Roger Norling writes...
"What defines a good sparring weapon? A common notion is that it should be as close as possible to the real, sharp weapon it simulates, but be designed with safety in mind, thus lowering the risk of permanent injury. However, since a sharp weapon is designed to injure, this is an inbuilt contradiction. Due to this simple fact, safer weapons always have drawbacks since they just aren’t supposed to perform the same way as real weapons. This has lead to various forms of solutions by different makers"
My review on rubber knives? I personally do not like them. They have some limited uses. A good beginner trainer - cheap. I have a few in my training bag in case way too many people show up to a workshop.
Many people like them because they bend and give when pressure is put on them. This is exactly why I hate them. They do not look, behave like or have the properties of a knife. They often are flimsy. Even the Cold Steel (I love many of their products) rubber knives are not suitable for serious knife training, in my humble opinion.
Their good side? They are cheap. Cheap is good in some instances. They are a good for a very basic knife program - maybe one where students block and return a punch. Also they can be good if you are using knives in a fencing style practice, where attacks are fast and uncontrolled and you are worried more about safety during impact. If you are just starting out with knife training, rubber knives are a fine place to start. I think you will find as soon as you have enough for you and your training friends it will be time to start upgrading.
My review on wooden knives. Meh. I got a bunch, but I rarely use them anymore. I used to be in love with them, but I have moved on.
In most Japanese martial arts dojos around the world you will find the reliable old wooden tanto. I have used the wooden tanto for years and years. This winter I even carved several with a pocket knife. But, they are really mid to low grade for knife training. While at least they have more rigidity than rubber knives, which is good, they still are a weird approximation of a knife. By and large they do not have the same shape and geometry as a real knife. Blade thickness is unrealistic. This becomes problematic when you are working on technical points of stripping the blade. Another problem is often there is no clear indicator between the handle and the blade.
Wooden knives... well, they are made of wood. Wood gives a warm and inviting feeling. Knives are steel. Steel is cold and terrible. Wooden knives do not look like knives. We have to play a lot of make believe in our training. They have to be used with great care, since they offer little to no flex and can break with nasty splinters.
They have positive points. They are cheap. They are rigid and you can use them to connect and push. I like them better than rubber, but they are not great for fencing if people are really going at it hard. Also they are traditional. I do find them to be beautiful and some are quite artistic.
Quick review on these - they are O.K. - personally for the money I would choose something else. I have one.
There are now a broad range of modern trainers made out of various plastics and nylon. I think they look cool. They are a huge variety of shapes and designs to choose from. They are reasonably safe. They offer less stiffness than wood, but they are nearly unbreakable. Water wouldn't effect the blades so outdoor training is good.
They are on the expensive side, running around 25-40 bucks. They still feel like a big chunk of plastic. While the blade definitions are better than on the wooden knives, the thickness of the blade gives a difference in feel from real ones while working on techniques. It might not be a big deal if you are a striker, but if you are into strips and takeaways these differences might be a issue.
Keen Edge Knives
There is a good reason knife oriented art forms like silat and kali use these aluminum trainers. Simply they are the best. As far as I am concerned these are the king of training knives. While they are tad pricey (from $25-$50 fixed blade and $25 to $100 for folders) I think the price is well justified. Buy them.
Lets face it, they look, feel and give very close geometries to live blade knives. They help bring in the psychological dimension of knife attacks, because they look real. If you are serious about knife training these are a must.
In addition I would like to promote the company Keen Edge Knives (link below the above image). I have seen a fair number of aluminum trainers, but this Ma and Pop operation make the best, and their prices are among the most affordable. They have great quality and customer service. They also make cool sheaths for their trainers. Keen Edge Knives is my preferred choice for training knives. Tell them I sent you (I hope they start giving me a discount)
For the cons - one of my buddies took a look at one of mine and pointed out that you could still jab someones ribs pretty good with it. My response is - yes! We are weapons training here! It is not supposed to be perfectly safe Your body needs some feedback. That's why we don't train with Nerf weapons. But if your partner is being unsafe, having a cushy blade on hand is not a terrible idea. Thus far, in my school we have not had a problem.
Another con might be, for some folks, is they look too real, so training in the park with them might be inadvisable. I had a lady freak out in a dojo when I pulled them out. Mind you I see these all as pluses, but some folks it might not be right for their training.
My buddy Jeff loves these knives, so I had to add them on the list. They are mid range price ($22.95) They are a layered knife they is a good balance between stiffness and softness.
In my opinion, these are 'use' specific knives, or specialized knives. They are made for higher speed and power fencing style training. They are made so you can wail on each others wrists and ribs in a higher speed duel. In a way these are like a knife man's shinai (kendo sword). .
The things I don't like about the these is they do not look like, feel like or behave like a blade. They are meant for safety end of intense training, and they do a good job at that. My vote is aluminum for technical training, and Nok knives when you want to blow off some steam and get to hacking on your buddy. Actually they are made by an aluminum knife maker who practices SE Asian knife arts to address this exact purpose.
Although I am an avid Tomiki aikido historian and practitioner, I do not practice sport tanto randori. Here is an example of the knife sportsmen use in competition. First it is expensive ($80), and it does not resemble knife geometry at all. Actually it resembles a...never mind.
I have never felt one, but I have read the tip is lined in foam. I presume the focus on this trainer is to have something that can be jabbed in your ribs at full speed. This trainer would not give you the right feeling for knife stripping and blade techniques, but I presume it does the job well enough for keeping competitors from hurting each other.
While this knife does not meet my personal needs at this time, if you are a Tomiki competitive sportsman you better pick one up.
This is a neat knife that has hit the market. It is a shock knife. It has electric conductors down the blade to give a painful shock to anyone it touches. These things are pricey ($500) I think they are cool, but the price point alone is going to keep me away from them for now.
Even if you had a set of these, I do not feel that they should be your daily trainers. They seem like they would be good for proving a point, or introducing fear back into training. The focus of much of the knife training I have been exposed to is to reduce knife fear, so this training might be double edged, if you will.
Overall I vote 'interesting' to these if you have gobs of money and partners willing to get shocked.
Are you a training knife maker or knife maker and would like to be reviewed? I would love to give a honest review and plaster it on the web and show all my buddies. Send me knives! firstname.lastname@example.org