In combat marksmanship, shot placement is incredibly important and more often than not it is the determining factor in lethality. No matter the caliber of bullet or model of firearm, the location on the body where the round strikes determine how much damage is done with the exception of scenario-modifying circumstances. It is the same with knives and their employment in a combat based situation. Where the knife strikes will determine the relevance of damage inflicted to the probability of incapacitating the targeted threat. But which is going to accomplish the desired amount of damage better, a slash or a stab?

The short answer to my click-bait title and serial killer-esq picture is actually: neither; and both. Situation dictates (as always) and depending on the many variables of the engagement, you may find that a slash is more preferable to a stab, or vice versa. If the target is an artery, tendon, or appendage, organ, etc. then the target will have a corresponding technique that, more often than not, should be the go-to strike. I won’t go into grip techniques but both these strikes are favored by forward and reverse grip methods; which makes them fairly universal to all styles of knife combatives. The real question is when and how to apply them.

You’ll notice that I haven’t said “knife fighting” or anything to that effect so far. This is because there is no such thing and that Hollywood BS has no place in training for a reality-based scenario whether it will be offensive or defensive in nature. That being said, it always has the potential to be applicable but for argument’s sake, I’m going to skip it. We are talking about a violent encounter in an everyday context and I will be referring to it as such.

A stab while capable inflicting deep damage has a limited amount of dispersion due to the slimmer profile of the strike. It is best used to target internal organs like the kidneys, lungs, heart, spleen, etc. but can also be effectively utilized on the external soft targets like the eyes. The stab can also be used to great effect if deception and surprise are used in conjunction to the strike. One benefit is the sheer speed at which the “sewing needle” technique can be applied, point to point linear strikes will always be faster. Creating deep puncture wounds is incredibly effective when utilized in this manner, the downside is that if they miss a vital target then because of the thin spread the wound is often not nearly as serious as it will look and can be treated rather easily. This is still true of slashes but with those, you do not have to be as precise to hit a vital target like you do with a stab.

Slashes afford the practitioner the ability to maintain a dynamically unpredictable and fluid motion, linking strikes together while targeting larger areas of the body. If you target a limb, a series of slashes to known regions on it containing arteries and tendons, your chances of striking a vital target increases with each strike. However, this is more of a violence of action-based technique than one of surprise, as it will never achieve the lethality to bleed out ratio that stabbing can. Human beings do not die from cuts, they die from blood loss, and that is entirely dependent on what’s bleeding.

So basically the two different strikes, slashing and stabbing, both have a place in knife combatives but must be applied correctly to achieve the maximum effect on the target. Depending on the situation the practitioner finds themselves in, it may be better to use discretion/deception and strike at an opportune moment. Other times it will be beneficial to use sheer violence and aggression to overwhelm the target during a hostile encounter. It will be at your discretion, but just remember to stay versatile and apply the correct tactics to the situation in order to achieve the desired outcome.


Originally published on SOFREP and written by 

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