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Old 29th April 2005, 03:00 AM   #31
Chris Evans
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Hi Frank,

A `Passata Sotto' (PS) is an Italian fencing term, going back to the rapier era and which E.D.Morton describes a stop hit (counter thrust to a thrust attack) in the low line (see picture). The whole body is dropped under the opponent's incoming blade and the left leg is thrown diagonally across the line of attack, to the executant's right, whilst supported on the ground with the left hand.

It is considered as an extremely risky move and best deployed only against a purely thrusting sword. This is because:

a) It calls for great commitment;
b) recovery from the dropped position is very difficult;
c) it is all too easy to misjudge the direction of the attack, or the attacker can relatively easily change the direction of the thrust and thus hit the defender; and
d) if the opponent is using an edged sword and unless is instantly disabled, which is unlikely, he or she can execute a draw cut against the exposed neck and head, or even thrust into the equally exposed head/shoulder/back.

These risks increases dramatically as the length of the blade shortens and for this reason it is seldom performed with modern fencing swords (old rapiers were much longer); With knives, the PS becomes unacceptably dangerous, especially on account of d) above. If facing an edgeless thrusting dagger it is marginally safer as the threat of a counter cut is non existent, but of course, the possibility of a counter thrust into the defender's exposed back and neck remains, as do the other risks listed.

In the MdB a ridiculously complex and suicidally risky version is presented, as described and illustrated on pg18. I intentionally identified the core technique as a PS, to draw attention to that it was an adapted fencing move. It can be readily seen from the drawing how easy it would be for the upright attacker to execute a potentially fatal downward cut against the defender's exposed neck or even stab into his completely open neck, head, or back - And all this on top of the insane risks involved in falling down backwards, dropping the navaja onto the ground and then recovering so as to execute a PS, a difficult and overly risky move in its own right.

Hope this helps
Chris
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Old 29th April 2005, 03:18 AM   #32
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Hi Tom,

I presume that you are referring to that embossed bolster on the navaja with the modified lock.

That was on a French navaja made for the Spanish market and constructed in the manner of the Southern Spanish design, including the ratchet lock. The bolsters on the Spanish design were made from sheet-metal, usually brass, and hammer beaten to conform to the shape of the horn handle. Its function was to provide some extra strength once the blade's pivot pin was riveted, much like what a washer would provide. In fact, the cheaper navajas had only a washer.

The French decided to up the ante by embossing them - Little touches like these, and being cheaper, is what allowed their products to displace the Spanish made navajas in their own country. The absence of a full lock did not seem to bother the Spaniards much and that throws one hell of a question mark over their alleged propensity for fighting with navajas.

Cheers
Chris

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Old 29th April 2005, 05:45 AM   #33
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Thanks. What would you estimate the period to be on that piece? It seems like it might tie in with known art movements; Egyptophilism or whatever it's called; I know that seems to go through modern Europe and N America in waves, from time to time. The images don't seem to be drawn straight from heiroglyphics, at least not entirely, but to be referential of them, and perhaps of other "ethnic" ie antiquitous and/or non-European symbols? Primitivism? Art movements are one of those things where the words in the name don't mean what the words mean, and that always confuses me when the humans do that..........it has something, perhaps, to do with social institutions........confusing to us Martians This seems like an European art movement I've seen. It reminds of deco, but is this knife older than that?.......a possible cross-reference, anyway.

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Old 29th April 2005, 06:36 AM   #34
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Hi Tom,

The rule of thumb for dating navajas, assuming that they are fitted with a spine spring, is by the locking mechanism.

Post 1900: External sheet metal spine spring, fitted with a release lever as per my earlier post.

Circa 1865-1900: Ring release and spring housed within the handle as per my earlier post.

Circa 1815-1865 Spring housed within the handle and no release mechanism (pick-lock)

Pre 1815: The spine spring is screwed to the back of the handle and no release mechanism (pick-lock) as in this picture.

