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Video Clips of Men's Knife Dancing Around the World
Compiled by Pete Kautz, 2009

Knife dancing is one place where very old traditions of men's physical culture are passed on the modern generation.  Today the meanings of the movements in these dances are not always obvious to the untrained eye, but for the martial observer there are many relevant concepts of motion to be studied.

In searching through sites like YouTube I have found a number of clips that show such dances from around the world and have put together a resource page of quality links to the best ones I found.

I have only linked dances there that I feel contain a majority of combative principles.  Dances where the knife is just held as a prop and dances where the focus is on the performer balancing knives on their body have been left off this list.

I have also only linked men's dances with the knife for the time being.  There are women's knife dances as well that contain martial elements (such as ones performed with the Indonesian keris) that perhaps I will include in the future.

As you watch these dances, look at the motion base that underlies the action.  Look at the hand motions, the footwork, the body shifting, etc.  When you have your martial arts filter on, you will start to decipher what is encoded in them.

For example, the Turkish video Knife Dance - Battle Music, which shows a double-knife dance done by boys.  Look at it and you'll see the rolling and picking as well as the cover and slash action of Drawpoint!  Plus training for range sense and courage as the boys take turns being the target of fast attacks that come close to the face.

In other dances you'll see different kinds linear, angular, and circular steps combined with blade movements.  Look at the dances of Yemen and you'll see the Flourette (flourishing) action with the blade and the men circling with the left wrists touching or left to left hand grip as should be familiar to anyone who's trained in the partner Sungkiti exercise.  Look at the Egyptian dancing and you'll see many direct attacks such as figure eights and snap-cuts.

Dance is an aspect of the martial arts that is seldom explored in America.  For the most part in modern pop-culture "White men don't dance" and the practice of martial arts is not thought of in the same category.  As close as we might come to the thought of "martial dance" in the American media lexicon would probably be something like crumping battles or B-boys.

Unless you come from an art that has dance aspects like Capoiera, Silat, African or Russian styles the dance connection probably isn't an aspect you've thought about much martially.  Sure, you probably know that Bruce Lee was cha-cha champion in Hong Kong but it's not like people run out and train the cha-cha.  And it's not like they need to either.  It's just that you can see how this sense of musical intelligence and understanding of moving in rhythm influenced Bruce and his art.

How can one understand "the opponent's rhythm" or "half beat attacks" if they don't understand music, timing, rhythm and moving the body accordingly!

Watch the old TV show "Longstreet" for the episode "Way of the Intercepting Fist".  In it there is a training scene where Bruce puts on a rock album and implores James Franciscus character to "Move with the beat, baby!"

This is why you find a lot of JKD guys playing drums during class.  It may seem weird but it's very beneficial for you to learn to do.  Listening to music as you practice is good, but learning to create it live is another level of understanding.  Try it and see!

Interestingly, one Medieval group I know requires all prospective fighters to learn at least one period dance before they will allow them to qualify in arms.  This was sometimes a real point of contention with newbies who felt it "un-manly", but I thought it was a good tradition.  Besides footwork these also are a nice exercise in stepping with poise and grace and usually quite simple to learn.

Of course, there are a host of other specific martial dances that we see today as well (such as ones with sticks) as well as other dances that contain martial elements.  I have previously written at length about specific Filipino folk dances and their connection to the fighting arts so will refer you back to the Alliance website for more there.  When you think about it, even classical martial art forms are a type of dance by their nature of being a choreographed solo activity.

The point of all this is not to go out and be on "knife dancing with the stars" (or would that be "knife dancing with the scars?").  It's just about having a visual resource for motion to look at and draw on that can help you better understand what you already know and do.  To make new connections that were there but had been unseen to you before.  It's all good for body mind education so take what is useful here and make it your own!

Knife Dance Egyptian style (Egypt)

Knife Dance Egyptian style II (Egypt)

Greek War Dance (Greece)

Pontiaka Pontian "Maxeria" Pitsiak, Knife Dance (Greece)

Khukuri Dance (India)

Mexican Knife Dance (Mexico)

Thai Knife Dance (Thailand)

Knife Dance - Battle Music - Hancer Bari - Folklore (Turkey)

Turkish Knife Dance (Turkey)

Knife Dance In Yemen (Yemen)

Knife Dance In Yemen II (Yemen)

Knife Dance In Yemen III (Yemen)

Knife Dance In Yemen IV (Yemen)

I hope you have enjoyed this look at men's knife dances of the world!  I will post more here as I find them online.

All the very best to you,

Pete Kautz


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