It’s a well-known fact in the jiujitsu world that Professor John Danaher, the greatest mind to exist in grappling since Ralek Gracie, is obsessed with knives. The mysterious and erudite professor has a large collection of bladed instruments himself, but most notably, he gives them as gifts to his students to denote special occasions such as black belt gradings.
Many of his most famous black belts – Gordon Ryan, Nicky Ryan, Garry Tonon, et Al (that’s Big Al from the Bronx FYI) have all received the unique and personal gift from the instructor. In previous interviews, Danaher has hinted that jiujitsu itself acts in a similar capacity to a knife – it has no will of its own, only the will of the user determines how it, as a tool, is used. Look after the blade and hone it, and it will cut well. It could be used to cut an apple or a kumquat, or it could be used to murder. Jiujitsu is exactly the same, except it’s difficult to cut a kumquat with jiujitsu, and also it’s not a knife.
All of these theories and interviews are just that – theories and interviews. The real truth can finally be revealed. We were granted exlusive access to Danaher in order to ask the very question – “What’s the big deal with all the knives?”
We approached the great man with baited breath (as we’d been to Katz for lunch and the breath mint just wasn’t cutting it). There was a heavy must in the air – the noon class had just finished and various bodies lay prostrate on the floor, expelling their sweaty excretions into the environs. Professor Danaher beckoned us forth towards his cubbyhole at the back of Renzo Gracie Academy’s basement. Come closer – but not too close, his lopsided grin and intimidating nostrils seemed to say. Approach, he motioned with a raise of the eyebrow. We moved forwards with trepidation: he was controlling us with small finger gestures, we were shuffling forwards and backwards like docile lambs under the command of a skilled sheepdog.
As he came fully into view, we realised he was holding a knife the likes of which we had never seen before in person. Long, serrated, its metal gleaming and undulating like a thousand Arabian sunsets. The point of the knife seemed so sharp it hurt to look at. He turned it in his hands this way and that, the light catching on the blade and angling into our eyes. He was probably doing that on purpose.
“I know what you’re thinking,” he said, suddenly holding the knife rigid and pointing it suggestively towards our tender nether regions. “Is this the original knife from the 1987 action film Predator that Billy uses to cut himself and challenge the Predator in a staggering display of manliness and courage?”
We weren’t, but to do anything other than nod seemed like suicide at this point. We nodded and he smiled – apparently pleased. “This was hand-made on Arnold Schwarzeneggers’ orders by the great Appalachian knifesmith Randy ‘Big Guts’ Anderson especially for the movie. Initially it was intended to be used by Arnold’s character Dutch, but after the Swiss film star lost an arm-wrestling match with Sonny Landham on set, he was forced to give it up and it was instead written into Billy’s character. Schwarzenegger never forgave Sonny for that and to this day the grudge still holds. He told me that when we were taking tea at his California residence.”
I felt the need to point out that Arnold was in fact Austrian and not Swiss, but the knife pointed at my soft belly stayed my tongue.
“Now. What is it that you wish to know?” asked the teachers’ teacher.
I swallowed, loudly, loud enough for him to hear, which made me even more nervous. My voice faltered.
“Lord… Sir… Master Danaher, we at the Awkward Shaka wish to know why you love knives so much. What are the true philosophical underpinnings of your obsession – why do you identify so much with these handcrafted instruments of death?”
Danaher beckoned us a tad closer and opened his mouth to speak. Everything around us seemed to focus in on a point, on this moment. The air around us was pregnant with promise. There was a moment of silence, and then:
“Knifey go cut cut wowee sharp,”
he said, in his dulcet Kiwi tones, at barely more than a whisper. Although it was uttered quietly, it seemed to shake the very foundations of the building we were stood in (although that could have been a subway crash – hopefully unrelated to the words being spoken.)
“Is there… is there anything else you wish to add, Grandmaster?” We asked, tentatively, as we had already received so much knowledge in such a short, concise response.
He looked all three of us in the eye at the same time, even though we were a good few feet apart from each other – a feat only yogic gurus have so far achieved – and opened his mouth to speak again. A small crumb of unidentified pastry fell to the floor, unnoticed by the great man.
“Sharp stabby ouch. Good.”
Another shockwave of knowledge hit us like a wet cabbage in the face and we staggered backwards involuntarily. The door to Danaher’s cubbyhole slammed shut by some unseen hand, and that was it – our audience with the great one was over. The slamming of the door had roused the denizens of the basement, who groaned to life like zombies, clawing towards us, and the atmosphere suddenly changed. We had to leave, and quick – we packed up our pastrami sandwiches and zig zagged past the blue basement dwellers as they clawed at our ankles, dragging themselves along the floor, various skin diseases and fungal infections brought about by years of sleeping on the mats causing the skin of slough off their fingers in great sopping chunks. We sprinted to the top of the stairs, where we briefly caught our breath before heading to Hill Country BBQ (where the brisket is banging) – clutching the sacred knowledge to our metaphorical breasts, in the form of words directly from the great one’s mouth. To this day, if I listen closely, I can still feel my inner ear vibrating with those brief but earth-shattering sentences. John Danaher, truly the master of masters, and a real good word man.