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The Bowie Tradition in America

"From the Sandbar Fight until Today"


Five Generations of American Masters

James Bowie
Don Jose "Pepe" Lulla
A.J. Drexel Biddle
John Styers
James Keating

Though the big knife was already known in America at the time, the legend all starts with James Bowie, a man who would go to witness a friend's duel on a sandbar and end up having to defend his own life when a general melee broke out.  Though shot repeatedly and stabbed with a swordcane, Bowie killed his attacker, Maj. Norris Wright, with a knife his older brother Resin Bowie had given him.  Though critically wounded, Jim lived, and become an American  legend as word of the fight spread.  As this story spread the knife took on a life of its own, and even before his death at the Alamo there were already many knives being sold as "Bowie knives."  Thousands of men would wear Bowies, and many states would pass laws making it illegal to cary them.  Though Bowie’s life history would became a mix of reality and myth, the reality of the knife has remained!

There is no more American style of knife than this, with its long, broad blade, sharpened clip point, full guard, and saber style grip.  It is perfectly suited to the Western style of bladework that ws present in America at the time.  Remember, the Europeans who first came to America in the 17th century were basically renaissance people!  They had suits of armor sent over, along with swords, pole-arms, and all kinds of knives.  Shipping manifests and archaeological work at many historical sites bears this out.  Though we don't think of it today, these people were from a sword culture, where any young man would know at least the basics, and a military man or gentleman would likely know more.

Though James Bowie personally never taught people how to use his knife “just like he did”, from the time the knife became popular there have been people formally teaching it and using it to fight.  Pepe Llulla, the famous New Orleans master, was quite fond of this weapon and used it in public bouts.  He fought 30 duels and was a second in more then he could remember.

The American military has used this pattern since the Nineteenth Century, both as a longer
sword-bayonet and later as a knife-bayonet and the K-Bar.  Famous military combatives teachers like A.J Drexel Biddle (Do or Die) and his student John Styer (Cold Steel) refer to their style of knife work as “Bowie knife fighting" and both clearly show the core Western techniques that date back to Bowie, and before.  These classic techniques were used in life-or-death combat around the world by generations of American troops.

James Keating can be considered the modern father of the Bowie knife, and has been the guiding force in a re-awakening of interest in this weapon.  Through his landmark
video tape series, seminars, countless magazine articles, and online magazine MAAJAK World, he has opened many people's awareness to the Western blade arts.

More Bowie Knife Info

The American Bowie Knife - Proud Symbol of Freedom and Power

American Heritage Arts Workshop Photos

What If Jim Bowie had Owned a Spyderco?

More Bowie Knife Techniques

Bowie Knife Seminar Photos 

Visit the American Heritage Fighting Arts Association Main Site

Teaching the American Heritage Fighting Arts since 1998

The Father of the Modern Bowie Knife - James Keating

Western Fighting Arts, Bowie History and Techniques - Dwight McLemore

Bowie Related Links

The Alamo


The Bowie Knife and the Arkansas Toothpick

Bowie Knife Jim Bowie

James Bowie

James Bowie (1796-1836)

James Bowie (1795-1836)

Jim Bowie and the Bowie Knife

New Orleans and the Dueling Oaks

Vidalia Jim Bowie Festival 9 /16 / 2000 Reenactment of the Sandbar Duel

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