The October/November 2016 issue of Black Belt features an insightful article titled “First Move: Focus on Principles Rather Than Techniques to Neutralize a Knife Attack Against Another Person!” Author and krav maga instructor James Hiromasa provides a detailed analysis of some ways martial artists can respond if they come across a situation — maybe it’s a terrorist attack — in which a criminal is accosting a third party with a blade. Presented here is information on a scenario that didn’t fit in the magazine: a hostage situation in which the stabbing hasn’t actually begun.
The same principles that I outlined in the Black Belt article apply to a threat that hasn’t become an active attack. In this case, a hostage taker is standing behind his hostage with a knife held to the person’s neck.
Your best bet is to just keep it simple. You won’t have enough time to mentally run through the scenarios you’ve practiced in search of one that includes all the variables of this particular situation. Stick to principles rather than pre-rehearsed techniques as I discussed.
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In the photo sequence below, it’s assumed that you can approach the hostage taker from behind. Your techniques are almost identical to those for the standing active stabber (see the magazine article for more information), but this time, your job isn’t to stop the next stab. Instead, you’re trying to isolate the threat without getting the hostage cut. In other words, you need to move the knife away from the neck on first contact.
Because the attacker and the hostage are so close together, there isn’t space to overhook the arm at the shoulder or biceps, and even if there was enough space, it wouldn’t solve the immediate problem. However, you benefit from the fact that you need not worry about the attacker’s knife hand moving around a lot, which would make it hard to catch.
To get control of the weapon, you can reach under the attacker’s arm and/or around him, making a “plucking” movement down on the wrist of the knife hand. That will move the knife away from the hostage’s neck. This should happen simultaneously with the cross-face, which is discussed in detail in the Black Belt article.
At this point, you should assume the worst — that the attacker is still holding the hostage with his other arm and still has the hostage partially wrapped with his knife-wielding arm. That means a takedown likely would cause more problems than it would solve.
A better course of action is to use the hand that just delivered the cross-face to quickly overhook the elbow of the knife arm, forcing your limb between the attacker’s arm and the hostage’s body. If necessary, you can continue into a figure-4 control.
As soon as you have control, attack with knee strikes and head butts, or try to drive the knife into the attacker. Once the assailant is separated from the hostage, continue to attack. Disengage only when it’s safe or when an opportunity to use a higher force option presents itself.
James Hiromasa runs the Colorado Krav Maga Regional Training Center in Broomfield, Colorado.