Tuesday, September 28, 2010


If it is true that we can only fight as well as we train, then the equipment we use in training takes on a special significance as well. Although I have read accounts of individuals who have even used popsicle sticks to train with -- and I find that commendable -- I also believe that training weapons should, as much as possible, resemble the weapons you expect to defend yourself with. I designed the above Carraca trainers with that in mind. They are modeled after the large carraca "sevillanas" manufactured by the cutlery firm of J.J. Martinez in Santa Cruz de Mudela, Spain.

The Carraca is the most recent design in a series of navaja trainers developed for use in our Acero Sevillano training. (Acero sevillano, or Sevillian steel, is the Andalucian art of defending oneself with the variety of edged weapons that evolved in the southernmost province of Spain.) Other navaja trainers include the Santolio and the Salvavirgo, a small knife carried by Andalucian women in a garter on their right legs.

The first few dozen Carracas that I received from my manufacturer sold out as soon as I arrived in Spain for this summer's Andalucian workshop (see the May 24 blog entry, below.) Recently I received a new delivery. The trainers, for those of you unfamiliar with them, measure 14.5 inches in length, 2.5 inches at the widest part of the belly, and come beautifully wrapped in navy blue para cord. Although it is very probable that you will buy other trainers that appeal to you in the future, you really would never have to get another navaja trainer after purchasing one of these. (And while the Carracas lack quillons, their size and weight make these trainers equally excellent for bowie knife practice.) Orders can be placed by visiting www.sevilliansteel.com, and sending us an e-mail from the contact page. Happy Training!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


At the Raven Arts Institute, we have an annual tradition of commemorating 911 by training in Military Combatives for the entire month of September. While not directly related to the navaja or Spanish culture, Combatives is a western martial art that blends easily and effectively with other western fighting systems. Our particular focus this year was on the Combatives system of John Styers, author of the classic manual, COLD STEEL. For those not familiar with it, Cold Steel is a unique repository of fundamental -- and lethal -- methods of unarmed and armed combat: knife, baton, bayonet, and empty hands.
The knife Styers uses in the book is the iconic Marine Corps Ka-Bar, but the techniques he demonstrates are equally applicable with the navaja, the bowie, or any other blade-heavy knife.
Styers begins his knife chapter by reviewtng the proper stance and its tactical advantages, then quickly proceeds to the basics of using the Ka-Bar:
- the Thrust
- the Vertical Cut
- the Horizontal Cut
- the Hand Cut
From there, Styers moves on to demonstrate defensive actions with the knife, including the classic In Quartata, Passata Sotto, and the tactical use of distance. He then ends his knife instruction with a hierarchy of targets to be attacked with the knife, listing:
- the Hand
- the Heart
- the Throat
- the Chest, and
- the Back, between the scapulae.
While the Ka-Bar was the official knife issued to the Marines, the Fairbairn-Sykes dagger was the designated knife for our OSS, England's SOE, and the British Commandos. We train with both weapons, as they each have different designs which in turn offer different defensive/offensive attributes. Nonetheless, despite their different configurations, the two types of edged weapons handle quite intuitively.
In fact, the secret to efficiently using Combatives -- whether unarmed or armed -- is relying on your gross motor skills. This is what makes Combatives so teachable and so easily learned. So, if you don't yet train, 911 should be a great motivation for you to start. And if you already train, consider adding Military Combatives to whatever methods you already practice. Fortune favors the prepared!