Real-Life Combat: Knife Attack in a South American Prison

Real-Life Combat: Knife Attack in a South American Prison

I received the following e-mail recently.

I have written to you a couple of times in the past and follow your blog regularly. I had an interesting experience today that I thought you might find to be of interest as it illustrates a number of your recent posts on prisons and the danger of knife attack.

rance-johnson-knife-assI am presently in South America. This morning I went to a major state prison located outside of the city to study Scripture with a group of men in a facility that holds several hundred prisoners in overcrowded conditions. It is particularly hot here this time of the year, above 100 F, and the humidity is close to 100% as well.

We went through security, We then entered the prison with nothing but Bibles in hand. The prison yard was concrete which only reflected more intensely the equatorial sun. Most prisoners were in their cells due to a riot last month. However, one man was walking out in the open. I saw him talking to another inmate through a window. I didn’t pay attention, assuming it was a friendly conversation. I was wrong, really wrong. The guards opened a door for us to go into the part of the prison that holds the chapel. At that point, the man who had been behind the window disappeared and reappeared walking out the door as we were entering. As he stepped outside, a knife suddenly appeared in his hand. He barreled full steam toward the other inmate, stabbing him 10 times. This was all within several feet of me and my colleagues.

Lessons learned:

1.) As you have said previously beware of the knife. He had hid his knife with the blade against the back of his arm and had the handle cupped in his fingers. As soon as he cleared the door, the blade point came down and he went on the attack. This was a prison made type of shaft, about six inches long with a homemade handle. It was used with near deadly effect.

2.) The low line rush at the opponent. The man came in so low and fast that I thought he was going to tackle the other prisoner. Only at the article-1334778-0C4F8415000005DC-300_468x316very end did rise up to bring down his knife into the other prisoner’s back. Have seen this low-line attack I am at a loss as to how it could be defended. A defender would have to have had a big stick in hand ready to deliver a knock out head shot to have stopped this guy. He crossed the distance so fast between the door and the other prisoner that the average person would not have had time to move off-line in a diagonal direction. The other prisoner actually crouched in self defense which is why the first strike went into his shoulder. I think the aggressor was aiming for the back of his neck.

3.) Straight down vertical strike. When the aggressor ran by me, at a distance of no more than four feet, he already had the knife at the side of his head. The first strike was a straight forward vertical strike. It looked like something out of your double barrel presentation. It was then followed up by multiple strikes.

4.) Despite being severely wounded, the attacked prisoner did not go down. Had he gone done, he would be dead. I have do doubt about that. He actually managed to stay on his feet despite his several serious wounds. That saved his life. He did all he could to try and put anything between him and his aggressor.

5.) As a conspicuously large, white foreigner, I realized that I was in a very vulnerable situation. If this were to turn into a general riot, I would be an excellent hostage so I move quickly away from the action as soon as I saw it beginning to occur.

This is the first time for me to something quite this violent and graphic up-close, but it illustrated everything you have recently posted on the knife in a prison setting. My only question is how anyone could be prepared for such a violent and quick attack under the best of circumstance. It happened so fast that you would have to have almost immediate access to your own weapon: knife, baton, cane, etc to have had any hope of surviving it. Whatever might be the response, I appreciate your counsel about never going to the ground. In this case, it would have certain death.

We went on to have a great Bible study with some guys truly looking for hope in a hopeless situation. However, I am reminded how important it is to always look for the knife. The can appear quick and the results can be devastating.

Thanks for your work. God bless you. All the best to you and your family.


knifeMy Reactions

My reader makes several salient observations.


1) The Sudden, Unexpected Nature of Violence

You never see it coming. Unlike the movies, nobody is waving the knife around. The knife is held in a very low-profile manner. In a split second, out of the blue, you’re in very, very deep, and your life is on the line.



2) There’s Always a Weapon

Even in the controlled environment of a prison, there are weapons. As martial artists, we appreciate beautiful weapons, so it’s tempting to focus on the exotic wood stick or the finely crafted Damascus steel fighting knife. But the real world is that a shard of glass or plastic with a duct tape handle is capable of killing you in gruesome fashion.


What does surprise me, though, in this event is how low the guy comes in, and the fact that the attack is overhand. I would expect the low attack to be followed by an upward thrust into vital organs.


My Suggestions

What can you do when you’re going into a prison under tight security? My reader said he had a Bible. The solution is to make the Bible your impact_armor_technologies_ballistic_clipboardweapon.


Can you get a steel plate into the cover of your Bible? In my book Street Fighting Weapons I discuss the ballistic clipboard as a legal, undercover weapon. A ballistic shield or insert would be enough to stop a knife, and the Bible or similar book or clipboard could be used as a weapon, striking with the corner into the throat or eyes.


A non-ferrous “bookmark” could be use as a knife-like weapon.


Ballistic Clipboard

Ballistic Clipboard


Extraído de Big Stick Combat.
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