Category Archive: Swords

The Ultimate Guide to Weapon Use and Defense

The Ultimate Guide to Weapon Use and Defense

The Ultimate Guide to Weapon Use and Defense

After more than two years, my second book on weapon use and defense is finally finished:  The Ultimate Guide to Weapon Use and Defense.

My first book covered techniques, training methods, and strategies for unarmed self defense, awareness and prevention, and physically defending against an unarmed attacker with no weapon of your own.  This second book starts where the first book left off, and covers both unarmed defense against weapon threats and attacks, and how to use weapons to defend against armed opponents.

Although I find both books equally useful, particularly since the material covered is entirely different, and the first book has received very high ratings/reviews, the few people who have read the first book and draft copies of the second one have told me they like the second one even more.  If you’re interested in weapon use and defense, I’m confident you’ll find this book extremely useful.  It contains the most efficient and effective weapon techniques, training methods, and strategies you will find anywhere, for stick, knife, gun, and improvised weapons.

You can find out more about the book, and purchase either a digital version or a hard copy here.  If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below or contact me here.

How to Make Padded Weapons

Padded Weapons

Padded Practice Weapons

If you’re training for physical self defense, a significant portion of your training should involve the use of weapons.  It’s important to know how to use weapons for self defense, as they give you a tremendous advantage, and knowing how to use them will ensure that you and your training partners can realistically attack each other with them.

In order to train hard, realistically and at random, but still safe, you need padded training weapons.  Otherwise, going full power will be too dangerous.  Padded weapons can be expensive, and when I was teaching full time I went through them pretty quickly.  Eventually, I started making my own training weapons.  They’re every bit as good as most of what you’ll find for sale, but they’re way cheaper, easy to make, and you can make them in any size you like, to represent any weapon you can imagine.  In the image above, you see a couple of training sticks/swords and knives.

Making them is simple.  All you need is plastic plumbing pipe, foam insulation, and duct tape.  The first step is to cut the pipe down to the length of the weapon you’re making.  Then, you cut the insulation to fit the pipe, leaving space for your hand to grip the weapon.  Here are a couple of padded sticks, in the initial stage…after the pipe insulation has been put on, but before the duct tape has been applied:

Padded Training Sticks

Making Padded Training Sticks

Notice how I cut the insulation to leave space for my hand to grip the weapon.  I like to have a bit of padding on the bottom portion of the stick, as I use this to strike and “hook”/grab my partner’s neck, arm, etc.

There will be open “ends” where the pipe can come out a little.  I generally cover those ends with bits of insulation to, like this:

Padded Stick

Padded Stick

Once you’ve got the insulation covering your weapon, all you do is wrap it in duct tape:

Finished, Padded Training Sticks

Finished Padded Training Sticks

In the images above you see standard length sticks and knives.  But you can also use the same materials and a bit of imagination to make all sorts of cheap, padded training weapons.

Taiwanese Aboriginal Atayal / Truku Knife

Truku Aboriginal Knife

Truku / Atayal Knife

I  recently spent a few weeks on vacation in Taiwan, and with some difficulty managed to find a large knife or small sword made by the Truku aboriginal tribe, formerly classified as part of the Atayal people.  Aside from it being a unique weapon, I thought I’d post directions to the blacksmith shop for anyone who may be in Taiwan and searching for it, since it was relatively difficult to find.

If you’re like I was, you primarily associate Taiwan with the Chinese, the country where Chiang Kai-shek fled to escape the communists.  I was interested in visiting China without the Cultural Revolution, to see traditional Chinese culture that hadn’t been wiped out by both the Cultural Revolution and the extreme modernization where “to be rich is glorious”.  And in that sense, Taiwan didn’t disappoint.  The National Palace Museum in Taipei contains the largest collection of ancient Chinese artifacts in the world, for example, as when the nationalists fled mainland China, they brought many treasures with them.  Traditional Chinese culture seemed to be alive and well in Taiwan, and talking with locals, they voiced the same idea regarding having a better preserved traditional culture than what you’ll find in much of the mainland.

