.

Alternatively, if you can’t or shouldn’t leave (e.g., you’ve got kids in tow), the distance created by your counter-attack may give you the time you need to draw your weapon from concealment, let loose the lead nosecones of war and stop the threat(s). While bleeding.

No matter how you look at it, the gap between you and a two-legged threat is a – if not the key variable. The larger the gap, the more time you have to think/react/escape/evade/attack. That’s why bad guys like to ambush their prey or rush them: to close the distance and limit your options for self-defense. That’s also why you need to spool-up your situational awareness before an attack.

As The Music Man reminded us, you gotta know the territory. And defend it. It’s not just situational awareness that gives you the time you need to consider, choose and implement self-defense options. It’s spatial awareness.

A homeless man walked-up to me in the parking lot yesterday, looking to bum some money. I’ve got nothing against panhandlers per se, but I held up my hand and told him “STAY THERE” as he approached. If he hadn’t stopped I would have walked around the car, putting the vehicle between us, while preparing to draw.

There is no unified field theory of armed self-defense. But if there was it would go like this: distance is time and time is life and life is life (na na na na). Mind the gap. [h/t DB]

39 Responses to Self-Defense Tip: Mind the Gap!

  1. Hmm…something’s up. There’s a big blank space where the video is supposed to be in the last two posts. At least for me, iPhone 4s

  2. Works for me. Better res version at LiveLeaks. Not a lot of PC sympathy there, btw…
    http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=55a_1409178263#comment_page=2

    Kind of hard to see whatever exactly was going on with the reportedly GSU plainclothes campus cop, who shows up in the video, next to a car as the camera goes around the corner.

    I thought both cops showed a lot of restraint. It looks like they were trying to talk the guy down.
    If the perp was armed with a large knife, he could have done a lot of damage, and in fact, the second cop let him get well within the “21′ rule”, and thats where the video gets bouncy and hard to follow exactly what happened.

    The second cop appeared to be maybe block him from going further, along the side walk, but it looks like he was having to block a swing, or possibly had grabbed the perps arm, to restrain or disarm him, with an arm bar type move-

    and at that point it got ugly, for it looked like the second cop tripped or in pulling back and forth, he got off balance, and had to retreat, finally broke clear.

    At which point the first cop who had been patiently following the perp shot him. I wonder what was important enough about that place where the car was parked, where the campus cop tried to stop him, rather than just follow further, as they had from where it started.

  3. Looks like the Channel 11 CBS Affiliate has updated their video- more commentary:
    http://www.11alive.com/story/news/local/downtown/2014/08/27/officer-involved-shooting-at-woodruff-park/14699959/#

    The Atlanta Journal also has more- this happened Wednesday, so more facts have come out.
    http://www.ajc.com/news/news/police-officer-involved-shooting-at-woodruff-park/ng9xP/

    Apparently the guy was drunk and hassling some woman in the park, with a knife, and the first officer, a woman, give him a chance to drop it, even after he tried to grab her while she was cuffing him, and got loose, after which this video documents him walking away, and getting into the scuffle with the second cop.

    • I approve of how the Atlanta media handled this- not a feeding frenzy, and careful to wait for more facts to come out.

  4. Blank space on my phone (android). Videos NEVER work on my crappy phone. But mostly just TTAG videos. FWIW

  5. Why let a guy with a knife get close? Restraint is one thing but you know damn well he is armed and the knife is in his hand. This is one place shouting orders at someone makes sense. If he does not stop, and continues to advance, well then….

    • As far as I can tell from all available sources, neither of the cops knew the suspect had a knife until he pulled it out to stab the plain-clothes cop. Unfortunately, bad guys always have the advantage.

      It looked like a righteous shoot to me.

  6. We are taught the 21 foot rule.. Basically, if a perp is within 21 feet…an officers ability to draw in time is limited. We are taught to use our non gun arm to block the knife attack until we can draw. We practice this and other blocking tactics regularly.

    • ^ This.

      Martial arts training can be very useful to learn blocks.

      Keep in mind that it is extremely difficult to entirely block a strike and prevent contact all together. Rather, in the real world, blocks deflect strikes or minimize their impact.

      In the case of a knife attack, there is a good chance that the attacker will make contact and wound you. However, good blocks will seriously reduce the severity of wounds. Where it gets really good is when you can block and then almost instantly counter strike. The counter strike can either break the attacker’s arm or stun them and provide the opportunity to draw a firearm.

      • You make a really good point dealing with an unexpected knife. Many years ago when I use to take martial arts, Kempo if it matters, one of the lessons our instructor put us through was a dill with a red magic marker. This was a wake up thing for some of the guys in the class. In the end the lesson really amounted to “try to avoid being stabbed in the torso” followed by “if you know he has a knife, shoot him.”

