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Be Like a Knife

I like analogies. They have always helped me understand complicated concepts. I use them quite often when I teach as well. Some have a difficult time understanding various concepts so relating them to something more familiar often allows the light to come on.

I also like knives – always have. I got my first one in the early ‘60’s (still have the scar to prove it) and then became kind of a collector. I have all kinds, but most are either folders I can carry anytime, or larger fixed blades better suited to use in the field or fighting.

So ….. I had a stray thought the other day that made me start comparing myself to a knife. How was I like a knife? What were the differences? How can I relate the two to each other?

I drew three parallels between myself and my knives:

- Balanced

- Honed/Sharp

- Clean/Maintained

There may be more but we can begin here.

Balanced – In order to be comfortable in the hand and to be efficient when cutting, the knife must be balanced. Some like the knife to be tip heavy, others like the handle to be a bit more ‘weighty’. Either way, the knife needs to be balanced.

I have always believed that to be a ‘complete’ fighter (or ‘martialist’ as Phil Elmore calls it), you need to be competent in a number of disciplines. When I competed in karate tournaments, I would compete in kata (forms), weapons, and fighting. I would compete with a Chinese form (‘Flower Fist’), and I would do traditional weapons with either the sai or bo (staff). I usually did well. But I truly believe the time spent training in these disciplines, along with my fight training, made me a more balanced fighter. The variation in empty hand and weapons forms demanded greater concentration from me, and helped immeasurably with balance, power, and movement when I was fighting. As Miyamoto Muashi said, “You should not have favorite weapon. To be overly familiar with one weapon is as bad as not knowing it sufficiently well.”

As time went on, I learned more about more weapons such as the jo staff (5 foot staff), Escrima, and more. All fostered the same basic concepts even though the techniques differed. It seemed the more I studied, the easier things became.

Honed/Sharp – It is said that a dull knife is a dangerous knife. Sounds backwards, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t a sharp knife be more dangerous? Wouldn’t it be easier to cut yourself? Well …. Think about this – My wife doesn’t like to use a sharp knife because she is afraid of being cut. Her thought process is that if the knife is not so sharp (i.e., dull) she stand less chance of injuring herself. The problem here is that when you use a dull knife, you have the tendency to force it to cut and the chances of it slipping and causing injury is greater.

Keeping the knife sharp enough for its intended use is important as it will allow the knife to do its job more efficiently and effectively. What do you need/want to do? Do I need to thinly slice a tomato? Bone a chicken? Slice a roast? Carve a ‘fuzz stick’? Defend myself in a critical situation?

It is vital for a knife to effectively slice, slash, pierce, and stab as efficiently as possible, depending on the need.

Clean/Maintained – As with any tool, a knife must be maintained properly so it will function as intended. It was so important that in 1759, Major Robert Rogers wrote in his standing orders for his Rangers;

“Have your musket clean as a whistle, hatchet scoured …”

Some extrapolations would probably reveal this rule pertained to all the equipment the Rangers carried to include their knives. Keeping your equipment well maintained is a sure key to success in battle. I remember reading in a Boy Scout manual many years ago that you should, ”wipe the blade clean before putting it away.” Good advice. Major Rogers would approve.

So, too with you. Keep yourself clean and well maintained – inside and out – This is critical to performing well in a critical incident. Maintaining yourself means tending to your cardio, strength, and flexibility on a regular basis. It is not necessary to train 3-4 hours a day, as most could not sustain that level of work, nor would they want to. Generally, 30-45 minutes a day doing something physical – walking, lifting weights, running, etc. - will be sufficient for most people. For those of us who crave a bit more, there are many programs that can be used to maintain a higher level of fitness.

That's how I see it. The rest is up to you.


The Director's Desk

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