View Full Version : James Keating and Bowie Knives

Gabriel Suarez
08-26-2004, 07:03 PM

I've spent the last two days training with James Keating in the Bowie knife system. I'll be posting more of this as I digest the voluminous notes I've taken, but at the end to the training session today I must post the following observations.

Jim Keating is both a gentleman and a warrior. We got along as if we were brothers. He is at once a dangerous man and a great teacher. The kind of guy you want on your side in a tight spot.

He is a wealth of knowledge in the area of close combat and particularly with the use of the big knives. For those who think bowie technique is only for big ol' choppers, you are wrong. The methods will work with a small knife as well although not with the same effect.

This is a very simple system, technically, but also a very complex one in its applications. There is a great deal of stuff to study here and a great deal to apply.

08-26-2004, 09:32 PM
Awesome!! JK is one of the great ones in martial combat and I hope to train with him someday also. I'm glad you took lots of notes--more that you can pass on to us!

Lawrence Keeney
08-27-2004, 07:49 AM
Gabe, you are a lucky man to have such an opportunity. :)

08-27-2004, 08:57 AM
Gabe, you are a lucky man to have such an opportunity. :)
Indeed! How I would love to have the opportunity to train with all the excellent instructors Gabe does. Maybe some day when time and $$ allow. I think it is awesome that Gabe pursues training from the variety of instructors he does, His gain is our gain.:D

Vinnie Moscaritolo
08-27-2004, 09:40 AM
you know.. From what I hear, JAK still has some openings at his Riddle Of Steel. http://www.jamesakeating.com/sem1.html It coming up Sep 23-26

I can attest to this being a great chance to train in stuff that you might not usually see, and don't have to be an expert to get something out of it. It is also a chance to share ideas with your peers..

08-27-2004, 10:50 AM

Congrats on the two day Bowie with Jim.

Did the two day Bowie with Jim several years back, quite enlightening of course and the material is excellent, being presented in a manner that is easily understood and grasped.

Besides Jim, there is a man named Dwight McLemore in Va. who is putting on a two day Bowie class as well in late January 05. Dwight has researched the bowie quite extensively like Jim and has a very good grasp of the long knife techniques as well as having published one of the best Bowie techniques books going IMO.

If any of you folks would like to attend I can get the particulars to you. His location may be more conducive for East coast people where Jim is out there close to the west coast.

Robin Brown

08-27-2004, 12:29 PM
I second the recommendation on Col. McLemore's classes. He definitely knows his long knife. He also does a lot of stuff with the tomahawk. Also look up Pete Kautz at Alliance Martial Arts (http://www.alliancemartialarts.com/). Both of these gentlemen are first-rate instructors and great guys to hang around and absorb information from.

Paul Gomez
08-27-2004, 02:06 PM
I'd like some more info on McLemore, if any can provide it.


08-27-2004, 02:35 PM
Here's a description from a DVD about McLemore's methods. It's available at:

www.hockscqc.com/shop/product73.html (http://www.hockscqc.com/shop/product73.html)

Theme - Bowie Knife and Big Knife Dueling - DVD


Big Knife Fighting Expert Dwight McLemore shares the secrets of fighting with the Bowie Knife. A published author, historian, artist and knife fighting expert, no one is more qualified than McLemore to open the door to the secrets of these knives. McLemore's knowledge in this area is unsurpassed. Here, he openly shares all the history, the structure the combat uses and stategies of large knife fighting.
* History * Strategies * Drills * Tactics * Lots of dueling action
"Dwight is an absolute master in his field," says Hock Hochheim. "His organization of the material and professionally honed teaching skills make him a fantastic resource on this popular subject.And, he is just agreat guy and teacher."

08-27-2004, 03:55 PM
Paul, others interested in "Bowies on the beach" in Va. for 1/05

Contact Gary Mah at garymah3@cox.net

Please make your hotel reservation at the Ramada Inn on the Beach as soon as possible telephone # 757.425.7800. Arrangements have been made for a special price of $49.00 per night plus tax. Just mention that you are participating in “Bowies on the Beach”.

To reserve your space please send a check for $50.00 made payable to “Gary Mah, Bowies on the Beach” addressed to:

Gary Mah
2956 Buccaneer Rd.
Virginia Beach, Va. 23451-1510

The seminar will be starting Saturday morning Jan.29, 2005 and finishing in the mid afternoon on Sunday Jan.30, 2005.

Looking forward to seeing others there as well. I have the dvd mentioned, it's an impromptu taping of a small class of students, gives one a sense for what they can expect from Col. McLemore.

There will be safety equipment needed as the later sparring will be quite intense [ head gear/w/shield, throat protection, arm/wrist/forearm guards, chest protectors but Dwight says bullet resistant vests are good for this as well, cup, you get the idea.

I looked up online for the equipment per Dwights suggestions and the total came to well under 200.00 for good stuff [ I already have the vest ].

Dwights considered one of the best in long knives and has extensive time in researching the history and the styles of long knives used over the centuries.

Edited to add: Paul, forgot to mention he is located/homebased in Virginia. I'm pretty sure he owns a martial training center in that state.

Robin Brown

08-27-2004, 05:26 PM
I was lucky enough to take a two day knife fighting class from James Keating in Columbus Ohio a couple of years ago.

In all honesty just hearing him talk and lecture was worth the class fee. The actual training was a "bonus".

Gabriel Suarez
08-28-2004, 10:40 AM
This was my first formal exposure to western blade. I had received some informal training in spanish knife years ago from a friend, but nothing in depth. I must say that I like the Bowie system. It is derived from European saber, and is very simple in terms of not having 10,000 techniques. Its footwork is different in that it is divided into quadrants rather that ther triangle of FMA.

