At the time of this writing, our Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms are under serious attack.
Obama and others have vowed to take our guns away, supposedly making the world a safer place. In reality, it’s not about making anyone safer, it’s about giving them total control. Mankind was killing one another long before the invention of the firearm. Ever since man first realized that sticks and stones could hurt, they have used anything they could find as a weapon.
There are choices to be made, but don’t rely on Hollywood movies when estimating what using them means. Learn your limits, as it takes a lot of skills and practice to use them for your defense.
Bows were the most common distance weapon in use throughout the world for centuries. There are many things to like about bows, as they are lightweight, accurate and can shoot a fair distance. With practice, one can become extremely accurate with one and even learn to shoot it rather rapidly. On top of all this, they have the advantage of being a silent weapon: other than the “twang” of the bowstring, there’s nothing to hear.
I personally like bows and if I were to find myself in a situation where I felt it was necessary to leave my home and go hunting for adversaries, I would probably pick a bow over a rifle. To me, the advantage of being able to attack my enemies silently, without them knowing where the shots are coming from, surpasses the superior firepower of the rifle. Of course, I would take a sawed-off shotgun and a pistol with me for close work.
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Most bow hunters will only use a bow to kill game at up to 40 yards, although the bow itself will easily kill out to double that distance. That makes it possible to use a bow for most outdoor home defense scenarios, although it isn’t anywhere near as effective for use as an indoor weapon. The amount of space one needs for drawing a bow makes it almost impossible to use it effectively indoors.
If you choose to buy a bow for a secondary weapon, then practice, practice, practice. You can’t get good with a bow anywhere near as fast as you can with a rifle or even a pistol. This is a weapon which requires much more skill to use effectively; but with that skill, it can be quite effective.
Knives have a great psychological impact on an adversary. Something about looking at a sharp piece of steel in an opponent’s hand, knowing that it might be residing in your guts in a few minutes, is enough to make even the stoutest of heart waver. Even so, using a knife effectively as a weapon is difficult. Unless you have had extensive training, don’t think you can use one to defend yourself.
Having said that, I still recommend having a knife. When everything else stops working, that knife might just take out your last adversary. Besides, there is nothing you would need more if you find yourself in a disaster situation: you’ll need it for catching and preparing food, building a shelter or making your way out.
For a knife to be effective as a weapon it needs to be the right knife and it needs to be used the right way. True fighting knives are much different than hunting knives, which are single bladed, although some are sharpened partially down the back side.
The best fighting knives are double-bladed, being sharpened down the whole of the back edge. This type of knife is known as the Fairburn, named for its inventor, Bruce Fairburn, who came up with the design while serving in China. The advantage of the Fairburn style knife over other styles is the ease of penetration that it offers. It can also cut in both directions when slashing. These may seem like small differences, but in an actual knife fight, they can be enormous advantages.
True knife fighters always hold the knife low, with the point of the knife upwards. Stabbing someone from above is another Hollywood invention. The human body is fairly well armored for protection from stabs that come from above. Between the shoulder bones and the ribcage, the most that a stab from above can do is muscle damage. On the other hand, the human body has almost no natural armor from stabs from down low. You can much more easily stab an enemy in the gut, causing serious damage, by stabbing from below.
Never try using a folding knife for a self-defense weapon. There’s too much of a chance of it folding on your fingers, hurting you instead of your assailant. Even lock-blades can’t be counted on, as there is always the possibility of accidently triggering the lock.
Throwing knives has a lot of sex appeal, mostly because it’s showy. However, as a means of self-defense, it doesn’t hold much value. Hollywood has always shown victims who were attacked by a throwing knife as being hit in the chest or the back. Once again, the body’s natural armor comes to the victim’s aid. Considering how a throwing knife flips when it is thrown, it’s almost impossible to penetrate the rib cage with one.
I learned how to throw knives years ago, thinking it would be useful for self-defense. That was before I realized how hard to target a human body really is. The only place that it would be effective to hit someone with a throwing knife would be the lower abdomen, hitting the stomach from the front, or the kidneys from the back. This greatly limits the utility of a throwing knife.
A sword can be a fearsome weapon in the hands of someone who knows how to use it. Of course, in our modern world, there are very few people who have any idea of how to use a sword effectively. Unless you are a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, you have probably never held a real sword in your hands, let alone tried to hit an opponent with one.
