Pinning the arm wielding a knife is not complex but vital

When I teach straight stab, I often get a series of questions all related to how best to pin (temporarily) the attacking knife arm after the touch, turn process as we transition to the act of pinning.

The truth is, it is extraordinarily difficult to pin this arm for more than a second or two – sometimes less.

To answer this question, I first ask the class to tell me what joint we are isolating and pinning. Invariably, most will say the elbow. I stop when someone says – the shoulder. Yes, the shoulder is the answer. The reason we pin the arm to isolate and immobilize the shoulder is obvious once you begin to assess how the shoulder moves. It’s the shoulder that allows the vast majority of dangerous movement with an edged weapon. By stopping the shoulder, we can reduce the movement of an edged weapon up to 90 percent – by my count. But, don’t take my word for it – experiment and see for yourself.

Now that we know that the objective is to temporarily immobilize the shoulder, we can answer the question at hand. First, consider that we need to move down the arm away from the shoulder to realize the full advantages of leverage in our pinning tactic. But, we can’t move so far down the arm that we attempt to pin below the elbow – try and you’ll see the attacker can easily free his/her arm.

In one case, pulling the attacking arm up creates a progressively smaller area to attempt to pin. In another case, pinning the arm below the elbow doesn’t provide sufficient surface area to be effective – an effort to move the attacking arm left or right will often free the arm. Finally, attempting to isolate one joint by locating or focusing your efforts near another, different joint (and putting that joint between your pin and the targeted joint) is a recipe for failure.

Instead consider the Brachioradialis just above the elbow. The small gap the muscle provides as it tapers off to the tendon provides an ideal area to pin the attacking arm. The location also offers good leverage away from the shoulder joint. Even with these advantages, it’s worth noting that this position only offers a temporary solution, and hitting the attacker to scramble the OODA loop process is always a necessary for a successful defense.

There are a host of alternative approaches to pinning the attacking arm, some necessary if the defender is late in his or her defense. However, in an ideal defense, the defender should isolate and immobilize the shoulder joint. Train with this in mind, and I think you’ll find targeting the Brachioradialis for your pin to be useful.

Check out the video below. I’ll show you where to target your pinning effort.

…walk in peace.

Leave a Reply


  1. Arnold Wo

    Chief, does the technique change if the attacker surprises us while our hands are down, say, below our hip?

    • CJK


      The issue of hands down should be reframed as an issue of timing – use your hands in your defense if you have a viable measure of time regardless of position. If you don’t have time to use your hands, see me and I’ll show you another tactic.