We began with a discussion of grips. The Bowie is a big knife and a small knife grip will not give you the capabilities necessary. Jim teaches an Oar-Lock grip which is similar to an "OK" sign with the remaining fingers slightly loose.

I was using a dulled Pakistani copy of the Case Bowie and the Oar lock grip had the fat blade splitting the air with every swing.

The Guard Position came next. In western blade arts, the point always point at the adversary's face. There is deceptive motion involved and not as easy as one might think to get "defanged". The idea is that the enemy must deal with your blade before dealing with you. Interesting and refreshing concept.

Some guys discount the Bowie system as dueling and that people don't duel anymore. Well, they don't in the classical sense, but as soon as the knife comes out and there is distance, the dynamics are no different.

Some notable differences with Bowie as opposed to Asian arts is that the Western arts seem to be based on expanding and opening the body, whereas the Asian arts are based on compressing the body. That, at least is the way it seems to me. The western system seems more intentioned on a quick kils, rather than chopping up your adversary a slice at a time. Stick him, drop him and move on, rather than cut him with 1000 cuts.

The Bowie flow both defensive, offensive, and of course the back cuts was a major part of the training. I can press my body weight over my head but after a while my shoulders would not work anymore. Good stuff!

A note on the back cuts. They involve using the blind spots in an enemy's vision. They involve retracting cuts using the clip point/edge of the bowie or similar blade. They are very very fast due to the way they are employed. Jim say's you can't see it and you can't defend against it once you know how to apply it. I agree. My backcuts are nowhere near as fast as Jim's, but they will be :D

We worked the system with big knives, cold steel 5" voyager trainers, and spyderc chinooks. Its all good.

We did a good bit of sparring with fencing masks and cut down sabers. Focus was on making the thrust, the back cuts, the snap cuts and the footwork work in a free environment.

I'll post more as the days continue. For now, I can say that Jim Keating is a man you should train with if you wish to master the knife.

Al Lipscomb
08-28-2004, 12:39 PM
That remindes me of stories about the English encountering French swordsmen and getting challenged to duels. My understanding is the French would "feel out" the opponent for a few seconds before moving in (My guess is that was to give the other side a chance to back out.) The English would just step up and at the first opening take out the opponent. A lot of so-so English swordsmen took out some very skilled French.

Gabriel Suarez
08-28-2004, 05:13 PM
Let's not forget my own ancestors the Spanish. You cannot conquer most of the known world without having some heavy stuff to lay on the other side.

Al Lipscomb
08-28-2004, 06:21 PM
On the subject of large knife skills, I have had some training with Bram Frank and the Bolo. The skills translate to the smaller knife rather well. I have not had a chance to see his new video on the bolo but hope to get it ordered soon. I wish my schedule were a little less hectic so I can get some more time in.

Modern Technique
08-28-2004, 06:51 PM
So Gabe, will you be teaching Bowie any time soon. I did your knife class and saw it already had some western influence. Will there be a specific Bowie class? If so, I'm in.


Gabriel Suarez
08-28-2004, 06:58 PM
Ha! Of course there will be...eventually.

08-28-2004, 08:45 PM

It has been a while since I talked with you. Hope you and yours are well. I just got off the phone with Jim and he told me you were out for some training.

I had Jim here for a 2 day class a few years ago and will say he is the most interesting person. No B.S. just simple training that works.

Maybe I can get you to come out again?

Shawn Herman
Shawn's Tactical Specialty

Gabriel Suarez
08-29-2004, 08:33 AM
Have Gun Will Travel :D :D

Al Lipscomb
08-29-2004, 10:34 AM
Back to the subject of large knives and such. I wish I could recall the gentleman's name, but I was talking with a instructor and he was explaining how the original handguns (black powder days) were thought of as extensions to the long blades (swords) and that shooting tactics were an extension of sword tactics.

One thing he showed me was a shooting and moving drill that worked with knife or sword and hanguns. So it appears that moving while shooting may have been an older idea that got lost somewhere in time.

Gabriel Suarez
08-29-2004, 02:30 PM

"One thing he showed me was a shooting and moving drill that worked with knife or sword and hanguns. So it appears that moving while shooting may have been an older idea that got lost somewhere in time."

Very interesting. One of the things that James and I spent a good amount of time discussing was the parallels of our respective systems of knife and gun. Lots of similarities when things are up close. Our shooting and moving drills are basically gun oriented In Quartatas.

I'd be very interested in hearing more about the drill this gent showed you.

Modern Technique
08-29-2004, 11:11 PM
Check out Gabe with JAK....and he's smiling no less!


Mike Sastre
09-02-2004, 07:56 AM
JAK's Bowie system is second to none (been through Instuctor's course, Master Plays, and attended NO Bowie Riddle), but also recommend spending time with Dwight McLemore and Pete Kautz to get a little different perspective. Each adds his own take and experience, and each has given me different parts of the puzzle. Some of the Navaja techniques from James Loriega translate very well also. The more "looks" you get on a given subject, the better you can find out what works for you. Dwight's upcoming seminar (29-30 Jan.) is a "steal of a deal" if you are interested in the big knives, and contrary to what everyone "knows", Bowies can be carried concealed a whole lot easier than you can believe. I'll be there.

09-02-2004, 08:41 AM
For anyone who doesn't know, Mike S. enjoys startling people at shows with his quick long knife draws from his shorts. ;)

More than a few posts over the net about his ability to hide the big boys and then they come out of nowhere like lightening.

Anyone not familiar with Mikes Southern Comfort rigs that hide the long knives under light clothing [ they about disappear ] and can be carried all day during sitting, exercise, driving etc should check out his works.

