American Bowie vs FMA

Apr 30, 1999
This is purely hypothetical and probably a can of worms but what the hell. This is my scenerio... a master of the Filipino blade reverse grip,hammer grip, whatever, vs a trained western blade man. My untrained hunch is the bowie man wins with a well timed lunge to the throat while the FMA guy tries to 'defang the snake', check with his off hand and slash at his throat. How likely is this for the FMA guy to do? Granted, I don't know squat but that just seems impossible to do,just like akido type wrist locks. Doesn't the lunge rule when body armour and shields aren't a factor? Distance is everything in knife vs knife right? Anybody with a logical thought out opinion,please reply. Pleez exoose the spelling, I wint to publik skule
he with the biggest blade wins.


Anthony P. Lombardo
-will destroy knives for
a lot depends on on the fisics of the people involved,like fitness speed and reflexes.
but on general term a man with a sirious fighting bowie and a little knowlege of the BACKCUT i will put my money on the bowie man.
check what mr.james keating and bill bagwell say about that matter.
Root, the Bowie wielder should have the advantage in length and weight with his weapon whereas the FMA master has to close the distance if he has a lighter, shorter weapon.

This is where skill comes into play who can change fastest, who can keep the distance.

I'm assuming the Bowie wielder is attacking first and that it is irrelevant the weapon the FMA master is using. Remember not all FMA people would use a balisong and not all balisongs are under a foot in length.

I am curious as to why this is brought up. Do you feel that the FMA is overrated? A bastardization of another art and perhaps inferior to its' elder?
Root - a lunge is effective unless it misses the strike. A missed lunge leaves much target for the quick responder.

Scorpio - I do not believe the back cut provides an additional distance advantage, only the delivery of an unexpected strike zone.

Maybe we can get James Keating, Bram Frank or Bob Taylor in on this. I'd like to hear some more opinion myself.
Smoke, sometimes I do think FMA are overated, but still of value. I've been reading lately that the Spanish style of fencing was a larger influence on the Filipino styles than is given credit for. I hyposhisize this; maybe the FMA have no equal with stick, but maybe the western europians have no equal with blade. Scorpio, I've been reading everything I can from Keating, Bagwell,ect and that's what's sparked my interest. My God, if the bowie is everything they say it is as a fighting knife, let's not let it be lost as a martial art! The US is a bastard nation, the melting pot for so many things. I guess that American Knife fighting with a Bowie would be a bastard mix of the many styles of fencing from europe. This is just facinating to me. Can anyone recomend Keating's videos? Any place else I can learn the Bowie?
Root, you've stumbled onto something that comes up a lot. Snickersnee and myself have talked about this.

Honestly, nobody disputes the Spanish influence on FMA but understand that combat changes and that not everything is carbon copy of another. Understand that there are some moves that are common in both Euro and Asian and all knife arts and some that are not.

Sidenote, I have Keating's Rev Grip Knife fighting and I am impressed. Also, the late Ed Parker like the Bowie as well.

Don't be fooled by what you see, fighters have a choice in methodology and tools. It boils back down to simplicity. Importantly, commerciality plays a big factor. There are more FMA and Silat schools than Hwarang do, tantojutsu, kalari payat, La Systema schools.
In blade/weapon systems there is more play and the mind does affect training.

Sometimes you want the guard, sometimes the mount. You want an americana but get juji gatame. BTW, have you heard of Catchwrestling?

Where the FMAer would have an advantage is in the tendency to do "off angle movements". Rather than the "back and forth" distantly related to western fencing, the FMAer's "sideways and in or out" movement patterns would be something totally out of the experience of a riverboat gambler of 1840 or whatever.

Look at how many Escrima or whatever dojos have a triangle in their symbol - that's the "movement and footwork pattern" at the core of most of what they do. They don't come "straight down your throat". And when doing a "defang the snake", there's a feeling of "get the hell out of the way at the same time".

Whether it would make up for adantages in reach, power and that backcut I have no clue.

But having trained some in a system with similar teachings, I wouldn't count it out.

Jim March
Smoke, I've read all of you and Snickersnee's discussion and thoughrally enjoyed it. I can't wait untill he finishes translating his book. Yes I've heard of catchwrestling and am interested inthat as well, maybe I'll get to go to a Matt Furey clinic at some point. I'm a bjj student and when we go 'no gi' I imagen we are practicaly doing catch anyway. We have a couple college level wrestlers and a sambo black belt, plus my instructor is a sambo bb also and a bjj brown belt known for his leg lock skills who is very open minded and eclectic. I was hoping Snickersnee would voice his opinion on my original question.
As somebody who is confident that either the Bowie master or the FMA master could turn me into sashimi with a cheap kitchen knife even if I was armed with the most vorpal blade on the market, I'm wondering: Under what modern circumstances two martial artists would ever engage in mortal combat with knives if either of them was sober?


James is right. The odds of ANY two serious MA practitioners "squaring off" is highly remote; that kind of discipline doesn't breed (or tolerate) idiocy. Especially if there's knives involved.

