Closure of the Bowie Blog April 2020
Thank you all!
Sincerely, James Keating
A final Salute / Final Days / Final Entry - Closure of this Blog
The Beast of 2020 has taken a Toll. Bright Spirits Gone / Rest In Peace!
Bowie Redux 4 U !
The Borderlands Between the Light and the Night
An atmosphere of heat, you can hear every beat of your heart. You knew from the start that you'd study the art of the knife divine, the Bowie design a symbol of might, an omen - a sign. When stars align of history and blood, of cactus and mud, a mystery flood of crap & crud you must take heed and follow the lead. Your heart points true, a compass for you. Follow it back and slip through the crack of reality's door, learn this way, even the score!
In the land of sand and hells dark door, it's toil and treasure conquistador. It's circle and line to the San Saba mine, the point and the tine will all straight align. A tale to believe, a needle to weave, a trick up your sleeve for skulls to cleave. The Bowie will rieve a passage to grieve in it's own bold way. Once in the clay so shall they stay! This is not play, save the day in the deadly fray or loose your way, a price you will pay.
The sun makes you squint, in a land hard like flint. It's carte and quince - a quick blood bath rinse. The quest of the bold for the silver and gold, for Cibola it's told is still hid away, there it will stay. In such a quest you may find it best to take a friend of point and edge, of guard and swedge onto the ledge of life and death - a single breath of the Blade's cold kiss, a double deadly Bowie knife schmiss. The lovers lips of the death stroke eclipse, as hot air sips from wounds life dips, steel sharp so life clips!
The Spearpoint Bowie knife is somewhat of a mystery
to those not steeped in Bowie Knife lore.
- THE FOX CROSSADA'S -
You see at some point in early America it seems that just about any big knife could be generally termed "a Bowie". For most people when they hear of the Bowie knife they think of the "Iron Mistress" or Bill Moran Bowie knife type of look. (me too)
The one big knife which did stand out and claimed it's own name was the awesome Arkansas toothpick. A large dagger-like weapon with capabilities equal to those of the Bowie knife. The Toothpick differed from the Spearpoint Bowie because the Toothpick is a true dagger. The Spearpoint Bowie lacks the triangular dagger shape. The blade is longer and not as wide. Often known as a Confederate Bowie knife because it was often used in the civil war by those troops. For some a spearpoint Bowie (in their opinion) is what Jim Bowie's knife actually looked like. To each their own. There are advantages to each design. It's always a trade off between this and that. There is no real "best" Bowie - let's just enjoy them all. Live and let live!
As you know my original Crossada Bowie was a spearpoint. I had many reasons to choose that design. None of them frivolous either! None cosmetic, all business - it's about peformance. For my needs at that time the spearpoint design was best. But later some of that changed as things always do. This post is about recognizing-honoring the Spearpoint Bowie. Moving on -
My old friend Wendell Fox made me a magnificent Rustic Spearpoint Crossada Bowie knife and an accompanying small companion Crossada Bowie knife. Both have that excellent sheath work Wendell was so known for. Rustic quillions he made himself. Bless ye Wendell! If a mountain man ever had carried a Crossada fighter it would have looked like this I am sure! Bigger than life, eye catching to the max and a pair of’em at that - long and short.
Beauty ++ (Wendell knew I loved Espada y daga).
In past articles I have written about the central vision blind spot. And how daggers and spearpoints can fool the vision easier than a upswept tip style Bowie blade. The Spearpoint Bowie is a thrust oriented weapon. On my Fox Spearpoint I spoke of above I have a curved pistol grip handle. This adds to the thrust and parry feeling - the companion knife also runs a pistol grip and is quite dagger-like. A spearpoint Bowie would be a lousy camp knife or survival tool. Not enough weight, too long and sword-like. Not made for such duties as chores. It's a weapon for sure!
I think you can get a sense of the size of these units by the pictures. But for the sake of clarity I’ll list the dimensions. The specs on the big Fox made Crossada are a 14 and 3/4 blade. OAL is right on the money, coming in at 21" - It moves like feather through the air IE: Perfect balance!
Earlier in a previous post I mentioned some of my Fathers knives.
I said they were products of the times, steel children of the technology which spawned them. Back then few men gave a damn about knives, making them or even collecting them. The entire knife scene was being born (reborn?) during those times after WWII and beyond. As was some of the better firearms training - it was a time of re-discovery and growth. Men like Randall, Cooper, Steyers and Gaylord were in the forefront of this wave.
The magazines of those times spurred interest through articles and books which inspired men such as my Father to give knife making a go. Later he made jewelry along with knives. Those things just go together I guess. I still have the rings he made, I still have the knives he made. Some of them I can remember when they were created, I was there. The story of their birth is as interesting as the finished product itself. My Dad made do with what he had. His shop was very basic. Lots of old hand tools that belonged to my Grandfather. A two wheel grinder from Sears and not much more.
I have written previously about my Uncle and my Dad and how they came into so many knives and blades. I’ll keep it short. But it is a critical piece of Keating blade history. Opportunity knocked and those guys answered. So .. there was an airbase in Moses Lake Washington. It’s still there and is now used to train commercial pilots and such. Big jets in the sky all the time around Moses Lake.
My Uncle did heavy Construction (Roy Holland) (Holland Construction) and he bid on big jobs around the area. So there was a huge fire at the airbase and it was contained in one particular area of buildings (warehouses-hangers) This was all storage shit from WWII that GI’s and airmen had brought home and then stored at the base for later retrieval. It was in those massive warehouses the fire took place. Roy bid on and got the contract to clean all that debris and crap up. They used big machines, backhoes, etc. / Well as they plowed into these still smoldering heaps of crap lo and behold knives and swords began popping up all over! Some burnt, some not, some only partially damaged. And I mean some flat out priceless stuff too. Roy kept many samurai swords (katanas), my Father wouldn’t touch’em (remember it was still fresh the WWII). There were bolos galore. Machetes out the ass. Every kind of knife and dagger one could imagine? And remember all this was scrap to be buried in the dump. Free to the taking! So knowing Jim was a knife guy Roy would bring my Dad a ton of knives he had salvaged. This happened weekend after weekend. I mean by todays rules this shit was a goldmine and a half! The shit we dream of as knife guys was real for me back then! But it was “normal” for our family and I did not think too much about it being abnormal at all. Kids are like that. So I grew up with a wide assortment of Nambu rifles, swords, weird damaged knives etc. All from that huge fire. And my Dad would refurbish some of these pieces. Put a handle on here and a polishing there. Then he’d give’em away or trade them. Never sold one knife to my knowledge ever. But I reckon he could have. So it wasn’t only him making knives. It was repairing, refitting, re-tempering etc. those knives from the airbase storage facility. Even into my forties some of these were still about, now though no traces exist of the knives. Lost to time. Dad passed in 94 and the shop closed. The contents went to the four winds as estate sales do. The trail ends there. So there is some background on my old man’s cutlery hobby. The pics above are just to show his style -
Dealing with the Different types of Attacks and Defenses an Opponent may Use:
In knife fighting one must understand that the ranges of play in sword work and bowie knife fighting are different. This is due to the length of the weapons obviously. The sword being longer one can play from an out point and still be effective. But this range difference also allows tricks and opportunities by both combatants that would not have been practical to do with a sword. This makes the Bowie knife fight even deadlier than a sword fight. Let's take a look at some of the possible scenarios and how a bowie man would handle them.
There is the "madman attack". Wild swinging and unpredictable. There is the wary "wait n see" fighter who plays the waiting game and snipes incessantly. The cool headed fighters were once rare. But now there are many cool headed, highly skilled knife fighters. These different ways to defend yourself can also be learned by a complete and thorough study of the five ways of attack. But for this chapter we shall address the attacks by their nature making it easier to grasp the solutions given. We do not all think alike. I hope this helps you get together a game plan for yourself that will work for you. Consider this material as "tips" on Bowie knife fighting the Comtech way. Let's get started shall we? First up I want to tackle the infamous "madman scenario" so many knife guru's seem fascinated with as being one of life's greatest problems. Hardly! Why so I ask? Is it due to fear or the wildman's thrashings? That is why timing must be your constant companion. To a man with good timing and a sharp Bowie knife it's parry, parry and thrust to the kill! I agree that a person who no longer fears their own death can be problematic. But they do come dealing death, so it is always best to give them a taste of their own medicine.