I have two now for long knives with a third "comfort" being picked up with my new Covington Bowie which will be waiting for me at the MBC camp in the Rockies in a few weeks as well.

If you like the long knives, can carry them legally, are interested in making them a viable option to conceal and therefore be available to you for defense on your person while not scaring the sheeple because it is too visible on the street, I suggest you give Mike a call or shoot him an email/pm.

Mike understands whats necessary for us who wish to carry the big boys at times as he is a player himself.

Mike, the B's on the Beach is shaping up to be a great weekend with many players attending from across the country. We'll be able to meet several from this forum alone which will be another plus.

Though Mike certainly has the talent with the long knives, the quickness with which they can be drawn from concealed is due to the sheath system he created for them. Has to be seen to get an idea of how fast they come out and are ready to work from totally concealed.

Robin Brown

09-02-2004, 09:20 AM
I've been following the AMOK threads with interest. How did the Keating/Bowie training compare/contrast/mesh with AMOK?

Cold War Scout
09-02-2004, 01:07 PM
What say you guys about the SOG Tigershark?

Black Horse
09-03-2004, 01:51 AM
This past june i had the honor of Bill Bagwell comeing to my shop and teaching me how to forge a Bowie Knife. along with this Bill taught me a couple of days worth of one on one Bowie techniques and i have to tell you it is amazeing. for years i had sought out edged weapons techniques and this is the first one that flat out scared me.

Mike Sastre
09-03-2004, 04:36 AM
Black Horse,

You are truly honored! Bill shows very , very few people his particular way of doing things. He had mentioned showing someone how to forge and work a Bowie while he was on his shooting trip this summer. Most people don't know that Bill Bagwell is also a very highly ranked Black Powder shooter, and his wife can hold her own as well. So you liked the Back Cut!? If anyone's interested, the "quick study" on JAK's Bowie system is on the "Legacy of Steel" tapes from Paladin Press. Best visual on the Back Cut, Back Cut Flow, and the Non-Telegraphic Thrust out there, plus a good demonstration of the effectiveness of the sharpened false edge. Eye opening! Two tape set that is worth it for the Bowie stuff alone, or for the rest of it alone. Lotta bang for the buck!! More in depth looks in Comtech's ABC #1, 2, 3, as well as Dwight McLemore's "Bowie and Big Knife Fighting", also from Paladin. I sell a lot of these at Gun/Knife shows.

Black Horse
09-03-2004, 11:25 AM
Mike, Funny story about Bill teaching me to forge. I have known Bill for about 6 years through the black powder shooting never knew he was a knife maker last year i got interested in makeing knives and was showing bill one and he started to comment on my lack of skill and i gut my bristles up and asked him what made him such an expert. well i did a little research and found out that he was indead an expert. i apologized and he agreed to teach me a few things. have allot more to learn though.

09-03-2004, 08:22 PM
Thanks Mike, I'll get the Legacy of Steel tapes. I've been eyeballing them and wondering if they were good.:)

09-05-2004, 07:53 AM
I have tremendous admiration and respect for these two gentlemen who turned me on to the Bowie as well as large knives. Mr Bagwell's book on Bowie Knives and Mr Keating's Bowie tapes are truly what a defense/combative system should be -easy to learn deadly in application. After much internalising rthe contents do you feel that the info is substantial. In the Legacy of Steel tape2, Rob Langford's delivery of the 4 part backcut in .73 secs is highly impressive
The tapes are excellent for learning as well as a teaching aid. However I believe the 4 part as well as the 8 part backut flow is Mr Keating's invention and stroke of genius. Hope Mr keating will have another backcut tape with more info on the 8 part backcut.
Appreciate anyone has the scoop on the 8 part backcut flow to share here :)
Mr Mclemore, in his DVD also demonstrated the 4 part backcut flow differently. Did he learned it from Mr Keating?

Mike Sastre
09-09-2004, 09:16 PM
Big Knife,

As far as I know, you are correct with JAK's developement of the Backcut Flow, and genius is the operative word. Backcuts should be delivered in at least pairs, and I imagine "flows" would start with at least three. Where in the cycle you start, and how many of them you do in a flow, is going to be situational, as well as up to your ability. As to the differences in the four part flows, I'll have to see the DVD to tell. I believe Col. McLemore attended a New York Riddle some years ago, but I don't know what was shown. It's almost impossible to find any written material on the Bowie techniques that were actually being taught in the 1800's, but you can bet they were a mix from the different edged weapons of the varied cultures that was the melting pot of New Orleans. Jim researched these techniques, combined them with the physical attributes of the Bowie knife, and gave us the American Blade Concepts system. Tapes 1, 2, and 3, are "must haves" for the serious student.

09-10-2004, 09:42 AM
Hi Mike,
Exactly, this (JAK) is rare genius since Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do. Unfortunately others beat him into documenting so called Bowie Knife techniques etc. are merely riding on his coat tails but never or rarely acknowledge or credit him openly except Bill Bagwell and yourself. His ABC video essays alone in my opinion stand way above others claiming the true Bowie legacy and more.JAK should be conferred a PhD for his researches into the effectivenesss of the Bowie Knife in combat and slef defense.

Vinnie Moscaritolo
09-10-2004, 12:31 PM
I talked to JAK a few days ago, I said it before, but I'll say it again.. he has still got room for students for this year ROS
Sep 23-26.. It's really quite a great class.. If you wann learn about knives and stuff, this is the place..

and yes it is like training with Bruce Lee.. you can tell your buddies in 10 years that you attended a Riddle.

09-11-2004, 07:58 AM
Hi David,

His advocacy for large knives is at variance with most knife makers. Even there are many so called Bowie makers out there, very few approach it from a weapon perspective, like he said " they don't know what they don't know".
Greg Covington makes a very nice "Bagwellian looking Hell's Belle". Anyone have experience with Covington's work?

