To Be or not to be...
To Be or Not To Be, that is today’s questions. Lets do some homework first. Here’s a riposte from my blog. Please go read it and come back. I’ll wait. OK so you’re back, were you listening then? Are you listening now? Are you prepared to sweep the leg? There is a Hungarian proverb that says, “It is ok, in times of great danger, to walk hand in hand with the devil until the bridge has been crossed”. Are you ready, willing and able to walk hand in hand with the devil to save your life?
There was a recent tragedy in my town that was so horrible no adjectives suffice. Read it here, I cant even describe it. I know or have met the roommates of the victim. This is close to home. A friend of mine lives a block away from the crime scene. It could have been any of us. The accused was a transient, most probably a meth addict, this was probably a crime of opportunity and circumstance. The point I make here is the randomness of it. So random it could have been anyone the accused ran across that day. It could have been you. It could have been me. Are you listening now?
The deceased, from what I hear from people who knew him well, was the nicest of guys. Could this have been the reason? Because he was too nice and let this man in his home to help him? The deceased was employed by the local college and was well known in the community. This is a crazy upside down world currently. It is very violent and I see no decline in that in the near future. What are you going to do?
Fact, the police cannot protect you. This isn’t a knock on them, it’s a simple fact, they can only respond to the crime and pick up the pieces and maybe, just maybe, protect you going forward if there was still a need. But even then they cant be there – AT FIRST - YOU have to be responsible for YOU until they get there. YOU have to protect yourself and your family during that time between AT FIRST and RESPONSE time. During life and death that can be 5 seconds can be an eternity and in some cases, forever.
What are you going to do about this?
Maybe your a scrappy kind of person that is naturally tough. Can handle themselves. That’s great. If you are not, if boxing matches make you squeamish, you need to train a bit. You need to step up and be responsible for yourself. Luckily for you squeamish types it’s not all about kicks and punches and blood and sweaty gym time.
An ounce of prevention eh? Prevention is the first line of defense and it starts with situational awareness. Being aware of your surroundings, being diligent. Look around when you arrive or as you leave. Notice. Get your face out of that phone. Attackers don’t like eye contact and will most often pause or abort when they see that you noticed them. You “made” them. These critical seconds can save your life.
What you do next is just as important. Adjust your behavior and/or plans. Whether that means walking on other side of street or driving around the block or even going back to the store later. Getting to safety is the goal. Once they see that your not going to play and it would be an effort that is sometimes enough to dispel them as well.
But maybe it didn’t. Now what? Be calm. Easier said than done. Much has been written on the fight or flight response and you should check some out. You can start here for a good resource. Predators know how to smell fear and it will sometimes give them the extra courage. That’s why bully’s are so effective against the ones they can bully. Now fear will always come to you in times of danger, as it very well should, that’s it’s job. It is telling us “hey look out”, but it is such a strong emotion that it can easily take over due to the chemical reactions that occur in the body at the time. It’s job is actually over after we realize there is danger but the effects can remain for a while after. Unless you know what to do. Learning how to control that fear can be key. It can make us appear stronger and more confident than we feel at the moment or it can lend us advantages. Read about it. Learn about it. Fear is not a bad thing. Don’t be “fearless”. It does not make us tougher to get rid of it, it makes us stronger when we understand it and can control it.
Be suspicious. Don’t be so naive as to think you are someone special and no one would dare harm you. That kind of thinking is no bueno. If warning bells are going off listen to them! Learn how to listen to your little voice. Thomas Magnum had a little voice he listened to and it served him well. My little voice has for me as well. Learn how to say no. I like to give to the homeless or less fortunate than me but sometimes I get bad vibes and don’t, especially when it’s 11pm and they are standing in the shadows. I have nice ways to say no, and I have some not so nice ways to drive the point home. Get good at both, but even when you have to be firm, do not be mean or cruel, be direct. NO passive aggressive language, that is weak and they will pounce.
