New copies of my book Bowie Knife Fights, Fighters, and Fighting Techniques are now available from Amazon at $24.95.
This blog contains additional information about the bowie knife, as well as the fighting knives of other nations.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Does an Interest in Knives Indicate a Sick Mind?

Jerry Fisk's gorgeous "Rojo" Bowie. I want one. Is there something wrong with that?

In 2005, Forbes magazine published an article, “The 20 Most Important Tools,” by David M. Ewalt, and first on the list was the knife. Ewalt wrote:
The knife is one of the most ancient tools in our arsenal, in use for more than 2 million years, longer than modern humans have walked the Earth. It's evolved alongside us, changing form to meet our needs and demands. Knives help feed us, shelter us, defend us and assure our survival. It's the most reliable, useful and important tool in human history.
I don’t think anyone can dispute that. It’s a large part of the reason that a good quality knife is so appealing to most men--programmed into our racial memory is the knowledge that we may one day need it to survive. Beyond that, knives have the potential to be one of the most beautiful tools a man can own-- I have featured examples of the knife-maker’s art numerous times on this blog. From the beginning, of course, the knife also served as a weapon. Man is not equipped with fangs and claws, and the knife has had to serve in their stead.

The idea of using a knife as a weapon is repulsive to me, as I believe it is to most sane people. Nevertheless, there is a history to its use in that capacity, a history that has gone largely unexplored, and which I thought worth examining in my recent book, Bowie Knife Fights, Fighters, and Fighting Techniques. My book focuses on the fighting knife’s role in many of the most dramatic events of 19th-century America, as well as in America's wars in the 20th and 21st centuries. Researching the book allowed me to pursue my interests in American history, military history, and in particular, the history of personal combat. If anything, my research served to harden my conviction that the last place I would ever want to find myself is in a knife fight. Nevertheless, does it say something about me that I wrote the book and am now writing this blog? According to one email correspondent, it says that I am sick and that you, the reader, must be sick as well. It's the first bit of hate mail the blog has elicited, so I thought I’d share it:
TITLE OF MESSAGE: “You absolute prick”
You have a bizarre 'knife fighting' fantasy website for weird and sick fucks.
The type of people who go postal.
I bet you are American.
And you dare to criticise and question a fearless Ghurka Warrior.
You are pathetic. Truly, truly pathetic.

Steve W----.
22 years Queens Lancashire Regiment.
I don't expect everyone to like me or appreciate my efforts, so Steve’s letter doesn't bother me much. While I'm sorry I upset him, his rude manner doesn’t encourage a personal response, so I'll address some of the issues he raises here.

Steve knows nothing about me, but feels that my interest in this subject makes me mentally ill, despite my nearly six decades as an easy-going, productive, and law-abiding citizen and family man. I suspect that the several hundred daily visitors to this site are normal people as well, who share my interest in history and knife lore. Why Steve thinks anyone who reads what I have posted here is likely to “go postal” is beyond me, as I don’t think the type of information I’m sharing glamorizes knife fighting--unlike the typical action movie, for example. Perhaps what really set Steve off is that I dared to question the story of an exploit attributed to a Gurkha in the Indian press. Note that I did not in any way belittle the heroic action taken by the Gurkha involved. I simply said that there is a striking dissimilarity between early accounts of the incident and those published four months later that leads me to suspect the latter are exaggerated. In my book The Deadliest Men I devote a chapter to the exploits of Gurkha warriors and the last thing I would do would be to denigrate them. However, in all my writing I do my best to separate fact from fiction, and to inform my readers when I have reason to question the truth of a report.

More on the peculiarly British phenomenon of "knife phobia" in my next post.


  1. No doubt you're already aware of this, but the 'peculiar British phenomenon of "knife phobia"' is actually a very recent creation of the British press and was furthered by the British government who fell for it, rather than do their own research.

    Recent UK government reports even admit that before the recent media/state bleeting on 'knife crime' there wasn't a problem -at least nothing satisticaly measurable. In other words it was the same as it had always been. However the report also admits that knife crime has since increased -as a direct result of the media fear mongering, scaring teenagers into carry!

    A self-fulfilling prophecy if ever I saw one.


  2. Thanks--I've read a little about that. We often see the press in this country whip up hysteria about some phenomenon--say, shark attacks at beaches--only to learn later that there was actually no statistical spike in the phenomenon under discussion.