Black Horse
09-11-2004, 09:50 PM
Bill is very knowledgeable about the bowie i had no idea until he sat down with me and explained the hows and whys of everyinch of a bowie knive with me it is amazeing how inadequate some other makers knives are. the important thing to remember is that a bagwell hell's belle is a fighting knife and i stress the fighting it is not a combat knife or a utility knife it will function as all of the above but it really excells in the fighting knife role.

09-12-2004, 07:47 AM
You are spot on. No one dare lay claim to have unveil the secrets behind the design... except Bill who spent an entire lifetime in this pursuit.
I am looking forward to have a custom fitted Hell's Belle when the finances are available :)

Black Horse
09-12-2004, 09:26 AM
Big knife, don't settle for anything but the real thing i have a ontario and a bagwell. the ontario is nice and fast and all that but it is nothing compared to the real deal. i have played with fisk's and moran's and even a dean and there is no knifemaker that seems to have grabbed the feel of the bowie like bagwell.

09-12-2004, 07:34 PM
Black Horse,

Thank you.You are absolutely right. I do not want to have any post purchase dissonance. If I were a collector, then any nice looking bowie will do. But none approach it holistically as Bill where he wants to know your shoe size, shirt size so that the end product he guarantees will feel magical in your hands. I already have Ontario's Hell's Belle. The real deal is on my wish and must have list.

Mike Sastre
09-13-2004, 05:38 PM
Big Knife,

Greg Covington makes excellent Bowies in the Bagwell fashion, but hasn't done any Hell's Belles (w/fighting guard) to my knowledge, and he'd be sure to get Bill's permission first if he did. Bill's knives have had a great influence on Greg, and his approach is just the same - a weapon that will not fail. Greg is kinda one of those best kept secrets, but word is starting to get out - "if you can't get a Bagwell, get a Covington". I've put Southern Comforts on a number of his knives, so have had a chance to handle them and see how they move - very well!!! He just got a new press for making Damascus and prices are VERY reasonable for now. Brownie may chime in in a bit (on the road at present) as I just delivered a Damascus Covington w/Southern Comfort to him.

09-13-2004, 08:01 PM
Hi Mike,

Thanks, Check his website www.covingtonknives.com There is a Bagwellian looking Hell's Belle.

Mike Sastre
09-13-2004, 09:16 PM

Checked the picture, yes that's a fighting guard,but different from what Bagwell does, and there's no Spanish notch. No way would I call that a Hell's Belle. Incidently, Bill talks with Greg on occasions, and has critiqued some of his work personally. They are definitely on friendly terms. I may be seeing Bill Bagwell this weekend.

09-14-2004, 10:16 AM
Just back from a great long weekend of blade training in Colorado with long time training partners like Mike Sastre.

As Mike mentioned, I ordered a damascus bowie from Greg earlier in the year and had it shipped to Mike for one of his speed demon/ultra concealable "Southern Comfort" rigs which I would then grab from him when we hooked up this weekend.

I hooked up with Mike as he arrived and within 15 minutes had the Cov Bowie in my hands in my room. It is a beauty, as I expected based on Mikes recommending Gregs work.

You see, as Mike mentioned in his post, he's privvy to others works when he's asked to sheath them by people around the world. Mikes knowledge and experience in long knives training gives him a unique opportunity to see and handle them, where he can then impart his impressions to those who he speaks to on a regular basis who would be intereted in this type of info [ which I am one of ].

Based on Mikes recommendation, the above transpired with Greg and I. My initial impressions are that it is light for it's size, translating to fast in the hand where redirection on high speed work is concerned [ meaning great distal tapers and grind lines ]; execution is superb where the guard meets the blade on both sides [ no space where rust may develop ]; the elk horn handle flows with the damascus pattern to my thinking [ Greg mentioned the stag I had wanted didn't go well so he used elk horn ].

The only imput I had was to tell him the blade length I wanted, stag for the handle, make it fast [ I wanted it to be a fighter ], and everything else was to be a surprise when I received it.

I like it, it is well made, the damascus is beautiful, execution is superb, it's fast, light and just what I ordered [ tells me Greg knows a thing or two about others needs where long knives are concerned ].

The kicker here is that when Mike handed me the bowie he also let me fondle a fighting hawk Greg made from a hammer head which he brought out and had for sale. I was given first dibs on this as well, and of course I had to then take possesion of the hawk to go with the Cov bowie.

I'm glad I listened to Mike when he reccommended Gregs work. I personally think the bowie is worth at least double what he asked for it in quality. I know I have paid over double for others work that was as nice.

Gregs a sleeper at this point. Once others start to recognize the talent he posseses the demand is sure to increase and consequently so will the prices he gets for them.

Nuff said------Mike, thanks for the heads up on Greg and bringing the hawk as well, you did good my friend, and I owe you again [ but what else is new right? ]

Robin Brown

Cold War Scout
09-14-2004, 11:40 AM

Maybe you can line up JAK sometime????

Gabriel Suarez
09-14-2004, 01:00 PM
Ha ha ha. That just may happen Cold War. It just may happen.

09-14-2004, 09:09 PM
Relative JAK, bowies, and training those who sought the skills of the long knives, there is very little doubt Jim was at the forefront in his research of their use, their history in combatives between gentlemen, the probable techniques passed down from the spanish and french masters to others in the early/mid 1800's etc.

I was privledged to be in a class he held in New Orleans one weekend in 1997 where we were introduced to the big blades and their effective use. The knowledge he can impart in a short period of time in the use of the long knives is considerable.

