Yesterday OFFGRID's Patrick McCarthy had the unique opportunity to interview a special guest: Doug Marcaida. Doug is a man of many talents—he's the founder and expert martial arts instructor at Marcaida Kali, an experienced knife designer (known for the DART karambit), and also one of the judges on the History channel hit TV series Forged in Fire.
Though he has been on the road in Europe, Doug graciously took time to answer McCarthy's questions and gave us some insight into his martial arts and knife-designing philosophies. In fact, he gave us so much good info, we decided to split it into two parts for both RECOILweb and OFFGRIDweb readers.
Q&A with Doug Marcaida
We Interview Doug About Self Defense, Knife Design, and Serving as a Judge on the History TV Show “Forged In Fire”
RECOILweb: First of all, thanks very much for taking the time to chat with us today. For our readers who aren't familiar, please tell us a little about Marcaida Kali, and the martial arts training philosophy you pass along to your students.
Doug Marcaida: Marcaida Kali is my personal interpretation of the different Filipino Martial Arts systems I trained in. It is a weapons-based art that develops the use of tools as weapons, because in the end, the methodology and training process is to be able to realize and use what is to me the only weapon: your mind.
The philosophy of this art is that “it's not about how many you hurt, but how many you can protect”. Honor and integrity through the practice of the arts. Many times, we get caught up with how bad ass one's martial arts is. Well, these are weapons. We know that there is a body count. Let's not glorify the obvious, but find the responsibility one gets from training, and also seek to develop the good attributes aside from the physical skills and bring back what good qualities martial training develops in a person.
R: We're excited to check out the new season of Forged in Fire on the History channel. Can you tell us a little about your involvement in the show, and how that started?
DM: I am one of the judges in the show, and I represent the end user of the weapons. In the end, these works of art have to prove to be fully-functional weapons that will have to stand up to a strength and durability, sharpness and kill test. I simply get to test the weapons with the specially-designed tests. Because this is a competition, I have to let the weapons do the work so we can differentiate and pick the best weapon presented.
R: What was one of the biggest challenges about being part of a major TV show?
DM: The biggest challenge for me is not being able to go up against a target that fights back to give me a true test of the weapons capabilities, because my expertise is about the use of the weapons in combat. Also, that these are fully functional and sharpened weapons that I do not touch till the actual testing. I don't have time to dial in my strikes or get familiar with the weapon. There is no “do over” aside from testing with a sharp weapon, safety is also important.
This is a competition about weapons forging, and not about me or what I do. But I am blessed to be part of an exciting show that on a personal level has taught me so many things about the weapons I wield. It's almost as if I've come full circle, because now I also understand the creation process and don't limit myself to the design and use of edged weapons.
R: We're sure there were also many upsides to being on Forged in Fire. How has being on TV positively impacted you and your business?
DM: The biggest upside for me is that I have learned so much about the weapons I train with. From discovering iconic weapons from history to understanding the process of blade making. It has allowed to give a true personal understanding, and in a romantic sense, to be able to see the process where the soul of the blade smith is transferred to the weapon.
In terms of business, I can't deny the exposure has allowed people to see my craft and what I do when they search deeper into who the judges are. Kali or Filipino Martial Arts are not as exposed as other arts. It's used in many movies like the Bourne series, to Blade and even 300. But in due time with the advent of media and shows like this, it really helps give exposure to my craft.
R: How did you begin your career as a knife designer?
DM: One of our methodologies of training is to have trainers that match the real knives or weapons you would carry on a regular basis. And in the weapons world, like underwear… you can't only have one. (laughs)
In my training group, we would often discuss the attributes of our tactics and then imagine what kind of knife or weapon would best allow us to execute the desired result or action. This then allowed me to design the blades we use in our group. That's how I got started.
R: If you could go back in time with the knowledge you have now, would you have approached your knife-designing career differently?
DM: Design wise, no. I'm quite blessed that my journey has been a positive one, even with some ups and downs. But what I would have liked to add is the forging process.
R: How important are knives in Marcaida Kali? What if your student is without a knife?
DM: Knives are tools. It's the attribute of a tool that has an edge. If you train in our system and understand the process, then you would realize that you are never without a weapon, because you are the weapon. And your environment always provides you with tools.
