When most Woods Monkey readers use knives it’s for the relatively ‘tame’ stuff: survival, sports, camping, bushcraft, etc. Much like other tools (the best ones anyway) knives can be used for many things. Some of those things are not so tame.
Knife fighting conjures many images and feelings when mentioned amongst fans of knives in general. It can be misinterpreted and misrepresented but it is always there. Since ancient man used a flint knife to survive a fight to the death these less…glamorous aspects have walked like a shadow lurking down through history.
Some would paint a romantic chivalrous picture with one foot in history and the other in pulp fiction, such as the stereotypical bowie knife fight of the western genre. Others would lead you down a path of martial systems of defense. With brutal efficiency and style they make it a speedy game of practiced tag with safety gear and ‘rules’. Both make for an exciting spectacle. Both are not quite hitting the mark but are each close in some ways.
Hank Reinhardt’s Book of Knives helps bridge the gap between knowing and doing. Sadly Mr. Reinhardt passed on before the book could be published. Finished by his friends and coauthor the book is a fascinating read. The preface tells of Hank as recalled by friends and indeed many parts of the text continue this theme. He was a character in every sense of the word, a real renaissance man in the truest form. From humble beginning he eventually became a respected authority on edged historical weapons and their use. He was a regular demonstrator of such and spoke and presented often at shows and conventions. He was well respected by well-respected people in the martial blade community. His book is a good afternoon read at camp, both entertaining and informative.
Chapter one of the book details the historical background of the knife and its use in defense of oneself. It is short and to the point like much of Mr. Reinhardt’s fighting moves if anecdotes are any indication.
Well illustrated with example line drawings and pictures throughout, it sets the stage for the second chapter which looks at the cold unromantic reality of fighting with a knife. Strong narratives in Hanks own words about his experiences as a youth growing up in the 40’s and 50’s in the urban environment where everyone had a knife. To paraphrase the book, ‘when you get involved with a knife fight you are fighting for the rest of your life’. The ramifications, wounds and legal turmoil of doing such goes on long after you or the other guy has finished the encounter. These matters are serious. Crippling wounds and disfigurement are extremely likely. It is jarring to get this sentiment out first and foremost when reading the text, but it makes the reader understand the gravity of the situation. Further chapters relate Mr. Reinhardt’s experience in regards to choosing a street knife and, concealment of such, and the wounds delivered by it. The text is thick with personal stories of actual experiences.
This may sound like a felons guide to ‘shanking’ someone but it reads more as a knowledgeable warrior imparting hard earned wisdom to help the average man protect himself. The middle of the book contains various sections by people who knew Hank personally and professionally. These should not be skipped as they give a better rounded picture of the man writing this modern fight book.
The last half of the book is a grounded in a basics guide to choice of knife for use, basic techniques and training as well as mindset and physical fitness. All these aspects are related to each other in subtle ways that the text lays bare.
I would recommend this book to the average Woods Monkey reader as a good reality check. If you are a ‘weekend warrior’ or ‘chairborne ranger’ this book could be the dash of cold water in the face you need to save you money, time and possibly your life. No doubt some of Woods Monkey’s readership are more familiar with close combat with a knife than most. This might help them gain insight into what has happened in their lives and what they can learn from their own experience when contrasted with that of Mr. Reinhardt.
By showing you the various attributes of knife fighting knives and their use you can also see when a certain knife design deviates from utility to fighting implement, to way past that into combat fantasy.
In highlighting historical proven designs ( such as the Kukri) the author allows the reader to better judge what previously untried knife might be useful to him in an outdoor setting. Prejudices of, ‘I can’t use that tactical looking thing at camp’ will give way to reasoned consideration. This will in turn lead you to an informed decision to try something new that might work better for you in your normal use for knives. If you are seeking insight to finding a no-nonsense blade it will help with that as well. That is bridging the gap between knowing and doing.
Hank Reinhardt’s Book of Knives is available online from Amazon or other retail brick and mortar booksellers for about $10.
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