Learning how to use a sword requires even more practice than learning how to use a bow or knife. Having said that, if I was up against an opponent armed with a knife, I’d rather have a sword in my hands. The greater reach of a sword does hold some advantage over a knife.
Using a sword requires an incredible amount of upper body strength. The soldiers of olden times, who were limited to the use of the sword, instead of an assault rifle, had to be incredibly strong, especially to manage to wield a sword for an entire day’s battling. Unless you are much stronger than I, you won’t be able to use a sword for a prolonged engagement.
For most people, knives, swords and other such weapons are actually more of a liability than they are an asset. Their lack of ability to effectively use these weapons means that they are ineffective against their enemies. On top of that there is always the risk that the enemy can take the weapon away from you and use it against you. For that reason, avoid these weapons, except as a last resort, unless you have the time and resources to train in using them properly.
Sticks, Staves and Clubs
This category of weapons are referred to as “melee weapons” and can include anything that can be put on a stick, including axes and maces. The really great thing about this category of weapon is that it really doesn’t require any training. Simply grab what’s available and start swinging.
While you’re not going to accomplish much against a pistol-wielding bandit with an axe or stick, you will against one who doesn’t have a firearm. I saw an interesting demonstration once, done by people who were experts in the use of medieval weaponry. One man with an axe was able to hold off four men armed with swords. His advantage was that he could just go wild with that axe, while his opponents needed to look for an opening in which to attack.
If it comes down to the point where an intruder gets into your home and comes at you, while you’re unarmed, grab whatever is at hand and start swinging. If he’s got a gun, you’re not going to do real well, but if he’s got a knife, you’ve got the advantage.
Throwing stars, more properly called “shuriken” are another weapon that Hollywood has glamorized. In the movies, people get killed by expertly thrown metal stars, thrown by some martial arts expert or other. In reality, it’s almost impossible to do more than cause a scratch with one.
The shuriken was invented as a distraction weapon. In other words, to distract someone long enough to run away. If a ninja was caught in the act, they would throw a couple of shuriken at whoever discovered them, and dive through the closest window to make their escape. Used in that way, they are highly effective.
The other problem with shuriken is that it takes a lot of practice to become proficient enough to use them effectively. Having experimented with them, I know how hard it is to throw one accurately. If you’ve only got seconds to act, it’s better to fill your hand with something that’s going to be able to do your adversary some real harm.
Martial Arts Weapons
Most of the martial arts weapons started out as tools. In ancient times, farmers and artisans were forced to figure out how to use these tools as weapons, as they were denied ownership of any real weapons. Used by an expert, they can be very effective, but used by an amateur, they’re a good way of getting yourself hurt.
These weapons require lots of training and practice to use effectively. Swinging a pair of nunchuku (commonly called “nunchucks”) around to impress your friends isn’t going to prepare you to use them against anyone who manages to break into your home. When that happens, you’re more likely to hit yourself in the head, than you are to hit them.
Having anything in your hand is better than having nothing. Unless you are so highly trained in martial arts techniques that you can kill a person with your hands alone, you’re better off using almost anything, including these cold weapons.
And if you have to chose one, do it wisely, according to your skills and abilities!
This article has been written by John Gilmore for Survivopedia.
INVSBLTY | February 18, 2016
A good basic info article, Mr “Gilmore”!
I have tried knife throwing, and it takes more practice than it seems worthy of the time spent! Also, I admit to being a fan of melee weapons, or anything a person can get their hands on to defend themselves with! Thinking outside the box is a real advantage.
L Bohan | February 20, 2016
Nice article. But a some things you left out to consider for most people knife fights are short, nasty things that tend to be bloody. Most people don’t expect that and get freaked out by the blood from “bleeder” cuts like across the the forehead when you want to blind them or make them stop. Learn kill and disable with knives, yes, it can be done and when to apply them. I never had a heavy folding lock-back blade fail me in a fight. Both ends of a blade are a weapon, lock-back or standard knife or a sword. The Society For Creative Anachronism is a fun but teaches a narrow version of sword play. Our early forefathers (and mothers) version of sword play was far more vicious. Its good to learn this, too, however. Crossbows are good man stoppers when loaded with appropriate quarrel heads. A weapon in hand is worth more than two thrown away. Talent makes you good, practice makes makes you closer to perfection. Fairbairns are lovely looking knives that have the tendency to snap off at the tip. Carry spare knives. I prefer a quillion topped blade for knife fighting and was taught to use the quillons to “steer” my opponent’s blade in certain instances. Learn to finish fast, trapping moves, where to cut to disable and to kill. Fight dirty, it’s you or him or maybe your family depending on you, this is not the time to be nicey-nicey. Small razor saws are good weapons. Learn to be mean. Finally everything is a weapon. One last thing women can so this too. I am one.