“To win without fighting is best” - Sun Tzu. Yes I agree, but now none of this worked or it all happened too fast and all of your maneuvers failed because they are intent on harming you. Now what? Remember, YOU are responsible for YOU at this moment. Your spacial advantage didn’t work and they are on you. None of your negotiations have worked and the time for talking is over and they are on you. Are you going to fight back? Are you willing? Do you know how? Really only the willingness needs to be there. In the end that’s all you need, is a willingness to sweep the leg, to do whats needed to walk away. Are you ready to walk hand in hand with the devil until that bride has been crossed?
Most readers of this blog are already interested in the martial arts of some nature. If you are not one of them this article is really for you. Hopefully I got your attention and you are thinking about this. We may not have created this crazy world but we have to live in it. If you are wondering what’s next learn a few moves. It could be anything - boxing, kung fu, mma, firearms. Talk to the person who shared this with you and get their opinion. You dont need to learn a whole system, just some basics if that’s all your willing to do. Learn from your brother, father, sister, uncle or the family scrapper. Just be willing and take responsibility for you. You must.
All of the points I made above have been written about extensively and the concepts are found in many schools. For the physical training seminars abound and DVD’s have been made ad nauseum. Dont be afraid of choosing the wrong one. Trust me when I say you’ll be able to spot Bullshido when you come across it. Find what works for YOU and you will be fine.
Peace and Safety to you and yours.
The Warrior COnnection
Calling all Warriors, calling all Warriors, report for duty. Lets make the most use of our time during winter for general maintenance of our warrior path. Today I want to focus on the tools we use to train and protect ourselves and specifically, the connection we have with them. When we look at what we want/need from a tool the first things that come to mind are quality, reliability/durability, cost, etc. all being affected by various factors. Yet less often considered is the connection we have with these tools and this could be just as important a factor as any other. While we all have connections with the things we own, be they sentimental, religious, spiritual and others, how often is it a consideration when obtaining the tools of our craft?
As Warriors we all want to be one with our weapon, to make it an extension of ourselves. But just how do we go about doing that? Most would say training, and they wouldn’t be wrong But what many would not realize is the actual physical connection, where the flesh meets with the object, is where it all starts. Now since we can’t change our physiology we need to ensure that the tool meets the requirements needed to make a good connection and that means the materials used.
What makes a good connection? Natural materials like wood, bone, horn, leather, even steel. No synthetics like rubber, plastics or other petroleum based products. Why? Synthetics have no life, no aenema and the body, which is electrically charged, can’t make a connection with synthetics. It’s a natural resistor and insulator. Its what we use to protect ourselves from electrical currents. Why would we want to block that connection with our weapons and trainers? Doesn't that go against the whole ‘be one with the weapon’ thing? Now you’re catching on.
Now am I saying no to all synthetics for all things? In a perfect world, yes. Natural is just better for everyone. However we are not going to change the world overnight and there are a bevy of synthetic handled knives for work and rescue that can outperform natural in many areas, namely durability and sometimes grip (we’ll get to more on that soon) with some of the advanced grip technology. As far as tools go that is great. They don’t need a connection like that we speak of here, they need it to perform and last and not let go.
Wait, don’t warriors want a good grip too? We certainly don’t want to lose our weapon at the wrong time either. Yes, yes, true but we are working under different conditions. We are working under stresses that that can many times take away all fine motor control leaving us with nothing but gross motor control and a loss of strength. We need to do everything we can to make sure we are still holding on to that weapon when the time comes. Natural material makes a better connection. Period. The connection alone gives you extra strength. Like a +1 strength in D&D. It’s there and it beats out synthetics. Try an experiment similar to the teeth together/closed you maybe did in school and see for your self.
1. Take two things of similar size weight etc and have one be synthetic and one be a natural material making the connection. A couple of trainers would be good (no real knives please for this) or anything really like a wood pencil vs a plastic pen.