The timed thrust (stop-hit thrust) is something I use on the wildmen who wield a blade against me. Even in simple sparring matches they seem to think that their goofy antics have merit. But, in a flash a well timed stop-thrust to the face of the madman with my Bowie knife will not only stop such fighting folly as he displays, it will also kill him outright where he stands. Enter through the doorway of the crosses for safety. If your counter-assault is timed well you will emerge entirely unscathed from the lethal fracas. So is this clear to you now? The timed thrust (SDA) straight away into the face of your enemy will either stop or kill the raging knife killer. Employ footwork where needed as you thrust home to victory. This is 101 material - get the froove!
Here is another highly regarded method for the Bowie knife fighter to handle the madman attacker. In this method a fairly high level of physical fitness will be needed. You must learn to use time and stamina as your weapons. When the madman approaches you must dodge away behind a vehicle or shed. Make him chase you, do not engage him. Instead taunt him, laugh at him and encourage him to come get you if he can. Then avoid him again, keep this up until you see him gassing out (running out of wind). Now he has also became predictable and tired. Stop running and go after him now. A simple ABC (attack by combination) should do the trick. Strike out w/ your bowie at least five times and three of them shall taste his blood.
Next let us address the opposite of the madman knife fighter, the calm, collected knife fighter. Such a one will take their own sweet time. They tend to be snipers at heart, always posing threat, yet never really commiting to an attack. Such men employ the use of bait (ABD). They remain calm, which frustrates you, then by becoming over-anxious we wish to close-in and finish the fight. It is then they will strike you. To be "lured to harm by the need to harm" is an oft told tale in knife fighting. The idea here is to defend yourself, not to harm others. You must only harm another person in the honest defense of your life. Do not be overly aggressive in the manner of harming others because it can in turn get you killed. Be a tough, strong Bowie knife fighter for sure. But even more so be a tough, strong and SMART Bowie knife man as well. A deadly trickster clan are we of the Comtech Bowie knife! Refine the divine line my friends -
The calm, deliberate fighter can be judged as to their skill level via series of simple probes. These exploratory actions bring back information to your senses via the blade of your Bowie knife. This data will then be used to your advantage. The opponent of this caliber is too calm for a simple attack and he will not give in to an attack of his own making or be lured in. Sure you can try employing his own "wait & see" tactics to lure him in, but in my belief an attack based upon a progressive indirect attack (PIA) would be best suited to dazzle his calm demeanor and break through to a coup d' grasse. In doing PIA you should not appear hurried, this is not about blinding speed. It is about using skill to confuse the opponents senses and to take advantge of the opening you create. A view to a kill so to speak. This is similar to a ladder strategy where you go step by step until you achieve your goal - the opponent must be kept on the defense as much as possible during this. He must be psychologically incapacitated in order to be physically dominated. PIA can do this for you and the clever enemy that accosts you shall die a clever death in turn.
Last I shall list the kind of man who panics in the heat of the knife fight. He realizes he is in over his head, you have cut him off from retreat and he cannot escape. So he panics, he starts throwing everythig in arms reach at you. All joking aside, this ploy can be quite deadly - dodge and avoid incoming objects. But here again is simple logic applied. Use the Bowie like a tennis racket and swat away incoming objects (or swat them back at their source). Practice knocking things away as they fly towards you. Advance boldly, swat the offending flying object aside and enter fast with an overhead, arcing thrust off of a deep lunge. Superior eye-hand coordination is an asset to say the least when trying this bold play upon a thrower. Empty plastic water bottles are nice for practice. Dont hurt, dont damage. Get proficient at this. If you are a knifeman, this is a required skill!
I Love Arkansas. A great state filled w/ great people. Awhile back I wrote up an article. It was based upon a speech I was to give about Arkansas. In this article I speak about history, Bowie knives, geography and peoples. It's a bit long-ish, but has some Bowie bits you might like. Currently Jeff Schafer Knives (in Arkansas) makes the Crossada and Subhilts. (Jeff is a true knife man). So Arkansas is always on my mind in some manner it seems. And I am blessed for it. Please recall Bob Dozier & Tom Krien both also of Arkansas. They made premium grade Crossada knives for me in years past. Known as the "Bowie State" - appropriate name!
Crossett and Little Rock / seminars I did (w/ John) in those Arkansas towns. The Good people. The warmth and the food. Arkansas got in my blood! I felt at home - The Prokopto in me was identified there by a man. Eugene Cunningham (of Conroy?) I believe. A Bible, A horse, a .44 and a bottle of whiskey / Mission Peru / Those who dare ministry / And so it was.
And synchronicity strikes again! Last week I came across THIS article that is also about life in Arkansas. It makes a nice addition to what I have written earlier. Thanx and Hope you enjoy!
What is a "Brace of Weapons"?
Why was it one of the traditional ways in which Bowie Knives were gifted? What was the purpose of the brace? These and many other questions will be answered in this article. The Bowie brace of weapons is not only beautiful, but fighting functional as well. More so in the olden days when people were more familiar with weapons and their usage. Today weaponry abounds everywhere. But it is mainly relegated to untrained hands. Some ability yes, but no real "mastery" of the craft as men once had. So the brace of weapons has declined in it’s popularity for most people. It has also declined as a gift to be given as an honorary symbol of strength, respect and honor. But “Braces” of weapons still exist. We shall discuss not only the brace of Bowies, but other forms of the “brace” as well. The classic "brace of knives" for men such as us would be the Bowie knife and it's companion piece the awesome Arkansas Toothpick. (Knife & Dagger). Sometimes the "brace" was simply two well made Bowie knives that were sold as a set. A brace may also be a set of pistols, a pistol and a Bowie knife or small pearl handled derringer and boot dagger. Here is what the proper definition of the term is: Brace = “A Pair of somethings”. I think any pair or set of weapons is rather chic (cool). Even if they don’t match, the idea of a set of weapons is still quite attractive to me. A sword yes! A fine shield yes! But a sword & shield set – now that is splendid! So you see what I mean – The Brace of Bowies is an experts personal arsenal that is carried or displayed. Today we might call a second pistol we carry our "backup" gun. But since we have our main pistol, .45 1911 and our backup .38 Spl. air-weight this then bespeaks of a "brace" of weapons. The Bowie knife and pushdagger combo was a popular "Barbary Coast" murder & mayhem brace of the times. Even the Bowie and Brass knuckle set (brace) is a cool representation of what I speak. Certain combinations of weapons which create that perfect brace of practicality and beauty are rare. They create a "tableau", (a group of persons and props used to produce a picturesque effect) and like magic they instantly capture the mind of anyone who happens to see them. You know, "deadly & Beauty" have always gone together! The BRACE of weapons can be very much like the expression of good Feng Shui through properly matched weaponry. Since days of old, the sword has been a symbol of protection. In Feng Shui, the Chinese art of arrangement, swords are zhen zhai, which means they are believed to dispel evil. Many theories of this form of Feng Shui have been passed down from generation to generation. If you select a good sword and place it in the right direction in your home, office or studio, you'll have a good Feng Shui result. The Bowie is big Feng Shui in anyones book! Upon seeing it some men experience a visceral shiver. It is not just throwing two pieces together which make the brace! The "tools" must compliment one another in their color, tasks, form and function. It is this right selection of tools, tuned tastefully together which creates the perfect brace of bowie knife & (?) - That second weapon is up to you. The Bowie knife is a given. So then, what is YOUR choice as a secondary weapon? The Backup, the companion, the significant other that rounds out your quest for the brace of weapons we speak of is your choice.
Have Bowie-fun with this. Experiment some, mix & match. See what you get -
“Man is not what he thinks he is, he is what he hides.” ― André Malraux
Question for Master Keating: Do you believe it best to hold the Bowie Knife edge upwardly? Or do you consider the conventional grip of edge down the best?
Answer: Many times about many topics I have said that there is a place and a reason for everything. Understanding those things can explain a lot. I think it is best to know both ways to hold your Bowie knife. A balanced knowledge of both grips is vital. When to use them, what strategies to employ with each one and things like that. The edge up hold on the Bowie is damn good and just might denote someone who has had training.
So use caution if you encounter this!
Looking deeper into the edge up grip and fighting method. If we list some of the general benefits of the edge up guard it may help in seeing why some prefer that way of using the Bowie over the other methods. Let us start with the backcut. That technique certainly lends itself to the edge up grip like no other! In a knife fight rolling the blade creates illusion and makes you hard to hit. The backcut sort of rolls over and in on an angle one line from the edge up guard. A backcut can be done on many lines and in several ways, this example is merely one of many I could give.
That roll of your Bowie knife to it’s primary edge is a big safety factor for your weapon hand when fighting. Hurting the other guy at the expense of being hurt is a stupid man's game. It’s an anger-desperation response versus a trained mind response. The roll over as you strike (counter-strike) avoids his counter-strokes. Bravery and courage must be combined with ability & real skill. In this manner the edge up guard is one which surpasses the realm of the Bowie knife and enters the greater world of cutlery.