Uncle Sam's Niece | February 18, 2016
Hi, I’m a 73 year old woman in fairly good health and strength, living with a nosey dog who knows everyone on the street. I keep my doors and windows locked. I do not have the time or money to learn how to use a gun, bow, knife, etc I’d love to know about what I can do for self defense… I have cans of wasp killer next to my doors and bed… I know they can blind and upset the intruder. I have seen videos of a nail gun shaped like a pistol that I think I could handle, but haven’t seen one in any of the stores I visit. What else can I use???
Mahatma Muhjesbude | February 18, 2016
Uncle Sam’s niece…Well, to me this is hard to believe that in this day and age someone in your situation cannot find enough money to buy at least a lesser inexpensive gun and not have a gun or can’t find the ‘time’ to then learn how to use it.
But, until you do, I’ll tell you what i’d bet shotgun shells to sea shells you do know how to ‘use’ already and might give you a better ‘edge’ on an intruder?
I’m sure you know how to ‘use’ a butcher knife, right? Get one of these, pretend it’s a fly swatter, which i know you’ve used in your life and probably got good muscle memory from it depending on where you lived, and keep it at your bedside or next to your Wasp Killer and go through a daily ritual of getting to to your Butcher knife in your chopping swatting hand and your Wasp spray in the other and practice a ‘dry’ drill a couple times in the air of giving someone who is attacking you the old ‘one-two punch with them. Just like you’d spray and chop ‘swat’ a big ‘ol nasty insect.
Mahatma Muhjesbude | February 18, 2016
Hi, ‘John’, well done article. Especially noting the important points of the usage reality of these weapons and the fact that without the proper proficiency level they fall into the category of wisdom we used to teach to new students that ” don’t make the mistake of relying on only just enough skills/knowledge to get you hurt”
Just a bit of additional info fyi, shurikens were never meant to take out an opponent, but merely to temporarily stun or distract. And ..several were usually thrown at one time, if one hit in the face, eyes, or neck, indeed, that would switch the tactical advantage. Just like caltrops, which were basically used as an on hand tool in escape and evade tactics, were only meant to slow down anyone, especially on horseback, from following you.
And you’re right about archery being about the best all around back up tool. I don’t know if the heading picture is yours or the ‘Editor’s But in any future pictures it would be better to do a more professional demonstration of how to hold/shoot a re-curve or longbow without a trigger release device so they don’t learn bad habits. The one in the article is pretty ‘amateurish’.
Because you’ll have a potentially unsafe and strenuous time of pulling back anything heavier than a 15 or 20 bow with only the thumb and index knuckle gripping the string, as in the picture. Even with a ‘hybrid’ assist of middle and ring finger also along for the pull ride, this is not the best way, in any, case to draw a bow.
Because the heavier your draw, the more likely the arrow will slip off the nock on the draw and/or hold before you get on target and it might hit something else. And if you do it correctly, by using three hooked fingers, you better either be wearing a glove or have those special rubber string knock finger cushions or your fingers will blister up and be useless after a few shots.
Also, for instinctive shooting without a sight, you should learn to shoot with both eyes open otherwise you’ll lose considerable depth perception which is important in estimating accurately to target range. Similarly with a firearm, but for other reasons, as well.
About ‘throwing’ knives, when you said ‘you learned’ how to throw them you obviously never learned how to ‘throw’ an edged weapon in deadly hand to hand combat. Which is quite different from all ‘other’ forms of ‘play’ and target knife throwing. The tactical reliability of ‘throwing’ a knife is not that inefficient and sufficiently better for usage justification than a bare hand to hand confrontation in terms of injuring or redirecting your opponent’s attack so you can move off the X and quickly follow up with the offensive advantage, or escape quickly if the throw did enough damage to stop him temporarily.
