Story and Photos by Michael Janich
The martial arts can be practiced for many different reasons, including fitness, self-discipline, competition, and the historical preservation of martial culture.
Most martial arts, however, were actually created as true fighting systems, intended either for battlefield use or self-defense. Because of their realistic focus, they tended to emphasize the use of the most advanced and practical weapons of their time.
My approach to modern self-defense training typically follows the same logic.
Most of my training time focuses on practical, convenient, legal-to-carry weapons like handguns, small knives, collapsible batons, flashlights, and canes. While training with swords, spears, and other anachronistic weapons might be fun, they’re really not practical in today’s world.
With that said, I do make one notable exception to this rule: machetes and similar large blades that can be easily wielded with one hand.
The first reason for the exception is nostalgia. In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, I worked in Vietnam and Laos for U.S. government agencies, investigating the fates of American POW/MIAs from the Vietnam War.
Working in remote areas and clearing lots of trails and helicopter landing zones quickly taught me the value of a good machete as a do-everything tool. Since we were prohibited from carrying firearms of any kind, I also embraced the machete as my go-to weapon for any serious interpersonal conflict that might occur.
While working the POW/MIA mission, I was also living overseas in Hong Kong and Thailand. Even though I was assigned to U.S. diplomatic missions, as a foreigner, I couldn’t legally own a gun. As such, machete-type weapons were also my default choice for home defense.
As a long-time practitioner of the Filipino martial arts (FMA), I am also interested in the role large blades played in the historical application of those fighting systems and how modern kali, arnis, and eskrima stick technique diverged from edged-weapon tactics.
Although many FMA instructors claim they are the same, they are not. The roots of the most effective systems can be found in the details of their big-blade tactics.
For these reasons, I still include machete techniques in my personal training. Note that while I refer to them as “machete” techniques, these skills actually encompass all similarly sized blades—especially those with thrusting points.
Several years ago, I started sharing my approach to machete skills with my students. Despite its lack of direct connection to most modern self-defense contexts, they loved the training and felt it taught them a lot about the dynamics of real blade skills.
Not surprisingly, they also started asking me to recommend high-quality machete-sized weapons that were combat worthy, but reasonably priced. That turned out to be a bigger challenge than I thought—until I discovered the Brush Demon from Outdoor Edge.
The Brush Demon was designed by renowned custom knifemaker Jerry Hossom.
Measuring 20 inches overall, the Brush Demon’s 13.5-inch blade is made from 65Mn carbon steel—a tough spring steel roughly equivalent to 1065, that is used industrially as the base for diamond-coated saw blades.
The 0.158-inch-thick blade is saber ground to produce a durable primary bevel and excellent edge geometry, while maintaining a stout, thick spine. To eliminate reflection and protect the blade from corrosion, it features a tough black powder-coat finish.
Hossom’s inspiration for the Brush Demon was the traditional kopis—a classic Greek weapon that excelled at both mounted warfare and infantry combat. He then enhanced the design with his signature handle shape, which effectively “brackets” the hand without limiting its mobility.
The hooked butt keeps the knife in hand when swung forcefully, while the integral guard at the front of the handle provides a solid stop during a powerful thrust. While many machete handles are too thick, the Brush Demon’s handle is slim and relatively flat, allowing instinctive tactile orientation of the plane of the blade while filling the hand comfortably.
The handle is the product of a two-step injection-molding process that first creates a tough glass-nylon core and then wraps it in a molded layer of TPR (thermoplastic rubber) that encapsulates the outside surface for a more tactile, non-slip grip.
The handle is then firmly attached to the knife’s concealed tang, with two stout screw-style bolts. This design completely envelops the tang and provides an extremely comfortable, secure grip, without sacrificing structural strength.
Unlike most machete sheaths, which are notoriously cheap and poorly constructed, the Brush Demon’s sheath is well designed and executed. The body is constructed from tough nylon, sewn over two plastic stiffeners that give the sheath shape and structure. The two halves are then secured together with multiple grommets, that prevent the sharp edge from cutting through the sheath and also provide a simple and effective means of lashing it to a pack or MOLLE platform.