The importation of French navajas into Spain commenced in earnest around 1850 and fell away after 1870. Given that that navaja has a ring release and a modified lock for the Spanish market, its date of manufacture was probably around 1865-70, maybe even a little later.

I do not know if these Spanish style navajas were sold in countries other than Spain. If they were, then it could have been made as late as 1890 or thereabouts. The Spanish authority Forton, simply dates similar ones as from the "late 19th century".

Cheers
Chris
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Old 30th April 2005, 12:17 PM   #35
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Chris

Thanks for that explanation of the PS. I have seen the reference to it many times but never understood what it menas.

I am surprised that nobody woke up that it could get you killed! I have been reading about the MdB on teh net for some years and nobody seemed to pick up on that. . I have seen that move described in other knife fighting books too. Can't remeber which but I have seen it. Makes one wonder doesn't it.

Now here is a question for you. Were ANY of the navajas suitable for fighting. From what I can see in Fortons books, more than half did not even have a lock.

Best wishes
Frank
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Old 30th April 2005, 12:38 PM   #36
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The idea of most dropped attacks is that they are done suddenly, taking the opponant by surprise and going under his guard by putting you suddenly below where he thinks you are. There are no magic bullets in hand to hand combat; instantaneity of deadliness is about 90% of it (and I'm leaving asid massed combat, which we aren't discussing and where grouping and communication are probably #1) and is much more important than skill, technique, etc. It's all about speed and anticipation (ESP helps). In other words, this is a trick. The more any such is seen, taught, practiced, and practiced against, the less use it becomes, of course. I remember in SCA heavy weapons combat a trick that only works on a hard smooth floor (or sometimes grass under the right conditions, but not so reliably.....) if you have hard, well-padded knee armour; you charge the opponant head-on, seeming to bull in like an unskilled fool, but at the last instant drop to your knees, sliding in beneath his guard, and strike. It is extremely effective against most people who haven't seen it, because it is unexpected and shifts the attack to a direction from which no attack was thought possible. the technique discussed is rather similar. The idea of the instant kill is a weakness of many sport/training fighting methods. It may be neccessary to them, but it is important for real fighters to train in such things as slide up on your knees then roll away and back to your feet, etc. The move discussed here seems eminently liable to such a recovery that uses gravity/momentum to continue the movement into a roll to the side. Many moves that "kill" an opponant in sport/practice leave you open should he, as we actual animals tend to do, rudely refrain from dying instantly and quietly. I also note a similarity to Spainish bullfighting, though, and to the idea of the perfect thrust, and the perfect understanding and control of the bull, and wherein the armpit of the killer ends up and even comes to rest directly before the point of the weapon of the victim as a very deliberate display that is considered of surpassing meaning and beauty by the afficionadi.
It is sometimes important to remember, too, in these matters, that though such a thing as fear of Death may seem a constant it is actually a cultural construct in some degree, and many cultures have not shared it in anything like the degree it is seen in modern/industrial culture. I recently heard a great saying; I can't remember it precisely, but along the lines of "When we learn to die, then we are able to live free." Killing the enemy, living and dying honorably/morally, and even the aesthetic beauty of movements and situations can all exceed the desire to continue living within traditional combat.
A further note on the soft pass (? low pass?) is that it not only puts you lower than expected, but "ups" your reach, allowing you to strike when the opponant thought he was out of range. There is a very similar extension thrust with a longspear (pike) that can be very effective. The best, most practiced, and stretchiest spearmen can get quite a notable range boost from it.
I'll also add that many fighting styles teach one how to fight from the ground; some even favour it, and styles that lack this typically find it hard to counter, mistaking the ground for a position of weakness; thinking only the feet can successfully interface with it or something; another limitting paradigm whose.....limitations can really come out in a fight.

