Self-Defense Against Knife on a Train
Updated: Jun 16
In February 2011, Maksim Gelman embarked on a murderous spree in New York where he killed four and injured another five people during a 28-hour rampage with an 8-inch chef’s knife.
His rampage finally ended on the subway when he ran into Joseph Lozito, a 40-year-old ticket seller at Lincoln Center. Lozito had noticed Gelman earlier and pegged him for a suspicious type. When Gelman tried to break into the motorman’s car and was repulsed by the cops there, he ran back through the car lunging toward Lozito yelling “You are going to die!”
Lozito’s actions and his story is a brilliant example of the successful self-defense mindset.
Lozito instantly counter attacked, taking down Gelman with a leg sweep. Gelman produced the 8-inch knife from under his jacket and began slashing at Lozito who was grappling with the killer, trying to control his wrist. During the onslaught, Lozito suffered a number of slash wounds to his head, hands and arms — typical defensive wounds suffered by stabbing victims.
Let’s look at the lessons we can take from Lozito’s actions on that train:
Lozito is basically an untrained fighter although he is described as a “MMA buff” who watches the UFC on television. If he can do it, you can do it.
Lozito was highly aware of the suspicious nature of Gelman. ”You could tell this guy was shady,” he said. “I had my eye on him”. Awareness. He was already ‘switched on’ to possible danger and was not surprised when the confrontation began.
Lozito reacted to the threat immediately, crashing into Gelman as the madman lunged forward, then kicking or sweeping the attacker’s legs out from under him. “I wouldn’t win any style points for taking him down, but it did the job,” he said. You are not in a competition, no one is scoring you on the looks of your techniques. Only the effectiveness of the techniques count. Remember, there is no second place in a lethal force encounter.
His bulk (he is 6-2 and 270 lbs.) undoubtedly helped negate the charge from Gelman. Mass and firepower count in combat.
Lozito had a clear sense of his mission — take the bad guy down and control his wrist. Concentrate on the immediate task at hand. Reject negative or disassociated thoughts that can enter your mind. Keep a clear mind and focus on what needs to be done right now, which is stop and secure the weapon.
During the attack, Lozito pressed for a psychological advantage by telling Gelman, “You better hope that I die because I’m going to come kill you.” The tide of a battle or a deadly assault often turns in favor of the combatant with the sheer determination to fight to the end, to never give up.
Lozito’s commitment is obvious and he continued to fight despite being slashed severely. However, as is often the case in the heat of defending against a murderous attack, he was unaware of his injuries until after the event when blood was pouring out of his wounds. You might have already been stabbed, cut, shot or knocked down. But that’s not the end of the fight. You must press on and persevere — finish the fight! Heinous injuries are survivable and modern emergency medical services will be there shortly to give you the best care on the planet. Better to act and be injured than freeze and allow yourself to be killed.
Lozito said, “I’m glad he picked me. There were a lot of women and children on the train who couldn’t defend themselves. He picked me and instinct kicked in.” You are morally justified — indeed morally obligated — to protect the weak and innocent from evil.
He had something to live for. After the cops subdued Gelman and a good Samaritan came forward to put pressure on Lozito’s wounds, he said, “I told him, you gotta get me out of here. I can’t die on this train. I have a wife and two kids.” You have something bigger than yourself to live for: your wife, your kids, your parents. Don’t let him cut your life short — you have more to do in this life. You were not destined to die on the floor of some subway train or in a filthy gutter or deserted ditch. Keep fighting to preserve the life you deserve.
“I wasn’t going down without a fight,” he said. “I took his best shots and I am still standing.” Kudos to Joseph Lozito for modeling the way of a successful defender.