2. Hold the natural object that you chose in your hand and put your arm straight out in front of you and have a partner push down on your hand with only one of theirs and try and make your arm lower while you resist. Don’t go crazy and hurt each other trying to prove who is tougher, firm but controlled pressure is enough. After a few seconds what happened? Your partner probably realized that without jumping on top of you they could not move your hand much and you found it was fairly easy to withstand their pressure.
3. Now do the same with the synthetic material. I bet your arm went straight down and you were powerless to do anything about it. You don’t need to let me know, I’ve done and seen these and that is enough.
You are stronger with your teeth apart than when they are together. You are stronger with natural materials than with synthetics. I don’t make these rules, I just choose to acknowledge them and use them to my advantage.
Right, so, whats next? We have the connection with no resistors in the way. All naturalle, check. We train all the time, for the way is in training, check. Now it’s time for the spiritual or soul connection or whatever you want to call it that works for you. Its making you one with with that weapon on a higher level. Thor had his hammer, Arthur had Excalibur, BB King had Lucille. What do you have? Regardless of the activity that we choose, we all want to have a deep connection that special something. A guitarist wants that special guitar, a chef a prized knife, a writer has an old type writer where the “m” sticks. They all mean something on a higher level to them and they acknowledge it. They may not delve deeper into the meaning but they all know that BB King played better with his Gibson named Lucille and Stephen King probably wrote better on his favored typewriter.
Now you are asking yourself, how do I get something like that for my training? Don’t I have to wait years and develop a relationship with this thing? Or spend a lot of money? Or have it gifted to me? No, not at all. We warriors are in a unique position to bypass all that and actually create the connection by creating our own trainers and/or weapons. In fact, everyone that trains should at the very least make a trainer for themselves. Many people modify or customize the tools of their trade to work exclusively for them and their needs and this alone can have a great impact on the connection, for intent is powerful. So if that’s all you can do then do it, but get involved with the process. Don’t just buy it or settle.
Let’s take a look at making a wooden knife trainer. Does it have to be fancy? No not at all. It could be crude as all get out. It could be a stick that you peeled the bark off of and smoothed out the wood a bit so it didn't hurt the hand. Voila, a homemade trainer. Or you could get involved with tools as simple as a saw and some files or a jigsaw and sanding belts. Regardless of your capabilities or access to tools when you are done you will have a connection with that trainer that no one could ever take away. Now strengthen that connection and spend time with it. Another point here about trainers. If you shoot, you probably know that your training ammo should match closely to your actual use ammo. Same goes for your trainers. You should have one that is an exact duplicate of your main use knife. Yes it is is ok to have some general shapes or stickfigures for trainers but you should also have a match to yours. Here are some that I made. I have a match for a Crossada in case I ever own one, and I made a match to my Cold Steel Voyager XL. I also removed the paracord from a trainer and attached some ebony I had.
Making your own weapon. Right, now he’s talking crazy. I’m not a blacksmith! Well now, you could be. Blacksmithing techniques and tools are more accessible than ever before. They even have TV shows about it and the number of videos on youtube is, well, enjoy that rabbit hole.
But maybe you dont have the time or the safe space for a forge, now what? There are many ways to go about it. You can skip the forging process and go right to the next step and that is stock removal. Even after shaping in the fire blacksmiths have to go to this step. In the stock removal only method, we have a little more stock to remove but we didn’t sweat our bleeps off in the forge either. Here again we will see that we don’t need a lot of fancy equipment -
You know Rich, I really just don’t have time for all that and power tools scare me, I’ll just go buy one off amazon. Just hold on there. We have more options and you may just use Amazon. I am talking about buying a knife blank. They are all over the place. Ebay, Amazon, even Etsy has them. There are also specialized knifemaking supply websites and the prices on all can range from $10 on up. From here all you need is natural handle material, a bond to attach said handle material and at bare minimum sandpaper. This is actually what I did. I bought a blank off of ebay, handle scales off another website, a pin I had, and a piece of flat bar steel for the forward curving guard from home depot. See pic below. Cost of materials about $42. (Leather sheath shown in top photo I made out of a scraps bag from Michaels Craft Store.)