The use of tools is important because they are force multipliers in combat. And the true nature of combat is weapons or tools use. Not hand-to-hand combat, as history has shown. There never was a battle or war fought with hand-to-hand combat. Somebody always ruins the party and shows up with a knife. (laughs) But we also know that a knife can be an equalizer—a 7-year-old or 90-year-old can punch and hit, and their age makes a difference in damage. But a knife wielded by someone the same age? Get my point?
What we also teach is that everything has to be wielded by the body. So, we choose something inanimate that doesn't affect the body. It's a risk to make skin-to-skin contact. Our hands are for loving, and an inanimate object never complains when it hits or gets hit. Our training uses the same moves with or without a tool. We call these physical weapons. But once again we go for the choice that gives us maximum effect for the least effort or risk. In survival, it's about making the best choices that give you the highest percentage of success.
RECOILweb Exclusive Questions
R: Folding knives or small fixed blades (such as neck knives or boot knives)—which do you prefer for self-defense, and why?
DM: If I had the choice, a folding knife because it's my choice of EDC. Ease of carry. However, there is something to be said about less moving parts and that favors fixed blades. But how easy is it to carry and conceal a fixed blade? How comfortable? This favors folders, mostly found in the waistline areas.
Boot knives and neck knives favor strategic placement. Those who “go to a fight instead of get into a fight” are more likely military, or law enforcement, or high-risk operators. If my job was to engage, then having to carry in different deployment areas is something I would explore.
One thing I learned in the bladed culture: all possibilities are explored. Know how to deploy as well as retain. But those who get into a fight may have to explain why they carry on certain parts of their body. In the eyes of a court of the law, perception can be reality. What was the intent of this carry?
R: On the topic of folding knives, let's talk about deployment. There are many varieties to choose from, such as manual openers, flippers, assisted openers, automatics, and even knives with the Emerson Wave feature (such as your DART). What's your preference, and why?
DM: My obvious choice is the Emerson wave or any similar catch that gives the quickest opening and fits the theory of Direct Action Response. BUT that is my personal choice for the kind of knife I designed with that theory.
Do I need that feature? No. All the other features you described work just as well, and I would really wonder how often one would need to have that quick of a draw in everyday life.
R: What attracted you to the karambit design, and how has this unique knife influenced your fighting style?
DM: The ring feature to me is the best feature of the karambit. The curved blade is also very primal in its look.
So, in terms of intimidation tactics it's up there. However, I always say that in the bladed culture “knives are meant to be felt not seen”. Yet there are practitioners that like to use visual intimidation. But in the end it's what you do with the knife that matters, be it straight or curved blade. In terms of function, it's not as effective as a straight blade in my opinion. The true karambit is small and is an exclamation point to empty-handed fighting systems. The bigger curved blades you see today are the modern interpretations of the knife.
Its influence in my particular style is the fun factor it brings. And in my style, fun is a must.
R: For those with concealed-carry firearms, how should knife combat play a role in their self-defense ?
DM: Knives are among the most primitive tools still in use by men, and do not require a license to carry or follow stricter laws compared to guns. So, you are more likely to face a knife than a gun.
There are more assaults with edge and impact weapons than firearms worldwide. It's just not as reported, and doesn't make big news. Not all end up in fatalities, thus not making big headlines. Know this as fact. If you truly want to be prepared for the realities of what forms or the face of violence is, add this reality to your training.
But wait, there's more! To read additional questions and answers from our interview with Doug Marcaida, head over to OFFGRIDweb for part two.
NEXT STEP: Download Your Free Target Pack from RECOIL
For years, RECOIL magazine has treated its readers to a full-size (sometimes full color!) shooting target tucked into each big issue. Now we've compiled over 50 of our most popular targets into this one digital PDF download. From handgun drills to AR-15 practice, these 50+ targets have you covered. Print off as many as you like (ammo not included).
Get your pack of 50 Print-at-Home targets when you subscribe to the RECOIL email newsletter. We'll send you weekly updates on guns, gear, industry news, and special offers from leading manufacturers - your guide to the firearms lifestyle. You want this. Trust Us.
You want this. Trust Us.