Since most people will choose to carry the Brush Demon on a belt, the sheath comes with a drop-leg nylon belt loop, attached by a steel ring. This loop includes a snap-fastened strap that can be secured around the knife’s handle or left unsecured, so the sheath naturally moves with the wearer, like the free-floating belt loop of a Finnish puukko knife.
If you prefer a high-ride carry, the drop-leg belt loop can be folded down and secured to a strap on the back of the sheath, functioning as a conventional belt loop.
Two snap-fastened nylon straps—one across the guard and one closing the break-front gap in the front of the sheath—hold the Brush Demon very securely. When released, the well-positioned straps free the knife for a smooth draw and stay out of the way of the sharp edge.
The Brush Demon literally comes shaving sharp and ready for action.
The ergonomic handle provides an extremely secure grip and its wide, flat profile allows instinctive orientation of the plane of the blade. This enables the user to easily align the plane of motion of his arm with the plane of the blade for clean, precise cuts.
The slight recurve in the blade’s shape moves the “sweet spot” of the edge forward, so it’s perfectly aligned with the forearm, instead of trailing behind it. This increases the energy transfer and makes powerful cuts almost effortless. Similarly, the recurve design puts the point of the blade perfectly on centerline, ensuring pinpoint accuracy and extreme power in thrusts.
Weighing in at 17.2 ounces, the Brush Demon is light enough to be extremely fast in the hand, yet maintains enough mass to cut with extreme authority. Its balance point is nearly dead center along its overall length – which gives it enough forward weight to cut powerfully, without being overly blade heavy. From a weapon perspective, the Brush Demon moves, cuts, and punctures as well as the best Filipino martial arts weapons in my collection.
As a utility tool, I have used the Brush Demon extensively in my yard to do everything from pruning maple branches to cutting dry bamboo. Bamboo, in particular, is extremely tough – especially when dry – and a great test of a knife’s edge geometry and edge-holding properties. The Brush Demon’s edge bites readily, cuts cleanly and stays sharp an impressively long time.
I’ve also used the Brush Demon and a baton to split kindling and have used it with two hands like a drawknife. Although these chores managed to scuff the epoxy finish (no surprise there), the blade and the factory edge held strong.
Whether you’re looking for a highly utilitarian machete, a capable martial arts weapon, or a blade that fills both roles equally well, the Brush Demon is hard to beat. And at an MSRP of $69.95 and street prices under $50.00, it’s one of the best values on the market. K&G
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Blade Material: 65 Mn carbon spring-steel with black powder coatBlade Length: 13.5 inchesOverall Length: 20.0 inchesHandle Material: Zytel® with skin-molded TPRSheath: NylonWeight: 17.2 ouncesMSRP: $69.95
Outdoor Edge(800) 447-3343www.OutdoorEdge.com
A full-time knifemaker since 1997, Hossom specializes in beautifully crafted knives, purpose designed for serious combative application.
He developed his most popular designs in the wake of the tragic events of September 11th. Fueled by anger at our enemies, a strong patriotic spirit, and the determination to arm our servicemen with the best weapons possible, he developed a unique approach to edged-weapon design that combines the best of historic, battle-proven patterns and modern innovation.
Working closely with Hossom, Outdoor Edge then captured that magic and translated it into the Brush Demon.
Nine-year veteran of the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command, Michael Janich also served a 3-year tour at the National Security Agency. Highly decorated, Michael is a two-time graduate of the Defense Language Institute and served around the world in intelligence and investigative capacities for many years. Utilizing his extensive training in various martial arts and military/LE combatives, he established Paladin Press’ Video Production Department in 1994, running all aspects of video production for 10 years – personally recruiting some of Paladin’s most popular authors and being selected to work with the late Col. Rex Applegate as the producer of his landmark instructional videos on handgun point shooting. Published book and magazine author, Michael has been featured on various television programs and designed knives for many different knife companies throughout the industry. Michael is the founder and lead instructor of his signature knife defense program, Martial Blade Concepts.
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