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Old 1st May 2005, 11:24 AM   #37
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Hi,

Tom,

Fair comment - You draw attention to something that should be a mandatory recitation by all students of martial arts, be it Eastern or Western; Namely, that even the most seemingly devastating attack may not be instantly disabling, giving ample opportunity to the opponent to counter-strike. In the long history of dueling, there have been numerous examples of someone scoring a hit, thinking that the fight was over, only to receive an unexpected counter hit with grievous consequences.

Knives lacking a reach advantage bring both parties extremely close and expose the wielder to counter hits far more than swords do; This has to be kept in mind when choosing tactics.

Another point (no pun intended) is that the PS is infrequently performed with modern fencing swords, because they move too fast, yet it is worth remembering that knives are faster again, able to change direction even more quickly.


Frank,

Many of the 6"-9" bladed navajas that had a lock were capable weapons, but only once they were opened. Most were slow and clumsy in this respect, but there were a few notable exceptions. I have an old 10" bladed navaja, made in the French manner with a "teat" lock (as still found on Italian stilettos) the massive blade of which can be flung open like any modern tactical folder (see picture). It is very weak at the hinge but it can be deployed mighty fast - A shorter bladed version would have been rather formidable. Of course, for this very reason, it would have been banned in most Spanish jurisdictions, much in the manner that automatic switchblades tend to attract the full wrath of the law in modern times.

Much more research is needed before we can say with certainty just how common was the violent usage of navajas. There is some rather compelling evidence in Forton's works that a most attacks were committed with weapons other than navajas. Another factor to keep in mind is that in the old days, lacking forensic capabilities, the authorities could not easily disprove a confession in which the guilty party admitted to having carved up someone with a navaja (more or less legal) as opposed to the real weapon used having been a dagger or knife (highly illegal), rapidly drawn from concealment.

Personally, after having examined quite a number of antiques, I am of the opinion that actual fighting with navajas must have been far less frequent than alleged these days and when it did occur, it was in ritualized dueling that seldom went the distance and during which only easily parried sweeping cuts were being traded (most navajas did not have a lock and this made the more lethal thrust very risky).

Cheers
Chris
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Old 6th May 2005, 05:27 AM   #38
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Chris,

In Fortons Navaja Antigua page 258 there is a navaja described as VIROLA GIRATORIA. My Spanish helper has not been able to translatte this for me. Does not seem to have a lock of any kind. What is this navaja.

Why has this book not ben translated? I find it very frustrating and hard to understand. Such a good book full of info and nobody has bothered with it. Cant believe it.

Best Wishes
Frank
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Old 6th May 2005, 06:53 AM   #39
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Hi Frank,

1. "Virola Giratoria" means a navaja fitted with a rotating bolster lock. The Spaniards in their search for a locking mechanism tried various solutions to the problem and this was one of them.

It consisted of a sheet-metal ferrule that rotated atop the bolster blocking the closure of the blade. It was easy to make and very secure, but was rather slow to open and tended to fall apart. Modern knives that use this type of lock are the French Opinel and the US Cold Steel Twistmaster.

You can see both these knives here:

http://www.physics.mun.ca/~sstamp/k...inel_large.html


2. Re Translation of Forton's Works: To date, as far as the English speaking world is concerned, there has been little serious interest in the navaja. The recent spate of interest seems to have came mainly from martial artists - Serious collectors and historians of edged weapons do not appear to be all that interested and in any event, such potential readers are not numerous. Maybe a market survey would contradict this, but even such surveys cost a lot.

A translation of La Navaja Espanola Antigua with its 490 pages, would be a huge task, requiring at least a year's full time work. You can chalk that up as at least $US60,000 and then there are also the publishing costs. To invest that kind of time and money, one would have to be sure of selling a lot of copies.

Perhaps a much more abridged work would have a better chance, but by necessity it would have to be a superficial coverage of the subject.

So, don't hold your breath waiting for a translation.

Cheers
Chris
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Old 12th May 2005, 05:25 AM   #40
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Chris

Thanks for those answers.

