“I was born a tinkerer,” Dwayne Horvath of Aku-Strike Knives of Pittstown, New Jersey, related. He was always taking things apart, from his father's reel-to-reel video recorder to his car. By his own admission he was not great at school, but it was during those moments looking out the window, daydreaming, when ideas came to him—lots of ideas. It carried over into his car-racing days, his career as a successful fix-it man and now in retirement as a full-time inventor who daydreamed a trainer knife.
The Aku-Strike Mimic T-16 came to Dwayne in a vision driving home one night from a training session at Alex Wilkie's Martial Arts Academy in Bridgewater, New Jersey. “It was not a thought before it was a vision. The vision was possibly stirred by an emotion or feeling from training that night,” Dwayne explained.
Dwayne knew about the Shocknife, which is indeed useful for inducing fear in combatives training, but it's is not something you want to learn on or use every day. Chalking the edges of training knives indeed leaves a mark to inform you and your training partner of a strike, but it's messy and may not fully wash out of some shirts. There was a real need for another alternative.
“I noticed some students going through the motions of training with the knife and wondered if they realize how deadly a knife can be. I then asked myself, ‘How could I be more aware of being cut and the danger of the blade and also convey to my partner that he is in danger or is being cut? We need something to alert us when contact is made, or what I coin, ‘confirmation of contact,' while training,” Dwayne explained.
When you take away shock and chalk, you have light or sound left. “Now how do I make this work?” Dwayne asked himself. He had some knowledge of patents. He knew that if he designed something simple, he could get a broad patent. That would in turn mean he would need to minimize parts and keep the construction of the training knife simple. That is a challenge with all the patents out there. He knew he needed at least one switch to turn it on. Any more and he might be infringing on someone else's design.
Then Dwayne asked himself, “What would be the best way to make the blade send a signal to the electronics? I started drawing and one hour later I figured out the basics. Of course, there were many thoughts and designs in between,” he added.
Dwayne was on his last chance with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. After reading many patents and going through a few attorneys, he got the patent worded appropriately. He then contacted an attorney who secured a patent. Two months later, Dwayne received the kind of broad patent he had hoped for. Then he got an additional patent.
The Aku-Strike Mimic T-16 has received endorsements from law enforcement agencies whose members must be thoroughly trained for whatever they might find on their beats, including an aggressor with a knife. Martial artists like Ray Dionaldo of FCS (Filipino Combat Systems) Kali, Doug Marcaida of “Forged in Fire” fame and Funker Tactical, the home of all kinds of fighting videos, have all given the Aku-Strike their nod of approval. Even, Setcan, the company that invented the Shocknife, has endorsed the Aku-Strike. The two training knives are not really competitors since one can be used on a more regular basis, while the other can be used periodically to maximize the intensity of a particular training session.
Dwayne had originally envisioned an aluminum blade. “I took it to an Airsoft range. Kids were swinging for the fences. OK, not safe with aluminum for teens, plus you know it hurts—that’s a given,” Dwayne commented. He moved on to polycarbonite. “The polycarbonite had limitations with flex and strength, but overall it was a win, and much more forgiving,” he emphasized. “As a matter of fact, it hurt much less than many rubber trainers and, of course, aluminum.”
Dwayne's goal was to appeal to a wider, younger demographic that was just starting out with their combatives training to hardcore adult players of Airsoft and paintball. He also wanted to reach law enforcement and martial arts professionals. He finds the inventing to be easier than the marketing. But without that creativity, there would be nothing to market. Dwayne received the kind of encouragement and validation he needed throughout his life, later when his business was a success, but also earlier around the race tracks of New Jersey.
“At an early age, I loved racing and would go to Flemington Speedway, a local dirt track…It was a family event every weekend, consisting of fast cars sliding around the dirt track and a bucket of fried chicken,” Dwayne recalled.
“One night my favorite driver crashed real bad, destroying the starter's stand,” Dwayne felt terrible and wanted to help. He got his father's permission, and Howie Cronce took Dwayne to his house and let him help. “After school I would ride my bike about 10 miles to his shop, work to the wee hours.” Dwayne would eventually fall asleep and Howie would wake him, put his bike in the back of his pickup and take him home.
Aku-Strike Inventor Helped Race-Car Driver Howie Cronce
“In high school I wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. I usually wanted to look out the window and daydream, but I did rebuild a teacher’s engine on his Studebaker and built go-carts from scratch.
“In my racing days, I had what some would call some crazy ideas (probably from daydreaming) about the workings of a car suspension,” he explained. He needed to learn more, but from where? In those days, access to the Internet wasn't readily available. He decided to sneak into the library at a technical college and hit the books and microfiche to research the effects of tire-slip angles and G-force on race cars.
“I then saved money to buy a G-meter to put in our dirt car, which had never been done before. When uploaded to a laptop, this would show all the forces of breaking, acceleration and cornering in real time so we could see what and when things were happening.” Then adjustments could be made to the shocks, springs and geometry on the car. “I was invited to the Penski shop to study the new shocks we used and got to know Ray Evernham before he teamed up with Jeff Gordon and Hendrick Motorsports.”
And it's been like that ever since. If grades were given out in daydreaming, Wayne would score an A-plus.
Contact Dwayne Horvath, Aku-Strike Knives, 429 Mechlin Corner Road, Pittstown NJ 08867; 908-200-1638, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.akustrike.com.
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