By this I mean that an edge up grip and guard position can be done with sword, folder, machete and yes the Bowie knife. If offers superior safety, illusiveness and power. But the edge up grip is limited. Only some angles can be reached in the edge up grip. One must thoroughly study this aspect and make the limitations work FOR you or they shall surely work against you. The standard edge down grip can indeed access more angles in a much easier manner. But also lacks the deceptiveness the edge up grip offers. Know both ways, know when to use the edge up and when not to.
On the American frontier personal fighting methods had to work. Normally they were not too sophisticated. They were direct and simple. Common sense based stuff with a limited array of moves. That is all that was needed. The edge up position exemplifies these ideals. I suggest you explore this further.
The Strategies of Bowie Knife Fighting are
to be found in what is known as the "Plays".
A Bowie knife play is a type of setup that puts the enemy at a disadvantage. It is a trick which creates a potential opening for your attack. Or perhaps it is a distraction of some sort that causes a lull in the opponents awareness. A play may be made where you act as if you have slow reflexes and make then purposeful "mistakes". Such a play can lure the opponent in closer, they will underestimate your skills. In Fencing this would fall under the "Attack by drawing" phase. Again, a setup for a win. It is strongly suggested you study, learn and apply the now famous "Five ways of attack". No matter if you fence, box or knife fight these five ways are universal. They can even be seen in the actions of wild beasts when they hunt. The five ways must be studied!
There is SDA - single direct attack
Next is ABC - attack by combination
Third is ABD - attack by drawing
Now comes PIA - progressive indirect attack
Lastly comes HIA - hand (or weapon) immobilization attack
There are few (if any) primary attacks in Bowie knife fighting. Nearly everything is done off of some kind of play (set up). Some men have "secret" plays as a part of their knife fighting arsenal of abilities. Personally I have no secret techniques. I use what is there and my high degree of skill is my way to victory. The so called SECRETS are merely tricks and plays made to catch the unwary off guard. It is a knife fight, expect deceit and trickery. There are no surprises or secrets to the man who has mastered his craft.
Here is what Master at Arms Robert Langford has to say about the plays
and their importance in the Bowie knife methods of fighting:
"These Plays are the Jumpgate to superior skill with which to win against anyone."
"He who masters the Plays, masters himself and the world around him."
"A knifefighter, without the Plays, is using random techniques that may or may not work."
"The knifefighter who fails to take the Plays to heart will not live long. I back these words with the point of my knife, for it tends to dispel illusions of grandeur, permanently. "
Ok, thank you master at Arms Langford! I suppose now an example of a solid Bowie knife play might be in order. Let's examine a few of them in the upcoming part II of this article and get some idea's to help us move comfortably into that area of Bowie knife fighting expertise! Next up is MOTOR SETTING. One of the secrets that make your plays work is knowing how to motor set the adversary.
PART TWO / The Strategies of Bowie Knife Fighting
Know what to look out for when an opponent is "motor-setting" you for a setup-kill. In reverse know and practice motor setting techniques upon others until such skills are natural for you. Motor setting is not only for combative purposes. It is also a principle that many stage magicians will employ to pull off their chosen "magic trick" successfully. In Bruce Lee's "Tao of Jeet Kune Do" the principles of "motor setting" an opponent are quite well defined. In pulling off this trick it will be you that is surprised by it's effectiveness as much as your opponent will be. In some cases it will work so smoothly it will be seen as nothing short of being some type of true fighting magic. Again, in your practice of motor setting be sure that you can relate the principles of such practice to one of the five ways you learned about earlier in this chapter. In case you do not have the Tao of Jeet Kune Do about the house to refer to, here are the main elements of MOTOR SETTING for your erudition.
Motor setting is often done in set's of three's. (not always). The first two movements being the setup. One, Two and..... Three! Quickly now go elsewhere from where the first two actions had been directed. He will go to where you had motor set him by the first two actions. Hence "locking" him into a pattern he cannot escape from. Motor setting can indeed be done with only two moves instead of three. There are many variations to the motor setting theme. Using the concepts in defense are slightly different from using them in attack. Experience and practice make a big difference in understanding this better. Learn the principle, not just the Bowie knife techniques. Learn the stage magic side of how motor setting occurs. See how it figures into high pressure sales jobs and commissions. See how motor setting can be used to teach people Bowie knife skills. This "study" is up to you my friend. Either you run with this stuff or you just continue sitting on your hands. I kid you not, motor setting is something you will never regret learning about!
An example of motor setting as done in a basic play: Deliver a crisp overhead blow (downward vertical strike) towards the face-head of your opponent. Use a rapping or percussive motion – a carving cut is the proper term (witik) to do this. Strike down and out and back to where you started (Guard). Sincerely try to strike his head. Make him believe that you want his head! So again lets put this all together now! You deliver the overhead strike ONE, and then once again TWO and on the third blow turn your overhead blow into a backhand flank cut on the horizontal plane (#4). That’s it!
If the initial attacks were done well and believable your opponent will surely act to guard and defend his head (and also strike back at you). So by this head shot done twice (the motor setting part) you showed intent, presented threat, gave yourself away so to speak. So by the third strike of the overhead he reacts to the high line (you set his unconscious mind into the pattern), your blow suddenly whips into the backhand flat line strike to the hip, rib and stomach areas!
This has a near 90% success ratio. Do it right and the line to the flank strike is wide open! The fencers logic runs thus: “A human being, when under threat always gives flank”.
This is true as true can be. Exploit this knowledge! So you use “motor setting” to set up your “play” which is based around a principle of threat and a reaction that threat. You are changing lines in this play too. All of the blows of the bowie knife are of the hacking type. Heavy chops that strike and pull back. (snap cuts). Overhead chop, overhead chop, backhand horizontal chop! Practice this and I guarantee you that this works. And if they do not defend on the first strike or the second, then you are to strike them down. Coup de gras time! If and when they attempt to defend high, change lines and give a low flank shot! Boom! Done! This is done whilst moving past them on their outer flank (weapon side). Think about it. It doesn’t get any better. In three moves, a little setup and some courage and timing put together provide you one of the best and easiest of plays to pull off with your Bowie. Use your reach, stay out and just tag’em hard and move away. The rest of this must be intuited and that’s up to you good sirs!
“In the Bowie we Trust / Let your Skills not Rust”
That Brass Bowie Backstrap & The Thousand and One American Tales About It
One of the damnedest elements of Bowie-ana is the never ending debating, questioning, speculating on the brass strip which rides atop the spine of many cool Bowie knives. I guess everyone has the right to toss their opinion into the Bowie speculation arena! To have that personal opinion heard and let the court of public decision decide. I guess that is the goal.
Hell, why not? I'll humbly listen - no matter whether I agree or disagree with the idea. It's all good you know. I listen even if I absolutely know the opposite of what their spouting is true. I savor the stupidity. I sit back in admiration. A close up study of a blowhard at their best. Real entertainment. If on the other hand the opinion proves worthy, I admire the honest logic from which it was derived. I bow my head in respect as I have thus been enlightened on that day. Respect and openness either way it goes. This keeps shit civil and upright.
Let us begin with the brass strip acting as a "blade catcher". I swear to ever loving God above if I hear this "explanation" one more f*cking time I'm gonna splode like an over-filled port-a-potty. Throwing feces and cutlery curses far & wide, the butt-hurtness out there in cutlery land will be immense! A vast field of butt-hurtness! Be quick now pilgrim, hide yer women folk, put the young'uns in the cellar. Stop up their ears w/ pure bees wax and speak aloud holy verses to counter the great din brought about by my unholy brass strip wrath!
So yeah, the popular version goes like this: The brass strip is used to catch the blade of the other guy. Ya see, brass is a softer metal, like lead - so it nicks and catches. Turning the blade of the opponent ever so slightly. Now you got'em! Slice n dice dude! (well, that is the popular take some men have on this topic). It's inventive - in a desperate sort of way. But I just do not see this as being an acceptable truth - at least for myself. A "no" vote is hereby recognized & registered from the dapper gentleman from Oree-Gone!
Added weight - the whomp factor arises. The brass strip is purely for added weight. Weight is authority in the fight game. Never doubt it. Heavy weapons can be way intimidating. But the weight also affects speed. Trade-off time as in so many instances of life. To have one element you must sacrifice another element. Sigh - a never ending dance of questionable tactical logic versus the ugly riptide of true reality . Turning a bowie knife into an impact device is not the goal for me, a sharp edge can work magic. The whomp factor is a null-factor to me – another no vote for a Bowie bludgeon.
