Help me choose a knife, machete and training manuals for self defense.
October 28, 2009 3:31 AM   Subscribe

Help me choose a knife, machete and training manuals for self defense.

I'm going abroad on short notice to a knife carrying country on short notice and want to pick up some additional tools and skills for self defense. I will have time to train over there, but not much time beforehand! I haven't done any knife work before, but have trained in hand to hand combatives for about 6 months and I'm reasonably ok for self defense purposes.

I thought that a tactical folder would be the easiest knife to get into for a newby. Would you agree with this or do you recommend a sheath knife? Which models are good?

I thought of something like the spyderco delica with or without the wave opener.

Then I was thinking of a machete for more outdoors situations. Possibly going for one of . I know they're probably not the greatest but they're cheap and cheerful..I would spend a bit more for something better but not hundreds.

Which pattern of machete is best if it's main purpose is self defense? I was thinking of the kukri as it's got that weight on the front, but never tried any of them.

I also need training materials. Someone recommended this manual by hock hockheim. What do you think about this? I'm not sure about some aspects of his system as I've seen them demonstrated but dunno really. Any other thoughts?

If there's any links to knife and machete basics on the web it would be appreciated.

I didn't find a good forum on search and the one I used to go to closed down so if anyone can post/pm links to good info on forums it would be great.

Sorry it's all vague, but don't have long before I fly off :)

posted by Not Supplied to Grab Bag (53 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Oops the machete link didn't come out. I was thinking of going for one of these
posted by Not Supplied at 3:32 AM on October 28, 2009

That means: there are "knife-carrying countries"? Which country are you going to?

(Not that such countries don't exist; I just haven't heard of that, and knowing what country you're going to would probably help determine what self-defense methods would be best.)
posted by koeselitz at 3:49 AM on October 28, 2009

Hi there. I'm going to Guatemala. There's no restriction on blade length, and machetes are apparently commonly carried.

I'm doing a fair bit of outdoors stuff as well so would be easy to carry whatever I want there.
posted by Not Supplied at 3:59 AM on October 28, 2009

"... but have trained in hand to hand combatives for about 6 months and I'm reasonably ok for self defense purposes."

Your best source of information for this activity is whomever is training you in hand to hand. This isn't anything you can credibly self train in, you really need to acquire the back and forth dynamics of of knife fight from a friendly before engaging.

Curious - do you have any weapons training at all? Usually you start with defensive then progress to offensive. And six months of hand to hand - intensive, meaning nothing but on a daily basis or a few evenings a week? I'm just trying to understand where you are presently.

In terms of specifics I've never worked with Machetes, but for knives you can't go wrong with an MK 3. Excellent investment, will last forever if not totally abused.

Depending upon who your training provider is they more than likely will use this knife. Keep in mind there are distinct differences in how knives are positioned for attack and defense, depending upon who is training you (i.e., US Military, SAS, etc).
posted by Mutant at 4:02 AM on October 28, 2009

Thanks. I don't train with the military or anything. I've had a couple of lessons and worked with an experienced partner for 6 months.

I haven't done any weapons stuff as I don't carry a weapon In the uk. I've done a few defense against knife drills.

posted by Not Supplied at 4:10 AM on October 28, 2009

Yeh I just train one day a week ATM with my partner.
posted by Not Supplied at 4:11 AM on October 28, 2009

Holy shit dude, the best self defense you can get - in Guatemala as in Notting Hill - is a good pair of running shoes so you can fucking hike it as soon as things go bad.

No disrespect here, but six months of hand-to-hand training is six months of learning to talk. You will be nowhere nowhere near the capabilities of someone who's been in half a dozen barfights, let alone - god help you - someone with real experience and training.

Reading a knife booklet and than packing a machete the size of a broadsword will do several things:

1. Make you more dangerous - to yourself.

2. Telegraph to anyone looking for trouble that a quick kidney punch isn't gonna do they trick, they're gonna have to do something more serious if they want your wallet.

3. In the same telegraph it will tell people that you are looking for trouble.

4. You think you cut someone in Guatemala, the local police are gonna pat you on the back, and say, "well done, sport!" Think again. Developing world jails are not a good place to be. Do you speak fluent spainish?

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Knives are serious business. They will fuck you, and anyone else up real bad, real quick. Do you want to kill someone? Do you want to be killed?