One last option is to take an existing knife that you bought or already own and modifying it. Case in point. Over the holidays Walmart was selling these gift sets that had a Shrade Uncle Henry skinner and companion 3 blade pocket knife. I waited till after the holidays and the price started dropping and I snagged a few. They had atrocious plastic handles but I was buying with the intentions of attaching some elk horn that I had for a project as I had never attached horn before. Cheap knives are better for practice. The plastic handles Shrade put on there were worse than I thought but to Shrade’s credit they did something smart. Instead of making the handle permanent they attached it with a phillips head nut attachment that connected to the inside rat tail. This made removing the old handle a breeze. Otherwise you will have to get creative with removing the old handle without damaging the blade. For tools all I used were a hacksaw, a drill bit to shape the hole to fit over the rat tail and to make a hole for the pin. Epoxy. And a grinding wheel to shape the sides of the antler to meet the guard. See pics below that show the stock knife and my custom.
Warriors of old made their weapons out of necessity and gained naturally from the benefits of the connection made. Some noticed this connection, most were oblivious. All gained. The modern warrior has such easy access to weapons of all levels of quality and a myriad of options, as opposed say only bronze and oak wood or obsidian. It is so easy to obtain we don’t make that connection and we don’t care all that much about them. They are disposable, like everything else we own and use. Mass production and synthetics have taken the soul out. Even if we chose natural material and have an available connection, ie not resisted or insulated, the thought process, and therefore the energy, does not go past the hands and into the weapon because it is so easy to discount that weapon.
Of course not all warriors in history made their own weapons and we can gain these connections other ways like through custom knives that fit us personally, the investment of time and intent making that connection, or an heirloom piece that has sentimental or religious value acting as the bridge. Maybe that Cold Steel piece is truly your calling. Consider making some personal modifications, (either yourself or a pro) or imparting some Mojo into it. Yes Mojo. Smiths have been imparting Mojo into their works for a very long time. Many cultures make it a religious event including prayers and other rites. Many smiths up to and including today impart their Mojo at the time of quenching, sealing in its soul forever. Spells and rites of all kinds have been used to make the connection. Knives even figure prominently in some religions, sometimes having special knives for prayers.
For me, the value gained by making my own trainer alone is more than I could put into words here. You will just have to experience it for yourself then you will know. I will continue to make my own trainers and knives both for the savings and for the fun but will also buy from others here and there. But the connection will always be sought. Through natural materials and intent.
Good luck with your trainer and stay sharp. Well, not the trainer, keep that dull.
The Dueling Oaks
"Meet me down at the Dueling Oaks promptly at 3pm, if you please sir, where you will pay for you effrontery and satisfaction shall be mine!"
Seems kinda silly to hear and for the modern man it evokes the melodrama of Shakespearean acting. Yet from the early to late 1800’s these very words may have been uttered in New Orleans by any number of men, from salesmen to senators. Weapons ranged from swords, pistols and bowie knives with even the shotgun making an appearance. Most ended with minor injuries to flesh or ego, sometimes the contestants walking off the field good friends once again. Occasionally deaths occurred. These duels could be private affairs or they could have attendance in the hundreds if the drama had played out in public before hand.
Dueling has a long history and the American frontier was fertile ground to continue the legacy and practices of men protecting their honor and name, a very real currency back then. Words carried weight and you best be prepared to defend those words or your own honor and word would be put into question. The Wild West had it’s gunslingers and the South had it’s sword and dueling pistols. New Orleans with it’s rich French population had centuries of fencing technique from Europe land at her docks. Salle’s were on every corner teaching all the popular styles and weapons and no gentleman of the day would be caught out without a large knife or a pistol or both. Maitre de Arms were respected members of the community, if they could keep their reputation.
