Lessons from the Besh Wedge

Brent Beshara, Elite Soldier and Knife Maker

Yesterday I wrote about an innovation in knife design, the Besh Wedge. Beshara was inspired by the Fairbairn Sykes knife, and aimed to improve it. I think there are 3 different philosophies, or maybe just unspoken assumptions in the martial arts:

1)  The Old Ways Cannot Be Improved. Some would say that the old classics like “Kill or Be Killed” or “Cold Steel,” have the best combat knowledge. Anything “new” is only reinventing the wheel.

This view is common in the martial arts; Sensei X, Guro X, Datu X, Grandmaster X, has the world’s greatest system. Any attempts to “improve” the ultimate system are useless and counterproductive, not to mention an insult to the old masters. Often this view is supported by references to the style going back two thousand years, back into the mists of time, etc.

2)  The Old Ways Are Outdated. Some would say, “What could I learn from Fairbairn, some old guy from WWII?” After all, white guys don’t really know anything compared to all of the Asian grandmasters. “Hey, I study Ok-ok Kali, I could run circles around some old geezer like Cooper, Fairbairn, Applegate, etc.”

3)  Refine the System. This is a saying of GM Estalilla. We should as martial artists continually strive to refine the system, meaning make improvements. I would begin by respecting the old masters, whether their art was Asian or Western. All of us must acknowledge that we have a debt to those who came before us –we owe them for passing down to us a martial arts heritage.

However, acknowledging the contributions of those before while striving to improve the art does not disrespect them –it honors them. That is what Brent Beshara did –beginning from a place of respect for the old masters, he asked himself how he could improve their ideas.

The Besh Wedge shows that there are new ideas. The best ideas are those that are simple, yet simple in a way that no one else has ever thought of.

Rescue Knife with Besh Wedge

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8 Responses to “Lessons from the Besh Wedge”

  1. Refining a system takes a lot of thought and courage too. It isn’t easy to eliminate long-held traditional techniques because they have become irrelevent-as an example. I find that the more I refine my style, the more I get rid of, as opposed to adding to it (although i do that too but to a much lesser degree). If I could get it down to one thing that worked most of the time i would train that almost to the exclusion of everything else. i’m not there yet and maybe never will be but it is my goal: efficiency, simplicity, effectiveness. To me this is what refinement is.

  2. Tommy, what you said sounds like what I say too: rather than invent a new style people should be looking at what is common to all styles. I think this is what happens when someone reduces a style, they naturally seek those techniques that work in the most situations one will encounter today.

    The saying that, “What is old is new again”, isn’t just a saying. In Japan some Jujutsu styles were geared towards grappling with armour as opposed to trying to punch threw this, then wood/metal armour went out of popularity, but now for a certain part of the population armour is a consideration with bullet resistent vests and plates. You really don’t want to punch the chest of someone who is wearing a vest full of ammo magazines, it hurts you and does little to the vest wearing guy.

    Darrin, when some people say that the WWII commando stuff is all you need and that it is much better than the Asian martial arts I just laugh. It goes to show that they know very little about the guys they are talking about. Those WWII guys got many of their H2H skills from first learning Asian martial arts but when it came time to train the commandos there was not enough time to teach a 10+ year course so they had to condense a lot of it down to a few techniques that the commandos could commit to memory effectively.

    Does WWII H2H methods still work? Yes and no. In WWII the focus in the training was a lot of killing and although there was some prisioner taking and a fair amount of fighting in built up areas “FIBUA” (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_warfare) it was not their main focus. However, our modern military is bringing back/learning more of the arresting arts (Jujutsu and such) because they have to question a lot of civilians as the enemy does not often wear an easy to identify uniform.

    Also in todays civilian world it is not legally acceptable to jump on someones chest with both boots (ala WWII combatives) when your job is to restrain the mental patient, evict the teen from the mall, or even to defend yourself when you could have just walked away.

    In my opinion, if you are learning a historical martial art without taking into consideration the ways that modern assults happen, then you are learning a dead art. No pun intended.

  3. James,

    You bring up a great point and one that is often neglected: Context. The modern world is different than it was in feudal Japan, Renaissance Italy, or the WWII battlefield. To say that one style is “better” is at best naieve. Better in what context? Jujitsu is a great optin as you stated for an armored opponent or as an arresting/ detaining option. Hard style striking has a time and a place, but probably not for tossing an unruly teenager out of the mall or getting your drunk uncle Bob to settle down on SuperBowl Sunday because his team is losing. I think having an appreciation for the situation, surroundings, etc. (e.g. soft skills) is as important as the application of Hard Skills. Having a few bread and butter options on the force continuum makes good sense.

  4. James,

    You make a point I’ve often made for those who brag about having the “deadliest” system –so are you going to kill your two uncles when they start fighting at the Christmas party? Is a school teacher going to break up a student fighting by gouging out the eyes of one and crushing the throat of the other?

    This is my caution for those who are all blade –you may need a non-lethal alternative.

  5. Hello all,

    It’s very refreshing to see others who understand and apply the “less is more” principle. I admire this and apply it when and where ever I can.
    We are the result of our own experiences and the wisdom of the ones who came before us.
    Thank you for your great comments and understanding the BESH Wedge geometry.

    Continued success,
    Brent

  6. Mr. Beshara,

    Thank you for posting, and thank you for your efforts in defense of freedom.

  7. Fairbairn is a fascinating guy… sort of like the Spec-ops version of Bruce Lee. He combined the most effective parts of all the martial arts he came across, and incorporated it into his own system, which proved very effective during WWII.

    The problem is that his methods were only fully taught to commandos. Some of it is available to the general public, but it is incomplete, so it’s hard to say how good it really is.

    It’s a shame that his knife curriculum is lost, and that the knife itself has become so debased over time.

  8. modern weapons…

    […]Lessons from the Besh Wedge « Big Stick Combat Blog[…]…

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