If you're goal is to go around Guatemala feeling like Schwarzenegger in Commando, then by all means buy every knife you can. If the goal is to reduce danger to yourself and others in a developing country that's intense, but it's not exactly Cote D'Ivoir, then please, please think about this twice, and just get some good travel insurance and travel smart. You will be a lot safer.
posted by smoke at 4:30 AM on October 28, 2009 [44 favorites]

I don't want to sound curt I just don't like typing on my phone. No I'm not interested in being a hard man. Avoiding conflict, descalating and running are a big part of it. I can take something from what you say but I don't think I will be safer without a knife than with as long as I use common sense. I don't buy that it takes ages to train..yeh I'm not gonna be super proficient but with unarmed the basics I've learned go a long way to making me a lot safer.
posted by Not Supplied at 4:50 AM on October 28, 2009

As smoke points out, you will not, generally speaking, be better with a knife after 6 months of training than you will be without it. Carrying a blade means that you escalate yourself from "guy to mug" to "guy to get into a knife fight with" in the eyes of someone so inclined, and someone walking around looking for that kind of trouble is going to be far more experienced than you and likely have friends.

Have you ever seen a knife fight? You don't "fend someone off" with a knife. You get seriously hurt, bleed profusely, and if you're successful, make them bleed out faster and from more cuts than you. It's horrendous and lethal.

You also cannot learn to fight -- in any style, let alone with a weapon -- from a book. I have spent most of my life training in martial arts, and have a reasonably large library of books and videos on the subject. While they make for interesting reading, they haven't taught me anything practical. You have to experience this kind of thing with your body, not your mind.

Or, just listen to smoke. He makes good points!
posted by ellF at 5:12 AM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

Boker. And the "Reality Based" series is pretty kickass.
posted by TomMelee at 5:15 AM on October 28, 2009

I've had very little training in self-defense against knife attacks; about a year's worth or so. But I think I'm not too far off the mark when I say: what smoke said.

For knife-specific info, check out It's the metafilter of knives, sorta.
posted by nihraguk at 5:16 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

lies about knife fighting
posted by rmd1023 at 5:30 AM on October 28, 2009 [26 favorites]

A friend who has many years of special forces training, including specialising in knife fighting, once told me that there are two basic things to understand about knife fighting.

1. Getting cut is a certainty. Just accept it. It's going to happen
2. If not getting into a knife fight is at all possible - take that option.

Beyond that there was a bunch of stuff about how easy it is to sever tendons in the arm and render them useless, so hey if you're up for never being able to use your fingers again should you happen not to get killed, then by all means blade up.

I'm n'thing the running shoes.
Also backing up the statement that if you have a knife, at some point you are going to have to use it. That and go watch the end battle of Saving Private Ryan a couple of times then see if you still want a knife.
posted by CardinalRichelieuHandPuppet at 5:50 AM on October 28, 2009

Unless you are going to be doing farming or trail-clearing, don't carry around a machete. It's a tool, and you'll look just as silly as you would carrying a chainsaw or a laser level. And if you do want one (and why not, since machetes are kind of neat) buy one there -- it'll be cheap, locally appropriate, and you won't have to fuss with airport security.

Also, I've seen machete wounds first hand, and they are horrifying. It's not something that's neat and cute like Robin Hood sword fights -- they make awful, gaping wounds and the blood sprays everywhere; there's no hand-guard so losing your fingers is a serious risk; and the last thing you want to do is go up against a hard guy who has been swinging a machete all day, every day, since he was a child. This is not a path you want to go down, really.

Knives, though, I'm all in favor of. It's a tool that you'll use every day to peel fruit and things like that. Buy a folding knife; make sure it is smallish and can clip unobtrusively to the inside of your pocket; get a non-serrated blade because that's more useful day-to-day; and make sure it is easy to clean after it gets gunked up with mango juice and dirt. Lightweight plastic handles are better than heavy materials like metal -- if it's heavy carrying it will be a pain. Bring a sharpening stone, too. And, don't buy something that's so expensive that you can't afford to have it get lost or stolen. The Spyderco knives are great, as are some of the Kershaw and Gerbers.

But once you own that knife, honestly put all thoughts of fighting with it out of your head. That's a bad, bad idea in almost every situation, especially when you consider "is this worth being arrested for?"
posted by Forktine at 5:59 AM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]

This seems like as much of a wild fantasy to me as the kid who thought he could go paint houses in France on a whim.

While I always travel with a knife--to cut apples and cheese, the notion of bringing a weapon into a foreign country strikes me as a really bad idea.