It's a striking surface: Like if you chop into a chunk of wood (a small log). You can take another piece of wood and pound on that brass strip. There by successfully splitting the log. Yeah, as in "batoning" - I knew you’d get it! This makes a vote for the Combat Bowie knife also having a utility side. Right now I am raising my eyebrows, raising my shoulders, lifting up my hands and tilting my head - meh - a big maybe-possibly! It may be a striking surface, a big thumbs up vote for logic and deep thinking.
The poor tempering of the old makers metals raises another specter of possibilities. The brass strip in this case was meant to "deaden" the force of an incoming blow. How? The Bowie in this case is held primary edge up. Brass strip down. The strip is used to parry blows. The brass protects the often brittle blades during impact. Reducing breakage, stress risers and bending. So the brass side is percussive, the hammer of Thor. Yes, a blocker-bludgeon- deadner of force. And mind you that hooked beak is turned downwards and proceed’s the brass strip. The flip side is the edge. The decider of fates. Protect that edge, protect the knife and yourself. Not a bad premise at all. But, depends on who you are I guess. A Yes vote goes forth from a distant place into the mist shrouded cutlery cosmos!
Ornamentation / Yes, there is a certain belief that the brass strip was-is nothing more than adornment. Bling, cool eye catching colorful, shiny frontier bling! We see this on some cutlery even today. Just another knife, but then bling was added and people went on a frenzy of buying until it was not cool any longer. Again, fairly reasonable thinking in play here. Why not just for looks? It's ok, an easy idea to roll with. So I shan’t argue this valid point. Now - Go dig out your nasty old metal tin of BRASSO and get to polishing that bowie- bling that makes the eye sing! Another yes vote goes forth in support of this cool cosmetic reason for the brass strips continued existence.
These are just a few of the theories that are out there regarding the Bowie knife's brass backstrap. They may all be wrong, or all correct. That part of this bowie-puzzle is for you to decide for yourselves amigo mio's. There are a few more ideas which I failed to list here. This is because they are a tad bit too far out for public consumption. The brass having to do with the representation of certain levels in certain secret enclaves which dominate American society. And of spiritual nature too. Old anglo-european beliefs in brass are another aspect I have dodged. Brass and what it does in the meta-physical side of life is beyond the scope of this conversation. Credibility can be damaged by going too far out on a psychic limb - (so I shall avoid that). Thank you for reading this. Best of the 2020 to you!
(And dont forget that 2020 really spells "Zoso")
NOTE: On the relation of referring to brass & violence IE: facing death, gun fights, knife fights, fear, violence etc. Ever notice how It always leaves that 'brassy taste" in the mouth eh? Ever wonder why brass used for bullets? Beyond the obvious I mean. On the sub-continent brass use for idols (statuary) is recommended. People who are too damn bold (loud-pushy) are often said to have a “brassy” personality. Brass: When we study, we study deep. When we learn, we learn to keep.
Jim Bowie, Jean Lafitte, Pierre Lafitte, Knives, Wars and Thoughts
The great teacher, movie star, athlete and master martial man of this century may well be Dan Inosanto. Dan has lit the fires of martial passion in many, many minds over the years. Like few masters ever have in all of martial art history he has inspired people on every continent on Earth. Dan has told us an interesting story during his seminar - I have heard this story or theory several times. It involves the art of Kali, the Bowie Knife, James Bowie, Jean LaFitte (pirate) and the war of 1812. (damn, what a lead-in eh?). Some is fact, some theory, some guessing - all good. It is a known fact that Jim Bowie knew the pirate Jean Lafitte. That they did business together at some point. Bowie supposedly visited Barataria in it's heyday. (Barataria does not exist any longer). Lafitte and his crew were known as capable fighters, pirates, traders and swamp denizens extreme. Bowie and his brothers also were quite well known as not only business men of the time but as deadly fighters as well. This trait as a fighter was proven out sadly at the Alamo's bloody gates to a waiting eternity courtesy of General Santa Ana.
Dan Inosanto's theory and question is whether or not Jim Bowies ability with the blade was in any way influenced by the Filipino methods of blade work. Lafitte had in his employ many Filipino pirates. Skilled fighters all. Is it even possible that we consider Jim Bowie encountering Kali in his time amongst LaFitte's men? Guro Dan feels that it is well within reason that Bowie and some of the Filipino pirates in Lafitte's employ exchanged information on using the sword or knife. The Bowie Knife itself may have been influenced by a knife of similar design which Filipinos have used for centuries. I know, blashphemy eh?
Dan Inosanto further theorizes that the first time that Filipino martial arts were used on American soil was in the war of 1812. Lafitte and his men helped us out and saved the day. So no doubt during that epic conflict some FMA were used! And some Bowie blade work too.
I tend to agree w/ Master Inosanto. Bowie had to have been exposed to some FMA in his time spent with the pirates. It is feasible that knowledge, skills, tricks and techniques were exchanged and debated. Hell, such stuff happens today. Why would it not then as well? Men's nature around weapons is eternal and never changes even over the dark centuries. Plausible-reasonable = possible!
And please if I have perhaps not told this story as well as YOU could, do not pluck out my eyes, beat me with sticks or cast me into the well of perdition. It is merely a curious bit of Bowie knife lore to consider. I pass it along for logical consideration. A view from another person (Dan Inosanto's story) that I feel IS RELEVANT to our overall studies of the Big Bowie Blade. Believe or not believe. Either way is fine. Just relax and breathe low. High chest breathing is tension. Think, contemplate, smile. Nothing is real! it’s all illusion anyway – Remember?
Novelty: Yul Brynner as Pirate Lafitte
Thrusting with a Bowie Knife
As we all know a Bowie knife BLADE can take on many different shapes. A spearpoint much like a "Confederate Bowie". Mayhaps a scimitar-like upswept tip, the long tapering clip point blade. Some are out right daggers and yet they attempt to run the Bowie moniker to boost sales. (sigh). I'll keep this short. You can stab someone w/ a damn stick. So "stabb'in some dude" is not the quest. But successful thrusts that penetrate clothing, armor and bone are! Blade designs do figure into this quest for the best. Any knife can stab - but some do it better than others. Just as some Bowies can out chop or out cut other bowies - so each has it's qualities we as Bowie men hold dear! If you thrust as a part of your overall defensive profile then you might consider what I am saying. Clip point Bowies are daggers with half the tip missing. The subtle slope of the long clip plane. Yes, some of you are already on this aren't you? "Like a Bagwell" that is what you were thinking isn't it? And you are so right bucko! That is how Bill explains his creations. And yes a Bagwell Bowie not only cuts like lightning but also pierces like a hot knife going through butter! I've seen it! Bill does have his shit together. This is not mere hype as other makers crave. Bill is the Hattori Hanzo of the Bowie Knife cult. If you don't "get it" that is ok. But there are many people worldwide who do "get it" and they would kill for a Bagwell Bowie. I mean it. Blade designs like the Trailmaster can pierce too. But not as easily nor as cleanly. The rounder, blunter or upswept tips cause impact damage and yes a deep penetrating wound. But they operate slowly due to design. Thrusts with these other blade designs can cause deep hack cuts from the edge ramming forward, but the tip is not there and drag (friction) occurs.
The upswept point of the Bowie (scimitar style) is like the prow of a boat. My own Bowie from years past was called "Gods Scout" or PROKOPTO Bowie. It has this scimitar look, Heavy in the front, narrow in the back. Fast as hell too, that design still holds water! It just works and feels so Good! It's a bush-bowie. Meant for light duty brush work. Or as a fighter as well, either way this thing is alive in the hand. But thrusting? No-forget that. The point can only be accessed via the backcut. Then it is magnificent! Like a scorpions telson it appears out of no where strikes and disappears once more. So in this case point use is limited due to design not by lack of intent.
IXL-SKG / Speed is Life (1/2/20)
Back in the days of yore (around 1995) we did something called the "Riddle of Steel". It was a camp, multi-day event. Knife fighting was the only thing on the menu. As a credo (motto) we adopted a few sayings that were well suited to the high art of knife fighting. Made for a fine looking t-shirt too - One was "SKG" from the Top Gun school (Nellis) "See'em, Kill'em and Get the hell out of there" = SKG. Hit and run. Another Jet Fighter motto is "Speed is Life". Very appropriate for a knifeman. Your footwork is a savior. Speed of hand re-defined. You hear fighter pilots describe an aerial duel as a "knife fight at 15'000 feet". The other saying was "IXL" taken from the old Wolstenholm, California & Sheffield Bowie knives. IXL = I excel - at what I do. This referred to the Bowie knife of course. It being the best fighting tool. But for us men it also referred to a personal individual best and the confidence given each man by the presence of a Bowie in his hand!