Duels could occur anywhere from a side street to a park to just outside of town. One popular spot still talked about today were two Oaks in City Park New Orleans that saw many colorful duels. An article in the Times-Democrat, March 13, 1892, said,
"Blood has been shed under the old cathedral aisles of nature. Between 1834 and 1844 scarcely a day passed without duels being fought at the Oaks. Why, it would not be strange if the very violets blossomed red of this soaked grass! The lover for his mistress, the gentleman for his honor, the courtier for his King; what loyalty has not cried out in pistol shot and scratch of steel! Sometimes two or three hundred people hurried from the city to witness these human baitings. On the occasion of one duel the spectators could stand no more, drew their swords, and there was a general melee."
That’s a lot of duels, the last of which was fought in 1890. Dueling was actually outlawed in 1855 yet it was years before laws were enforced. Yet with a history that rich people still remember. One of the Oaks was destroyed in 1949 by hurricane, the other is said to have survived even hurricane Katrina. Whether the Oaks are there or have gone to dust as they eventually must, the spirits and yay, the spirit, will remain in the earth, seeped deep down nourishing future generations of Oaks.
Bowie Seminar Review coming soon
The 2018 Comtech Bowie Seminar was a huge success and a great time was had by all. My work schedule is such that I can't get a review written anytime soon so hopefully this video will hold you over till then. This is a sampling of some of the matches that we had over the weekend. Click on the pic and Enjoy!
Riddle of Steel 2017
Going into the Riddle of Steel ’17 as a first timer I did not know what to expect but I was not disappointed. It was all knife all the time. Big knives, little knives and everything in between. I only wish they were still being held in Hells Canyon on the Snake. But that was another time. Ghost Boxing Temple has it’s own charm and collection of spirits. They like what we do which creates an energy that is conducive to warrior training.
MAA James A. Keating was in top form as he brought us through a series of drills and concepts never straying far from the subject. 3 Days of progressive concepts, skills and philosophy creating a solid base for the knife fighter. Almost a knife boot camp. Here's a foundation and the concepts to explore for a lifetime. If you weren’t a knife fighter walking in you were certainly one walking out. Mission Successful.
Alongside Uncle Jim assisting with teaching duties sharing their years of experience were MAA Robert Langford – Dynamic Tactical Systems, MAA Andy Alexander – Comtech, MAA Shihan Ken Smith – Advanced Martial Systems Northwest and Andy Black – Comtech Instructor. All of them shared insights and helped refine the techniques, walking the room and answering questions to ensure all grasped the concepts.
Well what’s a Riddle of Steel without a few knives. The Riddle of Steel knife show had plenty of knives to buy, sell, trade or just admire. Mr Keating brought in a few of his personal knives to show and a few more on the table, John Morbeck brought in a few **cough** of his knives. But the real star of the show, and I do mean the headliner, was the world premier unveiling of the James A Keating Ozark Toothpick made by Custom Knife maker Jeff Shafer. This is a real beauty. The craftsmanship is superb, the size intimidating. The lines are precise. The point on this thing is just ridiculous, no dagger before has had a tip this fine. With a price point at $1500+ it is not for the casual knife guy. Serious players and collectors are the market for this bowie companion. If your'e interested check out Jim's website here.
Knife fighting, or any martial art really, has to have a way to balance out the punishment we put our bodies through as we train and as we survive. There must be a Yin to the Yang. On that note we were treated to a Reiki healing session by Reiki Master Ken Smith. Whether you got into the session full bore or just took the time to decompress after two solid days of training (day 3 was still on its way) the down time was good. I know I benefited from this session. I hope others did too. Thank you Shihan.
All in all the 2017 Riddle was a huge success. Skills were gained, connections were made and friendships were formed. Group breakfast was a thing at the new digs across the street. If you’ve never been, what are you waiting for? If you want real knife skill start planning now for 2018 and come see why the Riddle has the reputation that it does.