On the off chance that you do, in fact, get into a machete fight (what is this, Walk Hard?) and survive, do you suppose that the Guatemalan policia are just going to apologize for not having protected you as well as they ought to have?

Or do you think that you, as a comparatively rich (presumably) white visitor to their country will be detained, possibly prosecuted for your role in the melee? God, even without getting into a knife fight, I think you could well be scrutinized for carrying a machete as a British visitor.

Gack, if you're so concerned about your safety, I'm sure you could find a pretty cheap bodyguard to do the fighting for you/keep you out of trouble.

In any event--stay safe!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:07 AM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

I just have to add, I've been to Guatemala. It's not exactly Mad Max.
posted by JaredSeth at 6:19 AM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]

I'm going to be frank with you: if you get in a knife fight, someone will die. And the only person you personally are going to kill in a knife fight is someone who is unarmed, or who you surprise by putting a knife in their guts before they know you're even attacking them.

Here is the deal: someone attacking you with a knife is trying to murder you. And murderers don't inform you of this beforehand. There's not going to be a show put on, allowing you to draw a weapon and scare them off. If someone pulls and displays a knife, this is probably merely a threat display, and you probably have the opportunity to back off and get the fuck out of there. Escalating conflict to combat by drawing a weapon in response will get you killed.

If you want to study knife fighting as a martial art for fun, that's one thing, but thinking that you are going to defend yourself with a knife in Guatemala or anywhere else is dangerous and delusional.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:43 AM on October 28, 2009 [5 favorites]

Dude, no. No, no, no.

As has been said already, knife fights don't have winners. They have a dead guy and a REALLY cut up guy. You think it's going to be a single bad guy who comes after you? EVERY person I know who has been robbed in a developing country has been confronted with multiple people all at once. Pulling out a knife in that situation is going to get you killed rather than just robbed and maybe beat up.

Do you envision a nice movie scenario where a bad guy comes and says "I intend to rob you! en garde!" before attacking, giving you a chance to get yourself in a combat pose and prepare for his first slash. In reality, attacks come from behind, from multiple people, or from very well armed criminals. Fair fights don't happen except among drunks and people who refuse to back down during a confrontation. Sure, sometimes you'll hear about someone putting up a surprisingly good fight, but that's not the norm.

It's nice to feel in control, and martial arts training probably really helps with that...but you're not in control. Violence is not sparring with some guy at the local gym. It's getting hit over the head from behind by four teenagers with sticks, then whatever they have in store for you (probably just taking your wallet and camera).

Your best defense is to learn what situations to avoid in the first place.
posted by paanta at 6:48 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Are you sure we're talking about the same Guatemala?

Yes, there're religious fanatics in the police force who prey on drug dealers, and assassinations of local politicos. And some parts of Guatemala City are hairy from what I here. But foreigners studying Spanish walk the streets of Antigua day and night with little to care about. It's a beautiful, magnificent, welcoming country, especially to those who present themselves as sympathetic, clean-cut, respectful foreigners. As you should.

Continue to study open-hand martial arts, and work on building your situational awareness. But leave the knife action to the movies. You're not going to a war zone (if you were, my advice would be precisely the opposite, of course).
posted by Gordion Knott at 6:53 AM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]

Take it from a New York Cop's son: a knife is the worst defensive weapon you could ever imagine. If somebody wants to threaten you with a knife, a gun is the best response. If you don't want to respond in that manner, then hire a bodyguard - they should be cheap in Guatamala.

I've lived in the Carribean where everybody runs around drunk or high with a machete, and in the Balkans where everybody carries huge hidden knives, and I have yet to be in a situation where anybody cares to use those tools on anything not resembling an orange.

If you are just a tourist, maybe you should chose some destination that doesn't frighten you so much. Seriously, there is crime and bad stuff everyplace in the world, but no place gives me the willies like being in an American shopping mall parking lot late at night.
posted by zaelic at 7:16 AM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]

You do not, ever, want to get in a machete fight with anyone.

I'm positive the vast majority of people who carry machetes do so because they've used them all their lives, they are a tool and pretty much an extension of body.
When I watch a few of the Haitian workers around here, they are incredibly fluid, effortless and entirely accurate when using them.

If you get into an agro situation with a machete welding foe-- Run, because if you don't it's only going to end ugly. A well executed machete swing will be game over, for you, or them and the odds aren't in your favour.
posted by Static Vagabond at 7:16 AM on October 28, 2009

On preview, just wanted to whole-heartedly agree with zaelic-- I live in the Carribean currently with the mentioned drunk machete wielding people.