It will take a student of the long knife considerable practice in the techniques he can show you, after all, the masters of New Orleans in the 1830-1850 period took considerable time to get men of means up to speed on the use of them, we can expect no less now imo.

Like anything worth learning where ones life may depend on the skills imparted, it takes continuous practice to stay proficient.

There are others who impart long knife knowledge but they are still few and far between. I'm willing to train with these men in an attempt to further my knowledge of the big blades as well. Each will have similiarities in techniques and also have different information to impart to me like any tool of the trade.

Diversity in training with instructors lends itself to understanding there is more than one way to skin the cat at times. Take what you think you can personally use and discard the rest. The more you can see in your lifetime the better you can determine what may work for you when the chips are down.

I'll be training in the long knives with another instructor other than Jim in the near future. It takes nothing away from Jim in doing so.

I believe I'm fortunate to have the wherewithal to train with those I have been in front of and those who I'll train with in the future.

I thank those who I've trained with for sharing knowledge and look forward to thanking those who I'll train with in the future.

Shoot straight, keep your powder dry and watch your back

Robin Brown

09-14-2004, 11:52 PM

Checked the picture, yes that's a fighting guard,but different from what Bagwell does, and there's no Spanish notch. No way would I call that a Hell's Belle.
Hey Mike,

Think he might of meant this one http://www.covingtonknives.com/gallery5.htm

Best regards,

Mike Sastre
09-15-2004, 07:08 AM

I stand corrected - just looked at the top one. That
is a Hell's Belle. Will check with Greg when I get back on whether that's a modified Ontario (he did redo some) or if it's one of his. I'm sure he would not make direct copies of Bill's Hell's Belle for commercial distribution without Bill's permission. As I said, they are on good terms.

09-15-2004, 08:31 AM
Hi Mike,

Thanks Argll, Exactly!! What is the current price of Bagwell's Hell's Belle?. How many custom makers out there who are making combat weapon grade bowies that are worthy of consideration?

Cold War Scout
09-15-2004, 08:52 AM
Then count me in Gabe...

09-16-2004, 06:49 AM
Does anyone have any experience with the Mexican style 'scorpion tip' bowies? I haven't seen any modern day examples, only antiques.

Mike Sastre
09-16-2004, 07:34 AM

Have you got any dates set yet? Will Jim be doing big knives, small knives, or both? Location - west coast or more centrally located? To my knowledge, JAK hasn't done a formal Bowie class for a couple of years (other than private), and that's a shame, 'cause between his fighting system and Bagwell's Hell's Belle, there's defintely a lot more interest in the Bowies and how to fight with them. I know I'm seeing it on my end.

Big Knife,

As to who, and how many makers out there are doing combat grade cutlery, that's a big "can of worms" to open, and I don't know if I'm articulate enough with all the details to do that. Any knife can cut flesh, but what happens when it contacts steel or other hard objects? Some knives are made to break other knives and not fail under combat conditions. The Hell's Belle and Crossada are two of these. Others look a lot better than they perform, and a lot of that is in the attitude with which the knife was made. Are they just making a knife, or is it a weapon first and foremost? How does it feel when put into motion? How "hungry" is the blade? Will it break? I want a forged blade that is differentially tempered, with a distal taper, and preferrably made of cable Damascus. My short list is Bagwell and Covington, though I know there are others out there that could meet my particular requirements. I personally know both gentleman, so also know the attitude they put into their knives - an important intangible. As to how much Bill Bagwell gets for a Hell's Belle at present, that'll depend on exactly what you want. My last Belle (Damascus) cost me $2500 and mine was the last under the old price structure (thanks, Bill) - they are now about a grand more. A plain jane Hell's Belle will be somewhere around $2000, but don't know if it's plus or minus. Couldn't tell from your profile where you are located, but Bill Bagwell will be at the Spirit of Steel Show this weekend in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. You could ask him in person, as well as getting to see the most extensive collection of Bagwell's out there (Bob Furruchio's). I'm taking the "scenic route" back to Ohio just to pay him a visit, so will ask him for you if you cant be there.

Gabriel Suarez
09-16-2004, 08:01 AM

I've been in Africa and Jim has been doing his Riddle work-up so we haven't spoken recently. I would very much like to get a class going with him available to everyone. Jim is one of those rare guys that has the whole package and one of the few who is essential to a bladesman's education. It may be 2005 or 2006, but I hope we can make it happen. I'll post more when Jim and I can discuss it.

I plan on starting another thread on modern bowie design. Let's see if we can design the Warrior Talk Bowie Knife!

Vinnie Moscaritolo
09-16-2004, 11:33 AM
did I mention that JAK still has openings at his Riddle?
dont wait.. its next week.. call him and on board.

09-16-2004, 09:57 PM
Hi Mike,

Thanks. Those who can forged a combat blade are far and few and the prices are out of reach for many. I think Bill's Ontario series addressed that very well for those who cannot afford the real thing. IMHO, the Ontario Hell's Belle is better than many "custom bowies" and production pieces I have played with.
You mentioned James Keating's Crossada to be a superlative one,to my knowledge it was made in A2 by Bob Dozier and hardly able to find one. Have spoken with James Keating and he mentioned there would be new Crossada trainers, and live blades available soon in the near future. Contact him for details
In another thread, I mentioned Ferhman Knives (www.fehrmanknives.com) using Crucible's CPM 3V's with modified heat treatment that almost equal forged blades in terms of toughness although they are not differentially heat treated. Ron Hood had collaborted with Fehrman Knives and have a wicked looking Bowie he calls "Hood Hunter" , you can see "How tough is CPM3V" at www.survival.com/html/hood_hunter.html
Anyone has experience with CPM3V Bowie or chopper?

