Forged in Fire: Knife or Death (2018)

In this new series, Forged in Fire: Knife or Death (2018), co-hosted by Bill Goldberg and Tu Lam, America’s top bladesmiths, martial artists, and weapons experts face off in the most extreme knife competition ever created. With hand-forged, custom-made, and historical blades, each competitor must stab, slice, and chop through a grueling gauntlet of challenges designed to test their blades and their blade-wielding skills. Will the age-old Samurai technique carry one competitor to victory? Will the ancient Kopis sword survive the course? Or will America’s historical Bowie knife prevail? The final two competitors will go head to head on the daunting final course — “Dead Run.” Who will advance for the chance to win the $20,000 grand prize and be crowned Knife or Death Champion?

Watch Forged in Fire: Knife or Death (2018) on the History Channel

Phil Ross on the History Channel’s Forged in Fire: Knife or Death

As a big fan of HISTORY’s Forged in Fire show, I was extremely excited to see the first season of their offshoot series Forged in Fire: Knife or Death air in the Spring of 2018. Upon watching the first episode of the new series, I was both excited and anxious. By the second episode, I had turned to my wife and said, “I’m better than these guys! I should be on this show.” Well, it was as if someone was listening to me. The very next day, I received an email from a casting agent from the HISTORY channel asking me if I’d like to appear on Season 2 of Knife or Death! For me, this was a dream come true.

If you have never seen the show, you should! It’s a BLAST! Bladesmiths, Ex-Military, Woodsman, and Martial Artists are put through a series of challenges with their blades; the two with the fastest times compete to be the Episode Champion and qualify for the finals and a shot at winning $20,000!, I was pumped for this opportunity!

After watching the competition during the first season, I knew that my standard Kukri would not be heavy enough, long enough or sharp enough to win. Even though I’ve used a Kukri for over 30 years, I had never competed in any chopping or cutting, or “baldesport” competitions. Additionally, I do not possess the skills nor do I have the equipment to forge my own blade; needless to say I had some work ahead of me.

Phil Ross with his custom Kukri for Forged in Fire: Knife or Death (2018)
Phil Ross with his custom Kukri for Forged in Fire: Knife or Death (2018)

I watched the competitors and tallied the amount of cuts and chops that it took per round. For the successful competitors, it appeared as if they needed between 37 and 48 strokes of the blade to complete the course. I made sure that my single hand kettlebell swings, snatches and punch swings were up to par for the task. I also worked on grip strength with the kettlebells with two kettlebell, one hand swings and forearm twists. I also paid particular attention to the concentric movement of the kettlebell to enhance my downward chopping motions. There was also a great deal of blade work, wood chopping and striking split logs with a modified sledgehammer handle as well as striking a truck tire with the same implement. I wanted to be certain that my energy level and accuracy would not wane during the contest. My kettlebell routine helped me to ensure that!

First order of business was to find a bladesmith. Luckily, one of my student’s best friend’s fathers was one of the best bladesmiths around, Aldo Bruno from Baron Cutlery. What an incredible talent! We met, hit it off and immediately got to work on the creation. He decided on using 80CrV2 steel to forge a 2 pound, 3 ounce monster with a .270 inch spine, a 15” blade with a 6” custom handle. This thing was a beast! We named it the King Kukri.

Custom Kukri used by Phil Ross on Forged in Fire: Knife or Death (2018)
Custom Kukri used by Phil Ross on Forged in Fire: Knife or Death (2018)

I’ve been practicing with my Kukri as well as various other weapons for most of my life and was confident in my technique and power, but I needed to practice for this competition and get used to a weapon twice the weight of my usual Kukri. I had never cut wood, chicken, fish, hemp rope or bottles before – but I knew that with proper practice, I would put on a good performance. I operated on the assumption that the challenges would be more difficult and the competition stiffer. I wasn’t wrong…

Fast forward a few months and I was off to Atlanta to film Season 2 of Forged in Fire: Knife or Death! The van picked up me and 6 other competitors and we went to a secluded warehouse in an obscure section in the outskirts of Atlanta. We then met the Star Co-Hosts; Bill Goldberg, Tu Lam and Forged in Fire blade specialist, Travis Wuertz. Bill Goldberg, the former Atlanta Falcons player, aka “Goldberg” from the WWE, is the main host. Tu Lam, the former US Army Green Beret provides the color and Travis Wuertz, 2 Time Forged in Fire Champion, provides both pre and post competition interviews and tests our blades. Let me tell you about these guys, they are the most down to earth, cool and humble individuals you’ll ever want to meet. Anything that any of them do, I will support 100%. They went out of their way to hang out and talk with us. They worked very long and hard hours on the show, yet maintained their sense of humor and humility even during stressful moments. These guys didn’t forget where they have come from, especially Bill Goldberg. He has had a great deal of fame for quite a while, yet you’d never be able to tell by the way he acts and speaks with “unknowns”. The three hosts showed respect to all of the participants.

This was even more apparent during the filming of the promo footage which is standard for any network looking to capture added content in promotion of a series. Those three guys truly are one of a kind!

Flashback to the actual competition, and despite some minor setbacks, everything came together nicely. My experience was all that I thought it would be and more. Season 2 of Forged in Fire: Knife or Death airs on Wednesday, October 3rd at 10:00pm EDT on HISTORY. You’ll have to tune in to the new season to see what happens. I will have to say that this was one of the greatest experiences of my life!

By Phil Ross