Brass Knuckles [In the generic grouping of "Knuckledusters."] have a long and bloody history in both Europe and The United States. Probably a lot of other places as well. Carrying them on your person in virtually any State in this Country would amount to an instant arrest if searched. You would be very lucky to get away with a confiscation and a verbal warning…very lucky.
In my youth, there were many people in the neighborhood and in Baltimore City that packed a pair of "Knucks." They are sold to this day in the same places they were in my youth. Flea Markets all around the area have "Brass Paperweights." Some of them are supplied with a tiny little piece of threaded metal that screws into a matching hole so they can be picked up easily off of a stack of papers on your desk. Makes them a real cool paperweight in fact! They are neat and a great conversation piece.
I think it is safe to assume that wherever there are Flea Markets or Swap Meets, etc., you are going to find dumptruck loads of brass knuckles, various flat and round blackjacks [saps] and cheap overseas rip-offs of ASP Telescoping Batons. I’ve watched a lot of punks and wannabe gangbangers buying them…so beware. They ain’t collectors, they’re users…
The bloody world of pummeling people with Knucks has a long history as I said before. These things are brutal weapons and have a sinister reputation.
The reason they were banned is because we have a problem, as a society, of blaming inanimate objects for the acts of predatory or stupid human beings. That is primary. More than that, they were banned because they are effective at what they do, which is damaging people.
The way I was taught by a Jujutsu Instructor was to punch in a tearing and glancing manner and not necessarily straight on. In other words, you would hit with something similar to a vertical, rolling punch instead of something like a reverse punch.
But that is with Brass Knuckles as we have come to know them. Most "Classic" Brass Knuckles have smallish holes for the fingers. To punch straight on could lead to broken fingers, which is why he suggested a slightly different method of punching with them. It really depends on how your hand is shaped, finger size and some other things…but in general, with the "Classic" pattern, it’s probably best to hit with a rolling, glancing blow.
Other patterns of Brass/Metal Knuckles do not have to be used in that manner and you can punch straight on with other types. These other patterns had ovals instead of round holes for the fingers. The patterns that come to mind are the World War Two SOE/OSS Pattern for Brass Knuckles. This is an excellent pattern that gives the fingers a bit more breathing room and will prevent some of the damage to the fingers that Brass Knuckles are somewhat known for.
This pattern of Brass Knuckles was taken from a specific knife. That knife is the World War One Clements Knuckle Knife. This knife usually had Aluminum Knuckles. This knife was produced and used again in World War Two by Clements and the Knuckles were marked "BC-41" just as the Alloy Knuckles [without blade] were. My understanding is, Aluminum in World War One was the most common Knuckle material with brass second. In World War Two, I believe they were mostly an Alloy. In both World Wars, brass became scarce quite quickly as firearms ammunition cartridges are made of brass. When I say "Brass" in this article, know for the most part I am speaking generically.
The World War One & Two Trench Knife
The U.S. 1918 Trench Knife is a Classic. Col. Jeff Cooper remarked recently in a magazine article with regard to fighting knives that this would be his choice. Some people hate it because it is rather heavy, but it leaves little to the imagination as to the sort of savage mayhem that could be brought on an enemy in Close Combat with it.
The type of Brass Knuckles that form the entire body of the knife have elongated ovals like the BC-41 Pattern and are better for striking, better than the "Classic" Pattern of Brass Knuckles.
There are variations that have a triangular or round spike instead of the double-edged dagger blade and they have more of a "D" shaped Knuckleduster Guard on them. There were also Bowies made that had similar Guards! The "D" Guard Bowie is a particularly vicious fighter in skilled hands…different methodology, but quite effective as well!
We will discuss the "D" Guard 1917 Trench Knife in just a moment…
"Death’s Head" Knuckles, Knuckle Knives and Push Daggers
The British Firm of Robbins & Dudley should have been known as "Damage, Incorporated" in the last World War. I mention these knives in passing because they are unique and at a glance, you can tell they would be effective for Close Combat. They are just another piece of a historical puzzle.