Now, a guy who knows what he's doing against two or more crazy or drunk or both morons packing switchblades is far more likely. Still not exactly common, but it happens. In my humble opinion, the sidestepping is gonna go a long ways towards confusing such lunatics (transvestites with hammers mebbe?) and might be more useful than the "pure power offense" of the classic Bowie.

Jim March
I know modern fencing is all linear, but in the articles I've read by Keating he shows l/r evasive manuvers. I wonder if a lunatic with a icepick grip chambered overhead charging at would be stopped with a lunge to the throat, or would he still be able to follow through. I would say probably yes, but if you miss how would you follow up without eating knife? So moving l/r may be better? Any more opinions?
Root, you must understand the grounds styles were developed in. Philippines has more jungle, so chopping knives were needed more than swords.

Mr. Keating is demonstrating a fencing theory of passing the point. If you can't get past the threat, you are in danger of getting hurt.

Sidenote, I believe Bram is still swamped writing his book.

Root, adrenaline does funny things to the body. To answer your question, in the book "Tantojutsu" it's said that a counter slash and evasion would "freeze" an overhead sword attack whereas a counter thrust would not.

Another text stated that when Portueguese swordsmen fought Samurai they were able to employ a lunge effectively. However, the Portueguese were surprised when the Samurai grabbed the end of their blade w/ one hand
and cut them w/ the hand bearing the sword to the neck.

On some occasions in training, I and my partner "killed" each other. He caught me w/ a stab to the neck and I caught him w/ a stab to the heart as finished his attack.

Evasive movement is critical, sport fencing doesn't allow too much of it and if you can't get past the point you are still in danger.
So far as the "stop thrust" goes, if you've got some guy coming at you at full speed, you can kill him with a well-placed thrust before he icepick's ya. He will however, bowl you over with his dead body, and you might get impaled in the resulting tumble.

More likely, the stop-thrust isn't instantly fatal, but shakes the guy enough to make avoidning his stab easy. Watch boxers some time. They do quite a bit of hit-and-evade. Now, the fist isn't as immediately lethal as a knife, so the other guy usualy manages to get in a counter-punch, but it's usualy weak and poorly aimed. I am no fan of sitting around and watching guys on t.v. playing sports. I`d rather go play football or something myself than be a spectator, but there is much to be learned watching boxers go at it, if you know what to look for. Even with the safety rules(without them boxers would get KILLED a lot, it is a combative form), it`s the most realistic mainstream combative sporting event. Historicaly, "fencing" meant "hitting without being hit". NOT just a reference to swordsmanship. It works, and is effective.

FMA vs. Hispano-American stylist w/Bowie;

The trapping gaurd on a bowie is a decided advantage. They are easy to use. I could use them the first time I discovered what they were for. Spanish notches take a little more practice, but are certainly do=able in a fight. Besides the speed advantage of a long blade(yes, contrary to popular belief, big blades are VERY fast. Keating says it best with "try swatting a fly with your bare hand. Now try a flyswatter. Length=Speed. this is backed up by solid physics. A 3rd class lever, knife, hammer, etc., has the far end move faster than the handle. Sorry! can't keep the technical terms straight. Simple machine? Yeah, right!), they are also much easier to parry with. I'm sure there are big balisongs, in the West there are navajas from 16-50 inches in length. All very workable in combat. But no folder is gonnal match a fixed-blade fighter like a bowie. Bowies are also good at close-in work. The systems have a common route, so they combatants will be both well-versed in the others style.

It comes down to who's better, if any secondary gear or defensive weapons are employed, or luck. Even then, in the real world, outcome will not always be the same.

The Western techniques and tools are the match of anything else out there. I have trained in many of them, and have cross-sparred quite a bit. I`m no James Keating, but I can take on any greenhorn with confidence. I`ve also been in quite a few real world scrapes, and don't consider myself so much a martial artist as a guy who just trains how to fight. I know what'll work and what won't. Trust me when I say that Western techniques are just as street-applicable now as they ever were, and just as good as the best of the Eastern stlyes. The only limitation is wether the art or weapon you train with jives with the local laws. For instance, you can't carry a 6-foot zweihander down the street these days. Dusaks and broadswords are out too. Bowies and navajas are definately in, especialy if you have a concealed carry permit. There's quite a few daggers that'll work, and la canne/baton arts'll always pass muster. Nobody's gonna outlaw walking sticks. I used to carry a five-foot diamond wood staff. Walked with it like a hiking stick and nobody ever thought anything of it.

