The ShivWorks Disciple

I carry a knife (or three) daily and have done-so since I was six years old. Beginning around age 13 or 14, I have carried knives for defensive purposes and studied knife combatives to that end. Over the years I’ve gone through many evolutions, beginning with “wow thats bad ass-er than the last bad ass knife I owned” before growing up to skill and knowledged needs driven selections.
Several years ago, well after I’d begun choosing knives wisely as a result of my training, I started carrying a ShivWorks Disciple. Although I have since evolved again and moved away from the Disciple, I still value the tool a great deal. It is, in my opinion, one of the best purpose-designed combative fixed blades on the market. The ShivWorks Disciple is a 7 ½” long fixed blade, with a 3 ½” blade of S30V steel. It’s handle is ½” (approx.) thick with contoured G-10 scales fastened by hollow stainless pins. The exposed steel features a smooth bead-blast finish and the scales are gently textured. In the sheath the overall weight is a mere 5.5 ounces. Overall length in the sheath is only a quarter of an inch longer than the knife itself, with the widest part of the sheath being only 2”, and its thickest being 1 ¼” (including a Tek Lok™).

You will notice that the Disciple is, by conventional standards, backwards. That is to say, when held in a forward grip (blade protruding out the top of the hand) the edge is on the thumb side, and not the finger side as a conventional knife’s edge would be. The reason for this is that the Disciple is a combative tool, designed for Reverse Edge Methods.
Reverse Edge Methodology encompasses both forward and reverse grips, though many will be most familiar with REM via the reverse grip format, also known as Pikal. There is a wealth of information on REM available via the ShivWorks website, as well as the two Reverse Edge Methods DVD’s available from ShivWorks. In brief, REM is a point-driven (thrust oriented) method that uses a reversed, or inward, facing edge in the hooking, shearing and clearing of an opponents limbs as they interfere with the thrust. (At right: An intercepted limb is sheared, as a strike is made to the face. Following action would further clear the limb down opening the thrusting corridor further allowing repeated application of thrusts). The edge orientation also puts the edge on the side of the blade receiving the most force during a thrust, creating a deeper and wider wound channel. A reverse edge is also ideal for thrust-initiated ripping/pulling cuts, which can be powerfully executed even within a clinch/tangle. This is a very brief description of a robust method, and I encourage you to seek out the material on the ShivWorks site, and consider purchasing the DVDs to see how this actually works. It is a very stripped down and efficient method of running a knife, and is my preferred way to run a conventional blade.