But anyway, Taiwan is much more than the Chinese who fled there.  There is a large population of native inhabitants, or Taiwanese aboriginal tribes.  Driving along the east coast, in the Rift Valley, or in the mountainous areas of the country, the smaller towns are more aboriginal than Chinese.  The scenery is spectacular, particularly in and around the the Taroko and Yushan National Parks.  There are countless hikes on well maintained trails, including very long and high suspension bridges:

Walami Trail

Walami Trail

In the aboriginal areas, most towns have statues like these at the entrance on the main streets:

Taiwanese Aboriginal Statue

Taiwanese Aboriginal Statue

Every one of the statues we saw included the traditional knife/sword:

Aboriginal Statue

Aboriginal Statue

Before I left for Taiwan, I did a search on Netflix for Taiwanese movies, and came across a movie called Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale.  The movie is about the Wushe Rebellion, an uprising against the Japanese by the Seediq tribe in 1930.  Here’s the trailer:

The movie may not be entirely accurate, but I highly recommend it if you like action movies.  It was filmed in Taiwan, and the scenery is exactly what you see there, particularly in the aboriginal areas and national parks.

After seeing the movie and the unique blades of the Seediq, I figured I’d have to find one for myself.  The Seediq tribe are from the Hualien area of Taiwan, and were previously grouped together with the Truku tribe as Atayal people.  The weapons of the Atayal, Seediq, and Truku are indistinguishable, at least from what I can tell.  So I searched and searched, found a few pictures of the traditional knives being sold in Taiwan, but was unable to locate them where they had been previously seen.

At our hotel in the Taroko National Park, I met an Atayal man and asked him if the knives were still being made and where I could find them.  He gave me directions to what may be the last aboriginal blacksmith in the country who is still making these weapons.

Tonglan Blacksmith Shop

Tonglan Blacksmith Shop

Here is an article I found in English about the shop.  The only way to get there is with your own transportation.  My wife and I had rented a car, but even with directions it was difficult to find.  Hopefully the following images will make it easier.  The shop is located on Huadong Rd. in a village called Tongmen.  Here it is on a map:

Tonglan Blacksmith Shop Map

Tonglan Blacksmith Shop Map

And here is a closer satellite view of the town:

Atayal, Seediq, Truku Knife Shop

Atayal, Seediq, Truku Knife Shop

If you’re coming from Hualien and taking Highway 9, you’ll see the big lake, and should be able to find the shop from there.  The problem for anyone, such as myself, who cannot read Chinese characters, is that even with a GPS you will not be able to enter in the location.

The shop was empty when I arrived.  I got out of the car and walked around a bit, saw a girl walking down the street, and gestured toward the shop.  She slid the door right open and sold me the knife pictured at the top of this post.  Here’s another image:

Atayal Truku Knife

Atayal / Truku Knife

I had actually hoped to purchase a full sized sword, as they’re made with the same design in a variety of sizes.  A Google Image search for “atayal sword” will pull up several examples, such as this one from a site displaying Atayal cultural items:

Atayal Sword

Atayal Sword

Unfortunately though, it seems like the swords are no longer made.  However, the knife I was able to purchase (for about $100), is fairly large at 22 inches.

From what I’ve read, the unique open sheath design is used to keep moisture from collecting inside the sheath.  Taiwan is extremely humid, and it rains often.  So this makes sense.

It’s sad when quality elements and arts of traditional cultures die out, so I’m posting the information above in hopes that anyone else looking for a Taiwanese aboriginal knife or sword will be able to find the shop and keep them in business…keeping the art alive!

Kukri Review

Kukri

An Incredible, Massive Kukri

I’ve been meaning to write a review of an incredible kukri I purchased over a year ago, and am finally getting around to it.  I’ve handled many kukris, and this one is exceptional.  At 18.5″ long some may consider it a big knife.  But this particular kurkri is massive.  When you hold it in your hand, you feel like you’re holding a monster.  I’d call it a short sword rather than a big knife.  Really, it is a monster.

I purchased it from TraditionalFilipinoWeapons.com, where I also purchased the ginunting I reviewed a couple of years ago.  The ginunting was my favorite functional sword by a long shot, until the kukri arrived.  Of course they’re very different weapons.  The kukri is a Nepalese blade, made famous by the Gurkha warriors…rumored to have used them against samurai swords on occasion.  While the kukri is 10″ shorter than my ginunting, it’s so massive it feels like it really could destroy a much longer sword.

kukri and sheath

Kukri and Sheath

You can see the sheath that came with my kukri in the image above.  TWF shows a different sheath on their website now, but I hope they’ll still be sending out the sheath I’ve got as it’s perfect due to its narrow size and light weight.

