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Staying ahead of the edge

If you’ve ever trained in classes that cover edged weapon attacks, be it in martial arts or self-defence workshops or other fields such as the military or private security then you’ve likely been exposed to unrealistic knife defence techniques and theories. Some sessions will give you technique overload where you cover that much content that you walk away struggling to remember anything. Others will have you believing that you are invincible and can disarm the world in a second.

In the industry of martial arts and self defence there are literally tens of thousands of experts, many do more harm than good. Truth is the best knife defence is never to have to use one through situational awareness and keeping the ego in check.

Over the last 12 months in the UK there has been a shift in the type of edged weapons used on the street. It used to be that most weapons were concealed in pockets or the hand and then deployed at the last second. Things like craft knives and Stanley knives used to be the preferred weapons of choice. These were and still are hard to defend against with many people not knowing that they had been stabbed until to second or even third strike.

Today in the UK knife crimes have surged, resulting in fatalities and widespread fear leading to public anxiety and calls for stronger measures. The latest attacks show that now it is the time of the zombie knife, these larger machete style knives bring with them a different style of attack. In an attempt to combat the menace of zombie knives and machetes, the UK Home Office introduced a new law set to take effect in September 2024. Here are two key points of this new legislation:

1.       Zombie Knives: These are knives designed to look menacing, often featuring unconventional shapes and aggressive aesthetics. The law aims to close loopholes that allowed companies to exploit the ban on zombie knives.

2.       Machetes: Although machetes serve practical purposes in certain contexts (such as agriculture), the law targets those with no legitimate use. The ban seeks to curb violence by restricting the sale of these weapons.

Martial arts can provide valuable skills for self-defence, especially against knife attacks, but only if the defences taught replicate what is happening on the street and are taught in a realistic way. Every self-defence workshop or martial arts lesson covering edged weapon defences should also consider adrenaline stress and the loss of fine motor skills when confronted with high threat scenarios

 Here are some techniques that individuals can learn:

Evasion and Footwork are an important part of any self-defence system and when faced with a knife-wielding attacker, sidestepping, instead of stepping backwords, to evade the blade is crucial. Getting off the centre line of attack is important, lateral movement gives the defender chance to see what is left and right whilst still having the ability to keeps your eyes on the attacker. Stepping backward could lead to you walking into unseen trip hazards.

Blocks, controlling and disarming techniques should all be covered in both martial arts training and self-defence workshops. These techniques should be fluid and ever changing & specifically designed for the current threat. A zombie knife attack is significantly different in nature than that of a concealed craft knife. Therefore, it stands to reason that these techniques should focus on the type of blade used as opposed to generic techniques.

The most important part of any training must be situational awareness and preparedness, being aware of your surroundings and recognising potential threats is essential to the safety of you and your loved ones. Lessons and workshops should include situational awareness, alongside this, mental preparedness should also be considered, Hollywood has a lot to answer for, no one can take on multiple attackers and get away unscathed in real life. Practitioners should be prepared mentally to experience pain, be hurt and see blood.


As the UK grapples with rising knife crimes, the ban on zombie knives and machetes is a step in the right direction. Combining legal measures with martial arts /self-defence training can empower individuals to protect themselves and others to contribute to a safer society, but remember, some knowledge is better than no knowledge, but some knowledge taught wrong can be dangerous. To that end preparation is are our best weapon against the unexpected. Stay informed, stay vigilant, and consider learning self-defence techniques from reputable martial arts school like Cojalina martial arts.

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