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I’m going out on a limb here, but I think it is safe to say that when most people hear the phrase edged weapons training, they immediately think of the Filipino Martial Arts (FMA). A good friend of mine likes to allude to this phenomenon by saying, “In the world of knife fighting, you can’t swing a stick without hitting a Filipino martial artist. On one hand, this is a testament to the overall effectiveness of the Filipino arts (I myself have trained extensively in the Filipino arts of Kali, Eskrima, and Kuntaw, and have incorporated many elements of these arts into my own system). On the other hand, it is a bit of a misfortune, because I believe that most blade practitioners have failed to realize the highly scientific nature of the western blade arts.
Over the years, there have been a handful of respected men who have brought the western arts to the forefront. One of these men is Pete Kautz of Alliance Martial Arts. I have known of Pete Kautz for quite some time, but it wasn’t until just recently that I was able to speak with him and review his Bowie Knife Combatives 4-Disk DVD Series.
The Bowie Knife series was filmed during one of Kautz’s seminars, but unlike many of the seminar videos out there, these videos are pure instruction. There is no wasted footage of students practicing on each other or standing in front of the camera blocking the view of the instructor. In fact, if I didn’t tell you it was filmed during a seminar, you would never even know there were other people present other than the students used for demonstration.
Part 1 focuses on mobility drills—footwork that is. Footwork is a skill that is often overlooked in today’s combative training. You might be able to get away with standing toe to toe against an unarmed opponent, but it is a losing strategy when blades are involved. In this first DVD, Kautz covers some traditional Western Fencing/Bowie Knife footwork, the elements of “true times” vs “false times,” a couple of extremely effective (speaking from my own experience) defensive counters, and some very good (and fun) training drills.
Part 2 moves into the subject of attack drills. Expanding on the footwork and offensive techniques (Thrust, Snap Cut, and Back Cut) introduced in Part 1, Part 2 shows how to move in on an opponent while initiating an attack. Here, Kautz demonstrates proper use of the focus mitt for coaching a partner and drives home the concepts of using the coaching (feeder) role as your own opportunity to learn and work your own footwork, addressing one of my own pet peeves of lackadaisical feeder mentality. Part 2 also covers the “36-Combo” concept, fakes, withdrawing, and intercepting attacks.
Part 3 begins with the introduction of the Upward Ripping Back Cut, an expansion of the Back Cut covered in Parts 1 and 2. Next, Kautz spends some time discussing the Short, Middle, and Long guards, their purposes, and the strategies behind them. The remainder of the DVD cover hand attacks. While this may sound like a simple strategy, Kautz demonstrates several developmental drills to build the coordination, strategy, evasiveness, and fluidity necessary to execute effective hand attacks and effective counters to the hand attack.
Part 4 ties everything together with a series of fighting drills. Kautz begins with the “blade beat,” a technique used to deflect or knock the opponent’s blade aside to create an opening for an attack. He then moves into a Parry and Reposte drill, which to the untrained eye may look like the Filipino Sombrada, but is in fact a classical saber fencing attack and counter, counter and attack cooperative drill. The Parry and Reposte is taken to the next level using the trapping guard of the Bowie to lock up and disarm the opponent’s blade. Kautz then moves into the use of the “grab hand” to parry, trap, and control the opponent’s blade as a last resort.
Bowie Knife Combatives presents a complete, stand-alone blade-fighting system that is simple to learn, yet highly technical and scientific. Readers who are familiar with the World War II blade work of the late John Styers or Anthony J. Drexel Biddle will find this series to be an excellent adaptation of their work, as these men were at the forefront of American knife fencing and most likely the primary research sources for this material.
Having incorporated these European-based methods into my own personal edged weapons system as taught through Comprehensive Fighting Systems, I can attest first-hand as to the efficacy of the material presented in this DVD series. Peter Kautz does an excellent job presenting this system of Bowie Knife fencing to the viewer. Most importantly, he knows how to make training and drilling fun and enjoyable. Although this information is taught from a big-knife dueling perspective, the concepts and principles are readily transferable to other aspects of fighting, including empty-hand. In fact, you MMA fighters reading this review would do yourself well to examine this series. After all, even the great Bruce Lee realized there was a lot to be learned from the art of fencing.