Realistic edged weapon defense training

As a law enforcement officer, you have a higher rate of receiving an injury from an edged weapon assault than you do from a firearms assault, according to FBI statistics. This is surprismg since there is about a three to two ratio of firearms assaults over edged weapon assaults. Handguns are still much more likely to kill a law enforcement officer at about a 50 to one ratio over edged weapons.

There is no such thing in law enforcement as the saying "he only has a knife" to describe an assailant. What about the sudden assault, when there is no time to draw the firearm and accurately fire at a knife wielding assailant. A sudden edged weapon assault can even happen when an officer has drawn the handgun, and is not in a position to fire.

Realistic edged-weapon defense training can now be more realistically performed with the use of a product called the VirtualBlade. The edged weapon equivalent of Simunition the VirtualBlade is a 7-inch long piece of peel and stick material that fits across the edge of any training knife. A specially developed high visibility green chalk is applied to the material and the VirtualBlade is ready to be used.

David Shulman and James Gummer, who have extensive backgrounds in various martial arts, developed the VirtualBiade. Shulman and Gummer stated that they wanted to instantly know if a cut was accurate while participating in edged-weapon defense training. "We tried magic markers, lipstick, grease paint, water colors and sidewalk chalk and none of these worked. We said that there needs to be some thing that is user friendly that is non-toxic, non-staining, fits on any training knife, yet is highly visible," Shulman, also a physical therapist, added.

Shulman and Gummer discovered "the right product" product, which was developed over an ongoing three-year period of time, in the VirtualBlade. One of the unique features of the VirtualBlade is that the high-visibility chalk is just that. A training "cut" leaves a green mark, i.e., bright green blood of the alien creature in the movies. This bright green color easily catches the eye and vividly shows up on clothing or skin.

Each application of the special chalk, which is not your kids' schoolyard chalk, allows for at least 10 VirtualBlade "cuts" before the chalk needs to be reapplied. Shulman said cleanup is a simple blur of a clean hand or a baby wipe. Another big plus for law enforcement, the VirtualBlade retails for only $13, which includes the 7-inch material strip, one cleaning pad, product and safety instructions and the green coloring chalk. You're on your own with the training knife, which, according to Shulman, works on any training knife.

Showing contact with the VirtualBiade is an important aspect of training. Officers need to remember that the threat from an edged weapon doesn't need to be from a Ginsu master with sophisticated butterfly knife moves or some nut wielding a Rambo knife. A wound to the neck of as little as one-quarter inch in depth can be fatal due to all the vital structures in the neck.

"Penetrating injuries to the neck have the potential to involve many vital structures from several different organ systems. These include musculoskeletal, neurological, vascular, visceral and glandular structures. Because many of these vital structures lie superficially under the skin, what appears to be a deceptively minor neck wound can actually be life- threatening," Dr. Joseph Sciammerella at Mercy Medical Center in Rockville Centre, stated.

Baltimore City Officer Robert Ross, an expert in edged- weapon defense training, knows how important it is to visibly see where a cut may occur when doing training. "When VirtualBlade was introducd into my training sessions, I was amazed at how fast it changed the attitudes of my students. They could safely and clearly see the dangers of edged weapons and how fast a situation could change before their eyes. And for the first time, they could see where they were cut and in a dramatic way, see how bad," Officer Ross stated.

Officers must also remember that, current controversy aside into the real level of ballistic threat protection, soft body armor is not built to withstand edged weapon attacks. There is a good possibility that a slash may be stopped when making contact with most soft body armor units, but you can't bet your life on it. A direct stab with a very pointed knife or an ice pick will probably not be stopped by soft body armor. Even so, there is no soft body armor worn by patrol officers that protects the neck and areas below the belt line, which can all result in lethal edged weapon wounds.

Dr. Fabrice Czarnecki at Franklin Square Hospital Center in Baltimore, MD, added that the lethality of edged weapon wounds should never be underestimated. "In addition to the carotid artery, other dangerous targets are femoral arteries, brachial arteries (upper arms), and subclavian arteries in the chest. Chest and abdomen stab wounds can be deadly, but require deeper penetration compared to the limbs. A stab wound to the chest can injure the heart, aortic artery and several other large blood vessels (all deadly injuries)," Dr. Czamecki stated.

"A stab wound to the abdomen can kill by injuring a major artery or an organ (like the spleen) that will bleed. Multiple stabs to the abdomen is a tecihnique favored by some gangs, and it carries a high mortality risk. Besides blood loss, knife wounds can cause multiple kinds of other injuries. A neck injury could damage the airway, and kill by asphyxiation. A chest wound or wound to the rib cage could collapse a lung, which would set about a cascading effect leading to death," Dr. Czamecki said.

Officers must be properly trained of the dangers and the realities of edged weapon attacks in a realistic manner, while training them to win the encounter. "For traffic stops and other open or direct line situations we use the direct line attacks at 5 feet, 10 feet and 21 feet. With the VirtualBlade this allows us to show the deputies that even for a reactionary gap of 2l feet the deputy has a hard time drawing his weapon in time to defeat the attacker," Corporal Scott Kendrick, academy and tactical unit instructor with the Oklahoma County Sheriffis Office, stated.

"When the deputy thinks he defeated the attacker, we show him the green mark across his chest or leg. In these scenarios we teach the officer to step off line and/or find an obstacle to put between himself and his attacker while drawing his sidearm. Using the VirtualBiade in training helped us identify sound tactics that are better for increasing the officer's chances for sur vival," Kendrick said.

EdNowicki, a nationally recogn ized use offorce expert, is the executive director of the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA). Ed can be reached at

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