I've seen a number of incidents when two drunk guys are shouting and gesturing at each other with their machete's, but I've never seen anyone actually get involved. Even a drunk lout isn't stupid enough to start swinging.
posted by Static Vagabond at 7:20 AM on October 28, 2009

Thanks for the links so far.

I'm not interested in getting in a 'fight' with anyone or 'going up against anyone' and I'm not a martial artist...where did I say all that :) I respect you guys but I don't understand how you think. If the shit truly hits the fan then how are you better without a knife in your hand than with? And if you carry a knife to cut oranges then when it's life and death you're gonna use how are you better off knowing nothing than knowing the basics of a modern combat system.

Anyway not here to argue. The chances are nothing will happen when I'm over there but I want to be prepared and you can carry what you want in checked in luggage.
posted by Not Supplied at 7:22 AM on October 28, 2009

I think that you might want to investigate whether it's legal to carry pepper spray in Guatemala, if you're really that worried about being attacked; you could always carry a pepper mister with you and claim that you were going to or from a restaurant.

But, really, nthing to the nth degree the running shoes, and maybe even putting together a "mugee's wallet" with a little cash and expired credit cards that you can give to them. Please put that West Side Story knife duel bullshit out of your mind completely. Your expensive new knife will be just one more thing that the muggers will take off of you as they're holding their own blades up to your throat.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:25 AM on October 28, 2009

What about getting some throwing knives, like in the circus? It's only a marginally worse idea than carrying a knife for protection in Guatemala and at least you stand slightly less of a chance of injuring yourself or the person you're trying to kill.

By the way, I travelled through Guatemala a few years back and the thought I might need a knife never crossed my mind.

Nthing the advice on knives being a bad idea. If you win, you will have killed someone for the contents of your backpack. If you lose, you will have been killed for the contents of your backpack.

If you absolutely, categorically have to carry a knife, get yourself a decent pen knife. You'll find it useful peeling oranges and cleaning your shoes during times when you don't find anyone to stab. And if, by freakish coincidence you found yourself in a one-on-one with an armed mugger polite enough to give you some notice and space before stabbing you he'll back off from a fight with any knife because of the reasons outlined above.
posted by MuffinMan at 7:25 AM on October 28, 2009

If the shit truly hits the fan then how are you better without a knife in your hand than with?

Did you read rmd1023's link above? You will not have time to get it out. They will not give you the chance.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:27 AM on October 28, 2009

If the shit truly hits the fan then how are you better without a knife in your hand than with? And if you carry a knife to cut oranges then when it's life and death you're gonna use how are you better off knowing nothing than knowing the basics of a modern combat system.

What are your chances of having anything happen more serious than being mugged for your wallet? If a bunch of street kids spray liquefied feces all over your leg and then grab your wallet, should you be pulling out your knife? What about when a drunk guy grabs you around the neck and starts yelling about how much he hates people like you? A fourteen year old posturing in front of his friends?

And I'm saying that as someone who thinks you should buy a knife and carry it. I just don't think that you should be focused so much on the idea that the knife is going to be useful in a nasty situation. Shit, train all you want -- it does no harm, and is a lot of fun. But in real life, knife fights are seriously the last thing (well, other than a machete fight) that you want any part of. I'd rather get my ass kicked ten times over in fist fights than be in one knife fight.
posted by Forktine at 7:45 AM on October 28, 2009

If the shit truly hits the fan then how are you better without a knife in your hand than with?

If you don't have any weapons training, then you are not in fact better off with a knife than without one, especially if the guy attacking you has been using a knife or machete since he was a kid (and since you're from a country where carrying knives is really really illegal, I'm betting you don't have much or any experience with knives other than the kitchen kind). And I say this as someone who carries a knife daily....which I use to cut fruit, sharpen pencils, break down boxes, etc. I can cut up an apple like nobody's business, but I wouldn't know the first thing - like even how to hold it properly - about how to use it in a fight.

I know a bunch of people who have spent fairly extensive amounts of time in Gautemala (they are all Americans), and while a couple have had their pockets picked, none of them have been in situations that required fighting, or even running away.

If you get mugged, the same rules apply in Guatemala that apply pretty much anywhere: give up your wallet. If you're afraid of getting caught up in a drunken brawl, then avoid going places where drunken brawls happen. Etc. Good luck and travel well.
posted by rtha at 7:47 AM on October 28, 2009

If the shit truly hits the fan then how are you better without a knife in your hand than with?