~ IXL-SKG / Speed is Life ~
NOTE: The Bowie Knife has always been reflected in my endeavors. In some way, major or minor the Bowie spirit is always present. When I left home at 18 I had 2 grand and a Bowie Knife my father made me for graduation. Other kids got watches, money. I got a handmade Bowie knife. It was an item of the times. Back then composite handles were new. Some Marbles knives and others reflect this trend. So my Dad's knives also reflect that "look" that knives from that era all had. Perhaps sometime I'll post a few pics of those knives he made. There is an unfinished one that is big and wicked. Well balanced too! He passed away before he could finish it.
My mother was a leather crafter. She made the sheath for my Bowie with my initials on it. She did beadwork of all kinds. She even had a beadwork loom. Worked in copper (art) of all kinds too. She played piano and guitar well. Talented gal! The strap on the leather sheath (now fifty yrs old) is a bit worn. Not from abuse but from a pet Bobcat I had. His name was Bob. My Dad added an "O" later on and called him "Mr. Bob-o"! Well fuk'in Bob-o took a liking to the leather smell and gave the sheath a midnight chomp taste. He was a mere kit then, the small teeth marks are still there. Heh heh. Good times, good times! I carried that Bowie knife throughout the southwest on many adventures. I still have it and some pictures of Bob-o and my Dad. They got along nicely. Bob-o could headbutt you hard as heck, but he was just giving you affection. My Dad called him a JUGHEAD (lovingly). He did have a big head too. Bob-o loved women, he picked that up from being around me I suppose. He was hell on nylons, he pissed off a bunch of women by running their nylons. He'd grab their legs and hold on. Heh Heh, good times, good times!
OK, enuff personal JAK lore eh?
The "Offset Bowie" Design / Why?
Is this kind of classic Bowie knife an effective fighting weapon? Has it any advantages from it's unique design that we should be aware of? Is there any "specialness" to an "offset Bowie" that other Bowie Knife designs do not incorporate? Questions, question eh? Let's talk some. Sit on down - The Bowie knife I refer to as an "offset Bowie" has indeed gave rise to many questions. To a non-bowie believer (novice) the offset Bowie may appear like "Oh no, yer Bowie knife is bent!" - wrong! Anything but the truth, not an accident, not bent. It's "necked down" - Analogy Time: Ever held a cement trowel? Then you get that the blade of the trowel is set below the grip. A neck from grip to blade puts the blade low. Some fishing type birds have feet similar to this design too. The neck is always angled down and out. The Canada Special Forces knife sort of has this design going. It's out there alright, in nature, in tools, in weapons and more!
The so called offset to the handle in relation the the blade location does indeed give one an edge over the "other" guy who carries a conventionally shaped knife. The blade being lower offers more protection to the hand. The edge is leading the hand. The edge shall make first contact, the hand set back providing safe grip, more leverage and promoting a natural way of using the big blade. Low line thrusting is a natural technique with such a bowie knife. One should use onlt the hammer grip with this sort of knife design.The design makes you very good at defense, protecting yourself against another blade. But it takes a bit more savvy of angle and arc to make sure, successful attacks. The felt weight of the offset Bowie shall also seem foreign to some hands -
A few years ago I think that SMKW did a "Bent Bowie Repro" - kinda small for a Bowie. And cheap of course - but a somewhat faithful repro of the original deal. In some old methods the Bowie knife was held edge up. Swedge towards the floor. Thorpe mentions this style. If you do hold an offset Bowie with it's main edge up then this Bowie design makes even more sense. Consider the backcut, the knife flipping over to strike. An inward bound motion (retracted) - a "cats paw' action. Well, each of you shall have an opinion on this I am sure. Since someone asked about this kind of Bowie Knife I decided to write a little something about it. Bowie Knives sure have came in some strange forms and sizes over the many years haven't they? Such a wide spectrum of cutlery coolness to examine!
The Guard on the Bowie Knife
The guard on a bowie knife can assume many shapes and sizes. I popularized the twin forward curving guards on my Crossada. But there are other guard configurations which are just as serviceable. As in so many cases the skill of the man holding the bowie is important. Understanding the different guard (cross-guard) designs helps you to use the bowie to it's fullest. It also teaches you what configurations to avoid and why. Let's look further into this shall we? The type of cross-guards that have been very popular over the centuries for both Bowie and sword are well known to all of you I am sure. I say cross-guard because there is also the single guard that many designs embrace. They have their purpose and place, but they are not our topic today. The trusty double guard, cruciform, cross-guard, blah blah – yes, yes whatever you wish to name it! That is our subject today (words are women, deeds are men) bantering over terms is unfitting. The old standby is the “S-guard”. It is right up there historically with the “D-guard” so often seen on Confederate Bowie knives. If you study both closely you may see striking similarities. These two guard designs are related through curve, angle & placement. Germany has the “Gross-Messer” – the blade, the guards show these sentiments too. Across time, continents and cultures the S-guard has been used by just about everyone at some time or another.
A standard guard – Question: can it be placed (mounted) vertically or horizontally? Well, there are design elements we must think about before that occur. Horizontal guards on any knife bespeak of a dagger design. Vertical guards are associated with single and double edged knives. Knives cut “up & down”. Daggers cut back & forth (side to side / generally speaking that is). Some Bowie knife guards have the tiny spheres on each end of them. These add torque, create a catch and pop out effect. The balls on the end of the guard do help, they are not just for looks. The forward curving guard configuration is one I prefer. Good coverage is provided all around. Rearward curving guards are designed for safety more so than fighting application. Randall knives have rear facing guards on some models. The Randall #1 for instance. So if you have the know how (skill) to handle close quarter lock ups with razor sharp steel then the forward curving (horns) guard is for you. But if you wish to keep them at bay, fight from the safety of long range, you should not then employ forward curving guards. If you do, they catch, then what? Make up your mind! What fighting methods you use, now make the knife fit those methods. The guard, the carry method, the handle, blade shape and weight must all come together as one unit in fighting accord as per your goals and needs. Few knives have the both vertical and horizontal guards. My Crossada Bowie does. They work perfectly for my methods. Maybe not for every Bowie method, but for mine, superbly well! This means a four point guard. Knife and dagger capacity in one design. Kill, capture, control. Choose one eh? Oval guards, small circular hand guards designed mainly for safety again, not for fighting directly. Dress bowies have oval guards, tantos too and some small rondels. Tsuba are round, so tanto and wakazashi can carry round guards too. I am not a big fan of round guards or even square shaped guards as seen on some Ninja sword designs.
Well amigos I could write on for days about guard variations and all, but why? So I shall conclude this installment on Bowie Knives by saying thank you and good training no matter how you do it or see it. The power is yours!
There was a time when the Bowie knife spanned the gulf between sword and firearm.
It was a valued tool and weapon of the new American frontier. It became a symbol of American pride and might. Just as the Katana has became a symbolic icon for the Japanese collective spirit in a similar fashion. The rise and fall of this uniquely American weapon has been well documented. As has it's return to the public limelight. Many have written stories and sung the praises of the bowie knife. It has become vogue once again to be a "Bowie knife guy" just as it once was back around 1840. (may the good Lord guide our collective hands).
Some of what has been put forth about the Bowie knife is from what I might call "Bowie knife enthusiast's". People who are caught up in the history, the legend and mystique of the big Bowie Americanus. The subject of the Bowie knife is like food. The more people who put their hands all over it, the less appealing it becomes.
You see this is not a thing to be taken lightly. The only purpose of this weapon is to rend, tear, stab and slash. In survival and in personal defense the Bowie excel's. It's design can at times contain true secrets of the cutlers trade. Other times the Bowie knife is a plain jane piece of metal. It all depends on the nuances of the design itself and who actually made the knife. Not all Bowie knives are created equal!
As you must know there are camp bowies, urban (small) bowies, upswept tip bowies, Searles bowie, tapering tip bowies and even a few spearpoint blades calling themselves bowie knives. The bowie knife it seems can be just about anything that anyone wants make it into. For us, the Bowie must have certain elements to make it a true fighting bowie. Otherwise, like the "camp bowie" you'll get a large guardless knife ideal for camp duties, (still a Bowie) but unfit as a true fighter.
A fighting Bowie will always have a large double hand guard. No exceptions, no matter how fine the knife is, without a proper guard - it's a tool in my book! Not a weapon. Many will disagree I know. So be it! Hmm, let me check here on how many fucks I give. There it is now - ZERO FUCKS given! Bingo!
Carrying A Bowie Knife on a Regular Basis (EDC Bowie madness!)
