Authors: Hank Reinhardt
A Practical and Illustrated
Guide to Knife Fighting
by HANK REINHARDT
with GREG PHILLIPS
BAEN BOOKS by HANK REINHARDT
The Book of Swords
Hank Reinhardt’s Book of Knives
with Greg Phillips
HANK REINHARDT’S BOOK OF KNIVES:
A Practical and Illustrated Guide to Knife Fighting
Copyright © 2012 by The Estate of Julius H. Reinhardt
Cover photography by Oleg Volk; interior illustrations by Dave Newton from originals by Allen Williams, art director, except as indicated; photographs of HRC items by Suzanne Hughes unless otherwise indicated; all other interior photographs as indicated; used by permission of the artists.
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.
Neither the authors nor the publisher assumes any responsibility for the use or misuse of information contained in this book.
A Baen Books Original
Baen Publishing Enterprises
P.O. Box 1403
Riverdale, NY 10471
First printing, June 2012
Distributed by Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Reinhardt, Hank, 1934–2007.
Hank Reinhardt’s book of knives : a practical and illustrated guide to knife fighting / by Hank Reinhardt with Greg Phillips.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-1-4516-3755-7 (trade pb : alk. paper)
1. Knife fighting. I. Phillips, Greg. II. Title.
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Pages by Joy Freeman (
Printed in the United States of America
Hank Reinhardt and I met, as best I can recall, in the early 1980s. I was a state trooper from up in Michigan, and had served with the Michigan State Police since turning twenty. With six years in the outfit, I had just transferred to my fourth post after serving a hitch in Detroit. I had my share of service awards, and I knew my business pretty well, even if I occasionally had to be the one who said so.
Hank was the instructor of a Knife/Counter-knife course he had devised for Mas Ayoob’s Lethal Force Institute. Although MSP had taught me some rudimentary knife disarming, the general counter-knife protocol seemed to be, “If somebody is foolish enough to draw a knife on a policeman, he should be enthusiastically shot to pieces.” Prevailing theory at that time held that in order to successfully defend against knives, a person should first learn how to use them. My patrol partner and I took personal leave and spent our own money to obtain the knife training Hank offered.
Knife class. Hank Reinhardt, bottom row, second from right. Mike Stamm, top row, farthest right. Massad Ayoob, top row, farthest left.
Photo by Richard Garrison
It would prove to be the smartest money I have ever spent, before or since.
It’s safe to say that I had rather a high opinion of myself when first I encountered Julius Henry a.k.a. “Hank” Reinhardt. He was, I noted, a solidly built broad-shouldered man, somewhere near six feet tall, with smooth sun-browned skin and thick glasses, though he rarely saw fit to use them. What hair he had tended toward gray, and he spoke, walked, and gestured so slowly that I thought you’d have to set pins to see whether he was moving. I attributed his apparent sluggishness to his somewhat advanced years—the poor old gent was, after all, nearly twenty years my senior. I was smart enough to pick up the obvious thickness of his wrists, hands, and neck, which I recognized as good indicators of physical strength, even in men as old as he had managed to get.
Hank and I began verbally sparring immediately upon meeting at his home in Atlanta, Georgia. When he asked whether any of the dozen or so men attending the class had questions or comments before training began, I commented that the hand-written maps he had provided were pathetic, and added that I had seen clearer drawings on bathroom walls. Hank considered that observation, peered at me suspiciously, and asked, “You’re a Yankee, aren’t you?” I admitted I was, and he allowed that I was probably an authority on whatever is written on bathroom walls, then suggested that the others in the class make allowances for my whining because “Yankees get lost and confused real easy.” When I mentioned that General Sherman certainly did a job of locating Atlanta some time before, I was gifted with a maddeningly disconcerting, carnivorous Hank smile. “You’re a cold, cold man,” he noted. “We’re gonna get along just fine.”
We were issued dummy knives, paired off, and began sparring. Hank demonstrated some basic moves that were different than I had seen before, then moved among the students offering suggestions and casually sparring with each person. He gripped his knife with his thumb and his first two fingers, as a skilled carpenter does his hammer. He snapped the blade outward with blurring speed, striking any part of his opponent’s body within his reach. It seemed that just about everything was within Hank’s reach. I couldn’t help but notice that he moved with a fluid economy that made him seem to glide toward his targets, and I also observed that he didn’t seem to be getting touched with anyone else’s blade. I began to regret having taunted him and sincerely wished I had not mentioned General Sherman at all.
It was my turn to square off against unscathed Hank. As my Dad would have summed it up, “School was in session.”
I never touched the man. He was there, and then he wasn’t. When I struck at him, he moved
out of my reach. When I attempted to recover, he literally sliced through my defenses with impunity. Attempting to anticipate his movements only resulted in blundering that left me even more open to his apparently effortless counters. The only way I could have possibly touched him would be to charge forward suicidally and hope that my momentum might draw some of his blood. It was beginning to seem like a fair trade.
I was gasping for air like a fish, while Hank hadn’t bothered to break a sweat. I hoped to goad him into angry clumsiness, and said, “You move well for a man of your age.” I received another wolfish Hank smile. “You do quite well,” he allowed. “For a Yankee.”