The Disciple is an exceptionally well designed and made tool for its intended use. The design is the collaborative effort of the ShivWorks “brain-trust”, including SouthNarc and knife-maker Trace Rinaldi. The knife is manufactured as a Mid-Tech, i.e. semi-production small-run production with hand fitting and finishing.
A variety of knives work well for Reverse Edge Methods, but the Disciple is one of the pinnacles of purpose design for REM. The obvious factors are that it is a simple, purpose-driven, tool without extraneous features. It is ideally sized for concealed, daily, carry and rapid deployment from the belt-line. It is designed with a reversed modified wharncliffe blade suited for hooking and thrusting. It is designed and made to be comfortable in the hand. There is more too it than just that, however – If the devil is in the details, then so too is goodness. The Disciple is a symphony of small details and perfectionist touches coming together in a hyper-functional tool.
Primary among these subtle touches that make all the difference is the blade. As can hopefully be seen in the photos the angle of the edge and the spine are such that there is a slight taper towards centerline from the shoulder to the point. This creates a fine, sharp, point without a lot of material immediately behind it – This design reduces drag on penetration (and also on withdraw, a point at which many blade designs drag). The Disciple penetrates like a dream, literally with less drag on thrust or withdraw than my kitchen ice-pick. Further easing penetration is the thin stock, high-flat grind, de-burred edges (save the main one, of course) and smooth finish. Thanks to the design, as the blade penetrates the edge is taking a great deal of the force, and further opens up the target allowing fast, smooth, travel to full depth. The edge already opening up the channel of the thrust also allows a pulling/ripping motion to be employed as a natural extension of the motion of the cycling thrusts. Needless to say, it is an effective and fast moving tool.
Another design element contributing to the speed of the Disciple is the weight and balance. The knife is just slightly handle heavy, balancing right behind the finger choil. It balances very much like an ice-pick, making it very fast handling, particularly in reverse grip (pikal).
The small details of importance are not limited to the knife, but can be seen in the sheath as well. One of the most overlooked areas of mainstream knife design is the carry method, the sheath. The Disciple sheath is a refreshing change from this norm. Made from a single piece of Kydex and fitted with a mini-Tek Lok the sheath is purposefully minimalist. The sheath features a lowered lip at the finger-choil, allowing a full grip to be placed on the handle from the outset of the draw, eliminating any need for fine-motor-skill reseating in the hand after the draw. This doesn’t allow the Kydex to create a formed “lock” over the edge of the finger choil as many sheaths do, but is not a detriment to retention. The sheath is well molded, and tension can be adjusted higher or lower by cranking down the screws on the mini-Tek Lok. Having the retention solely dependent on friction also makes the knife very fast to come out of the sheath. Being a reverse grip/pikal proponent, I always carried the Disciple for a reverse grip draw, but the sheath should be adequate for handle-down carry for a locked-wrist forward grip draw as well. I know several individuals who have carried their Disciples handle down for this express purpose without issue.
A lot of folks may object to the Tek-Lok being used, given the Disciples focus on concealed carry, and the bulk and outside-the-waistband (OWB) design of the Disciple. I was at one point leery of this concept as well, preferring inside-the-waistband (IWB) carry. After receiving my Disciple and working with it for a short period of time, I came to the realization that OWB carry, with the slight spacing between the body and the handle afforded by the Tek-Lok made for more reliable and faster tool access under stress, than IWB carry with the handle pressed tight to my body. I also realized that the stand-off from the body was not that great, and efficient concealment of the knife on the belt could be maintained easily given my manner of dress (98% of the time: Jeans and untucked shirts/the always classy “hula hula shirts”). For those who prefer, or are forced, to use IWB methods, attaching a Blade-Tech IWB loop, or something like a J-hook to the Disciple sheath is extremely easy, and the knife still carries very well and remains quite accessible in this fashion.
I carried the Disciple daily for a period of about two years, and came to prefer carrying it handle-up (for pikal draw) almost directly on the hip at either 3 or 9 O’clock (12 O’clock being the belt-buckle) depending on whether or not I was carrying a pistol. Some guys have had better luck carrying the Disciple, and similar tools, further back at 4 or 8, and further forward at 2 or 10, depending on their body type. Those who prefer handle down carry seem to find a further forward, particularly in-front of the hips, carry to both ride the best and provide the best accessibility. Initially I preferred to carry the knife straight up and down, but eventually evolved to a slight forward cant of the handle that better allowed for locked wrist access. (Full disclosure – This evolution had a lot to do with dropping waist-line from 40 to 36, and the resulting change in how my belt rode around my middle. Different body types will have to play with carry configurations and angles to get the best results. [Though it is worth noting that fat-bodies make shitty fighters, typically gassing quicker and not being able to sustain at maximum exertion for the duration. Something to think about.])

I’ve always avoided using the Disciple for utility tasks, but have performed some test cutting with it and been impressed, more than, with its cutting abilities, and the edge retention of the steel. In keeping with the expected performance of S30V the Disciple gets sharp, and stays sharp. When sharp, it is a cutting demon It is rare to have a tool that is designed primarily for point-driven methods that cuts so damn well, but as said before, nothing has been ignored with the Disciple; no sacrifices have been made for one thing over the other; nothing has been lost to gain anything else. The flat grind of the blade, and well-ground edge offer very impressive cutting abilities in a variety of media, including dense foams, meat, fabric, leather, wood and bone. I note the last two as the Disciple, in testing would often cut completely through the foam or meat being cut and bite into the wooden armature or bone below. I tried to avoid thrusting the fine point into these materials, but on the occasions it happened, the point was no worse for the experience.

Thought I did move away from the Disciple for regular carry, it was not due to any deficiency in the knife itself. My needs and skills evolved, and what I wanted from a combative knife changed accordingly. I came to prefer forward of the hip near center-line carry of a fixed blade, which for me necessitated going to a smaller knife and eventually lead me to select a push-knife. However, my primary defensive folding knife is a Spyderco P’Kal, another ShivWorks design that is, essentially, a folding Disciple. I value the method, and the tools, quite highly. The Disciple remains a fine, extremely functional product that I have no hesitation in recommending. ShivWorks also produces several other extremely well thought out and functional designs, including the ClinchPick which is smaller and better suited for forward of the hip carry. I also own and have carried extensively the ShivWorks Lil’ Loco backup knife, and hold it in the same high regard as I do the Disciple. ShivWorks also produces a full line of dulled, blunted, training versions of their edged weapon – This is something that I believe every company of edged weapons should do, but is relatively rare. In addition to their edged weapons, ShivWorks has a line of instructional DVD’s featuring ShivWorks head-man “SouthNarc” who is also a very active trainer with multiple classes yearly. For more information on ShivWorks, and where to buy your own Disciple, please visit www.ShivWorks.com

(Full Disclosure: I have known “SouthNarc” online for several years now, and am a [unpaid, volunteer] moderator on Total Protection Interactive of which he is an owner. I have no relationship with ShivWorks, other than as an end-user of ShivWorks products, and have received no incentives/payoffs/kickbacks from anyone involved with ShivWorks for using or writing a review of any of their products.)

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