Recently I read an article on surviving an edged weapons attacks, where the writer spoke specific to knife wounds as they related to unconsciousness and death. I found this quite troublesome given the fact that his numbers just did not reflect the empirical experience/data that I have witnessed over my 23 years of being a law enforcement professional.

In this article the author first quoted a book written by Captain W E Fairburn called “Get Tough: How to Win In Hand-to-Hand Fighting” published in 1942. On page 99 of this text (fig.112) Fairburn provides the following information specific to “loss of consciousness in seconds” and “Death” specific to knife wounds:

  • Brachial Artery:
    Unconsciousness 14 seconds, death 1.5 minutes
  • Radial Artery:
    Unconsciousness 30 seconds, death 2 minutes
  • Carotid Artery:
    Unconsciousness 5 seconds, death 12 seconds
  • Subclavian Artery:
    Unconsciousness 2 seconds, death 3.5 seconds
  • Heart:
    Unconsciousness instantaneous, death 3 seconds

I attempted to locate any medical literature surrounding the time that this book was published to support the above noted data, but I was unable to do so. If anyone reading this can provide me with the medical literature that supports Fairburn’s data from that time period, please send it my way.

Based upon the above noted Fairburn data, I began my literary review of the martial art/self-protection/combatives academia, specific to unconsciousness and death specific to knife wounds and what I found was very surprising if not troublesome. Much of the data supplied in these books, articles and papers that I reviewed were just a rehash of Fairburn’s numbers. None, and I mean none, cited any medical literature to support their claims. Some stated that they had spoken to a medical professional (doctors and paramedics) to validate their claims, but yet they did not provide the names of these medical professionals, their credentials or even medical research links which would have helped validate their published writings.

After reading the above noted martial art, self-protection, and combatives academia, and being less than impressed with their reported data specific to unconsciousness and death as it relates to knife wounds, I too decided to connect with the medical professionals. Two of the doctors that I connected with are experts in their field of medicine. Both specialize in trauma care and critical care medicine and have a plethora of firsthand experience in dealing with those who have been injured via an edged or pointed weapon.

Dr Lorne David Porayko:

• Full time Critical Care Medicine/Anaesthesiology specialist in Victoria, Vancouver Island Health Authority
• Critical Care team leader
• Works in conjunction with Dr Christine Hall
• Martial Arts background in Judo (black belt level), MMA, Krav
• Honoured to say that Dr Porayko is one of my full-time students

Dr Christine Hall: