Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Anybody Got a Knife?

Old joke in the silat class -- ask if anybody has a knife, and the sudden clicking of tactical folders opening, or fixed-blades rasping out of Kydex sheathing, will be loud enough to drown out a marching band ...

Silat, being a blade-based art, the practitioners tend to carry knives. Our philosophy is this: We are not apes, we use tools. Quite legally, of course, observing the local laws about blade-length and concealment or belts or whatever.

Well. There are players who carry knives that might be -- how shall we put this? -- a tad over what is considered proper for concealed carry. (You can haul a two-foot-long bowie around in a sheath if it is not concealed, in this state, and a couple of its neighbors, but generally speaking, "ordinary" pocket knives bear four-inch blades or shorter. Until 9/11, you could take those on commercial aircraft.

I confess that I know some folks whose concealed folders are, when opened, sufficient to clear a path through jungle vines in a Tarzan movie or to stab an elephant -- and reach his heart. It's quite impressive to be talking to one of these fellows and to have them go zanshin and all of a sudden you are looking at a wicked knife the length of your forearm in their hand, backed by a equally-wicked grin.

Those guys, you shoot at a distance and have done with it. 

Some players carry more than one knife. There is the primary, then a back-up. Sometimes they carry more than two.

Personally, I think more than three is paranoid. Well, okay, maybe four.

"How many knives you have on you?"

"Three. But ... uh, well, they're ... small ..." (And you don't count those on the key rings, which are teeny-tiny and part of those pliers/screwdriver/nail file things, the blades are only an inch or so long,  so it's really not five ...)

Accompanied here also by a less-wicked, shit-eating grin.

So the latest toy, which would be considered a back-up, is a stubby little thing from Boker, the Subcom F. With a blade under two inches long, and almost that wide, it's an itty-bitty sucker.

It's not an expensive knife -- you can get one for around twenty-six bucks; nor is the steel the stuff of legends, AUS-8; still, it is surprisingly comfortable in one's hand, given the short handle -- open, the whole knife it's only a tad longer than four inches, and at two-and-a-half-ounces, light enough that you could carry it in a shirt pocket. Opens with a thumb-stud, no springs. You can get them plain or partially-serrated, with bead-blast natural or a blackened steel. Frame-lock, Steel on one side, FRN handle (fiberglass reinforced nylon) on the other, in assorted colors. Black. Sissy-green, like that.

Small enough so if you didn't want to use the reversible clip, you could hide it entirely in the watch pocket of a pair of blue jeans. (I have an ambiguous relationship with pocket clips on folding knives. On the one hand, they position the knife so it is exactly where you want it and you don't have to fish around in your pocket looking for it; on the other hand, anybody who looks can see the clip and assume -- rightly so -- there is a knife attached to it. If you hide it under a shirt, or jacket, then you have to clear those to get the thing into play. Plus I don't like the way a clip feels under my grip.)


ush said...

I have one of these, mostly for doing odd-job's in work as it's so unobtrusive I can carry it anywhere.

I love the chunkiness of the blade and that it's colour scheme makes it look like a tool rather than a ninja tactical death blade.

Irene said...

At the last silat workshop:
"You're not carrying a knife?!?"
"No... I'm not carrying A knife..."

Or my personal favorite:
"How many knives do you carry?"

Tiel Aisha Ansari said...

Used to be, if you saw a clip sticking out of someone's pocket, there was at least a fair chance it was a pager. But now that everyone has cell phones, pagers are a lot less common and cell phones don't seem to come with clips.

steve-vh said...

First time I met Todd oh so many years ago I had my expecatations readjusted. He was the first (re: last) one to surprise me by carrying two blades. IIRC it was appropritaely the Spyderco Poliwog.
I tend not to use my tip lock but once when rolling with my son on a moment's notice, I did a sweep and found it open and still clipped, pointing up!
Now whenever teaching or training, I always ask for disarmament so folks can relax. Plus you get to see some new goodies.

Dojo Rat said...

I carry three, mostly for work.
A large folder in a leather belt sheath, a Swiss Army knife (mostly for the corkscrew) and a multitool also on the belt, along with a small flashlight.
In my vest: knife sharpener, magnifying glass (can start fires), Bic lighter, carpenter pencil, writing pens, and Harmonica (never know when music happens).

Todd Erven said...

The Boker Subcom is a nice knife. I prefer the hawkbill and wharncliffe variations though. I find those blade shapes a bit more useful for day to day stuff.

In fact, I have a Subclaw in my pocket right now.

Steve Perry said...

Todd --

And here I thought you were just happy to see me ...

steve-vh said...

Ok, I'll say it. Dojo Rat, you carry a corkscrew? So just how often do you run across stray bottles of wine?
And if you do, I want your GPS.

Dan Gambiera said...

An amusing incident involving my first Silat teacher (BTB) and one of the Clueless (CI)...

CI - What would you do if I took that knife away from you?

BTB - I'd stick you with this knife

CI - What if I took that one away?

BTB - Then I'd stick you with this knife.

CI - What if I took away that knife?

BTB - Then I'd figure you were serious and I'd just have to shoot you.

Sean C. Ledig said...

Filipino martial artists are just as bad as Silat guys. My own FMA instructor gave me shit for not carrying a knife with me.

Of course, my former workplace had strict rules against carrying any kind of weapon on the premises. Even the one-inch long pocket knife on my key ring was expressly verboten.

At a Dan Inosanto seminar here in Tampa 10 years ago, Guro Dan was telling us how one of his FMA teachers gave him shit for not loading up on knives before leaving the house.

"Hey! We're going to eat in Beverly Hills!" Inosanto told him. "I don't think we're going to need our knives."

His instructor told him that he should always be prepared. Inosanto's own guro had seven knives on him, including two wooden ones. The wooden ones were for "throwing away" or distracting your opponent.

Personally, whenever I go to a tournament or seminar, I can always spot the FMA guys. They're always packing knives.

P.S. On an unrelated note, check out my blog, Tales from the Carport Kwoon, at

ush said...

Dennis The Menace also approves of this product...

James said...

I carry 2 on duty in case we're fighting for my gun and I can only access the left pocket. My theory is that if you stab someone enough, they'll let go of your gun. Hopefully.

Dan Gambiera said...

Of course, I can always answer truthfully - "No, I am not carrying a knife."