As many of you have already found out, carrying a Bowie knife around on a daily basis can be challenging. You need the carry system itself, the clothes to properly conceal it, plus keep ease of access a top priority and add a dash comfort too (because you will appreciate it in the long haul). I have designed several big knife carry systems myself. From the real simple to expensively advanced. Other men have also put together some ingenius carry contraptions for big blades that work really well too. Tom Maringer comes to mind instantly. More on why Tom comes to mind later in this article. For now contemplate your own Bowie carry method(s) and read on to expand your knowledge about "tote'in your Bowie knife" like a pro!
(Note A: This is about concealed carry. If you can carry openly then things change some. Wear as you wish. Other types of carry are fit for other kinds of knives and daggers. There is no “boot carry” w/ a Bowie knife. Boot knives are usually small dagger designs. That allows “boot carry”. So we will not talk of these kinds of carry systems as they are outside the focus of our Bowie Knife study)
(Note B: One does not really carry or wear a Bowie knife. Properly said - you "tote" a bowie knife. Just so you know eh? Hey, I'm just trying to keep you from embarrassing yourself is all. Just say'in bro, knowing the bowie cult terminology can make or break a guy on the veracity levels eh?
Belt Carry: What's that even mean? For most of us it means the sheath is a belt loop type. If it loops, clips, pins or fits on the belt then we say "belt carry". Then if the sheath is a vertical or horizontal belt carry is the next. The trusty belt stud sheath carry is one of the best "belt carry” options. It is the oldest and perhaps the best way to TOTE a big blade!
Ok, now back to Tom Maringer. I know that some of hardcore cutlery goons KNOW where I’m going with this. To worship upon this alter of steel is not uncommon.
Tom Maringer broke the mold when developed his shoulder carry system. It became legendary overnight. The blade it housed became equally famous and is still highly sought after by collectors and fighters. So far no one has really put together a sheath system for shoulder carry anywhere as good as his. An “out the front” quick draw explosion of steel wrath is what his carry system allows. I laugh, why? My mind remembers how many jackets and vests were shredded by a poorly timed fast draw. You sort of learned how to draw the blade and understood the trick. If not, Oops, boo-boo’s could occur. A VORPAL is big. So in similar fashion a big bowie knife could also be housed in similar rig.
I have tried offering a custom shoulder rig in times past. Cost was absolutely a factor as it was made from all leather. A Bowie Crossada shoulder rig from Maestro Santos would run about $500 bucks. It is a flat out awesome rig to look at. It hangs the sheath (blade) diagonally – handle downwards. The draw comes up into the position fencers and swordsmen call “prime”. Very comfortable too.
If you carry a valise, a briefcase or portfolio then by all means turn that platform into your bowie blade carry method. Why not? I use this one all the time. Especially if I am wearing a suit or must travel out. My ranch clothes can conceal the bowie easily. A suit, not so much. So a specially modified briefcase is the way. Carrying a Bowie can be dangerous – because they might be illegal, make you look like a nut, you might hurt someone in anger, blah blah blah – tsk, tsk and finger wagging at YOU! So if you DO carry a Bowie, you best be sly and dry. Play it cool. Act the adult, learn to shut up and walk away. But if that is not an option. Bowie time it is. Let’em reap the whirlwind then, since they called it!
“Fear no man,
no matter what his size.
For when in danger,
call on me.
And I shall equalize”
The Bowie Knife Stanza:
(Keating's Salute to the Bowie)
What is it for? / A weapon of war (so say no more) / A Bowie balance of beauty and gore / Sentinel of window, portal and door / Now you know what the Bowie is for.
In life’s great game it has a big name / Life and death are seen as the same / From mountain high to field and plain / Pick up a Bowie and start to train.
It is hard to heal when kissed by steel / Bowies are best this we all feel / When times are tough and shit gets real / Then you’ll see the Bowie’s appeal.
In life are things that men must do / Bowie tried and Bowie true / At forges bright some Bowie-brew / In the darkest night it stands by you.
I am the Bowie of legend and lore / I am the one who guards your door / I am the tooth, the claw and the roar / Keep me close and worry no more.
I am your army, your friend and mate / Standing together chaos create / I was made for the duels dark date / Bowie engarde! – The scepter of fate!
One of the all time great Bowie knife resources
has been Pete Kautz at Alliance. (My friend, partner and Bowie knife conspirator). If it's been a while since you visited please stop in again, hit the link and see what interests you about Comtech, Alliance, Bowie knives.
THE MANCHETTE OR FOREARM PLAY
(IE: “Defanging the Snake in very Clever Ways”)
In our case of the Bowie Knife we must study the Manchette Backcuts. The other Manchette as well, but t’is the backcut that many are curious about.
“The manchette is cutting at the hand, wrist and forearm with the inner edge of the blade. This is Burton's distinct addition to saber exercises of the time. Burton says that "A swordsman thoroughly trained in this section does not allow the opponent to deliver a cut."
The manchette allows a swordsman to disable his opponent, rather than being forced to deliver a lethal blow. It also is a safer method of delivering a cut for the swordsman. Burton explains "The natural man cuts as if he were using a stick or a club, and the preliminary movement lays open the whole of his body; indeed, exposure, I have said, is the main danger of every attack with the sabre, however closely and skillfully conducted. A cut through the muscles of the fore-arm, either inside or outside, causes the sword instantly to be relaxed and dropped; the man in fact is hamstrung in the upper works."
And he adds "Finally I meditated upon the comparative humanity of ‘Manchette’, of disabling the opponent by an arm-cut, rather than laying open his flank or his head. During single rencontres in the field, especially at the end of Indian battles, it is so often necessary to put hors de combat some unfortunate, whose pluck or sense of honour induces him to prolong the hopeless attack."
Burton lists his system of manchette as the Direct Cuts, The Parries and Feints, the Reverse or Back Cuts, and the Time Cuts. The Time Cut (a cut delivered during an opponent's attack, disabling the opponent before he can finish) is the flower of the Manchette system, as the Manchette is of the broadsword; and it is, perhaps, the part least capable of being taught in books. Burton then gives what he refers to as a synoptical table of Manchette or Forearm play, showing the Cuts, the Guards (Parries) for the Cuts, and the Ripostes or replies that should follow each Parade”. This and more can be found for reference at the wonderful Victorian Fencing Page (Great Page I must say)
It is interesting to note that Master Richard Burton came upon the same logic as the great Dan Inosanto espouses. That to disable an aggressor is better than to kill them. Disable the enemy, allow them to live if at all possible. A way of respecting the sanctity life. The western systems have always been by their very nature rather lethal systems. They kill with no apology as per their mission statement. Note from the above paragraph: And he adds "Finally I meditated upon the comparative humanity of ‘Manchette’, of disabling the opponent by an arm-cut, rather than laying open his flank or his head / In Kali we are also taught to attempt to defang the snake, take out the weapon hand. At which point “killing” becomes an option, rather than a necessity.
This change in target priorities was not well thought of at the time. It did show Burtons was a wise, even compassionate man. The heavy focus upon the manchette in his “new system” was disliked by the fencing purists. But once studied, it provides some awesome insights on just how many ways there are to cut an opponent’s attacking arm-hand. More so than other saber fencing techniques the manchette-backcut series lends itself to the Bowie Knife quite effectively. In fact, Burtons Manchette sets seem to actually apply BETTER with a Bowie Knife than with a sword (or bayonet)! So there it is, that is why I study (studied) Burtons methods so much. It was upon the advice of great fencing maestro whom I knew only too briefly. The (Comtech) Bowie connection to Burtons Sword work is also thus understood. I say “Comtech Bowie” because other Bowie systems now exist. Respect to them. They are far different from mine. Perhaps even better! Perhaps maybe not. To each their own. I don’t give a hoot about their Bowie babble. Only my own Bowie banter. How you compose your method of defense is up to you. Any and all of this is merely window dressing, rough guides. Random thoughts condensed into a “system”. The rest is up to you.
Ok, thanx for reading along. // Maajak
The FULLER (or as some call it the "Blood Groove")
That indentation you see so often on a war blade does look rather cool. But what is it's real purpose? From bayonet to Bowie knife, to sword & machete they all have employed the fuller as a part of their design at some time or another!
Let's define the term "fuller" to better understand = A fuller is a rounded or beveled longitudinal groove or slot along the flat side of a blade (e.g. a sword, knife, or bayonet) that is made using a blacksmithing tool called a spring swage or, like the groove, a fuller. A fuller is often used to lighten the blade. When combined with proper distal tapers, heat treatment and blade tempering, a fullered blade can be 20% to 35% lighter than a non-fullered blade without any sacrifice of strength or blade integrity. This effect lessens as the blade is reduced in length. A blade is said to be "fullered" after introduction of the groove.