So to answer your question, YES. Train in Western arts/weapons if you desire. You'll not be disapointed. As a place to start, Comtech's ABC's are the way to go. This is where I started my transition from a swordsman to a knifesman. Next see what historical fight manuals you can get your hands on. HACA has links to several online, and for free. Learn the techniques, and adapt them to fit your knife structure. Almost all Western bladearts are easy to borrow from as the operate on the same underlying principles. My slickest moves are carried over from my old broadsword style. Then spar. After you're done sparring, cross-spar with people who study different styles. Then spar with people who don't study anything but think they're tough. Don't underestimate them. Martial arts are just a structured/formalized system of fighting. Streetfighters/brawlers are quite good at what they do. Your esoteric martial art does not make you a superman. After you've sparred and learned to respect brawlers, study more techniques, work on combos and patterns, then use them when you spar. 3/4ths of what you do should be sparring once you've got the basics. The other 1/4th should be learning new techniques/combos/patterns etc. Katas are silly and should be left to martial artists. Martail artists by my definition are people who study combatives in the same way a ballerina studies dance. Beautiful to watch, they know a lot of stunning moves. But if you're talking a good ol' fashioned ho-down, it's not the way to train. If you have no training partners, be a martial artist till you can find some. Like I said they know the moves, and can make it look real nice. No reason you can't study the basics till you can work your technique.
Oh yeah, as far as Western fencing being linear, that's because it's sportfighting, not a true combative form. We're not discussing Olympic fencers, we're discussing combative arts.

In actual broadsword/rapier/saber/smallsword combative forms, it's all about off-angle attacks. There's a term for it, "fencing in the round". And that's what seperates a student of combatives from a student of sportfighting. The Spanish sytems upon which the foundations of FMA rest all stressed off-angle attacks, fencing in the round. However, this is a no-brainer, and I'm sure the Filipinos, and every other martial culture worth it's salt, hit upon it.

Remeber, fencing means hitting without being hit. That in itself means off-angle attacks.
Root, all combat moves are theory. Plenty of fighters both trained and untrained have been killed.

Train in whatever you like, be aware of the legalities and that w/ more weapons especially knives, people do kill each other.

The battlefield is different from the duel.

Martial arts well, thats a term that means many things to many people. People have different lifestyles and may need to train to express the warrior spirit.

Honestly, I see FMA and Euro arts as part of a whole because we can't always choose our opponent and such.

Briefly, a lot of this is about perception especially on the Net where everything is advertising. Should you be shocked about an FMA stylist not using a stick or balisong?
How bout a fencing stylist who uses a naginata? It comes back to the person, James Keating also carries a gun.

So what matters? Knowing your stuff and when to use it.
Yes, there's a big difference between what one should expect in a duel proper as opposed to a war. Or even a street fight.

Keep in mind though, that the mechanics of a given weapon are still the same irregardless of combative context. While the fight itself will be somewhat different, much can be carried over. A thrust is a thrust and a slash a slash no matter what the particulars of the situation you are in. Only delivery and distance/time really vary.

This is where the heavy emphasis on sparring will help you out. If you are used to using your tools and techniques against a wide range of opponents with a wide range of skills, you will learn how to apply particular techniques to a given sittuation.

There are some ignorant or even disreputable men out there promoting there own mix of techniques as more relevant to the modern "street" or "battlefield" because they are allegedly of modern manufacture so obviously more applicable. They are usualy either hype or garbage. Like SCARS.

Work what you know and improve your technique through practice. Don't shuck out your hard earned cash for "the world's most expensive martial art". There is seldom anything inherently wrong with the mechanics of either Western or Eastern martail arts. It all comes down to how you train to use them. Like Smoke was saying, there's a difference between duels and other forms of combat. If you train to duel, you may well be able to defend yourself, but you'll get much farther if you train ti fight. Again, the difference between the two is who you spar with and how often.
gentleman: i would have stepped in sooner but yes... I was working on my book as well as out of state teaching people how to slice n dice with their favorite edged tool.
flipino martial arts were not designed to work with small blades.. They use some REALLY big blades. How about the guy using a regular american bowie of about 8-10 inches and the FMA using a barong (looks like a Bagwell Bowie) of about 19-24 inches in blade lenght? There are THOUSANDS of styles of Filipino arts and all are similar in principle of motion and combative reality.. and some conceptual motions..Conceptual usage is a melting pot of personal prefrences.
American Bowie fighting is nothing so special. It represents a distilation in some cases of men who took filipino and european fencing into a shorter blade and found ways to use it. The ordinary guy using a "Bowie style" knife in the 1800's had as much idea about knife usage as the average american really understands martial arts during the sixties..
Bagwells bowie is a woinder to behold and looks like many european and Filipino war blades. Bagwells Bowies don't look squat like any other Bowies out there. Bill Bagwell has fashioned a true fighting implement. Is it an accurate model of a true american bowie? thats really open to debate.
Are the techniques like the back cut unique? NO WAY...many serious edged weapons schools teach and taught the back cut.FMA use many types of back cuts. Many sword methods use the back cuts. Is it unique amongst american style fighters up to the late 1800's? Yes..One has to be educated to cut and Bowie schools were the only schools going here in America...
Bowie style better than FMA style? The steel is only as good as the guy behind the steel.
The Filipinos have hundreds of years of actual fighting with blades in trying to gain their freedom...their varied methods work.
watch out for assumptions..they lead to lots of bleeding... sometimes death or maiming.
best to you all..
have a great thread!