Words of wisdom from Black Belt, Hand-to-Hand Combat Instructor and Bladesmith Ernest Emerson

Story and Photos by Paul Pawela

In the 2003 movie Secondhand Lions, a young boy played by Haley Joel Osment goes to stay with his two great-uncles for the summer. Although living modestly on a farm, it is rumored that the uncles, played by Michael Caine and Robert Duvall, are extremely wealthy and all the family members want their fortune The backstory is that Hub McCann (Duvall) was a legendary warrior for the French Foreign Legion for decades and was in many battles and wars.
He fell in love with a princess, married her, and fought off a powerful sheik in order to keep her. Unfortunately, she and their child died in childbirth. Hub tells his nephew this story, and gives him a speech that he’s titled “What Every Boy Needs to Know About Being a Man.”
The speech goes like this: “Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most: That people are basically good. That courage, honor and virtue mean everything. That power and money, money and power, mean nothing. That good always triumphs over evil. And I want you to remember this: That love, true love, never dies.”

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I HAD THE honor and privilege to hear a similar lecture by a real-life American legend, Ernest Emerson, at the 2021 Blade Show in Atlanta, Georgia. For those who don’t know who this American treasure is, Emerson is the founder and owner of Emerson Knives, Inc. and is considered “The Father of Tactical Knives,” as he has designed the most iconic and well-known combat knives in history. Emerson Knives have been issued to and used by the most elite counterterrorist teams in the world, including SEAL Team 6, Delta Force and the British Special Air Service, to name a few.

Amongst Emerson’s many achievements, he is a lifelong student of all deadly combat skills and has been bestowed with the title of Master-at-Arms. He is inducted into the prestigious Black Belt Hall of Fame and is a member of the United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame. Emerson is a tier one hand-to-hand combat and edged weapon instructor who has taught all branches of covert special operations and counter-terrorist teams.
Emerson also serves as an expert witness for the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office in deadly force encounters, he has appeared on TV and radio too many times to count, and has been a technical expert on numerous award-winning movies. And that is not the half of this great man’s career, but for now it will have to suffice.



HIS SPEECH AT the Blade Show should be given to every red-blooded American boy who is about to become a man. I give you “Be the Uncommon Man” by Ernest Emerson:
“You are responsible for everything that happens to you – everything!
If you can make negative things happen in your life, then you can make positive things happen in your life!
Personal responsibility is your greatest responsibility.
“Self-discipline is the foundation for the strength of character; true self confidence and self-esteem is gained by seeking out the struggle against adversity – never by avoiding it.
“How do you know what your all is if you have never been pushed to your limits?
If you never pushed yourself past those limits?
“Humans need adversity to grow stronger.
‘If something is necessary, do it every day. If it isn’t, don’t do it at all’ – Dan Gable (one of the greatest college wrestlers of all time and the winningest college wrestling coach of all time!).
“Always be honest with yourself and be true to yourself and true to others. You can never be honest with others if you can’t be honest with yourself.

Author Paul Pawela (left) and Emerson
“Brutal honest self-evaluation is the foundation for becoming a better person. You can never improve yourself if you can’t admit or identify where you need improvement.
“Face your own worst enemy. The greatest opponent we will ever face is ourselves, for that opponent knows all our weaknesses and that gives him a strategic advantage. “Never blame anyone else or the system for your shortcomings or failures. If you do, then you will never be able to change the things in your life that will affect you in a positive way.
“Never practice easy; embrace the suck! “True self-confidence can only be gained through self-discipline. Be willing to accept sacrifice and suffering as the wages you must pay for accomplishment. Make discipline a habit.
“Moral integrity means always do the right thing no matter what the consequences; moral strength, like physical strength, is lost when not exercised on a regular basis.
“Impeccability, what is that? It’s a state where no one can find any faults in your behavior or character; strive for impeccability.
“We used to be a society and a country based on the ideas of selfsufficient, rugged individualism – today that is called toxic masculinity.
“The uncommon man is a man of honesty, personal responsibility, self-discipline and moral integrity.
“Never become civilized and always be the uncommon man!”

I HOPE AND pray to the Creator that I am alive the day I can give this very speech to my grandsons. If not, may it forever be immortalized in the pages of American Shooting Journal.
God bless America and all of its sons! And that’s my two cents!
Editor’s notes: For more on Ernest Emerson, contact info@emersonknives.com. Author Paul Pawela is a nationally recognized firearms and self-defense expert.