The Big 3 Seminar Review
Eighteen men showed up to train at The Big 3 – Bowie, Toothpick and Kukri seminar at Comtech in the smoky PacNW. The smoke cleared just in time to start the weekend off right. It was an eclectic bunch and it was an eclectic weekend. From training and knife shows to history lessons and baked goods. 20 men jelled and became one for the weekend. All tracking the same with a laser focus and flowing as if it had all been rehearsed, yet many were meeting for the first time. They came from all points and all backgrounds. Schools were represented that included Robert Langford and his crew from Dynamic Tactical Systems. This was my first time working with some of these guys and they are a credit to MAA Langford. Mahipal Lunia, Sensei and the guys from Mt View Aiki Kai showed up to work. They are an extremely talented bunch and I enjoy working with them. Shihan Ken Smith from Advanced Martial Systems-Northwest came in from Seattle. Always good to have his insights that show you the tweaks that cinch that move, always the teacher. Shout out to Xander from Chicago, Harold from Wyoming, John, James and Kevin. Andy, Kenny and Mike you were missed. Frank, thank you for the water! John M, thank you! The list is growing!
While the subject matter was the Big 3, the theme of the weekend was to intuit what a weapon does and how it is used. It is about blade specificity and how to discover what it is for each. If ever blade specificity was applied to a knife it would be on the kukri. There are things it can do and definitely things it cannot do. But that moniker wouldn’t be completely fair because it can do so much. It is a farm implement, kitchen knife and general utility knife that comes in all shapes and sizes. It is used in ceremonies, in combat and personal protection. They can be fine art pieces and it is the symbol of a nation. But when held the way we do it just wants to move a certain way and in that sense it is almost easy to just follow along. It likes circles. Hooking, snaking whipping circles. It is definitely a chopper but in an intelligent way. You could almost say this was a two plane weapon. There was a gentleman there by the name of Howard Wallace. He has been to Nepal and has helped design some Kukris. He gave us quite a show of his fantastic collection (see pic) that included a rich history of the blade and the people. What a treat. Thank you Howard.
Now, it was the Big 3 and the Bowie and Arkansas Toothpick were not ignored. With such a high caliber group the basics were a warm up that led into fine tuning master plays all the while intuiting what worked best for that style knife. What footwork and body mechanics complimented the features of that knife and what adjustments needed to be made as we switched the weapon. This was Bowie/Toothpick 201.
What is it about the big blades? What makes them so magical? Whatever “it” is, was present and was the bond that made this “Smoky Blade Crew”. Thanks to Maestro Keating for a fantastic weekend. These are the ones you were sorry you missed. So come on out for the blades and stay for the baked goods! Thank you Norma!
I want to send positive energy out to Datu Kelly Worden. Keep this warrior in your thoughts and prayers.
The Big 3
From Maestro Keating – “The BIG 3 is going great! So many skilled men! A wonderful group. From all points of our nation. LEO's, fighters, fencers and cross trainers. I am very happy - a hi-energy gathering. "The Smoky Blade Crew"!”
We’re fire training up here in the smoky NW at the Comtech Big 3 seminar hosted by Maestro Keating and he’s right, a high caliber group that picks it up quick and on to the next. They are truly on fire. We had a great presentation of Kukri’s along with a rich history of the blade, the warriors and the people that make them from one who has been among the Nepalese.
If day 2 is even half as good…….