So you don't think we'll ever get a translation of Forton. Thats a pity. Any other Spanish works worth translating?

I also noticed that in theMejores Piezas de Colecsion there are many navajas of other nationalities including India. Any coments?

Best Wishes
Frank
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Old 13th May 2005, 07:58 AM   #41
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Hi Frank,

1. It is not possible to write seriously on the navaja without drawing heavily on the work of Forton. As far as I am aware, there is only one other work worth considering, that of Arturo Sanchez De Vivar, titled La Navaja Clasica. It is a simple and concise work that also drew heavily on Forton and it was written to address mainly the needs of collectors. At least in Spanish, I consider it overshadowed by Forton's Las Mejores Piezas de Colecsion. May be worth translating, but with the same effort a more comprehensive book could be written. However even such a modest work would be a financial risk in terms of publishing costs, especially that of photography which would require going to Spain and hiring a local photographer.

2. The Spaniards claim that they invented the navaja and others copied its design. This may or may not be true, but remarkably similar clasp knives were in use in other parts of Europe, mostly in France and Italy and generally of significantly better quality.

Here is a superb Italian navaja:

http://www.knivescollection.com/cat...id_coltello=631

It was probably an early 19th century exhibition piece, with a 44cm (17") blade that was provided with a sheath, presumably so that it could be carried in the open position if the owner so desired and if the jurisdiction's law permitted it though the long handle would have made this very uncomfortable.

I strongly suspect that the Spaniards were not the only ones to have legislated against fixed blade knives, for why else would the Italians and the French, just to mention two , bothered with inferior (to a fixed blade) folders? That these nations also passed restrictive legislation of some sorts is evidenced by the old and curious practice of selling navajas with the blade's tip sporting a blunt appendage which the owner ground off to end up with the desired sharp point; This was done to circumvent the prohibition of selling pointed clasp knives. The attached phot is that of such an Italian navaja that never saw use and was sold some time ago by the internet firm (knivescollection) given above.

It is my opinion that to make a truly comprehensive study of the navaja one would have to broaden the scope of inquiry so as to include other European nations, besides Spain; However, linguistically this would require an unusually gifted researcher who is capable of looking through old police records and similar archival documents written in a number of different languages. This is why we cannot find anything worth reading in English on European knives and their usage.

As you rightly mention, there were navajas made even as afar as India, though that was around 1900. The basic design lending itself to being manufactured in low tech workshops.

Cheers
Chris
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Old 23rd May 2005, 12:13 PM   #42
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Chris,

I am thinking of getting a real navaja. I am tosing up between a replica or a real antique. Which do you reccomend wrom which dealer. The prices seem fairly much the same.

Best wishes
Frank
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Old 24th May 2005, 03:38 AM   #43
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Hi Frank,

It all depends on what you want it for. If you have actual usage in mind, that would impart wear and tear, then the only sensible option is to get a repro. On the other hand, if you wish to study the attributes of period pieces, then an antique is mandatory.

You are right, prices are much the same, with few exceptions. The most difficult decision is to choose the type that you want. Spanish made, in the southern style, or French, maybe even Italian; Then, late 18th century or mid or late 19th.

The bulk of the affordable repros, these days indiscriminately intermix early and late features and use stainless steel for the blades and springs - You have to be rather choosy whose products you buy.

If you want a working navaja, then it is hard to go past Exposito's, although these are entirely utilitarian and quite unlike the earlier ones that doubled up as weapons.

You have my address, so once you have decided on something, drop me aline and I'll tell you what I think. There are a lot of good antiques that turn up on e-bay, at reasonable prices. If you go to a dealer, expect to pay 50% more.

Cheers
Chris
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Old 26th May 2005, 03:53 AM   #44
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Hi Frank,

You may consider one of these.

http://www.couteau-catalan.com/

Unfortunately the site is in French, but they appear to be fairly faithful repros, their only shortcoming being a rather short blade, presumably to fit in with current legislation. You can compare them with that photo I posted some time ago of a historical piece.

