Masters of Medieval and Renaissance Martial Arts— Rediscovering the Western Combat Heritage
By John Clements
Soft cover, 396 pages, $50
Gunbarrel Tech Center
7077 Winchester Circle
Dept. TK, Boulder, CO 80301
After years of having Asian martial arts dominate the public’s attention, students of close-combat recently discovered that there actually used to be very sophisticated weapon-handling schools in Europe, too. More importantly, the invention of the printing press in 1439 allowed many of the great masters to publish training manuals that have survived down to the present day. John Clements’ latest book provides the most recent research from more than a dozen of the leading scholars of medieval and Renaissance martial arts on the fighting lore of that era.
Chapters include “Unarmored Longsword Combat,” “Chivalric Axe Combat,” “Peasant Staff and Fail,” “The Single Sword of Henry de Saint Didier,” “English Staff Fighting,” “Judicial Armored Dagger Combat,” and many others on similar subjects.
A number of the classic training manuals included pen and ink sketches of the techniques they were describing. Clements has reprinted these along with the original text (usually German or Italian) and an English translation. While few of us carry German Longswords today, the peasant and English staff sections are still completely relevant to modern self-defense. After all, sticks have not changed over the last 500 years. The same can also be said for the wrestling and unarmed combat against a knife techniques. It is also interesting to note that the English were still debating what was the most effective school of swordsmanship right up to the 20th century.
An excellent, well researched book that will give you a totally new appreciation of the weapons skills found in Europe before firearms made them obsolete.
COMBAT KNIFE THROWING—Revised and Updated
By Ralph Thorn
Soft cover, 121 pages, $20
Gunbarrel Tech Center
7077 Winchester Circle, Dept. TK
Boulder, CO 80301; 800-392-2400
The most common method of throwing a knife requires the knife to make a 180-, 360-degree, or multiple-turn spin in the air on the way to the target to land point first. All of this obligates the thrower to stand an exact known distance from the target for the number of spins his blade will make. As a result, few knowledgeable close-combat experts consider knife throwing a viable combat skill. Thorn, on the other hand, uses specially modified “knives” that are cast point first something like a spear.
My first problem with his methods is that the modified knives he prefers are actually long, heavy, WW-II-vintage bayonets and inexpensive ornamental swords. Once weighted and rebalanced, the edged-weapons would serve very little practical use other than for throwing. Few combat troops I know would be willing to add this extra weight to their basic load.
The second problem is that the author does a poor job of describing how he actually throws his oversized blades. By searching around the web, I found an Asian video of another martial artist using Thorn’s techniques that proved to me that, in the right hands, this is a viable system. In fact, I was greatly impressed with the long-range throws being made on the video and I don’t doubt that Thorn can’t do equally well. It is just that he seems to lack the ability to transfer that knowledge in his writings.
THE EXQUISITE BLADE–The Legend of Chris Reeve Knives Vol. 1
By Jessica Lee
DVD, 2 disks,
170 minutes total, $30
Chris Reeve Knives, 2949 S. Victory View Way, Dept. TK
Boise, ID 83709; 208-375-0367
When I picked up this Taiwanese-produced DVD from Anne Reeve, she made the comment that she felt parts of it were kind of “corny.” Well, I’ve been using Chris Reeve knives since long before the couple immigrated to America and what amazed me was how much I actually didn’t know about their products. The host, Jessica Lee, shows contagious enthusiasm for the subject that just made these videos all the more interesting.
The first disk covers both the famous Chris Reeve hollow-handle survival knives that started it all and the more recent Bill Harsey-designed military models. Chris still owns the original knife he made during his time in the South African military. It was a surprise to me that the hollow-handle models continue to be rough-blanked in that country and then finished into more than one model here in the States. Collectors will also find the prototypes and limited production knives Chris discusses very interesting. In the long run, not every model has worked but a good knifemaker finds that out by constantly trying new ideas.
The second disk covers the “controversial” Sebenza and to a more limited extent, the other folders in the company’s line. For those that insist the Sebenza is just an overpriced factory knife, watch this video and tell me where handmade stops and production starts? For that matter, I would find it hard to argue that many of the Sebenza variations aren’t true customs.
Chris explains how when he decided to expand his knifemaking beyond a one-man shop he realized he would never be able to compete with the big, thousand-knives-a-day factories. Instead, he decided his only hope was to make one of the best knives on the market and price them accordingly. The Exquisite Blade—The Legend of Chris Reeve Knives Vol. 1 certainly convinced me he has succeeded.
These art knives offer a mix of Egyptian bling, high-tech function and blue-collar pricing!
by Ralph Mroz / Mar 20, 2009