Mike Sastre
09-17-2004, 11:37 AM

Correct on both the Crossada and Ontario Bagwells. JAK was hoping to have some of the new Crossadas and trainers available at the Riddle of Steel (still time to get on board, but not much). I've attended several, but unfortunately can't make it this year. If you have any interest in knife combatives, you should spend some time with James Keating. Well worth it!! Though you can definitely tell the difference between the custom and production models of the Hell's Belle, Ontario did a great job of making affordable versions of Bill Bagwell's knife. The Fortress and Midnight are also Hell's Belles (coffin handle, devil's horn guard, spanish notch), just a half inch shorter than the designated Belle. The "Hood Hunter" looks interesting - Thanks.

09-18-2004, 07:01 AM
Hi Mike,

Sure hope to learn from JAK in person someday when time and finances are available.
A huge debt to JAK: have taught the backcut flow right out of JAK's tape to some Christian misionaries going in harm's way :)

Vinnie Moscaritolo
09-18-2004, 09:56 AM
btw you can get those knife training tapes directly from the horses mouth at


Gabriel Suarez
09-18-2004, 10:25 AM
I second that! I maximized my training with JAK cuz I already had the basics from the tapes. The tapes don't replace training. Rather they help you make the most of it.

Get 'em!

09-18-2004, 08:35 PM
Thanks Gabe, Vinnie,
I 've already got the Crossada, Backcuts, Double Knife sets and some Knifecraft, Legacy 1 & 2 and already benefitted immensely beyond my wildest imagination!! Of course there is no substitute with training with the master. Hope to attend SI's Bowie class next year?!!! The Knife craft is a little intricate but great!! I've infused some into the Bowie stuff. Like what he said - to make it your own!!! Talk about creative knife fusion!!! What makes JAK a great teacher is he does not spoonfeed you, but gives you a few examples how to utilize the basic defenses and attack lines and amazingly you can actually come up with the rest !!!

Mike Sastre
09-21-2004, 07:35 AM
Great teachers (like JAK) understand about opening the doors for self discovery. Things you discover yourself are remembered a lot more than things that have been "spoonfed".

Greg Covington
09-22-2004, 06:20 AM
Hey guys....I just wanted to say hello in my first post here and thanks to all the kinds words regarding my Bowies!

Brownie....I am glad you like your knife!

As to the Helle's Belle style knife earlier in this thread.....I have made two in that style but they are both in my personal collection. I want to talk further with Bill on the matter but he has been so helpful with my bladesmithing that I think he considers it a compliment.

Here are a couple pics. Brownie's Bowie, his new hawk, and then a Dog-Bone Bagwell style that I made for myself.




09-23-2004, 06:12 AM
Both the hawk and bowie are enroute back to me after the trip out to MB camp with M Janich a few weeks ago. Of course they were not about to be checked into luggage and potentially lost.

The bowie is very light in the hand, redirects effortlessly and the elk stag you used has got to be one of the best pieces I've seen on any knife, period. I really appreciate that stag handle, its very dense and comfortable in the hand. As it gets wider toward the rear, it acts to secure the knife when performing high speed flow drills and backcuts similiar to the coffin handled knives but with the added flavor of stag.

The hawk-what can be said other than a superb piece of forging. I really like the fact the underside of the hawk is sharpened, flowing right through to the primary edge. Grabbing/trapping incoming offending limbs would sever everything to the bone as it was pulled back in redirecting the arm of the opponent.

The spike is deceiving, I did not think it was "pointy" enough at first. After some play time with it, I think it would easily penetrate a skull, heavily dressed torso with a minimum of effort on the users part. A very nasty tool indeed.

It's the first hawk I've owned [ other than the rubber ones we were bought as kids while at some amusement park :o ] and I'm glad I was able to secure this piece from you as well.

Great job on both Greg, and my deepest appreciation for your efforts here. Thanks for posting the pics as well as to Mike Sastre for delivering them to me at the camp in the Rockies.

Robin Brown

09-23-2004, 02:30 PM
Hey guys....I just wanted to say hello in my first post here and thanks to all the kinds words regarding my Bowies!


Welcome to Warrior Talk.

I saw on your web site that you from Piqua Ohio. Are you still around there? I live outside of Dayton.

If you are interested in meeting Gabe and/or taking a class from him he will be in Miamisburg 14-15 MAY 2005 (Shameless Plug).

I must say that I liked your 'Hawk.

James Bowie
09-23-2004, 04:40 PM
Just out of curiosity, and please don't think me rude for asking, but how much do those two gems cost?

09-23-2004, 05:54 PM

PM sent your way on the question.


Ray Smith
09-23-2004, 06:06 PM
Man! Greg makes some sweet knives. Brownie you lucky dog you.

Ray Smith

09-23-2004, 10:32 PM
DAMN! that HAWK looks alot like the one I carried in the RVN, very nice brownie, like the 1st knife, don't like the 2nd one due to its handle, looks unblanced to me, I think just because of the shape of the handle .

Greg Covington
09-24-2004, 07:22 AM
Welcome to Warrior Talk.

I saw on your web site that you from Piqua Ohio. Are you still around there? I live outside of Dayton.

If you are interested in meeting Gabe and/or taking a class from him he will be in Miamisburg 14-15 MAY 2005 (Shameless Plug).

I must say that I liked your 'Hawk.

Mark.....I am in Troy, OH.

Greg Covington
09-24-2004, 07:25 AM
DAMN! that HAWK looks alot like the one I carried in the RVN, very nice brownie, like the 1st knife, don't like the 2nd one due to its handle, looks unblanced to me, I think just because of the shape of the handle .