Cheers
Chris
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Old 3rd June 2005, 12:01 PM   #45
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Hi Chris and folks

I just got me Exposito navaja from Spain. After a lot of thinking decided to start of with a safe bet. Thanks Chris for recomeding it A great buy

It has a 6 inch blade and ratchet lock. As a toolmaker by trade I can tell that it is largely handmade. Quite a nice piece and a strong enough to be used as a work knife, not that I wpould do that as it it is too nice. The lock seems bomproof but I think it would soon develop a bit of slop if used hard. It compares quite well with my Voyager for sturdiness and the lock seems stronger. Tho I wouldnt wana use it to gut rabits as there is too many nooks where gunk can get traped and is hard to clean out.

When it comes to SD it is another story. Very slow to open and requires two handsNo way of doing it with one. The blade is not like the oldies which were very pointy but wide and madede for cuting. For SD the Voyager eats it fr breakfast Much faster

I now absolutely agree with you Chris that the navaja is a very beatiful but overated knife and I have the smae opinion of Italian stiletos. Anybody who now tells me othersise I reckon is full of BS. I now wonder if I could get my money back on those two books

Now I am starting to shop for an real antique

Best Wishes
Frank
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Old 4th June 2005, 10:35 AM   #46
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Hi Frank,

Glad to read that you are pleased with your Exposito. As far as modern navajas go, they are probably the best.

Cheers
Chris
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Old 6th September 2005, 07:27 AM   #47
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Hi Everybody,

A friend and fellow collector recently acquired these two navajas for his collection.

One is a French hand made navaja, in the Albacetan Spanish manner, dating from probably the 1960s. It has a 11cm long stainless steel blade and ivory & German silver handle. It is extremely well made and was clearly intended as a luxury item, a gentleman's pocket folder. The only inscription on the blade's ricasso is "GARANTI", "FAIT MAIN". It has the traditional `window" lock, with a 7 teeth `carraca', though the spring, rather than being the post 1900 "muelle de teja", is encased between the liners of the handle

The other is a rather curious piece, made by Aitor, as one like it is featured in Loriega's book "Sevillian Steel". It has a 18cm long stainless steel blade photo engraved with the picture of the Spanish folk hero and bandit Luis Candelas Cagigal. It is a thematic recreation of navajas affecting the ones that Spanish cutlers made in the French manner during the closing decades of the 19th century. It has a
wooden handle and what appears to be cast brass bolsters. The design of the front bolster is most unusual in that it is made in one piece (with a slit to accept the blade), so that lateral leverages stemming from the blade are received with added restraint and thus is far stronger than those made in a more traditional manner, that is, with each bolster separately attached to the handle halves. The blade is quite effectively secured, when open, with a completely atypical lock, that nevertheless is based on the old Spanish `window' design; It is extremely unusual because the `window' is "blind", having been formed into the spine spring. - It has the rattling `carraca' feature, with three teeth. All in all, a serviceable, solid and hefty navaja, of historically accurate dimensions and shape, though not in construction. It is somewhat roughly made, for a price, and obviously intended for the souvenir market and not for day to day use.

For those interest in the life of Cagigal, he was born in 1804 and despite having inherited a modest fortune, he decided upon a life of banditry. In the end, he was caught and executed in 1837, infront the gates of Toledo. It is said that his preferred weapons were the `cuchillo' (fixed blade knife) and pistols. His popularity was attributable to his rakish good looks, the help he gave to the poor, his audacity and reckless courage - When his final moment arrived, he is said to have met his fate with remarkable composure, addressing the spectators with the exclamation "Happiness to my country".

Cheers
Chris
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Old 15th September 2005, 07:36 AM   #48
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Hi Chris

That secon one is a mean looking navaja. Would you consider it a fighting weapon? Where can I buy one?

