By Barry Steinberg - September 1968
In 1975 I bought some books and magazines from Ed Parker and in
one of these I discovered the following article by Barry
Steinberg which was published over thirty years ago in September
1968. The article was featured in Ed Parker's first Edition of
Action Karate magazine. In the article you will notice regular
references to U.S. military personnel in Vietnam and their use of the
Parker knife. I would also like to acknowledge the help of Kenpo
Instructor Mr. Marc Sigle of Germany who has been very helpful in my
research on the Hibben Knife.
Thirty-two year father of five, custom knife-smith and singer in the
famed Mormon Tabernacle Choir, black belt in judo and Kenpo karate -
this is Gil Hibben of Manti, Utah. At the International Karate
Championships held August 3-4 in Long Beach, California, Gil placed
fourth in the weapons kata with a score of 27.5, performing with a
knife he designed and made himself.
He calls it the 'Parker Knife' - named in honour of Ed Parker,
President of the International Kenpo Karate Association. "My
instructors are former pupils of Mr. Parker", said Gil. "He is
my Sensei, and I credit him with everything I know about Karate."
Gil designed both the knife and the kata as part of the thesis
required to earn his black belt in the Ed Parker System.
"I feel that a person who studies karate should apply it's
techniques to utilisation of any weapon" Gil says. "As I understand
it, karate began years ago when men learned the movements of battle
without weapons, using the hands instead. I guess I'm taking it back
the other way." Gil combined his knife-making skill with the art of
Karate to create what he considers the ultimate in a fighting knife.
The Parker knife is also designed to meet the Military standards of
overall utility. As he says. "a knife that can be used to cut bacon, to whittle or to kill."
After an intensive study of almost every military fighting knife, Gil
arrived at a design that allows the maximum wrist control needed for
more sophisticated forms of defence and attack.
Gil's difficult kata with knife consists of original fighting
techniques pitting the Parker knife held in various positions against
other kinds of knives and attacks. Gil climaxes the kata by throwing
the Parker knife over twenty feet into the figure of a man drawn on a
one and one-half inch thick plywood board to show the
functional extent of the knife's design and balance.
- Special features of the Parker knife include:
- A double-edged blade sharp both on top and the bottom.
- A triangular ridge which adds strength.
- Fighting lugs on the guard protect the hand that can be utilised, through hooking techniques, to catch the opponent's blade or eye.
- The guard is set at an angle to allow maximum wrist control. (The thumb can be placed behind it or wrapped around the handle.) The handle itself is custom moulded to fit the owner's hand perfectly. The finger grooves on the bottom to prevent slipping
while the hump on the top fills the fist whether the knife is gripped forehand or backhand, thumb up or thumb down.
Gil's knives are hand crafted and tailored to the requirements of the
individual customer. The work that goes into the Parker knife is
typical of the care Gil takes in making any knife. He starts with
440 series high chromium, high carbon steel, which he buys in twelve
foot lengths of three-quarter inch round stock. He cuts off the
desired length, heats it to 2000 Fareheit and hand forges it flat into
dimensions of approximately 1/4 x 1/2 x 12" . Gil anneals this
and cuts the blade to shape on a saw. After hand grinding, he
reheats the blade to 1900 degrees, draw tempers it to hardness and
gives it a final polish. He adds the guard and fibre handle in mass
and shapes them down to conform to the blade as well as the
individual requirements of the customer's hand. The entire process
takes about three days from start to finish.
Gil does a brisk mail order business in custom crafting a wide variety
of knives for sportsmen and collectors. A catalogue describing his
line may be obtained for fifty cents from Hibben knives, Box 7, Manti,
Utah. Prices for his knives range from $18.00 to $185.00. The
Parker knife sells for $78.00. Gil also makes swords and spears to
Though he counts three blacksmiths and a foundry worker on the family
tree, Gil began making knives on his own as a hobby in 1963 and had to
teach himself the craft as he went along. " My first knives were
pretty crude compared to what I'm doing now.". But Gil learned fast
and the hobby grew into a business. It took a lot of sacrifice to
build the business up and he credits his wife, Lira, with great
patience during the lean years when they were living on Pork and
beans. Gil's friends say that even now his work is improving all
the time. In an increasingly mechanised age of mass production Gil
is a rarity, a lone artisan who takes pains and pride in his work.
Outside his business, Gil is a man of diverse interests and talents.
Active in his church, he has sung in Salt Lake City's famous
Tabernacle Choir since 1958. An avid hunter with a bow, snare and
rifle, he bagged a Boone and Crockett record caribou on a trip to
Alaska in 1966.
Gil took up karate in 1964 after six years study of judo and two and
one-half years of Aikido. His first teacher was Mills Crenshaw of
Salt Lake City , a former pupil of
Ed Parker. "It didn't take me long to realise that karate is the
ultimate form of self-defence," Gil says. He also regards his karate as
an exhilarating physical outlet and works out regularly under
Sterling Peacock, another Parker protege in Salt Lake City. Gil
foresees a tremendous future for tournament competition in Karate and
for American karate in general, which he believes is now equal to
or better than many Asian schools.
In his few idle hours Gil reads the mail he receives from Hibben knife
owners all over the world. A number of them are combat servicemen in
Vietnam. Gil's concern with what he feels to be inadequate materials
and design in the standard American Military knives inspired the
creation of several knives in his line including the Parker model.
Says Gil; "It may cost a private a month's wages to buy a superior
fighting weapon, but when it comes down to a matter of life and death,
the money is well worth it. Gil has letters from servicemen who swear
that having a Hibben knife meant the difference between life and death
in a tight situation. One very satisfied customer in Vietnam used
one of Gil Hibben's to cut his way out of a helicopter after it was
shot down. While the enemy riddled the door with bullets he chopped
through the aluminium body on the opposite side and made his escape
with the rest of the crew. As Gil says "To know that something you
made has meant that much is an awfully good feeling. It makes