I am often asked what knife I carry and what the best knife for tactical use is. I also see a lot of FMA practitioners show extreme loyalty to one or more of their precious, decorated $50 sticks. There is a saying in our dialect of Italian that loosely translates as “the pasta I am eating right now is the best I ever had”. In my family, we often quote this phrase when we want to say that we are happy with what we have and grateful for it. I have practiced with old Wiffle Bats, broom sticks, rattan, taped up old pieces of crap and rebar. Never did I feel that the weapon I was holding either gave me greater ability or hampered my training. To be honest, I was just happy to be able to swing a stick.
I have been given many blades that I hold dear because they are sentimental gifts from dear friends. There are a couple nice pieces in my collection that I spent some money on and I like them very much. The ones I have made myself have special significance because of the effort I put into them. And, there are heirloom items like my Grandfather’s cane knife that I revere because they were wielded by my ancestors. As a career carpenter, I was pretty particular about my tools but the bottom line was that they had to function well, be very sharp and fit well into my budget. They were tools to be used and not kept as precious items. As Martial Artists, we should understand that our skills transcend the particular weapon we have. I have gone to seminars without any sticks and picked up the first one I found on the ground to teach. It really does not matter if it is perfect or not. I have also responded to the question about what the best knife might be with the phrase “I could jack you up with a butter knife if I had to”. The answer is there is no particular knife I prefer. The one I am holding while someone is attacking me is perfect as far as I’m concerned. I feel lucky to have one, even if it’s just a hunk of sharpened steel or a wooden spike. To assume that one must have a particular weapon to practice a particular art is kind of absurd. Even Grand Master Giron told me I should use a longer stick because I was taller than the rest of his students. The 24” or 28” stick length came about for reasons that had nothing to do with the art per se. Holding to a particular weapon specification as the definition of the art is to miss the point of the techniques for the glamor of the object. Choose the weapon with which you are comfortable that meets the general parameters of your art. If you can’t find something that’s just right, be happy with what you have. Carry something day to day that’s legal and does all the tasks you require; a tool of use, not an icon of worship. If harm comes your way, grab what you got and have at it. The weapon you have when you need it is the best weapon you can own whether it’s a finely crafted Gerber or a pencil off your desk. And if you have no weapon when the need arises, use the greatest weapon of them all, your faith in God.