1) If the shit truly hits the fan, you aren't going to have a knife in your hand. It's going to be in its sheath while you are stabbed repeatedly in the stomach. I cannot emphasize enough that if someone wants to straight-up kill you, in most cases you are a goner before you realize something is wrong. The majority of weapon displays are either to entice you to leave/back off or to hand over your possessions. I would rather leave or hand over my possessions than get in a knife fight any day, even if my opponent were a hundred-year old woman with one leg and no arms.

2) If you have time to draw a weapon, you have time to run.

3) That knife is going to give you a false sense of security; indeed, it's already clear instead of thinking "here is how I will escape if the shit truly hits the fan" you are thinking "if something goes wrong I will draw a weapon."
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:59 AM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

Obviously if you don't have time to draw a weapon then you'll have to defend yourself with your hands as best you can...this is true whether you've got a knife or not no?

I don't agree that it would give me a false sense of security. If you're in a serious situation there is no sense of security only gut wrenching fear and adrenaline. Yes I have been held up and other things. My main strategy would be to deescalate, run like hell or whatever but sometimes it doesn't work.
posted by Not Supplied at 8:08 AM on October 28, 2009

The only person I know who has ever actually used a knife in a combat situation has spoke very fondly of the Gerber Mark II. It is a sheath knife, based on the Sykes-Fairbairn, but with a wasp-waisted blade and other improvements.

However, it is not a defensive tool. It is a killing tool.

I am certainly not at all against the idea of armed self-defense, but I question the utility of a knife in any sort of modern environment. If I were you, I'd get something that's more useful for utility purposes (like a Ka-Bar or mini Ka-Bar), rather than lugging around something that's really only useful if you find yourself wanting to creep up behind someone and unplug them.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:47 AM on October 28, 2009

[few comments removed - please MeMail the OP if you'd like to discuss Guatemala with him, otherwise this sort of needs to stay on the original topic, OP please feel free to keep the tone set decently.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:01 AM on October 28, 2009

"hand to hand combatives for about 6 months and I'm reasonably ok for self defense purposes."

Well, I understand martial arts and this sounds very laughable on the one hand, on the other hand I am afraid you are setting yourself up for trouble.
I don't know what you are planning to do in Guatemala. But why don't you get a gun there if you think you are at risk? Have you ever travel abroad? Do you know what the best (and most dangerous) weapon is? Your brain. Be alert to spot problems beforehand to avoid them. Dress down and walk around in a way that you don't get spotted as a foreigner. Yes, this is possible in bigger cities in South America. Take a roll-on-bag instead of a backpack, don't wear expensive sneakers, don't wear jewelery of watches, dress in the same clothes as the locals, keep your mouth shut when there is no need that people must know that you are a foreigner. Being big mouthed, being loud, looking around, looking at maps, taking pictures, being silly, being overly cool will give you away easily.

I don't know Guatemala but I know Colombia quite well. AFAIK you can carry guns around there freely. One of my favorite bars had a sign that asked you to please check you gun with the bartender when you drink there ;-).

But I admit that at one time I actually brought a "weapon" with me to Colombia. I never had any problems there but in Cali I witnessed transvestites attacking people randomly with knifes. I actually had to fix a guy up in my hostel and bring him to a hospital with a knife wound on his back. These guys and only these guys were there reason that I once brought a 13" metal ruler with me to Colombia. Just to be able to cross the street with the crazy transvestites that was unfortunately on the way to my hostel. (The transvestites later killed a local and the local police took care of them the Colombian way - they are not there anymore).
posted by yoyo_nyc at 9:59 AM on October 28, 2009

If the shit truly hits the fan then how are you better without a knife in your hand than with?

Having a knife in your hand makes shit hit the fan more frequently.

A false sense of safety is a leading cause of death. The paranoid guys that don't ever let themselves get into shit-hitting-fan situations are the ones that live.

I used to be the kind of guy that sat around wondering what would be the best non-firearm weapon to have in a bar fight. Knife? Stool? Kubaton? Wine bottle?

The winning answer is always going to be "running shoes."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:25 AM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

Great responses in this thread. I, too, am a fan of sharp pointy things and have studied for many years a specific pointy sharp thing discipline. And like most of the people in this thread who have spent time with sharp pointy things, I agree that the OP is way off base.

1)A knife/blade is not a defensive weapon.
On the whole, a knife is used for making holes or cuts. It will not block someone from making contact with you.

