In combat marksmanship, shot placement is incredibly important and more often than not it is the determining factor in lethality. No matter the caliber of bullet or model of firearm, the location on the body where the round strikes determines how much damage is done with the exception of scenario-modifying circumstances. It is the same with knives and their employment in a combat based situation. Where the knife strikes will determine the relevance of damage inflicted to the probability of incapacitating the targeted threat. But which is going to accomplish the desired amount of damage better, a slash or a stab?

The short answer to my click-bait title and serial killer-esq picture is actually: neither; and both. Situation dictates (as always) and depending on the many variables of the engagement, you may find that a slash is more preferable to a stab, or vice versa. If the target is an artery, tendon, or appendage, organ, etc. then the target will have a corresponding technique that, more often than not, should be the go-to strike. I won’t go into grip techniques but both these strikes are favored by forward and reverse grip methods; which makes them fairly universal to all styles of knife combatives. The real question is when and how to apply them.

You’ll notice that I haven’t said “knife fighting” or any thing to that effect so far. This is because there is no such thing and that Hollywood BS has no place in training for a reality-based scenario whether it will be offensive or defensive in nature. That being said, it always has the potential to be applicable but for argument’s sake I’m going to skip it. We are talking about a violent encounter in everyday context and I will be referring to it as such.

A stab while capable inflicting deep damage has a limited amount of dispersion due to the slimmer profile of the strike. It is best used to target internal organs like the kidneys, lungs, heart, spleen, etc. but can also be effectively utilized on the external soft targets like the eyes. The stab can also be used to great effect if deception and surprise are used in conjunction to the strike. One benefit is the sheer speed at which the “sewing needle” technique can be applied, point to point linear strikes will always be faster. Creating deep puncture wounds is incredibly effective when utilized in this manner, the downside is that if they miss a vital target then because of the thin spread the wound is often not nearly as serious as it will look and can be treated rather easily. This is still true of slashes but with those you do not have to be as precise to hit a vital target like you do with a stab.