This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending Scott Gossman’s annual campout/gathering, Gosstoberfest, at his shop in Maryland. Amidst the mirth and merriment, Scott also set up a simple Bladesports course in order to perform a demo and to give attendees a chance to take a swing. I currently have a Competition Chopper on loan from Christopher “Big Chris” Berry for evaluation as a camp knife, but this was a perfect opportunity to use it for its primary purpose.
It goes without saying, but Chris’ knife is amazing. This is the third competition knife he made and is the one he competed with at the World Championships this past June. I won’t go into too much detail about the knife here – we’ll save that for the full review – but trust me when I say a working tool doesn’t get much better than this. The tapered tang and completely rounded spine are there for performance reasons, but they look great too.
I actually made it through the course better than I expected to, but if I want to keep doing this sort of thing I will need to work on my upper body strength. Sitting at a computer for a living has definitely taken its toll on me; my right arm was definitely feeling the strain afterwards. I also learned some of the techniques best suited to certain cutting stations; as always, there is more to it than simple hacking and slashing.
The course started with a horizontal 2×4 chop, followed by a vertical chop on another 2×4. Although some of the big dogs in Bladesports can get through such a board in five or fewer chops, it took me at least triple that for my first try.
The rubber horse stall mat that is used for the handle material on the knife does a great job of reducing the impact on your hand. It may not be the prettiest thing, but it surely works.
Proceeding around the course there were stations for precision slices, hanging rope cutting, water bottles, and of course the rolling tennis and golf balls. I only managed to nick the tennis ball, but I clove the golf ball dead on.
The second water bottle station, consisting of a row of six to be sliced through, was probably the highpoint of my run. More through luck than skill, I managed to round the corner on my approach to the station with my feet in the perfect position. Essentially I was able to step “through” the cut and keep going, rather than having to stop and set myself up for the swing.
Even cooler than that was the surprise when we came back to clean up that station. One of the top-halves had landed right side up, and thanks to Big Chris’ scary good edge geometry, the cut was so clean and level that it formed a perfect seal with the table. That’s right; the top half was still full of water!
Even though I only did a single run, it was good fun. I could see myself joining a couple of competitions, although I haven’t fully committed yet. Fortunately I live close enough to make it to at least four sanctioned cuts that happen throughout the year.
Since this knife from Big Chris is a loaner, if I do decide to compete I’ll still need to surmount one of Bladesports biggest issues, but thanks to some friends, I may have something up my sleeve. Stay tuned.