Here’s a quote by Imi Lichtenfeld (the founder of Krav Maga): “Victims who survived a violent confrontation against a knife-wielding assailant consistently reported that they were completely unaware of the existence of the weapon until after they had suffered stab or slash wounds. In essence, these survivors of edged weapon attacks state that they believed they were engaged in some sort of fist fight; only later, after sustaining injuries, did they realize that the assailant was armed.”
Awareness in general is fundamental, but even more so when it comes to edged weapons. The type of awareness I am talking about is more applicable when you are actually in a conflict situation. This is why it is important to treat every threat as if they have a weapon. To assume that every attacker these days is going to play by the rules and use only their fists in a fight is just plain folly. This is why knife awareness must be cultivated.
There are drills you can do to practice your awareness. At Austin Self Defense we practice multiple opponent drills and with upper level classes we may also have one of the opponents deploy a knife (rubber training knife) to simulate a real potential scenario. This will increase the students awareness and sharpen up their reaction times. In ambush attacks, reaction time is everything. You must work on breaking the freeze and reacting as soon as possible. Sometimes just turning towards the attacker as they get near is enough to put them off their attack, since the element of surprise (a vital part of any attackers strategy) has been lost.
If you are attacked by someone with a knife, then escape should always be your first line of defense. Failing that, create distance, get off-line, grab a weapon of your own or something to throw at your attacker. What will help you more than any technique though, is having the right awareness. You need a survival awareness coupled with a mindset that refuses to give in no matter what and will fight till the very end. It’s you or them, kill or be killed. That’s the way you have to look at it. This is a fundamental that we cultivate through our real world training style which will give you a significant edge if you ever find yourself in a conflict situation.