Social Faus Pax
Forgive me, please, I did not mean to be rude, I have not introduced myself. My name is Richard Fern. I’m the hairy one on the right in the picture above. The man on the left is Maestro James A Keating. Some of you may recognize the name or face. Some may not. He is the founder of the American Blade System taught at his school Combat Technolgies, or Comtech for short . His contributions to the martial arts world and the world at large could fill a book but we don’t have that kind of room here, so we’ll concentrate on what Maestro Keating is most noted for and that is the Bowie knife. Not the creation thereof but for the preservation of its usage and history. While the history is being preserved through many other means and people, it’s usage almost died out and had it not been for the efforts of this man it may have faded out completely. Ask any practitioner or fan of the Bowie to link a modern name and Uncle Jims name will be right there on top. The art, which had thrived so brightly but for so short a time, was buried deep under laws, technology and major socio-economic upheaval. But Uncle Jim is an adventurer at his core and a renaissance man to be sure. What better weapon to choose than the Bowie? A weapon that could be wielded by mountain men and Gentry alike and seemed at home on the hip of either. But I sometimes think the Bowie chose him and not the other way around, throwing down the gauntlet and saying “Pick it up if you dare”. Heh. You can visit his site here and you should go there now and every day.
So why am I mentioning this and posting a picture of myself with Maestro? Well, a funny thing happened. When I started this blog I forgot to introduce myself. I just didn’t think of it. Who am I? I just love the Bowie and wanted to share my journey with the world. I am a student of Maestro and want do my part to see that this way does not die out. It never occurred to me that I should mention myself. I also seem to never actually sign any of my blogs with my actual name. Just a ---_)------- So I have no one to blame but myself when I found my article on the Passatta Sotto shared on a social media page and being attributed to James A Keating. When I saw it I had a good laugh and didn’t think anything of it until the next day when I got a blog comment thanking Uncle Jim for his article. I am flattered. I am humbled that you would think my writing is his but alas, it is not. It is me. It also does not help that Maestro just recently was kind enough to share an article as a guest on my blog. I mentioned it to him at a recent seminar he gave and we had a good chuckle. He came up with this idea to post a pic of us on each of ours sites. I jumped at the idea because I really had no idea on how to correct this but knew I could not let you dear readers go on thinking I was James or he was me.
So I hope this clears up any confusion and that you will continue to come back and join me In the preservation of the Bowie. Grab a blade and step up. We have work to do.
The Modified Passata-Sotto
Let’s talk about the multifaceted and versatile modified passata-sotto, as used in the Comtech Bowie Method. The term passata sotto is Italian and directly translated means "passed under". The Wiki page on fencing terms defines the passata sotto as -
"An evasive action which is initiated by dropping a hand to the floor and lowering the body under the opponent's oncoming blade. Often accompanied by a straightening of the sword arm to attempt a hit on the opposing combatant."
John Styers in his Marine Corps treatise "Bowie Knife Fighting" defines the passata sotto as "Another means of getting your blade into your opponent, other than the direct manner from the guard position, is to perform a passata sotto in which you merely BEND THE TORSO VERY LOW and to the LEFT from the guard position. Thrust directly into the LOWER RIGHT CHEST or ABDOMINAL AREA of your opponent. This is (an offline) attack against an opponent who raises his right arm high in his attack, or otherwise exposes his lower right side. In some instances a left step may accompany the attack."
Is the technique defensive or offensive in nature? It’s both really. Defensively it uses a plane not often used, the vertical, causing them to over commit. As an Attack by Drawing or part of a Progressive Indirect Attack it's offensive nature can shine. The Comtech Bowie method took a little used technique from classical fencing, mated it with the unique design characteristics of the bowie and threw the doors wide open on the possibilities.
Generally the modified passata sotto does not touch the ground with the live hand. There is no need to. A long sword creates balance issues necessitating the third anchor but in bowie fencing we have no such balance issues with the blade and something much more fearsome to worry about. A counter with a bowie is much faster than a sword in this situation. The business end of their sword is behind you and requires more time to reset and strike. The bowie can strike from almost any position it finds itself in and with your live hand on the ground leaves you wide open and anchored in one spot. Bending the knees and the waist together creates a stable base which you could easily defend or get out of the way.