Best Wishes
Frank
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Old 15th September 2005, 08:54 AM   #49
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Hi Frank,

1. This one most decidedly would qualify as a fighting navaja as its general proportions replicates those of French origins, with a blade equally good at cutting and thrusting and as many used in Spain in the closing decades of the 19th century.

It is very well designed, with only three ratchet teeth (fast but not silent opening) and great potential lateral strength at the pivot pin, an area of significant weakness on most navajas. However it is badly let down by the aluminium bolsters, which are likely to be unreliably weak and its wooden handle. Since my original posting we found out that the bolsters instead of being made from brass are in fact made from a cheap and fragile aluminium die castings anodized to look like brass and varnished over.

Had it been made with proper brass bolsters and a horn handle it would have resulted in a navaja better than anything made in the old days. And had it been properly finished, it would be a very collectable knife - As it is, with its cheap wooden handle, fake brass bolsters and imprecise fitting, it amounts to little more than another souvenir grade Spanish folder.

I suspect that the reason that it wasn't made that way was the cost of the buffalo horn and the time and difficulties involved in making such a complicated bolster from brass sheet - No way of mass producing it.

2. The only way that you'll buy one is to look for a used one. I am told that they went out of production some years ago. A shame, because it has a damn good blade and lock.

Cheers
Chris
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Old 16th September 2005, 07:09 AM   #50
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Hi Chris

Thanks for that info.

Regards
Frank
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Old 16th September 2005, 07:37 AM   #51
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Chris

I found this thread most interesting. It certainly goes against the current
image of the navaja.

From what you say, and you argue your case well, it would seem that there
is no live Spanish tradition of knife fighting. If so, what about other
European countries like Italy, especially its southern regions? After all, it is universally acknowledged that the Latin Europeans have a distinct penchant for knives.

Robert
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Old 17th September 2005, 01:41 AM   #52
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Hi Robert,

Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert Gray
Chris

From what you say, and you argue your case well, it would seem that there is no live Spanish tradition of knife fighting. If so, what about other European countries like Italy, especially its southern regions?


First I should declare that as a collector, my focus is on the Spanish `navaja' and the Gaucho' `facon' and its usage in Spain and Latin America. As I have no useful command over languages other than Spanish, I cannot do more than hazard a guess as to what prevails in other European nations. However, I do feel that the situation is unlikely to be very different, for the simple reason that they have all came a long way from the harsh and labour intensive agricultural economies, and the attendant impoverished lifestyle that allowed knives to play such an important role.

BTW: I don't quite know what you mean by living tradition. If you mean the ongoing settling of private disputes with knives, that is dueling, then that went out of fashion a very long time ago - Social changes and modern law enforcement took care of that. If on the other hand you mean that some degree of criminal violence involving knives still takes place amongst the impoverished, as all over the world, then there is a living tradition, though its significance eludes me.

In the closing years of the twentieth century, various knife arts, of Asian and military provenance, have made their appearance in Europe as elsewhere. Also the WMA boom has caught up with Europe and in the wake of the recent enthusiasm for lost European combative arts, there are instructors who claim to have either re-discovered or being the heir to hitherto unknown but ancient and sophisticated knife fighting systems. Given the total absence of historical manuals and schools, it is impossible to validate any of these claims and as far as I am aware, none have demonstrated a credible link to the past.

Discounting intentional fraud, the best that can said for these newly discovered systems is that until their exponents bring forth convincing demonstration of their links to the past, it has to be assumed that what they are offering are re-packaged versions of the aforementioned new arts. This is not to say that they are bad, but that they are not traditional.

In any event, we have to remember that no fighting art can remain immune to the changes brought on by time; Nineteenth century, or earlier popular combative system evolved in regional isolation and in response to the legal, social and combative requirements of the times. Ancient `navaja' or `facon' fighting systems (if there were indeed any) could not possibly find application in settings as radically different as that presented by modern societies, unless so modified as to be unrecognizable - For one, anyone who tried to walk down a street with a large
`navaja' or `facon' tucked in the belt would face immediate arrest for being illegally armed and if the offender's declared intention was to fight a duel, then the mandatory sentence would be greatly increased.

