This is a rudimentary guide on the positives / negatives, purposes / effects, consequences / lethality of stabbing and slashing with edged weapons in live combat.


Knife combat is like gun combat in that in any hands it can potentially be deadly. But a strategy to simply kill is not ideal even if termination is the end objective, it’s more about disabling, disarming and defending.

A knife, like any tool, is only as useful and effective as the user’s ability and application of it. As a weapon, it can be used defensively or offensively and with varying degrees of damage.

It takes just 6 pounds of pressure (lbs.) to pull a trigger of a firearm and even less pressure to penetrate human skin with the blade of a knife. The point is that the end-result of a knife can be just as devastating and with equal stopping power as a gun.

The difference is the modes of delivery. With a knife, the 2 modes are essentially stabbing and slashing.

What’s better, stabs or slashes? The answer is dependent on the situation and purpose of the engagement. So neither is better or worse.

Microtech Dirac and Venomous Graphene Knife | DETCADER

      Stabbing Strikes

In a very general way, stabs tend to inflict more lethal damage due to deeper penetration into the body; potentially leading to exsanguinate or organ failure.

Specifically targeting the lungs, heart and kidneys is intending to kill, since with enough tissue damage (which isn’t much), death is almost certain. Stabs to exterior vital soft targets like the eyes, neck and abdomen yield similar yet less definitive results.

Stabbing strikes tend to be more difficult to make contact to the target than slashing strikes, but a single maneuver of point-to-point linear striking at great speed would make any slashing moot.

Vital Organs to Target in a Knife Attack | DETCADER

However, stabs often have a delayed or reduced “shock and stop” effect in the heat of the moment. In the chaos of combat, even a deep stab may not hurt that much or even be felt at all until moments later – especially if it’s a smaller blade with a “clean” incision and exit.

So the lack of instant pain won’t shock or stop the adversary in his place. The problem with that is the adversary can continue to engage as if nothing happened. Even if the stab(s) are life-threatening and will eventually kill him, he still has moments to kill you.

This is why unlike slashing, stabs generally need to be more precise coupled with specifically perpendicular strikes, increasing the difficulty in practice.

While the slightest penetration to the heart will instantly incapacitate then quickly terminate your adversary, it’s a very small and protected target area that needs to be hit at a harsh (difficult) angle.

However, it’s because of the perpendicular mechanics of stabbing that in extreme close quarters, it may be the best if not only available striking maneuver.

      Slashing Strikes

Slashing is no less devastating than stabbing but it does have less potential to be lethal, that is of course unless you’re specifically trying to exsanguinate.

Stabbing strikes have to be pinpoint focused, reducing the margin of error whereas slashing strikes have wide areas of lines of focus. The multidirectional swinging mechanism of slashing also allows for greater reach than afforded by the narrow angled unidirectional nature of stabbing.

Regardless of how the knife is gripped, stabs come down to 4 basic maneuvers that are relatively predictable (due to offensive projection) and must be closer to the target to make contact than slashing.

Arm Muscles to Target in a Knife Attack | DETCADER

Slashing attacks come down to 8 basic maneuvers which are fluid and less predictable with seamless linking of dynamic strikes that can target anywhere.

It’s more optimal to try to stop an adversary’s ability to engage you any further than to crudely try to kill him. An effective tactic to achieve this is by interrupting the adversary’s capability to use his hands / arms – eliminating the motor function of holding a weapon or throwing a punch.

A decent slash anywhere on the inner forearms as long as it disrupts enough muscle can render his hand and therefore his arm effectively useless.

Thigh Muscles to Target in a Knife Attack | DETCADER

Unlike a random stab to a non-vital part of the body, an attack like this will cause an instant “shock and stop” effect due to felt pain, sight of his own blood and the realization of the loss of motor function.

Alternately for similar results for non-lethal stopping power, targeting the quadriceps femoris muscles (thighs) with deep slashes can disrupt the adversary’s forward motion ability or with enough damage, make it impossible to even stand.

Targeting the naturally protected and further to reach internal organs with a knife is clearly more difficult to effectively strike than the naturally extended arms and legs of an adversary.

      Stabbing vs. Slashing

In a knife attack, death comes from blood loss or organ failure, not from the actual lacerations and puncture wounds of the flesh. But stopping an adversary does come from “superficial” flesh wounds.

Stabbing or slashing, in combatives there is no better or best type of strike, each type of attack has their uses, purposes and opportune need. Situationally, either type of strike can equally have optimal effect on the target, the trick is knowing when to use what.

Even if the objective is to terminate, the prime strategy should be to stop the adversary’s ability to engage you any further (incapacitate) first.

You can kill an adversary but he can still kill you too, but stopping an adversary stops him from killing you.