Fullers used to be called "blood grooves" or "blood gutters" by some antiquarians, although their purpose has nothing to do with blood. On modern knives we see the fuller as a cosmetic effect. Yes, at times it does serve it's proper service. But many times it is mere adornment (for looks). I admit I am a sucker for the fuller look when it's done right. The configurations I have seen are many, they can make the knife or sword look "fast". Some are far sexier than others. Like all things there is pure function and then there is function mixed with some eye appeal. Let me explain what I mean by that a bit more. Placement is everything! The fuller is normally seen as one big indentation (depression in the steel). But the double fuller (side by side or parallel) looks good too. And the triple fuller (stacked like a staircase) looks really tough I think. To get this effect you must have the right kind of blade. The smaller, narrower blades don't need a fuller per se. Although I have seen some damn fine attempts to do that. Cosmetic again. So a wider blade is better to achieve the fuller effect whether for mere looks or to make a fighting piece lighter. Below are a few links that lead to images of knives with fullers. Cheap knives or expensive isn't the deal here. It is the FULLER we are examing. It's placement. Eye appeal. Any real changes in weight? So check these out and be aware of the fuller the next time you encounter one in photo or through holding the live blade in your hand.
What Might be the Best Handle Shape for a Fighting Bowie?
I thought this was a legit question. Not fluff. So I shall aspire to answer it as best I can. Bear w/ me eh? It is not a straight forward answer as it entails many factors. Each of them must be seriously considered and contemplated. This is due to the fact that your very life may be dependent on your bowie knife handle shape and the choice of handle material. These elements will weigh heavily in the decision as per your bowie knife and it's handle being "right" or not for your purposes.
The grip or handle is the only place you can touch your Bowie knife safely. So it should reflect your fighting style and your beliefs (a bit of your personality too). If you like to manipulate your knife. I mean like turn-twist it as you thrust. Like roll it as you slash. Yeah “manipulate” the knife. Then a coffin handle is probably best. The facets (faceting on the handles length) allows for minute, controlled movements, real skill in a game where mere inches are the difference between life and death. The coffin handle has to do with the fingers and when you use it you always “know where you are” (blade orientation & reference). Birdhead grips are another Bowie knife favorite grip. They offer easy access to the slash. A powerful slash can be made due to the shape of the grip. The hook at the tail end is a game changer. This type of grip is not good for manipulative grip play. Not for meant for moving in the hand like the Coffin grip allows. Neither is better than the other. Blade shape and more go into selecting the right grip style. Grips w/ D-guards are useful. No doubt about it. But in todays world the D-guard makes the Bowie then difficult to carry concealed. Knuckle bows, D-guards all serve to protect the hand. They offer a striking surface when attacking. But this is all I’ll say about this type of Bowie grip due to it being "outside" our study.
The Legendary Sword & Bowie Knife Performance Enhancer
Known as the "Steel Apple"
Ok, the "Steel Apple" - before I dig into this too far, let us define what a Steel Apple is and does. Most men have first heard of this from reading Raymond Thorp's book "BOWIE KNIFE". This was published back in the 1950's. It has been republished since then as well. In his book Thorp tells of a large Bowie knife which had this addition of a Steel Apple. It was meant to increase the power of the slash, add speed to any move and help to maintain control over a large blade. How it did this was through the use of a tube or groove which ran along the spine of the blade. Think of a gun barrel mounted flush with the spine of the Bowie. That tube held a small steel ball (some say liquid mercury) which traveled inside the tube. It ran from hilt to point. The Bowie was then held point up, when a slash was made the ball would run from the rear (hilt) to the front of the knife. Making a powerful yet effortless blow (slash). I personally have yet to see a historical representation of the Steel Apple on a Bowie knife. No doubt they existed, but I myself have not laid eyes on one. Swords are a different story!
As a part of advanced sword design I can envision a Steel Apple being a big asset in weight control and powerful striking. But even so, there are few historical swords left that have this unique feature. I wonder two things, why was it first tried out? And why was it then forgotten? There are those men who say the entire thing is BS and probably never happened. That it is or was a bad design feature in the first place. I differ in that belief. In todays hi-tech cutlery market, where gizmo and gadget weigh in heavily towards sales. I think a Steel Apple equipped knife or sword would fit right in. The geeks would love its gimmicky mystique and the tactical crowd would love it's real fighting features and benefits. In all honesty, I must admit that I made a prototype. Very crude mind you. I cobbled something together (As I am know for doing now & then). It was an actual working model. And man, Fugg yes - impressive! Even as limited as the proto was. When the weight transference kicked-in (mid-stroke) the effect was smooth and then (yank) ker-fukkin-bang! The ball hit the end w/ a bang! Way more power than expected. After a few passes, the steel ball bearing shot right out of the end of the tube. Busted right through the chintzy braze I'd put on it to seal the end. It was similar to using a whip. To make the ball go forth and return to guard with speed meant you had to tip it (back) and whip it forth. Like a whip!
I hope this bit of Bowie Knife Lore was interesting. Maybe someday we'll see one of these Bowie Knife-Steel Apple custom jobs come unto the modern market. I'd like to do one myself - but so far the makers I have contacted say no. Too much BS for their tastes - so... Here I sit broken hearted, tried to shit and only farted. (sigh) Ain't that always the way tho? Ha ha - a light spirit is best around cutlery.
Ok, catch ya's next time around the Bowie campfire!
The Ranges, Tempos and Timings of Bowie Knife Fighting
Know these things well in order to secure victory whenever weapons are drawn. This knowledge is not mine or yours. It comes from antiquity.
Long ago it was part of the advanced battle sciences which were taught to men in the dim twilight of pre-history. Learn this, use it. It's truth was long ago proven as fact. Now make it your strength. The so called "true times" are a huge part of your overall knowledge and skill base. By understanding these gem's of Bowie knife knowledge you can achieve a high degree of fighting skill quite rapidly.
A sound working knowledge of the physical techniques, control over distance (fighting measure), good footwork and an average sense of timing can be all one needs to be successful in death's dire game of blood, bowie and steel. But, these elements I describe are the basics, they can get you going rightly enough. But do learn more eh? I beseech thee: Do not stop learning - do not be content with "good enough" (because it isn't). Ok, let us continue on with our study of the true times.
The true times of Bowie knife fighting are thus: The timing of the hand (weapon). The timing of the hand (weapon) and body (torso). The timing of the hand, body and foot is next. Lastly is the timing of the hand, body, foot and feet. There they are, all four levels of understanding at the highest form possible. Contemplate this, experiment in class settings. Find out for yourself why this particular arrangement of movement is called the one and only "true times". This is explained as being in four ranges then. The timing of the hand: The closest position. Too close for comfort actually. This is where all you must do to strike the oppponent is extend your arm. A simple movement, from the half cocked arm in guard you extend the weapon bearing limb smoothly and strike. Make no other tell-tale flinches or signs. Mask your intent, learn not to telegraph your intentions. Work on this as much as you would any other skill. Learn to explode, no telegraphing at all. Strike and be gone in an instant!
The timing of the hand and the body offers us another foot of range. You are now one step out from position one. In position one you merely extended your arm to hit with your thrust. In this next range you have taken one step back (further out) - extend your arm first with a simultaneous torso lean forwards as you strike with the thrust again. Allow the outgoing weapon to pull your torso into the line of motion to gain the distance.
The timing of the hand, body and foot is thus: Fire the thrust (in attack the weapon always moves first), allow it's momentum to pull you into the lean, now stepping forwards is the lead foot (lunge). Step out in heel-toe fashion. End in classic lunge position.
The timing of the hand, body, foot or feet is like this: Follow the chain of motion as always, hand, body, foot and draw the rear foot up to the lead foot so that they are together. You shall rise in stance, striking as one motion. This is how you can create illusion and speedy attacks and solid defenses.When attacking move the weapon first, when defending move the target first. But whether attacking or defending, in riposte or counter-attacking mode the true timings always remain constant.
Whoa, That's a LOT of BOWIE KNIVES!
The trail of the fabled bowie knife is long and winding. From the Sandbar Fight to the Alamo and beyond, its fact, mystery and myth have become the stuff of legend. The trail extends nearly 200 years, and for half his life Chris Nolen of West Monroe, Louisiana, has traveled down it.
Bowie Knife and ... Sumthin, sumthin
The Bowie knife when used in conjunction with other weapons can act as either primary or secondary weapon. Mind you, not all weapons have this range of play in their design. The Bowie knife is one of the few knives which walks in many worlds. It even throws well! The Bowie can act as a primary weapon. It is held in the dominant hand. The off hand can hold a small fixed blade or a folding knife. Sort of a modern version of the old sword and dagger theme. One big, one small. But if I were to use a 28 in stick and a Bowie, the Bowie would then become the secondary weapon to the longer stick. In the case of using a tomahawk and a bowie knife I'd wager they are equal. In my own way I prefer "axe & Bowie". Either weapon could occupy the lead role as easy the second. Myself, I'd place the hawk in my right hand. The Bowie in my left. The hawk or axe on the circular path, the bowie upon the linear. To each their own ~ right?