That’s why advanced Spec ops training once adapted this methodology in hand to hand combat where silence was an important issue. Before they came out with waterproof suppressed pistols the special UDT commandos trained to come out of the water on the side of a small watch boat and silently throw their knives at the occupants sitting in the boat to temporarily stun/wound them giving them enough time to jump on board and follow up with another knife attack and/or hand to hand kill strike, or capsize them out of the boat and drown them.
I used to teach a version of this type of throwing for street defense where CC was not yet ‘allowed’. when i was training advanced martial artists in folding lock back knife self defense fighting. It’s kind of esoteric and you won’t see this in any of these online martial arts courses because some experts usually don’t like make others ‘real experts’ unless they are willing to put in the correct amount of time to learn it and pay good money for it.
Hint: serious combat CQB knife ‘throwing’ has nothing to do with the ‘flip/spin’ of the knife. With the right knife, the upper chest rib cage can be penetrated by a good thrower. At barbecues when we got bored shooting beer cans and never missing we hung a slab of pork ribs (without the sauce yet) to see how deep we could get our throws to penetrate through it. If you hit a rib and split it, that was double points. I used a heavy well balanced tactical Bowie with an 8.5 inch blade sharpened on both edges and usually go through an inch or two every time, and even if it bounced out of the wound, and fell down, it still
was a nasty gash. And as you mentioned, the most vulnerable area just beneath the solar plexus is actually an ‘easy’ shot for the thrower because it still represents an average 10″ by 10″ soft target area on the average male and it’s only a few degrees off the optimum linear power stroke of the arm when extended for a perpendicular launch, and there’s a specific posture/stance to also facilitate hitting that target easier. And considering that i know a couple people who will bet you which eye, left or right, you want him to call on the target throw, it only takes about as much practice as it takes to learn how to play golf, throw darts, or ice skate to be able to consistently hit the belly area with a hard penetrating knife blade, even on a somewhat moving target, making it a viable choice in some self circumstances.
Gary | February 18, 2016
You should go into more detail about Tomahawks
Chuck | February 18, 2016
There’s some less than useful advice in the “sword” section of this article. First, there should be NO “prolonged engagements.” The fight will be short and brutal. Someone will die. And we will not be wielding a sword for an “entire day’s battling.” You are not a member of the Roman Legion. One or two opponents – yes. But, after seeing what a sword does to their friend, the rest will likely run away – or shoot you. And, of course, there is “always the risk that the enemy can take the weapon away from you.” That risk exists with ANY weapon. It is less likely with a sword. It is tough for even an experienced fighter to take away an opponent’s sword. Finally, as with any weapon, you must train with a sword to use it effectively.
Mahatma Muhjesbude | February 20, 2016
Yeah, in my Macho days I also used to be able to pull the l heavy recurve weight like that and when i finally went for my rotator cuff surgery they found a tiny piece of shrapnel in there that must have been missed the first time around, lol!
I used to like the heavier Howatts but now I’ve since found a couple nice old vintage recurves–an American Archery Cheetah and a Ben Pearson Hunter,
both 35# and have good cast and use the VAP 500 small diameter lightweight composite arrows spined for 35-45# replaed the plastic feathers with regular fletching so they wouldn’t bump over the rest and got some pretty good very accurate flat shooting velocity action out to 20 meters or so .and i could shoot comfortbly until i get tired without any stress on my shoulder.
If you never saw this you tube video of the worlds greatest archer doing his trick shots, and it’s a younger fellow, treat yourself to that first chance you get. I can’t think of his name at the moment but it’s a well known demo. Nothing short of incredible. He just doesn’t split arrows, he shoots them out of the air.
Mahatma Muhjesbude | February 20, 2016
Pretty correct on that,Chuck. the Gladius which was the short Roman sword was pretty formidable because a soldier could easily swing it with one hand in a figure eight series of strikes while holding his shield in the other. and in
a few swift seconds could kill or mortally wound his enemy. Plus you could thrust it pretty quickly to the belly/groin area while you ‘feinted’ with the shield over toward the enemy’s face for the kill shot.