The balance of this kukri is perfect.  It makes you want to swing it every time you pick it up, and it feels as if you could chop off a head with a single easy stroke (not that I’d want to do that).  As with all TWF blades I’ve handled, the quality is exceptional.  The blade extends all the way through the beautiful handle:

Kukri Handle

TWF Kukri Handle

The fact that it’s much shorter than other swords I own makes it safer to practice with indoors, and the weight still makes it a great workout.  It fits perfectly in a backpack, and would be an ideal companion for jungle hikes (although it could be just a little too heavy for a full day of hacking).  So if you’re looking for an awesome short sword, I highly recommend it!

If you’d like to know how to practice with it, take a look at the first video on my stick and sword page, where I cover several great combinations of stick/sword work and footwork, several of which are with the kukri.

Self Defense Weapons & The Parang

Iban Parang

Iban Parang

Humans have been using weapons since the beginning of their existence, and for good reason. Weapons provide a massive advantage in both attack and defense.  Every martial arts practitioner interested in self defense should learn how to use weapons both to better defend against their use, and to gain an advantage in a serious self defense situation. You can see how I categorize weapons and their use on my self defense weapons page.

Although people in most 1st world countries no longer carry swords, practicing with them (or a stick of a similar length) can provide very valuable lessons in self defense. The methods of attack and defense that work with a sword also work with a stick, cane, hammer, wrench, knife, machete…even a household iron. You can learn to use a “stick” or any other long blunt or sharp object through the curriculum and videos on my single stick page, which I plan to add to in the very near future.

Parang Handle

Parang Handle

Aside from the usefulness of sword and stick training for self defense, swords from different cultures can be fascinating. I recently posted a review of the Filipino ginunting, one of my favorite swords for functionality, and thought I’d add a few pictures of another favorite, an Iban parang from the island of Borneo. I purchased this parang in the state of Sarawak on the Malaysian side of Borneo. It’s about 100 years old, and decorated with human hair. The handle and scabbard are the most beautiful of all the swords I own.

As beautiful as the parang is, it’s hard for a modern westerner to imagine they were used on head hunting raids.  Up until the late 1800’s or so, several tribes of Borneo required heads for all sorts of ceremonies, from those related to the rice harvest to weddings. Imagine having to cut a person’s head off before you could be married…or walking through the jungle where people were looking for heads! In any case, the parang is an amazing sword, very similar to others used in Indonesia and the Philippines.  It’s designed for one handed use, fast, well balanced, and the design of the handle prevents the parang from slipping out of your hand.

Parang Scabbard

Parang Scabbard

I’ve asked a few older Iban about their sword training, but never really gotten any detailed answers. They do have dances that involve the use of the sword and shield, but it seems that their “martial art” was lost when the practice of head hunting was abandoned.  If anyone reading this has information on the martial arts of the tribes of Borneo, I’d love to hear from you! I can’t imagine people like the Iban wouldn’t have had their own martial art. If you were living in a jungle at a time when nearby tribes wanted your head, wouldn’t you?

Filipino Swords: Ginunting Review

Ginunting

Ginunting

As a practitioner of Filipino Martial Arts, a great sword is a necessity. I’ve been meaning to post a review of a Ginunting I purchased a while back, and am finally getting to it now. I bought my Ginunting from Ron Kosakowski’s Traditional Filipino Weapons. I’ve bought plenty swords over the years, probably 20 or more.  I bought a samurai sword in Japan from the 1800’s, a Laotian soldiers sword in Laos from the early 1900’s, several Iban head hunting swords on the island of Borneo, a Filipino Pinute, etc., etc. Of all the swords I own, if I had to take one into a sword fight it would be my Ginunting from Ron’s store. (By the way, I do not know Ron and am not profiting in any way from writing this review…and of course I will hopefully never be in a sword fight!) Here is a comparison of the similarly priced Pinute from another company, and my Ginunting from TFW:

Pinute and Ginunting

Pinute and Ginunting

You probably can’t tell much of a difference from the above photo, other than noticing the cheap scabbard that comes with the Pinute (top).  But take a look at a close up of the blades…from the back:

Filipino Blades

Blades

The Ginunting is on the left.  As you can probably see, the steel is twice as thick and a much higher quality on the Ginunting.  Here’s a close up of the scabbards and handles:

Scabbard and Handles

Scabbard and Handles

The handle on the Pinute isn’t all that bad, but the scabbard is such junk that it falls right out.  The Ginunting fits perfectly in the scabbard.  It’s snug, and definitely won’t fall out.  It handles like no other sword…amazing.  So if you’re looking for an excellent quality Filipino sword, order it from Traditional Filipino Weapons.  I’ll be ordering a couple more styles in the near future…

Want to learn how to use your swords with functional Filipino martial arts?  Click here for video and pictures.