Another modification due to the bowies unique design is the ability to bind the other weapon, much preferable than just entering off the beat or truly passing under. As a knife fighter we have the edge to worry about and with the bowie with have the clip and that pesky backcut too. Much better to occupy that weapon by binding it, checking it or destroying it. On a properly made bowie the forward curved guards, or devils horns as some call them, disarms are a valid option.
There are generally three positions for the modified passata sotto and a forth modification for those of you without the physicality to perform the first three, as well as many set ups and scenarios not seen or available to other weapons. Ill cover these in depth in a future article so for now stick with the description Steyers gave above and use that as a starting point and discover what this technique can offer.
If you would like to learn this technique first hand and experience it for yourself there is a seminar September 9/10 at Comtech on the Big 3 – The Bowie, Arkansas Toothpick and Kukri. This technique will just be one of many that will be discussed in depth, taught and then applied.
Sweep the Leg
“Do you have a problem with that Mr. Lawrence?” “No, Sensei!” Well, he kinda did. You can see it in his face but he did it anyway. He did what it took to survive that day. Are you ready to do the same? I read two articles last week back to back. One was an observation on the human condition in today's world, the other seemed to be a cure for the malady that currently afflicts us and I took both to heart instantly for their frank poignancy. The world is a crazy place right now. Nonsensical violence and chaos rule the day, nations and society are collapsing all around and those preppers suddenly seem like the smart people in the room. People are fighting about anything and everything. And if they can’t find something to fight about they will make something up. Whether the issues are real or imagined, the confrontation verbal or physical, the results are all too real. We are in an uber violent and conflict rich world right now and there does not seem to be any rhyme or reason. There are no longer certain gangs to look out for or a “type”, everyone is joining in on the violence and mayhem. There are no longer areas to stay away from, it can happen anywhere, to anyone, anytime and for any reason and you never see it coming. Are you paying attention? Are you ready to sweep the leg?
So what to do? Take responsibility for your survival and that of your family. Be ready. Train a little. Train a lot. Whether with a gun or a bowie or the katana. Kung fu, mma or boxing. Learn a few key moves and practice them once a week if that’s all you can do. Instead of that group weekend at the casino or paragliding, go as a group to a self defense seminar. They are all over the place. Make it an experience and if that’s the only one you do, great. At least you now have a few tools that may be the edge you need. If it leads you on a path of self discovery and self mastery, all the better.
But don’t just train your body, train your mind as well. One of the articles that I read was by Shihan Peter James, world renowned swordsman and inductee in the Australian Hall of Fame (AMAHOF). Shihan James discusses the mental aspects of the martial arts, why they are integral to any martial study, how it can help us in our everyday lives and why intent is more important than physical ability. Please give it a read here.
Through our training we are learning conflict avoidance and as Sun Tzu said, “to win without fighting is best”. There are two ways avoidance comes about, the first is through the mental aspect. By recognizing the signs, symptoms or patterns of a pending conflict and using your martial mental training to avoid it altogether. The physical side is summed up by the quote, “one sword sheaths another”. Simple enough. Does this mean walk around with your Kobra Kai t-shirt everywhere or open carry that Dirty Harry? No. But as soon as you react in a manner that says “I’m walking away and you may not”, if they didn’t know before that you were carrying a sword (aka, ready, willing and able), then they do now and that just may be enough to sheath theirs. If not, then through your preparedness you are ready and now have a higher chance of surviving.
Knowing not only what to do but how to act and react to physical or mental conflicts, or any survival situation is key. So to help in that mental training I share with you the following article on the freezing effect in stressful situations. When the mind goes blank and we forget what to do. It happens to all of us, no one is immune. Here’s a little mental kung fu for you from the bowie master himself.
Reason comes once in a conflict, if you do not seize it, it may not come again. Take responsibility for you and yours. Do the preventative maintenance. Read about these topics and be familiar with them. Think about what you would do and how you would react to these very real threats that face us today. To be forewarned is to be forearmed and maybe when your moment comes, you will recall and survive.