Dave....the dog bone style handle kinda worried me at first but it actually is one of the best grips for a fighting Bowie....you really just have to handle one to see what I mean. Balance on this one is superb and I have to say that it is one of the meanest I have made to this date.

09-25-2004, 09:44 AM
Ray, Dave, Mark:

Thanks for the compliments on the bowie and hawk combo.

Greg, thanks again for everything.

Robin Brown

09-25-2004, 03:01 PM
Mark.....I am in Troy, OH.
I will be sending you email shortly.

Dwight McLemore
10-02-2004, 09:10 AM
A comment was made earlier, about 'someone' riding James Keating's coat-tails and not giving him credit. Also only Mike and Bill Bagwell give him credit. Well, go check Pete Kautz site....sure does talk a lot about Jim on there. Before I closed it down my site did too. I know I mention him in my book and we seldom have a class that his name does not come up as to " Keating does it this way or that way." Oh well, we probably don't give Jim the credit he rightly deserves but in some cases this may be because in our zeal to do the right thing we often forget to credit people who laid the foundation for what some of us are using today. We also don't give a lot of credit to Styers and Biddle either but they are also in that line of gifted teachers. As to this or that instructor having the edge on what is true Bowie Knife usage, it is just not that simple. I suppose it is a matter of whether one wants to believe myths or track down actually what was done. It involves looking back into the cultural migration patterns that settled this country and what techniques and weapons were available. The water gets mirky when you consider that people in the 18th and 19th century did not write down things a lot. Most of the training was word of mouth. Does ABC represent authentic fighting techniques? What I've found supports this. Are Jim's Bowie techniques representative of what could have been used in that period? That is what I've been able to document. While Jim has done a great job putting a modern application slant on this Bowie stuff, are they exclusively his. No, they belong to everyone of us through a long line of knife users back though time. The Paradox of the Bowie Knife continues today just as it did from 1828-1840.

Did Jim Keating invent the Backcut Flow? For what you are seeing in the videos. The answer is yes. Is there a historical precedent for the backcut. Yes, in fact it goes back to Jacob Sutor in the 17th Century for backsword techniques. I discussed the historical context of the backcut motion with ARMA director John Clements a few years ago and he varified that want we call the backcut today was indeed used with a variety of swords. As to my DVD and the backcut being different from what Keating does...well, lets say this ..that is what Rob Langford showed me during a break at the New York Riddle. As to why it may look different, hell I have no idea. Maybe I'm messed up . My take on it is a little different from Jim's but that is MY call.

Anyone does not like it, then do it the way you want to. The point is DO IT!

I suppose all this Bowie stuff is continually evolving and going beyound the people that originally started using it. For Jim Bowie, the knife took own a life of it's own and that has continued through Biddle, Styers, and now it's happening to Jim Keating. The seeds have been planted for another 'Bowie Craze' and I am really delighted to have been involved with all this.

Thanks Jim Keating !

There is my 2 Cents. Am I riding Jim Keating's coat-tail?
You bet! I could not have a better example to follow. I take ideas from everyone.

See you guys in January.


Gabriel Suarez
10-02-2004, 09:31 PM
Welcome Dwight,

I read your two books and found them very well done and informative. I plan to steal some of your tomahawk stuff BTW ;) .

On another note, to the group, and not to detract from the guys who are trying to reproduce true early american fighting systems, but I trained with JAK to learn the use of the big knife in a fight. I wasn't concerned with verifiable traditional methods as much as with modern combat applications.

Dwight McLemore
10-03-2004, 04:35 AM
Thanks Gabriel. Please feel free to use any of the material as you see fit. . That is why I wrote those things. Just remember that I've only scratched the surface. At Lansing this year I blew some of the pages up to chart size and it was very effective getting points across to the students.The topic of traditional and pure 18th/19th century fighting techniques always pops up with the Bowie. I guess some are still looking for some kind of magic and tradition to follow. The magic and tradition are occuring right now as we pick practice and try to apply the big knife to this modern world. I've tried to keep a balance between both, yet when all is said and done the simplistic fundamental of "What Works at Speed" is probably the constant for today. Well, Thank you for making this forum available.


Mike Sastre
10-03-2004, 07:53 AM

Good to see you in here! Looking forward to Bowies on the Beach!

I, like Gabe, went to JAK to learn how to fight/defend with a knife, and on my first meeting (Little Rock, middle 90's) with him also met Bill Bagwell, who was there to show Jim the first Hell's Belle. Talk about your epiphany moments!! Both gentlemen have rekindled interest in the big knives for many people, one from the direction of fighting technique that works, and the other from the perfect instument to deliver those techniques, and they both definitely lit a fire under my butt as far as Bowies go. This interest led me to the Bowie Riddle in NO, the first Bowie Intsrtuctor's Course, and the Master Plays Course - big bucks, well spent, no regrets, do it again. Through Jim, I learned about Pete Kautz (alliancemartialarts.com) and Dwight's book (under the "Paradoxes" title at the time), so took a look at those two gentlemen as well. I've learned and gained insights from both, and they've always given credit to JAK in the circumstances in which I've seen them. Everyone will have at least a slightly different take on things, and a prudent student will get as many different takes as he can in searching for what works for him. Teaching/learning is about communucation, which is not done in the same way for everyone, so different takes are important. I don't see "coat tails" as an issue here (unlike others who have done very blatant Comtech rip-offs), as both pay homage and respect to JAK, AND add their own differences to the mix. Jim lit the spark of interest with his Bowie classes (wish he was still doing them so I could get a tune-up) and told us to go out and spread the word. Now others are doing it - GOOD; more people to play with and different energies provided - but Comtech is still home base.