2)If your plan is to use a weapon to intimidate or avoid a confrontation, you're wrong. If the weapon is visible, you're ensuring an attacker will do something permanent to you from behind. If the weapon is visible you're telling people you have something worth attacking you for, as well as a really nifty knife they can keep.

3)Best case scenario: A Bad Guy attacks you, you magically pull your sekret hidden superpower knife, he sees how manly you are, and the attacker runs away screaming in fear. You now have to explain to the gendarmes about threatening a local with lethal force.

4)Six months previous open hand training with a friend and you want to carry a knife for protection in a foreign country? Yikes. I've got years of study thirty hours a week open hand and with pointy things and I'd not try that. YMMV. You've heard of hubris?

I don't expect to convince the OP. But to others who, like me, have fantasies of winning a knife fight against a bad guy I'm adding my voice to the others in this thread who have made a lifelong study of Fun With Pointy Things in saying, "Dude, don't do it."
posted by lothar at 11:59 AM on October 28, 2009

I was mugged a few years ago by three blokes with one knife between them. I was sending a text message on my phone, not looking at anything around me, when they walked up behind and gathered around me, showed me this kitchen knife about 30cm long, and demanded money. I gave it over as quickly as I could reach for my wallet.

They know not to give a mark the chance to run or prepare, certainly not to defend him/herself. That's how it's done.

When I went to the station to report it the cop behind the desk told me that I'd done exactly the right thing; that $70 they took wouldn't even cover the cost of the trip in the ambulance if I'd been hurt.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 12:55 PM on October 28, 2009

I use my machete for all kinds of stuff. It's nice and flat, stores easier for camping trips than a chainsaw.
After having owned several, I can tell you that it really doesn't matter what you pay for it. My current, favorite machete cost around $6 at a hardware store and was made in China. I hockey-taped the handle for better grip, but the thing could be made out of repurposed rebar steel for all I know. The thing is, I keep it sharp. Really sharp. Because it's not so much about the quality of the steel - it's more in being a capable user of the machete.
You can get through a six-inch log with a sharp, cheap machete in about the same amount of time it would take you with an axe. So get a good blade sharpener and practice with it a ton before you go.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 1:13 PM on October 28, 2009

First, you should go to a store and handle a few knives before you'll know what you want out of it. Second, to be good just practice the removal (from the sheath or pocket) and one move. Third, think of it as a tool rather than self-defense weapon. Fourth, it's already been said but don't get into a knife fight. Fifth, all the "if you do this, then that will happen" is a bunch of blah, blah, bs that you shouldn't listen to. Last, have fun in Guatemala!
posted by P.o.B. at 2:34 PM on October 28, 2009

I can't speak on it's self defense capabilities but as a life long user of blades of all sizes as tools, I can highly recomend a kukri over a machete or big camp knife. It's realy a good compromise between ax and knife. balance and force delivered, noticeable difference. It's odd shape may be harder to conceal as a fighting weapon, but it's a comfortable chopping machine and the ghurkas were feared in an almost supernatural way with a kukri in hand. All in the training, I guess.
posted by Redhush at 3:14 PM on October 28, 2009

Thanks for the good answers.

All the people that keep going on about knife fights and martial arts, you're thinking of it in a completely different way to me so I don't think there's any point debating it here, but please could you at least accept what I've said several times that I'm not gonna brandish the weapon and try and win duels with it or whatever.
posted by Not Supplied at 3:20 PM on October 28, 2009

This seems unlikely to help, but let me try.

It sounds like you want to carry a knife or machete because you think it might give you an advantage if shit goes south. Not necessarily a big advantage - just some small but real advantage.

If that's right, then if you do carry a weapon, you will feel safer. Not necessarily a lot safer - just a little bit safer.

What many people have been trying to express to you is,

1. It's not that a knife will give you a smaller advantage than you think. It's that it will give you absolutely no advantage.

2. That very small increase in your feeling of safety can get you into trouble. You don't have to be -100 less alert to get into trouble. You can be -.01 less alert and get into trouble that you could have otherwise avoided.

3. Carrying a knife will add danger to your situation. This danger is greater than whatever you think the amount of added safety is (also, the true amount of added safety is zero). If someone sees that you have a weapon, their attack will be much more vicious and brutal than otherwise. Instead of trying to mug you, they will just try to kill you.