Roughly a year ago this topic was given a good trashing on this forum when someone brought up the subject of Gypsy knife fighting. Have read of it:

http://www.vikingsword.com/ubb/Forum1/HTML/002305.html

Cheers
Chris
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Old 20th September 2005, 02:06 AM   #53
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Chris,

I must say this is one of the best and most informative threads I ever came
across on the subject.

Your argument regarding there being no living Euro traditions makes good
sense. In various places you made references to South America - Are there
living traditions there? If so, is their form anything like found in SE
Asia, say Filipino Arnis, with teachers and schools?

Regards
Robert
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Old 20th September 2005, 03:48 AM   #54
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Hi Robert,

Thank you for your appreciative words.

There is most certainly an ongoing tradition of solving personal disputes violently in SA. But the methods used to do so are changing even there. Fifty years ago, in the countryside, old fashioned knife duels were commonplace but these days a good deal less. Even so, a search in Google with the phrase "Duelo Criollo" (Creole Duel with knives) will return a large number of hits, some actual reports of fights, old and contemporary, and many literary and musical references to same. All this indicates that the tradition is very much alive, albeit different to what prevailed in the past.

The old Spanish ritualized duel with cape on left arm and long knife in the right has given way to impromptu encounters with shorter knives and guns, although for a number of reasons knives remain the most often used weapon. To a large extent, this reflects not just tradition but also an intractable crime problem, especially in the slums; If one is poor, it is next to impossible to become proficient with guns, which in any event are very expensive items.

As everywhere, Asian and other martial arts have found their way to SA and nowadays there is a huge variety of approaches taken to fighting. Those who are well off take lessons and hardly ever fight and the impoverished masses improvise and fight as they always did.

In all my readings and travels, I never heard of any knife fighting systems or schools in olden times - All the writers who extoll the old traditions are consistent in upholding that apart from some shared generalities, it was all done with courage and the adroitness that comes from working with knives on a daily basis.

Cheers
Chris
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Old 20th September 2005, 11:29 PM   #55
dennee
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Terrific and informative thread!

The slowness of opening and common lack of lock would certainly seem to make the navaja inferior for some purposes. But they also made them acceptable to carry. For an attacker, the slowness of the opening is less of a problem than to a defender. And, as was mentioned above, lack of a lock probably dictated more slashing.

Consider a common weapon in American slums at the end of the nineteenth century--the straight razor. Portable, concealable, useful for other purposes, not inherently illegal, no lock, no thrusting capability, but a quicker open.
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Old 21st September 2005, 05:08 AM   #56
Chris Evans
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Hi dennee,

You are absolutely right about locks, or rather their absence on the great majority of navajas.

The straight razor was in its heyday a much favoured weapon with all kinds of people all over the word, though I suspect that its power to intimidate far exceeded its potential as a weapon. Some years ago, I remember seeing a Brazilian film, the name of which now escapes me. Actually, it was more like a musical and set in the 1940s, in which a corrupt police officer fights a ritualized duel with razors with a slum hustler with whom he was in a racket and later fell out. They used Caoperia techniques and the name of the game was to "mark" the face of the opponent . The fight choreography wasn't terribly convincing, but it gave us some idea. And by the way, the cop lost and had a neat set of little vertical scars to show for his troubles, all adroitely planted there by his opponent.

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Chris
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Old 22nd September 2005, 09:29 AM   #57
Robert Gray
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Chris

You mentioned "Capoeria". Now isn't that a proper system of fighting, like
say the FMA and do they use knives and other weapons in Capoeria? Was this
art present in other SA countries and did it influence gaucho knife fighting?