Paul Gomez
10-03-2004, 11:38 AM
The 'big names' doing 'big knife' work have always shared openly and, to my knowledge, none of them have claimed to have 'discovered the lost methods', etc,etc. They have studied ideas, concepts and sources that were available at the time of the Bowie knife and attempted to reverse engineer ways to use the big knife, but no one has managed to locate Cassius Clay's "bowie knife fighting" manuscript.;)

The history of the knives used by James Bowie are a lot less murky than most people seem to think. Are there questions on some details of certain knives? Sure, but the development of the knife from Rezin's improved hunting knife, through Schively, through Searles and onto the worlds stage is pretty well documented.

Bowie never had a salle d'armes down in New Orleans. He never 'taught' bowie knife fighting, at least not that ever turns up in the historical record.

Many other people incorporated the "Bowie Knife" into their curriculum and drew from arts they knew to develop their teaching material. The 'backcut' can be seen in traditional sabre. The 'clippoint' can be seen on old German Messr.

James Keating and Peter Kautz both speak very well of Dwight. I haven't had the pleasure of picking Dwight's brains yet:), but I'm sure that time will come.

10-06-2004, 08:35 AM
Firstly let me state that I have nothing to gain from anybody by writing this, but I highly value "academic integrity" in research work, that's partially my line and while from undergraduate to postgraduate work, were taught to give credit where credit is due and not pay "lip service credit" to anyone.
With due respect to everyone who wields a bowie or big knife, my point is that for someone who watched " Bowie Knife, Big Knife Duelling" for the first time would be given the wrong impression of the 4 part backut flow's creator/inventor and the school. If George Silver was quoted, similarly at best JAK's name should be mentioned in relation during the back cut demo in the DVD. Get the point? IMHO Keating's "Bowie - Deadly Backcuts" tape is the ultimate.Period.
I am not saying nobody gives credit to JAK outside of Bill & Mike Sastre. In fact JAK, being the gentleman and warrior even highly recommended Dwight's book amongst many others to study and have; which I have and I think it is a great piece of work. Although JAK is credited in the selected bibliography of the book, nothing specific about the present backcuts was directly attributed to him, the genius behind the motion base was not mentioned in print. If what was earlier mentioned here was in the book and DVD then there will be no issue.

Vinnie Moscaritolo
10-06-2004, 09:36 AM
Since we are plugging uncle Jim.. let me add this. there is a lot more to him than backcuts and bowies..

I met JAK at a Halo seminar (that Gabe turned me on to) a number of years ago.. Let me also say that at the time I had more than 20 years experience doing and teachin various martial arts, including KyoKuShinKi, Enshin Karate, ShorinjiRyu and JuJitsu. My "real-world" experience had forced me to drift from the dojo mentality a long time back, and I took major flack from the other instructors for what I was teaching, and found many flaws in the traditional Japanese techniques.

JAK and I quickly saw eye to eye, and became friends instantly. His general purpose knife stuff was great but what I noticed more than anything was that Jim teaches concepts not techniques. you could apply the concepts to any weapon handed to you..

well I went to his Riddle, I went to one of his early Bowie instructor classes and met alll sorts of folks, Bagwell, Szabo, Kay and even some scoundrels like Sastre ;-) and this year I even met Kautz at the Riddle (didnt I tell ya all that the ROS would be cool)..

Jim is a national treasure, he one of those guys that people will claim they trained with in the years to come.. like all those "Bruce and I" photos.

But I can also see how some folks are put off or maybe even a little bit scared of him.. all those skulls and stuff, but maybe they ought to look a bit under the surface and open their minds to learning..

And yeah sometimes I see a bit of cult of personality around him, but I also saw the same kinda folks around Ayoub and even the Domino Pizza guy. I bet there are even folks who are Gabe clones too.. of course the problem with sensei envy is that they will never exceed their instructor...

But if you listen to him, step back and really listen to what is going on, you can see just why Jim is a a master instructor.. he doesnt give you fish, he teaches you how, he gives you the tools, and enourages you to experiment on your own.. I never heard he say that his way is the only way. No ego problems.. unlike many others I trained with.

So what can I tell you.. If you get the chance, you oughta spend some time and train with him.

If you think Jim is great with Bowies and backcuts.. you oughta see his gun work too. ..

nuff said.. some folks get it, some don't and some will wish they did.

Dwight McLemore
10-06-2004, 04:07 PM
Just for the record, page 10, para 6 near the bottom of the page in Bowie & Big Knife Fighting, James gets mentioned for his articles. He was also mentioned at another place in the text but I'll be dammed if I can find it. It may have got dropped during the editing process. But as was said before, probably not enough credit where it was due. Nice little article in Realfighting Newsletter, basically says that James Keating is THE only one teaching real Bowie Knife. I think that answers all the questions that I can publically comment on.


Mike Sastre
10-08-2004, 12:57 AM

Thought that was you! Thanks, it's always good to be recognized for one's better qualities!! Send me your current address - got a DVD for you.

Agreed Jim is a heck of a lot deeper than the War Face on the jacket cover. That "book" is as deep as you let yoursef get into, and always stimulating.

10-08-2004, 06:53 AM
==>That "JAK-book" is as deep as you let yoursef get into, and always stimulating.

Agreed !!
J.A.Keating always has a stunning surpise at hand,
just look at his latest article "The Secrets of Close Interval Knife Combat" in Thrust magazine
- mentioning the game of "Graces" as a training tool,
(it's played with two short sticks (about Bowie knife length) and a wooden hoop or ring).
a children play, yes, but it's the next toy I'll buy for my little son (and ME, TOO :-)

@MikeS: got Shawn's DDP w/your well done sheath, thanx,
the DDP has the weight of a feather, good concept