    • Unlearn the ’21ft Rule.’ It doesn’t exist; The 21ft distance was chosen by Dennis Tueller as the minimum demonstrative distance in which a reasonably-skilled person could draw from the holster and fire two rounds at a charging person before contact. The problem with the ‘rule’ is that unless your two rounds terminate the life processes of the charging person IMMEDIATELY, which is improbable, you will be almost certainly be stabbed, and quite possibly die along with the attacker even IF your bullets take good effect, as the stabber will be shot just as he reaches the shooter/stabbee. It takes about 1.5 seconds to cross 21ft at a good run; It takes most folks 1.5 seconds to draw and fire IF they don’t muff the draw in the excitement and/or miss completely.
      The ‘rule’ also adds that you may be stabbed or slashed anyway if you are ‘at guard’ with the pistol already drawn, but maybe not, as the subject will most likely finish the charge but with less gusto; It continues on to say that if you are ‘pointed in’ at a vital area at 21ft, you MAY avoid being stabbed altogether.
      One of the points of the ’21ft Rule’ which is NOT ‘rule’ is that you should be FARTHER away than 21ft–maybe 30, or 35, or 40, but certainly not within 21ft unless you are at least ‘at guard’, and maybe ‘pointed in’. Closer than that, you’d better have the sights aligned and a finger on the trigger, safety off if there is one.
      Another point the ‘rule’ is that one isn’t supposed to stand still while being charged while trying to draw, but instead one MOVES while drawing to get out of the path of the knife. It’s perfectly fine to step to one side or run like a madman at a tangent in general opposite of the bad guy’s direction (never step back, or run the same direction he’s going) of travel to be ready to shoot him when he comes back for another try.

      How about we call it ‘The 21-Foot Rule Is Too Close Unless You’re Aiming At Centre Mass With Pressure On The Trigger Rule?’

      • I had a very similar response written up, but you covered it. Everyone should know by now that pistol bullets are bad at killing people, and that people don’t always stop immediately when shot. People on drugs can keep going for quite some time with fatal injuries, in particular.

        http://www.theppsc.org/Staff_Views/Tueller/How.Close.htm

        Even Tueller recognized some problems- “As the photo series illustrates, even if your draw and shots are perfect, you are cutting things awfully close (no pun intended). And even if your shots do take the wind out of his sails, his forward momentum may carry him right over the top of you, unless, of course, you manage to get out of his way. And if you are confronted with more than one assailant, things really get tricky. So what’s a pistol-packing person to do?”

        • Only thing we can do. Plug the bad guys early and often, then hope for the best. There is no magic.

        • Love that show. I guess the criminals that always expect Raylan to play by the rules have not talked to his coworkers, who know that Raylan has only a nodding familiarity with the rules. I think the reason Boyd has stayed alive so long is a) he’s the best character on the show and b) his first encounter with Raylan after his return taught him to never underestimate Raylan Givens. Boyd is unusual in that he survived his encounter with Raylan.

  7. Canes or walking sticks. Great weapons that are immediate to hand and very effective against a knife. Or an unruly dog. I always take a walking stick when I go walking.

  8. Not unlike dry fire drills, I do a lot of visualization and “what if” scenarios. The edged weapon? I recognize that there’s a good chance I will be stabbed or slashed. In fact, while I think through evasion/defenses, I also think through actually getting cut. I don’t want the “holy crap I’ve been cut” response in real life to distract me from what I need to do, so I regularly imagine getting cut up as part of the scenario. The most important part, of course, is to see the “getting cut” part as just one segment of the overall response to the threat. The more you recognize that bad things might/may/will probably happen to you as you defend yourself, the less incapacitating they will be if it ever does occur, and the better-able you will be to fall back on your training and practice and stop the threat. And not just the active response to the threat – I visualize self-aid and calling for help as soon as the scene is secure.

    • Absolutely. Including the option to not to have to shoot. Nobody wants to be on local/national TV as a “murderer” even if the shoot is completely justified. The best option is always to go somewhere else and have a cool beverage. The best option is not always available, but having more distance keeps it in the equation a lot longer.

      • Attempting to gain distance, if you are being followed and speeds are increasing, with sharp thing visible or even suspected, open fire. Do not wait. Even one or two pops will make 99% stop and think. Keep moving, look like no fun, and start reaching for a reload. Anyone who is still following when your first load runs dry is not a casual thief or rapist, you have been targeted.

  9. Atlanta, GA, the new Detroit. Going, going, gone! Run a demographic search for Atlanta to see from where the trouble is escalating. Or would that not be PC?

  10. Notice this happens in front of the Police station. They were sweeping the park as the president of GSU was about to come through it. Must be nice to have armed security. That side of the street is considered Campus of GSU.

    One of the new laws HB826 allows carry on campus, but the AG of GA says it conflicts with HB60. There are at least 4 lawsuits across the metro area last week and more to come contesting that.

  11. So is getting stabbed “with a large knife in the middle of downtown Atlanta” as painful as getting stabbed in the middle of your stomach?

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