A couple versions of fighting knives made with "Death’s Head" Pattern Brass Knuckle grips and one Push Dagger with a nice Brass Knuckle grip.
They’re rather neat, aren’t they? It’s quite obvious why this pattern of Knucks is referred to as a "Death’s Head," it looks like a skull.
Enter the Tekko
Some people in the Martial Arts would scream bloody murder if you suggested that a pair of Brass Knuckles was a "legitimate" or "Martial Arts" Weapon. Others would scream if you suggested they could be used for Self-defense.
"But they’re OFFENSIVE!!! Criminals use them!!!"
Criminals use motor vehicles as getaway cars, ban them too. Eh? Well, the point of this article is to give some information about the brutal world of the Knuckleduster, the nefarious "Knucks." And…to make a point that they are, in fact, a modern day version of a Martial Arts Weapon.
Yes, prepare to cry. I’m not taking the time to research, scan pictures, type all of this out into some sort of interesting article merely to be controversial. I’m doing this because I enjoy it and I believe what I am typing has some truth to it. I believe certain things and the fact that they are controversial to some people is a non-issue to me. I do chuckle at them, however…
Without listing every possible Martial Art that may have used Knuckledusters, let me focus on two that I have confirmed. One is quite popular although the weapon is not and the other is very obscure.
Below is a neat picture from a very old Martial Arts Magazine, a Tekko!
Notice the similarity to the "D" shaped Knuckleduster Guard on the 1917 Trench Knife? I think things like this are great, really delving into the concepts of weapons. I enjoy it immensely and I hope you do as well.
The first is the Okinawan Tekko. This Knuckleduster is similar to that found on "D" Guard Fighting Knives. Very interesting indeed. This is a picture of two variations of the 1917 Trench Knife with triangular blade.
The interesting thing is, in some forms of Karate from Okinawa [I’m not an expert on that and I am speaking in the most general terms and offering tidbits of information that I have found] there is a Kata specifically for the Tekko. Maybe more than one, but this one I have "found" online. It is called, Maezato no Tekko.
Cool, huh? I think so!
The first mention of the Tekko in Okinawan Martial Arts was in a book written in 1824 or 1825 according to one online source.
Vajra-musti, Martial Art of India
Please, make no mistake. I know next to nothing about the Martial Arts of India. I do know they have a very hardcore reputation as being effective and tough! I have traced down a Knuckleduster from India called a Hora…they were made out of animal horn.
A very vicious hand weapon, to say the least, and very similar to some types of Okinawan Tekko I have come across as of late.
I’m sorry I cannot provide any specifics as to the use of the Hora, I’m sure that it is basically used like any other Knuckleduster weapon, but I was hoping to find something rare and obscure about the Hora and I have not so far…
Time will tell…
Here is a rather cool pair of "Half Knuckles." There are a couple of people on the Internet who are making classic brass/metal knuckles as well as a variety of pointed/spiked metal knuckles. All the designs are as visually nasty as they are effective.
Get caught with them in your pocket…Go to jail…they are illegal damned near everywhere, I don’t know of a State where you can carry metal knuckles. It seems as though they have been illegal forever…
Now, has the "question" been "answered?" Are these things "legitimate" Self-defense weapons? Are the "legitimate" martial arts weapons?
I believe so. I believe they are legitimate and they should be legal, unfortunately, they are not. If they are legal to simply own where you live, by all means, get a pair of them and work with them on a focus mitt just to familiarize yourself with them.
While I think about it, stay away from the folding knuckle knives. No one reputable ever made a pair which means you cannot trust the locks on them. Unless you want to have the nickname of "Stubby," avoid them like the plague. They have been sold for two or three decades now. Cool idea, poor materials and craftsmanship.
In the meantime, as people are banning Trench ["Knuckle"] Knives and Metal Knuckles, let them ban these.
And check out the Fistload, Koppo and Yawara Articles on my site as well. All are entwined.
Back to the Main Index