In other words, the problems with carrying a knife are very serious. The advantages are either nonexistent or trivial.
posted by prefpara at 3:54 PM on October 28, 2009 [4 favorites]

If you just want a knife because they're allowed in Guatemala and it sounds fun to have one, then you should have said so in the original post instead of saying you wanted one for self defense.
posted by ishotjr at 3:58 PM on October 28, 2009

Ok well thank you prefpara that is an intelligent statement of that position. I was gonna write a reply as it kind of deserves it but I just don't want to get into debating it here. Cheers anyway.
posted by Not Supplied at 4:06 PM on October 28, 2009

You may find some aramid Kevlar clothing useful if you end up fighting. Hopefully, you don't. I believe protective clothing will be far more useful than a blade for defense.

Honestly, if I were thinking about going to a "knife carrying country" the first thought through my mind would not be, "How can I beat someone who's been carrying a knife his whole life?"

If I decided I needed a knife in a foreign country I'd procure one upon arrival, after perhaps finding a good contact (which could be done before arrival). This gives me a tool the locals think is good, may be cheaper, and won't stick out. Also, I don't have to worry about transporting an edged weapon, which makes some people with badges nervous. I also prefer not to have much luggage.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 4:52 PM on October 28, 2009

Which pattern of machete is best if it's main purpose is self defense? I was thinking of the kukri as it's got that weight on the front, but never tried any of them.

None. There's no such thing as "self defense" with knives. There's killing someone brutally. You aren't getting the answer you want -- "buy knife X because it's best for self defense" -- because it's impossible to give in good faith.

If you buy a knife, and carry it, with 6 months of training, you are creating a serious liability for yourself. If you're lucky, you won't have reason to realize it. However, many of us are life-long, serious, trained martial artists and/or former military and/or former or current "hard men". What we are all telling you is that there is NO knife that you, with <1>
You sound like a polite dude. Please, please listen to the good advice you've been given, and realize that your question is not going to yield an answer, not because you're being misinterpreted, but because you are not capable of defending yourself with a knife, and that the "best" thing you can do is to not carry one.
posted by ellF at 7:12 PM on October 28, 2009

(That should have read, "with less than 1 year of training. Moreover, there's no book you can buy which will compensate for that lack of training." The less-than symbol apparently mucked up the sentence.)
posted by ellF at 7:15 PM on October 28, 2009

Are you military or are you a martial artist?
posted by Not Supplied at 11:49 PM on October 28, 2009

Alright, sorry shouldn't have been offensive...I just find some people rather patronising about this stuff.
posted by Not Supplied at 12:51 AM on October 29, 2009

I'm gonna buck the trend here and say get a knife. But don't mess around with a folder, get a Hissatsu. That's a serious knife for putting serious holes in things. And if someone starts giving you grief, whip it out and stick it in them. But don't stop at one, this isn't like the movies where one well placed stab will stop your opponent. They'll keep trying to get you until they're dead. The name of the game is Stabby Stabby, as in you stab them as many times as you can, while they stab you as many times as they can. Whoever dies first loses. The other guy, also loses. But it's fun!
posted by Jawn at 2:11 AM on October 29, 2009

For a machete, for general bush use like Baby_Balrog is alluding to, you can pick it up in Guatemala. You can pick it up in any crazy third world country where there's thick enough bush or even farming needs for them - they'll be as common as shovels or rakes, and found in the same places - they are essentially the big brother of a garden tool.

For knives, well, I'll echo everyone above. In most martial arts (including the one I studied), you don't start any kind of weapons trainings until after *years* of open-hand training, forget months. Then, when you *start* weapons training - you start it the same way you start open-hand training, you learn defense tactics first. Not how to defend a knife attack with a knife, but how to defend a knife attack with open-hand. You do this for at least *months* before you even begin to learn anything offensive with any kind of weapon. It just makes sense when you think about it.

You don't want a knife for self defense.

You want to be a smart, polite, alert, visitor to your host country, who is educated on the general security situation of the places you will be traveling in said country. If its anything like most of the third-world countries I've worked in, you want to have safe accommodations and knowledgeable transport arranged at all times. You want to know what areas to avoid, and when, and why. You want to be registered with the embassy so they know you're there. You want to have good emergency medical evacuation insurance.

I'm actually trained in the use of knives as a weapon, and I've worked in places like Haiti, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa, Senegal, and others - all this year alone. I have a solid hiking / hunting Buck knife that I keep in my backpack for when I'm out camping or something, but other than that I don't carry a knife in any of these places for defensive purposes. I avoid situations where something like a knife fight could become a possibility. Frankly, even in trained hands, a knife can be more of a liability than a benefit.