Regards
Robert
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Old 23rd September 2005, 04:54 AM   #58
Chris Evans
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Hi Robert,

You ask very good questions. Whilst I know relatively little of the African aspect of Brazilian culture, I will try and provide some answers:

Capoeria was the martial art of the African slaves that the Portuguese took to Brazil to work their plantations. It was a secret art into which one had to be initiated. The slaves used it as self defense against the whites. Some decades ago, little by little it came out into the open, mostly in the guise of troupes of Capoerista entertainers putting on shows of acrobatics and fight displays in public places and then passing the hat around. On weekends, in Rio and other Brazilian cities, one can see many such displays. Also, most troupes have some white members, proving that the art is no longer segregated along racial lines. I was told that in the favellas (slums) it is widely practiced, but that nowadays it is an umbrella term for any martial art. Traditionally it was taught in a quasi formal manner but these days anything goes. Kids teach other but whether one gets to join a good group or not depends on one's innate ability - Obviously, to make money from public displays, they have to be reasonably talented.

I don't know what were the fighting techniques of early Capoeria, save that it involved a lot of acrobatics and kicking. Some fifteen years ago I witnessed a display by a superb group in a Rio night club and apart from the acrobatics, which were pretty fantastic and remarkably olympic gymnastics like, the mock kick fighting was high class Tae Kwan Do sans punches! That said, around the same time, in an Argentine province's city square I witnessed a similar display by a low end troupe who were so bad that it wasn't even funny and their mock fighting was again something like beginners Karate. Quite obviously, Capoeria has absorbed a lot of foreign influences and like so many ethnic arts it isn't what it used to be.

When it comes to knives and given their prevalence in SA, including Brazil, I am absolutely sure that Capoeria has techniques for its usage. However, apart from choreographed film fights, I have not seen them demonstrated.

The big question is whether Capoeria techniques have or have not found their way into other SA countries. It is possible, especially in Uruguay. Argentina had a substantial negroid population until the end of the nineteenth century and it is conceivable that at least some of these people had a secret martial art. However, I never have seen this suggested, though many years ago the Argentinean writer Osornio, in his book Esgrima Criolla (Creole Fencing) mentions a couple of Negroes who were highly skilled with knives and one who could even disarm his opponents! We will probably never know because if such an art existed amongst the Argentinean Negroes, it would have been kept highly secret.

For those who would like to do some further reading, here is an excellent link:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capoeira

Cheers
Chris

Last edited by Chris Evans : 23rd September 2005 at 05:31 AM.
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Old 24th September 2005, 06:25 AM   #59
Frank
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Chris

Wow, that website claims that the cops used to cut the tendons of the caporistas!

From what you saw how efective is caporia as a fighting system?

Reagrds
Frank
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Old 25th September 2005, 03:52 AM   #60
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Hi Frank,

You question is very hard to answer meaningfully. For a start, save for broad generalities, we do not know what old Capoeira was really like and since it has come out of the closet it has absorbed all sorts of other combative influences, including boxing, Karate and its variants and on all accounts it relies heavily for its effectiveness on surprise. We must also remember that before WWII many Okinawans and Japanese migrated to Brazil and in the 1960s a lot of Koreans also found their way into the region, though most opted for Paraguay - These folks left their imprint on local fighting styles; The famous Gracie style Jiu-Jitsu coming to mind immediatley.

With that said, the effectiveness of any martial art depends disproportionately on the individual practitioner's athleticism, that is strength, speed and size, as well as muscular coordination. Things being what they are in South America, the ticket out of the slums and poverty is through soccer or boxing. Anyone who is good enough to walk the walk and not just talk, is hardly likely to waste his time with a obsolete MA when he could make good money and fame in the ring or in the stadium. In contrast, the best that any Capoeria practitioner can hope for is to become either a feared slum crim or at most a nightclub performer, perhaps an instructor at one of the schools - To put it differently, it does not offer a very attractive or rewarding career path. Still there are exceptions and in all probability a few must be very good fighters.

Cheers
Chris
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