About.com - Book Review

Sevillian Steel

Author: James Loriega

Published: Paladin Press, 1999

When martial artists think of European martial arts, they usually think about savate, the French foot-boxing style, Greco-Roman wrestling, or fencing. However, many other European martial arts exist, and have only recently been introduced to the public at large. Examples of these "new" European martial arts include ROSS, pankration, and Sevillian Steel, the Spanish knife-fighting style that is the topic of this book.

Author and ninjitsu sensei James Loriega came across Sevillian Steel when touring Andalusian Spain conducting seminars. This fighting style centers around the use of the navaja, a large (around 15" opened) folding knife common to southern Spain. The book devotes several photo-laden chapters to the history and operation of the navaja; information that should appeal to serious knife collectors and historians.

The book then discusses the three main styles of Sevillian knife fighting: baratero, the basic style, gitano, named for the Gypsies that originated the style, and sevillano, refined from fencing and considered the "cardinal art" of Sevillian Steel.

Loriega covers offensive and defensive techniques in detail, describing the various slashes, thrusts, and cuts that form the bulk of the style. Many techniques seem reminiscent of fencing, with the knife held in a forward grip in the leading hand. The one reverse grip technique described is a thrust with the knife held in the icepick grip.

A charming aspect of the book is Loriega's incorporation of anecdotes and historical stories about knife combat and its role in early Spanish society. These accounts help prevent the book from beinq a dry technique textbook. Instead, the book fulfills the purpose of introducinq us to this "new" art, complete with the history and culture of its practitioners.

The book also delves into more esoteric aspects of Spanish knife fighting, including the use of scissors as a weapon, the ring and garter carry methods used by female fighters, and defensive techniques using a cloak or empty hands.

Sevillian Steel is an excellent introduction to this little-known art. Some jaded knife fighters may find the techniques described in the book a bit generic. But this book isn't just about techniques. Sevillian Steel provides a wonderful insight into an exotic martial arts world that until now has been hidden from view.

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