There’s a growing trend with some martial artists to actually train like ‘Gladiators’ only with machetes. There are some very serious fighting machetes out there that closely imitate a Roman sword in proper size, weight, and balance but still look more like a regular machete, instead of what they really are, a sword. I have several and my cardio exercise is not destroying my discs and knees by stupid jogging for miles, but by practicing combat machete fighting, and then heavy bag work. If you’re interested, I’ll tell you where to get the video training course from a friend of mine.
Chuck | February 20, 2016
I am more experienced with the European style of fighting with two-handed swords (No, I’m NOT SCA). But, sure, send me anything you’d like on machete fighting. Always open to learning a new skill.
Marty | February 18, 2016
Use to be an avid archer. Had my own range 10-70 yards. Shot a 70 pound compound sometimes 100 shots per day. Only shot one large animal, a Ram on Santa Cruz Island, at what turned out to be 52 yards. Never used a release, just a finger tab. After 3 full thickness rotator cuff surgeries, had to give it up until last year. Couldn’t even draw my bow back once. Last year, I began practice again lowering the poundage to 50 lbs. Took most of the summer, but after 25 years without shooting, got to the point I could shoot 30 shots without shaking. Forgot how much fun it was. Just a long way to say with practice, a good bow is accurate much further out then 40 yards.
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Chuck Findlay | February 19, 2016
As a teaneger a few friends and I played with shuriken’s we bought at a flea market. We threw them at everything (many things we should not have thrown them at) we found. Cardboard was a popular target we used, I found they would only penetrate 1.5 inches or so. I realized back then that they were junk as far as a weapon.
I have gotten to like tomahawks (I camp and they make a good, lightweight backpacking tool that while it’s not as good of a wood chopper as a heavy hatchet it still does the job. I have several of them, my favorite one is a Cold Steel Trailhawk. It is lightweight, cost only $25.00 on Amazon and has a 22-inch handle that is a force multiplier because of the length it hits harder then you would think. You can also reach out a good bit of distance because of it’s 22-inch length. Never got into the 1960’s TV show/ movie idea of throwing a tomahawk, to me it seems stupid to throw away your weapon. Good way to get dead.
Just like today where TV and movies show people firing off tons of ammo and hitting nothing but air. Hollyweird has nothing to do with reality. But I would bet that is how most people would use a gun as TV has taught them to do it that way. I would rather have my Lever action 357 Mag then an AR-15 as I shoot it often and don’t need a 30-round mag full of ammo to hit a target.
I have an older Fred Bear bow, but I have been looking at homemade bows on U-Tube (my son wants to make one) and you can make a bow out of PVC pipe for under $10.00 that is powerful enough (45-pounds) to hunt game. Anyone on a budget or if you like to make tinker and things should look at them.
There is also an interesting video that shows how to make nasty-looking broadheads out of spoons. My son and I made some last weekend, it was enjoyable spending time with him doing something we both enjoyed and at the same time it could be a useful skill post SHTF.
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SOF74 | June 10, 2016
A very well written piece. I would disagree with 2 points you made, but I can see the reasoning behind it, so I’ll leave it at just saying that there’s a minor “disagreement “.
2 items I think you may have overlooked, as very effective defensive weapons, would be the hammer, and tomahawk (though, you did mention an axe).
A 26 ounce framing hammer (with the straightened claw) , can be used for many defensive situations. (It is the number 1 murder weapon of choice,according to FBI statistics ) with very little training or self defense expertise, the hammer can do a lot of damage.
The tomahawk, or even a roofing hatchet (faux tomahawk) has many uses for survival and defense.