I spent the remainder of the weekend following Hank around like a puppy, pelting him with questions and scribbling down his patient and thoughtful responses. He was one of those rare individuals whose knowledge was vast and deep, and over the decades of our friendship I never found any subject that he could not discuss with passion and insight. He understood the mental and physical aspects of personal combat, and although he was astonishingly skilled at anything he sought to learn, Hank never boasted. His abilities were so apparent, he simply didn’t have to. He knew more about battle implements of all types and origins than I would have believed possible, and he would share any knowledge he possessed with anyone who asked him. He balked at being called an expert in edged weaponry and its uses, as he considered himself “a student.”
If you, too, are a student of knives, you will enjoy and benefit from Hank’s work. Thankfully, he wrote just as he spoke, and when I read Hank’s words I can honestly hear his deep clear voice with an aching clarity that reminds me how much I miss his wisdom and humor.
Hank Reinhardt knew knives, and you’ll not go wrong listening to his advice.
—Mike Stamm, 2011
As with Hank Reinhardt’s
Book of Swords
, this volume is being published posthumously. In the case of the former, it was because Hank died before putting the final polish on the manuscript he had been working on for two decades. In the case of this book, it was because he felt very ambivalent about making this material public.
Hank studied fighting in all its forms, from wrestling to rhetoric. He was probably the world’s foremost authority on fighting with historical bladed weapons at the time of his death in 2007. But necessarily his understanding of swordplay and use of polearms was from recreation, not actual use in wars or duels. The same cannot be said of his understanding of fighting with knives.
Hank grew up in a large city (Atlanta) in the 1940s and ’50s, and did not lead a life of suburban insulation. As a young man he got into fights, and he got into trouble, and the lessons imparted in this book come from his practical experience, his observations of fights, as well as decades afterward spent sparring, researching and thinking about bladed weapons. He wasn’t precisely ashamed of his experiences, but he also knew they were not the sort of thing a gentleman bragged about, and Hank was always a gentleman. As he says, the best way to win a knife fight is to not be in one, and he certainly didn’t want a book of his to encourage anything otherwise. From Chapter 2: “There has never been anything glamorous or heroic about it. It has always been a quick and dirty business and it always will be.” And Chapter 6: “The real knife fighter does not wish to engage in a fight.”
So he never tried to have the book published in his lifetime. It is for exactly this reason that we think what he had to say is important to the field, and we wanted to share that with more than just his actually rather large circle of friends. You, the reader, know that he has no ax to grind and that he is not trying to sell you seminars, videos, or super secrets of the samurai. He just put down the things about fighting with knives he thought it important to know. Besides, if any of these stories about people Hank knew happen to actually be about Hank, surely the statute of limitations has passed, and they can’t catch him now.
The manuscript itself was written, we think, in the late 1970s, early 1980s. Bill Adams, Hank’s partner at Museum Replicas, Ltd., the ground-breaking sword and bladed weapons catalog, helped Hank get the manuscript professionally typed. Sometime before the typing, an interior page was lost. Sometime in between that time and when Hank passed away in 2007 and I found the manuscript in his files, the first page of the manuscript went missing.
Rather than try to recreate the first page from context, we merged his short introduction with the first chapter. Added transitional material provided by Hank’s student Whit Williams is indicated by brackets. Whit also had the idea of including more of Hank’s students in this book and surveying them about what their best “lesson learned” from Hank was, and these responses are included in the “Interlude” between Parts I and II.
Another of Hank’s students, Greg Phillips, wrote Part II, providing additional material updating the description of knives currently commercially available, and setting down more about Hank’s training and sparring techniques. Greg worked with Hank for forty years learning about the history and performance of edged weapons, modern, medieval, and ancient. And he has been a security guard for decades, sometimes in the course of his duties putting into practice Hank’s teachings. I can attest that he is also a great teacher in his own right.
When I use the word “student,” I mean both those like Mike Stamm who took a formal course with Hank, and others, like Greg and Whit, whom Hank took under his wing and sparred with informally for many years. Hank made no distinction himself. If you were interested in bladed weapons, Hank would be happy to talk to you. (Or if you were interested in science fiction pulp magazines, or Gilbert and Sullivan, or bonsai trees, or WWI airplanes—but his thoughts on those topics will never be written down beyond what is archived at his website,
Hank at Dragoncon.
Photo by Nils Onsager
Hank was a natural teacher. When we first started dating, he decided that since I was an editor of science fiction and fantasy I should know more about realistic fight techniques. Now, I’ve been carrying a knife since I was in first grade, sometimes a simple folder, but more usually a utility knife like a Leatherman or Swiss army multi-tool, so I agreed that my knowledge on fighting with knives could be expanded. He rolled up a piece of paper, handed it to me and told me it was a knife. He made one for himself and called on me to defend myself. Then he promptly gave me a paper cut. (I married him anyway.)
We hope that in this book you will experience something of what it was like talking with Hank and even, to some extent, sparring with him. Many of the illustrations are based on sparring sessions with him that were filmed, and the illustrations of positions and moves taken directly from the videos. Whit Williams, leader of the Reinhardt Legacy Fight Team, a group of men—many of whom were taught by Hank—who demonstrate and teach historical weapons use, and his brother Allen Williams, organized all the illustrations for this volume. Allen also provided the sketches for all of the drawings provided by illustrator Dave Newton. Most of the knives photographed for this volume belonged to Hank.
I can’t say that I never saw Hank without a knife, but I can say that I never saw Hank with his clothes on without a knife. He was not a collector of knives as he was a collector of swords, polearms, kukris, and Indo-Persian arms and armor. He was an
of knives, though, and had somewhere in the range of a hundred of various kinds when he died.