If I have to go somewhere where I'm fearing for my life, I'm carrying a weapon that can be used for at least somewhat more reliable self defense, and that means a side-arm.

But, if you absolutely insist on throwing all of the very good advice you are getting above to not get a knife, and if by some random stroke of luck you're actually able to draw it before you're being attacked (probably won't happen, honestly) - I'll give you one piece of advice only: You want to cut a major artery, immediately. Nothing else. If you have a shot at the neck, great, but chances are you've got arms that potentially end in knives defending that area. If you don't have a shot at the neck, you want the inside of the thigh. In either case, you need to get the knife in and then pull / push fast and hard, almost like starting a lawnmower (pulling) or throwing a punch (pushing). You are going to get stabbed, badly, while doing this, probably many times over.

And I can pretty much guarantee you in a place like Guatemala, the person stabbing you will have done this kind of thing before, and be much better at it than you are.
posted by allkindsoftime at 9:13 AM on October 29, 2009

Doubt if anyone's still reading, but for the record I just wanted to add another perspective. I don't want anyone looking up my posts and thinking I'm some violent wannabe that doesn't know what he's doing. Some of the answers have made a lot of assumptions about me, and the kind of situations I'm talking about.

In any 'urban combatives' type training like I've been through, great emphasis is placed on avoiding trouble, deescalating as much as possible, tactical submission if you need to. So I'm confident I won't get in any more trouble with a knife that without it. If they search me and find it it could be hairy yeh, but you have to weigh things up. If I'm confronted by overwhelming force or a knife to my neck then I'll just hand over the wallet same as anyone else.

If you're a martial artist or military then I respect your skills, but you don't necessarily have the last word in urban self protection. And I have met/corresponded with level headed current and ex people in all kinds of services that say knives can give you a better chance than nothing if you can't carry a gun. I also believe that learning good self defense doesn't take years, and that I can train myself given what I already know. Again not saying I'm a hard man just a guy that wants to take care of himself and friends.

I'm sure the machete carrying thing gave the wrong impression, but all I'm saying is that if I'm camping and people have tools around, then why should I not know the basics of how to use it.

In a lot of the examples people gave not getting out a knife would be a very good idea, but there are other situations where it might give a better chance of survival. True story: Once I was walking with my friend to his house and a big muscular guy coming down off some hard drugs got the idea that my friend was looking/laughing at him. His big muscular companion had gone some way down the street. So my friend tries to descalate/reassure the guy but he pulls out a big bowie knife. He's obviously no expert just a violent idiot. We both just try and submit/talk our way out of it. It was touch and go whether the crackhead started chopping my friend. So if he had, I would have had to try and stop him with or without a weapon. If I could draw a knife I would have had a fighting chance of stopping him and running away/stopping his similarly drug crazed companion down the street. If not then I don't need to tell you what would happen. Stabbings bloody happen in London.

Some of the anti people in this thread are much more aggressive than any urban self protection people I've heard of. Not all, and I respect people with another point of view. I notice that none of them actually wanted to get in touch to debate the situation for the sake of clarifying anything, they just wanted to have a shout and confirm their own prejudices. If anyone actually interested in discussing it in a reasonable way for the sake of their own interest then feel free to pm me.
posted by Not Supplied at 9:33 AM on November 2, 2009

True story: Once I was walking with my friend to his house and a big muscular guy coming down off some hard drugs got the idea that my friend was looking/laughing at him...If I could draw a knife I would have had a fighting chance of stopping him and running away/stopping his similarly drug crazed companion down the street.

I disagree. A drug-crazed guy is by definition lacking in judgement and your pulling a knife wasn't going to necessarily make him pause. Neither will injuring him, since he's drug-crazed. You'd be going up against someone bigger, stronger, and incapable of feeling pain. Sorry, but those are not odds I like.

I understand that the situation was dicey, and he may have started poking holes in you. I still maintain that your odds of injury/death are better in that case when you don' t have a knife in your hand. If you pull that knife, the other person is now fighting for their life. If you don't, they may not feel as threatened. That is fine, you can use that.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 6:51 AM on November 3, 2009

Thanks for replying, but I don't think you parsed what I said entirely. If he had started trying to cut my friend and my friend was struggling with him then I would've had to try and stop him one way or another. A knife would give some chance rather than fuck all chance.
posted by Not Supplied at 9:15 AM on November 3, 2009

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