jack | June 15, 2016
I read your article and only disagreed on how throwing knives are bad
they can be used like shurikan but there is usally at least 3 of them and your
sopposed to throw the in the leg or unprotected stoach crippiling him to finish him off
Rob | November 24, 2016
I like the tone and intent of the article; but there is so much wrong here that its hard to know where to begin. Yes fixed blades are better. But a fixed blade knife by definition has only one blade. The author is trying to refer to “edges”, the sharpened part of the knife. The double edge knife, or “dagger” style in common use at least as far back as 3,000 BC. As a short sword it was the standard weapon of the Egyptian, Abyssinian and Roman empires. As well as many others. The Bruce Fairburn the author references does not exist, he is apparently referring to William E. Fairbain – the police chief of Shanghai China while it was still a British Protectorate. Later commissioned as Captain in the British army he and Captain Eric Sykes formalized the Close Quarter Battle tactics and training for the WWII SOE and British Commandos. An integral part of the system was the knife they jointly designed known as the Fairbain-Sykes fighting knife. (Although this is somewhat of a misnomer. It was/is not a fighting knife in the sense we normally use the term, since the F-S tactics emphasized first immobilizing an opponent and then dispatching them with the blade.) Fairbain went on to design three more of the modern eras most recognizable fighting knives. The Applegate-Fairbain combat dagger (which was meant to improve the strength of the tang/blade area and provide a better thrusting and slashing weapon; designed in co-operation with Colonel Rex Applegate), The Fairbain Smatchet which was an amazing cross between combat knife, survival tool and short sword ( with a 10″ blade and 16″ length overall); and finally the Fairbain Cobra, which was a single edge blade in the same class as a Japanese Wakasahi but with a reverse recurve blade which allowed for the deep cutting techniques of the karambit and other Phillipino style edged weapons. This last is extraordinarily rare, and may have been heavily influenced by the lessons learned from the British Special Forces experiences during the Malaysian uprising.
Then there are the basic mistakes. Knives should not be used for prying tools. Period. Hammering on the spine of a stout knife is acceptable for splitting when necessary. Hammering with the blade – Never. A knife should never be used for digging. Nothing dulls and edge faster that trying to cut dirt, and rocks and roots can chip the all important cutting edge. Ditto for spears. Lashing your single best survival tool to a stick is a mistake under any circumstances. Using it this way also invites damage to the all important cutting edge, or breaking the blade entirely. Or having the lashings give way and watching as your single best survival tool [because that’s what a knife is] runs away in the ribs of your would be game. Use the knife to fashion a good wooden spear, fire harden the point and you’ll at least look like you know what you’re doing.d As for folding knives; the author does have some good points, but still manages to miss the mark a bit. Folding knives without locking blades are undesirable for combat or heavy use but are still useful for a variety of necessary chores such as drilling, mending, dressing game and fashioning small tools and such. Likewise the locking mechanisms of the better/best manufacturers produce folding knives whose resistance to breakage is equal or superior to fixed blade knives commonly found in the mass market. There are more than a few YouTube videos where they do destructive testing that demonstrate this point. Do your research and apply yourself to acquiring the proper skills. If nothing else whittling is a good way to practice cutting techniques and gives you a chance to practice your knife sharpening. Which is an essential skill. (See Epictatus). Study, Learn, Practice, Repeat. Good Luck and Long Life to you all.
dedi | December 27, 2016
Really love this article. I just realized so many other options out there, for I only has this tramontina machete in my emergency bag.
Joe | January 15, 2017
One more improvised weapon to consider is a fire extinguisher. Not just as a striking implement but they dry chemical in the extinguisher is inert, it won’t sustain life. A one or two second burst toward a home invaders face will be enough to stop him from advancing and quite possibly kill him by suffocation. Just be aware of not emptying the extinguisher, you will have to deal with trying to breath also, and the eventual clean up.
jason smith | November 19, 2017
Once again a very nice article.
Kyle in Upstate NY | June 16, 2018
One thing I’d say though is that the idea that using something like a knife or a sword for self-defense is bad because it will be ineffective against an attacker I think depends on the person. If you’re a person of decent strength and fitness, using a knife or sword can very much be effective. Now I’d always recommend a gun, but if you don’t have one, a knife or a sword can be plenty effective. Think of it this way: would anyone ever say, “If a thug breaks into your home and is armed with a knife or a sword, don’t let that worry you because those weapons will be ineffective when wielded against you.”
Chuck Belitz | June 16, 2018
I am skilled with the two-handed sword. When I want a lighter weapon, I use a wakizashi. I am a member of a Medieval Martial Arts Group (NOT SCA). We actually fight without the soft rules of the SCA. Like Mahatma Muhjesbude, I have begun training with machetes (yes – two). A pair of heavy, high quality machetes makes a terribly intimidating weapon. A typical knife fighter (or wannabe) might soil his pants when confronted with a broadsword or with two machetes. And, too, there’s no need to take the opponents knife.. It is easier to just de-arm him?.