Book & DVD Reviews

500 Knives– Celebrating Traditional and Innovative Designs Soft cover, 384…

bookjan10500 Knives– Celebrating Traditional and Innovative Designs

Soft cover, 384 pages, $24.95
Lark Books
67 Broadway, Dept. TK
Asheville, NC 28801
828-253-0467
www.larkbooks.com

500 Knives is one of a series of photo essay books published by Lark on various modern art objects—jewelry, ceramics, furniture, glass beads and similar collector items. Just as the name suggests, in most volumes there are 500 of the pieces illustrated and described.

Given its emphasis on art over function, there are very few custom knives in this book that could be described as “users.”  Each knife is given a full-page illustration along with a very brief description and a photo credit. Anyone that has taken the time to read the photo credits in Tactical Knives will automatically recognize most of the photographers. I was a little surprised that there was no contact information listed for any of the makers featured. That would certainly never work for a cutlery magazine but maybe book publishers work under a different set of rules.

The often-stated goal of both the Knifemakers Guild and American BladeSmith Society is to create a demand with a broader base of the general public for their creations as art objects rather than tools. A book of this type should be an excellent step in that direction.

mccannKam-ba-tiv Knife, A Minimalist Knife Curriculum for Defense Under Duress
By Kelly McCann

DVD, 65 minutes, $49.95
Paladin Press
Gunbarrel Tech Center
7077 Winchester Circle, Dept. TK
Boulder, CO, 80301
800-392-2400
www.paladin-press.com

For a number of years Kelly McCann was normally associated with the knife combatives programs taught by the late Bob Kasper. In the introduction to this DVD, McCann states he now intends to present a few of his own personal views on the subject. Having been exposed to McCann’s views on the defensive use of edge weapons a few times in the past, I have long respected his emphasis on keeping techniques simple and effective. While many of the “dance” moves taught by martial artists look effective on tape, few of us will ever be able to remember them under the stress of a sudden, life threatening attack.

McCann starts by describing his own personal preferences in defensive cutlery. Naturally, this includes the Blackhawk Crucible but it also covers a number of other interesting blades of his own design. As most tactical folder users know, there is a never-ending discussion of “tip-up versus tip-down” carry. Given my own preferences, I was pleased to see Kelly was also an advocate of tip-down draw and can give very good reasons for it.

Once the knife is open, the DVD explains the author’s protective gear for training, handling techniques, and basic targets. All are simple, effective and highly likely to be remembered in a life-threatening emergency. Probably the one negative point about this DVD is the fact most of it was filmed under very dim “parking lot” type lighting. I understand that this gives it a very realistic feel, but it often makes some of the training moves hard to observe.

While there are virtually hundreds of knife training DVD’s out there and most offer at least a few useful points, I would put McCann’s near the top of the of the must-see list.

vikingViking Weapons and Combat Techniques
By William R. Short

Hard cover, 192 pages, $34.95
Westholme Publishing
Eight Harvey Ave., Dept. TK
Yardley, PA 19067; 800-621-2736
www.westholmepublishing.com

The Vikings have long held a special fascination for most of us interested in ancient weapons handling skills.  If you take a closer look at the subject, you will quickly discover that their weapons and equipment actually varied very little from the groups they were raiding. What they did have going for them were superior tactics in the form of surprise amphibious raids from their first-rate long ships. As the battle of Stamford Bridge in September of 1066 proved, the outcomes of large land battles were less certain. Any study of Viking weapons and combat techniques is, then, also a study of those used by the Saxons, Anglos, Franks and other European groups of the same period.

The book includes chapters on shields, helmets, mail armor, battleaxes, spears, saxes (long knives) and, of course, swords. Most of these metal objects have survived in various quantities and are illustrated in the book.  What isn’t known for certain is how the Vikings and their enemies handled these weapons in combat, as they never left anything resembling a training manual.

The invention of the printing press changed all of that a couple of centuries late. We can only guess if the close-combat techniques of the medieval period resembled those of the Viking age. This is where the modern historical reenactors come in. The book offers numerous examples of their experimenting with Viking style weapons trying to discover what would and wouldn’t work. If you want to see the effect of a battleaxe on a shield, for instance, this is your reference.

I highly enjoyed the book’s mix of historical documentation, examples of period weaponry and modern experimentation. Here’s a book students of the Viking age should have in their library!

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  • Hi Everyone, John Jensen here the juror for 500 Knives. There were actually very few submissions for this book. In fact, there were very few submissions overall and the book almost did not see print for lack of entries. We had to do a second call for entries which has never been done before in this series of books. I would have liked to see more diversity, but it just wasn’t sent in. We worked with what we had.

    I do think we created a beautiful book for the general public that knows little about the knife industry. This book was made to educate those whose only real reference to knives includes “butter”, “steak” and maybe a “Swiss Army” knife, that there is a whole new and diverse side side to the industry. I think it is a step in the right direction, and one of the few books on knives that will be carried in galleries, museum bookstores and main stream book stores. So that is a huge accomplishment, and I hope I’ve been of service.