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We continue with the roundtable discussion of the evolution of the Filipino Martial Arts blade …

For this article, I decided to try something different. Instead of a simple knife review or giving my opinion on the ability of certain knives, I held to a round table interview with several blade enthusiasts from around the country. I brought together a group of makers, students, designers and instructors of FMA blades and fighting concepts, and asked them 11 questions to discuss historic and modern blades, as well as the pros and cons, and what to look for. I wanted to give you, our readers, more than just one or two opinions on this subject.

Read Part 1

FMA blades

Marvelous modern materials used by The Karambit Maker.

Question: What do you look for in a modern FMA blade?

Greg: Blades that have training methods available that are adapted to today’s times.

Tuhon Jesse: I look for an overall “well-made” product. Looking for a modern design, but not something that takes away from its traditional function.

James Helm: A blade optimized for chopping needs a certain amount of inertia to bite deeply, but it needs to be nimble and have a handle big enough to accommodate my gorilla paws.

Frank Delo: I’m picky about point of balance. Whether in a long blade or short, I prefer it closer to the hand for livelier play and quick response.

Richard Derespina: Thumb ramps, guards, pommels, good ergonomics, weight, etc. Attributes that make a blade safer to use whether you’re a beginner or a “Master.”

Bastinelli Knives: I look for the best balance, ergonomics, and design first.

FMA instructors

Instructors like Tuhon Jesse and Frank Delo keep the arts progressive and alive.

Question: Fighting aside, what are some practical daily uses for FMA blades?

Keith Jennings: Camping and bushcraft. You need a good blade if you are going out into the bush!

Richard Derespina: FMA blades are like any other, larger blades like a Barong, Bolo or Ginunting etc. All will do the same work your Bowie would. Cord, rope, wood, hunting/skinning.

Greg: Personally, I always carry a Karambit everywhere. I can do the same work that can be done with a conventional knife with it.

Chris Caban: The Balisong is a great EDC, one-handed opener that is easy to use when working with one or both hands occupied. I have cleared out close to an acre of old vine Kudzu with my Cebuano Sundang.

Zombie Tools: Intimidation. Someone who is proficient in blade use, especially the Karambit, is a fearsome thing to behold.

Bastinelli Knives: Each blade has a different design and different identity, so they can be used in different ways.

Question: I’ve been told that different FMA groups tend to assimilate different edged weapons from other cultures into their systems. I see this as an evolution of the arts, what are your thoughts?

Richard Derespina: Sure, that happens. Going back to the Tanto, also the Bowie, Dirks and Daggers. All very applicable to FMA.

Greg: FMA adapted the Karambit from Silat. I personally consider this as a natural process.

James Helm: Some martial arts are used largely as a cultural artifact, preserved and stagnant. Incorporating new tools and the techniques involved, as well as developing new ones, means that he has more options at his disposal in a conflict.

Keith Jennings: When you study and look at surviving Renaissance fencing manuals, there are clear similarities to FMA systems, especially with footwork and cutting angles.

Bastinelli Knives: The Filipino martial arts are not the same as when you compare to 30 to 40 years ago. Our style of living and our mentality has changed, so the martial arts evolve with us based on that.

Question: How important is it to have training versions of your FMA blades?

Keith Jennings: In my opinion, as a user rather than a collector, this is one of the most important factors when choosing a blade.

Greg: Very!! Personally, I use a training version of each blade that I carry.

Frank Delo: If you’re planning to use a blade defensively, you should have a trainer to approximate it.

Chris Caban: Having a trainer based on your live blade is the best way to get the most out of that live blade.

Bastinelli Knives: It is very important to understand the dynamic and the balance of the blade that you like and that you choose to carry; it is safer to practice with a trainer.

Question: What knife/knives did you submit for this article? Tell me a little bit about them, their specs and if available to purchase, where can one buy them?

Tuhon Jesse: The Combat Warrior Academy Ginunting. It’s made from spring steel/D2.

Frank Delo: Kagat and Nibble, available from Illiknives. The thumb ramp doubles as a grip/control surface in reverse grip. Available in utilitarian/primitive finish.

Richard Derespina: Karambit Model 10 (Derespina Knives).

Greg: Tiger Claw Karambit (Karambit Maker).

Keith Jennings: I chose an antique Kris sword that was given to me by my uncle. He told me that his father picked it up fighting in the Pacific during WW2.

James Helm: A long Bolo/Tenegre.

Chris Caban: A modern Replica of a Moro Kris. It is based on a blade from my personal collection. The Talibong and Ginunting, both from the Island of Negros.

Bastinelli Knives: Black Bird by Fox Knives, a Karambit folder with a Bram Frank opening system. Séparateur, this knife is a mix between a traditional Ginunting and a machete. Both blades are available on the website.

Zombie Tools: We supplied the Sharkalope and our Mauler Karambit. They kind of speak for themselves. Specs can be seen at ZombieTools.net.

FMA blade training

Some of our panelists training with short swords.

Question: What advice would you give someone that is looking to get involved with the Filipino arts as a student or just wanted to collect FMA blades?

Tuhon Jesse: My advice would be to research before you invest. With today’s resources, media, Google … there is a lot of data and information out there.

Keith Jennings: Do research. There are lots of resources, especially on social media, where you can get reviews and feedback on different knifemakers, instructors, and styles.

Frank Delo: Find a quality teacher near you, explore as many styles as you can to find what you enjoy most, and keep a broad perspective and open mind.

Chris Caban: Try to have an open mind, there are so many beautiful blades, you are bound to find a Philippine blade that suits your training, mentality, and body type.


For more articles about knife history, check out these stories.