The Bowie is second to the whip when performing Latigo y daga. The whip commands in the major role, followed by the bowie in the minor.
If you use a shielding concept. Perhaps a jacket wrapped about the arm. Is it the right arm you wrap - the one holding the bowie? Or is it the off hand (left) that you wrap as to protect and shield? Well surprise, it could be either one / both! There are two ways to use the principles of the bowie and of the shield together. Do not polarize - favoritism. Learn both, be comfortable with both methods. Each has merit. A shield can be just about anything. It offers great advantage for you.
One of the best trick combos for bowie knife is the secondary trick of using change or sand. Let the big knife dominate their attention (as it fucking should)! In your pocket you are taught to keep small change. For tossing purposes, right in their face. Not so much to hurt them, but to distract and dismay them. Giving you opportunity to bring the bowie into play and do your job. Work off of the flinch reaction which the coins or sand you throw at them will create. Timing as always will play into the make or break level of this "bowie & coins in the face trick.
This might be your only chance! Make it count!
If you do apply a two-tone to your bowie as I have mentioned in articles elsewhere, here's how to do it. For a right handed man, the dark side of the blade should be the right side. The mirror polish side would then be the left side (inside). There is a reason for this. A lefty would be just the reverse. This is a specialized aspect of the bowie work that is best left for hands on experience versus online word wrestling. Yes, it's an awesome trick (a deadly trick in combat) when you learn the two tone bowie knife fighting skills. Practice with this is concept is highly advised before taking it afield.
We will save those details for another time. Enough words for now! Get your bowie trainer and train up! Have some light hearted bowie knife fun for the next fifteen minutes or so. Use that ink pen over there on the desk as your folder sized weapon. Use it also to make notes, self-reminders. Get going - ALLE VOUS!
Share the Stare: Bowieana and Beyond
Visit with a Fellow Bowie Knife Man.
Sifu Rich Fern runs the Bowie Fencing Page. Every now and then it is good to catch up on what he is doing. Far traveler, part time dweller in Jianghu & full time follower of the way. Richard in my estimation has came a long ways in skill, knowledge and character! Congrats!
Becoming a Bowie Knife Man Pt. 1.
My thoughts on becoming a knife fighter are varied and deeply opinionated. These thoughts I share with you are based upon experiences I have had in my life. Whether you judge them to be good experiences or bad is of no consequence at all. It is the experience of the knife fight which counts most. You can forget the moral judgements and the post-combat analysis of the arm chair warriors. Their kind of crap is a joke. The entire idea of bad guys and good guys is simply the limited perspective of a man with little or no experience. Listen friend, there is only you and your knife. Life (or death) is what you make of it. Luck might play in to a small degree, but generally a knifeman must get used to making his so called luck.
The good Bowie knife man see's to details. It is through the understanding of details by which the true bowie knife man manufactures his tactical luck.
You must be a very cool cat to be a bowie knife man. Most of all you must learn to keep your head when a threat arises and trouble calls your name. As a knifeman you'll learn to walk on the ragged edge of what is legal and what is not legal. It is a dim world of violence and hidden skill that exists between the regular world and the world of the Bowie knife man. Like a tightrope, you must walk that thin line and keep your world in balance. Emotions and ego must be in check or they can lead you into disaster. The bowie man answers to a higher court and thus must act accordingly as an honorable knight errant of the land. If you must fight then let it be for a proper cause, not over a personal grudge or some petty vendetta.
Using a knife, any knife in close combat is a bloody, dangerous affair. It's a fool's game and a brave man's bane. When two tigers fight both can die! Beyond the obvious legal ramifications there are moral issues to consider. There are grievous injuries that come from knife fighting. Unlike anything that the gun world or empty hand methods can produce. Horrible injuries and death are the end products of proper Bowie knife use in a close quarter fight. I mean what else could you expect when plying such a weapon as the Bowie knife? There is no glory or romance in any of this. Blood and pain is the plan. Once you begin this game it will not end until someone dies. You better have your shit together or the Bowie knife dream can rapidly turn into a full blown Bowie knife nightmare!
Of Knives, Magic and Skill
(Knowledge is my Sword)
Yep, a while back I did a serious study on Bowie knife work and stage magic. About how the two principles can walk side by side. I posed it in a light hearted manner as my alter identity old "Bowie LeCoote" - all in fun. Because it is often easier to slip in a new idea under the guise of humor or entertainment. It's less offensive to nit-picking nazis that forever haunt the internet. But since then, many have studied my words and found out that they ring true! Oh my, surprise of surprises! Thank you, this pleases me.
So now years later, I re-post the article. But, as serious piece this time around. One more run through. There is nothing quite like it you know. Such seemingly random, scattered pieces. But yet when assembled correctly they all magically fit together. They form a fascinating tapestry of thought, multi-layer skills and psychology.
So once again my friends, enjoy and revel in the high path you walk.
Bowie Banter / Threat Concepts / Nov. 2019
Recently I spoke with another Bowie Knife Fan such as myself. We talked of the many diverse elements which comprise the Bowie Knife curriculum. We chose to talk about "THREAT" more than technique. The idea of threat in the use of a sword, bowie knife or stick is an often overlooked principle. This is taught in most fencing salons BTW -
Lets take a brief look at some of the things we spoke of and how you too may benefit from such knowledge. In the world of weapons, knowledge more so than strength is a deciding factor. It seems everyone understands how to physically strike, move out of the way of an incoming blow and how to dart in and out of range so as to hit and not be hit in return. But the mental aspects, the psychological damage we can do to an opponent via threat is quite surprising. Threat & menace must always be present eh? - Even in repose we must present threat at least to some degree. (It keeps the sneaks, the unseen things and assassins at bay) The idea of using "threat" in close combat can sometimes be as effective as the physical techniques themselves.
Threat = The promise of pain -
- Next: Developing the concept of posing Threat -
* What it means & does for us
* Where it stems from
* Posture & bearing considerations
* Guards and 'respect getter's as threat
* Theatrical flourishes - to distract, alarm and cause reaction
To pose threat means to give enemies pause for thought prior to them attempting to attack you. You intimidate to gain time & control distance (measure). It also frustrates their plans by shifting (focusing) their thoughts and attention constantly to the threat you pose versus concentrating upon their own attack plans and parades.
Threat comes from point. It is that easy! Point your blade as if it were a pistol directly towards the adversaries eyes. Even in the art of Chinese Feng Shui (Geomancy), table corners, furniture with points and such are to be avoided or softened. Their location in the home or office is important because any and all kinds of points are offensive and pose threat (psychological intimidation). Having such furniture in an inappropriate location could drive away business, break good energy and cause harm. Threat comes from Point! Use this knowledge to your advantage! Research this, experiment some. Find out for yourself!
Certain postures (stances) can also project threat. Perhaps not as easily as the point of your Bowie Knife might, but by understanding posture we can add that element to our ever growing list of fighting tricks. Intimidating through posture means you must learn to crouch, display aggression, feign anger or fear all through how you stand and present yourself. Be relaxed, move smoothly. Be the master of the moment. This is your bearing, smooth men move fast. They can catch an opponent off-guard or cause fear via their confident bearing. Study upon this.
Your Guard (ward) - fighting stance is where the point must be employed as mentioned above. Should you keep the Bowie or sword in a steady, even guard position (little movement)? Or should you use an ever moving, circular approach to your guard as part of your overall strategy? The mobile guard appears nervous, the less mobile guard appears calm. Which is best suited to your needs as per threat factor?
Respect Getters: Not really meant as an attack nor a defense. More like a generic motion which physically depicts a violent threatening intent to do harm. Respect getters are simply harassment incarnate. Treacherous little moves that always keep the enemy on uncertain ground. Respect getters should be mixed into the fight as needed. Respect getters can increase predictability and this works for you if your observant and ready.
Theatrical Flourishing: Any eye catching sweep of the blade. An unnecessary action other than to cause alarm, distract and threaten. Ex: Try to act tired, sigh and lower your blade in a sweeping "tired arm" action. Many opponents will sense this and also lower their guard as well. Now, suddenly thrust in true time as their guard is down for this split moment and make an easy score. Your flourish (signal) affected their senses. They somehow became caught up in your tempo & motion and you turned that little error to your favor as per plan! This is just an example. Research more and grow as per your own nature.