Video Review - Legacy of Steel
Get a taste of James Keating's Riddle of Steel knife-fighting seminar.

Starring: James Keating
Publisher: Paladin Press, 2001
paperback, $79.95

cover of Legacy of Steel
 Related Resources
• Martial Arts: Arnis/Escrima/Kali
• Martial Arts: Knife Fighting
 Elsewhere on the Web
• Paladin Press

Legacy of Steel is a two-tape set that gives you a taste of James Keating's Riddle of Steel training camp. Keating's organization, COMTECH, teaches knife fighting and defense as well as improvised weapons combatives. Keating's seminar covers all of these topics, and the tapes give good overviews of each day's lessons.

Tape 1 starts out with arrival at the camp with the rest of the students. It's like going to summer camp, except playing with knives is encouraged. Keating, a wiry, hard-edged fellow, doesn't put on a tough-guy act like some of the other video instructors I've seen. Instead, he exudes a quiet scariness--like the silent but deadly type.

Keating and company start out with knife familiarization and dexterity exercises, then move quickly to basic flow drills. Most of the first half of Tape 1 is devoted to thrust/parry and cut/parry/riposte exercises with a partner.

The remainder of Tape 1 is devoted to empty hand versus knife techniques, in particular, disarms. Keating and his co-instructors make it look easy, giving several different disarms for different ranges and body positions.

Tape 2 begins cutting demonstrations by Michael Kaye, PhD. It's not said what his doctorate is in, but he's definitely practiced test cutting (tameshigiri) for some time. Kaye demonstrates how cuts on rolled-up newspaper indicate flaws in your technique, then procedes to chop up freestanding soda cans. Great stuff.

One of the unique techniques shown in this video is using improvised weapons, most notably, a bandanna or other flexible weapon, against a knife. Rope or cloth techniques appear in many traditional martial arts--often, the uniform's belt is used in class. However, I hadn't seen these in a modern combatives-oriented curriculum before. Again, Keating and his CO-instructors make it look easy.

Tape 2 also spends a lot of time on fencing with the Bowie knife. Many of the techniques, such as keeping the point of the blade inline with the opponent's line of sight, were familiar to me from my sabre fencing classes. After watching the video, you sense just how scary it would be to face someone wielding a sharp Bowie knife.

I liked these tapes a lot--it was like visiting Keating's Riddle of Steel seminar and getting a taste of all the action. But, it really can't replace actually attending and doing the exercises with Keating watching and correcting your motions. Little vignettes are interspersed between lecture points, showing Keating or his CO-instructors advising students on their practice--that's where perhaps most of the learning comes from, and you can't get that attention from a video.

Other Video Reviews

All content copyright © 1999-2008 James Hom