Tuesday, January 04, 2005


Well, I said I’d keep politics out of here, and as far as Serrada goes, I’m still holding that line. On the other hand, there is so much in martial arts, it’s hard to ignore when it is pointed straight at oneself, so here’s a little rant ….

I found a discussion on a website, from about a year ago, where someone said they’d never buy anything from me because I sell “knockoffs.” I presume he was referring to the inexpensive knives I found and put on my website (http://www.stickman-escrima.com/) , knives you can get at any hardware store, online, etc. I didn’t know at the time that one or two of the designs were apparently copies of some very expensive blades, since I don’t frequent websites where people compare the merits of their $200+ folders. I’ve never carried a knife that costs that much; I remember when Spyderco Enduras were $35 and considered expensive! Anyway, I use my knives daily for utility work, cutting tape, boxes, etc., so my concern is that they keep an edge and I don’t feel a great sense of loss when I misplace one.

Oh, and I've carried some genuine Gil Hibben knives at a good price for nearly 2 years. Never sold one!

The irony in this is that the point of this discussion was people trying to figure out what materials I used and where I got them so they could copy my sticks! I guess it’s alright for them to borrow my ideas, but not for other people to do anything similar. Every bowie knife maker should be paying royalties to the descendents of Sam B., and how many balisong makers in the USA send money to the Philippines? They were also talking about synthetic sticks available from other makers. Since I was the first person to market synthetic sticks for the martial arts, I guess other folks’ knockoffs are ok. I have seen very few sticks out there that I didn’t come up with first, and most are more expensive than mine. The one thing I admit is true is that I am slow getting orders out, being a one-person operation, but then I offer more variety of sticks and custom cut them to order in any length. Most companies don’t do that.

What really peeved me reading that thread was that for years I had some really cool plastic training blades I designed myself, and people complained they were too expensive ($35-50, and cost $25 to make), but then they’d go buy $100+ exotic wood knives that couldn’t handle nearly the abuse mine do (I’ve never seen one break after 15 years) and yet not destroy sticks like aluminum blades. So, I'm either too expensive or too cheap. I guess you can’t count on pleasing everyone!

Irony #2 is that I bought a box of folders from China that are almost identical to the original shape of the knife in the picture above. That one had "pagoda" hand guards, and the only one I ever made that way was given as a gift to Dan Inosanto by Mike Krivka. Did someone see my design and like it enough to rip me off? I don't know for sure, but it was cheaper to buy a pile of those than to get one made here (a lot simpler and quicker too!)

The last layer of irony I’ll mention is that in martial arts (just like in rock‘n roll) everybody copies everyone else. In the Filipino arts, the most common expression when people compare their styles is “We have that too.” Sure there are differences in details, but even within a school you see that between practitioners. My tai chi chuan teacher used to say every martial art did the same stuff - up, down, in, out - and he was right. So these same guys were talking about getting short sticks to put in briefcases, and modifying their training to handle one. They were referring to a popular self-defense instructor who has a short stick course, but what complete system is more dedicated to or famous for the short stick than Serrada? I’ve heard the instructor in question has a bit of exposure to Serrada in his background (I don’t know for sure) but once again, the question is “What is original?”

In the end it comes down to the famous maxim of the JKD crowd, who proclaim “Absorb what is useful.” If a teacher has something you want to know, go learn it, and if a knife can do what you need, use it. Yes, I do own some premium blades and I appreciate the craftsmanship and quality that went into making them, but I’m darned if I’m going to trash my Sam Cox bowie doing routine stuff, and it isn’t a practical piece to take into town. I’ll live with my choices, and I don’t plan to start condemning others for theirs. It’d be nice if they could do the same.

No comments: