Eagerly awaited by many and me too! Especially when a got to handle one at a mini-Spyderco-show in 2004. I have always been addicted to my Li’l Temp, for several years a main carry folder, but this has changed. My beloved Li’l Temp has been cloned and genetically modified. In my opinion the Li’l Temp split into two designs (the Paramilitary and Yojimbo) taking up firm places at the utility and MBC ends of the 3-inch bladed folding knife spectrum. For those seeking a pure 3-inch MBC player, the Yojimbo is the best of the Spyderco crop, even better than my beloved Li’l Temperance. At least, that is how it works out for me.
The Yojimbo offered me a revelation, that all MBC designs from Spyderco strongly echo the personalities of their designers. Take for example, the Chinook II, the Li’l Temperance and the Yojimbo. In my earlier review of the Chinook II, I noticed that this folder is a perfect choice for martial artists, since it offers a few subtle features for people who love martial arts, and are not necessarily interested in knife or street fighting. From what I know of James Keating, that reflects his personality. His main background is in martial arts, starting with Karate, moving on to Filipino styles and finally developing and rediscovering bowie knife fighting as a western martial art. I believe that this is his essence, as related to knife design.
Sal Glesser, designer of the Li’l Temperance, is in my opinion a knife designer first. This is evident from the top-rate materials, colored handle and that ultra ergonomic handle of the Li’l Temp. The leaf shaped blade is a natural and efficient compromise between utility and MBC. These are features that will appeal to knife collectors and aficionados too, not just MBC players. Carrying and using the Li’l Temp really made me appreciate the intricacies of the design and materials.
The Yojimbo was developed by Michael Janich, whom I mainly regard as an excellent MBC instructor. Chinook, Li’l Temp and Yojimbo, designed by a martial artist, knife designer and instructor. These knives are in many ways very personal expressions of their designers. This is nothing new in the world of knife making, but it is not something you would expect of three factory folders made with basically the same materials.
If the Yojimbo was designed by an instructor, how can you tell? First, it is in the basic dimensions. Street legal blade length of 3 inches in a relatively demure looking blade shape. It kind of looks to a rescue type knife to the non-knife people I showed it to. Second, the handle’s -deep- finger cutout is the best guarantee I’ve seen in a folder against sliding onto the blade. Even better than the Li’l Temp, which also relies on the handle’s butt resting in your palm for added grip security. This handle design is very forgiving to MBC novices; it’s rather difficult to get a non-secure grip on this knife.
Third, when gripping the knife in Michael Janich’s signature modified saber grip (see: Knife Fighting – A Practical Course from Paladin Press, or do an on-line search), it is almost impossible to miss you target. In this forward grip with the thumb resting flat on the blade’s thumb serrations, the tip lines up perfectly with the bones in my hand, wrist and forearm. This grip is in my opinion, better suited (more intuitive) to cutting than thrusting. From what I can read from and on Mr. Janich, this is how he has set-up the MBC program, to defend and stop an attacker with mainly blocking, passing and cutting techniques.
Since Mr. Janich is also a believer in integrating techniques from other styles, and de-escalating a confrontation, the closed Yojimbo is also a very dandy palm stick. Actually, much better than my beloved Mini Maglites (for AAA batteries).
For closed use, the Yojimbo is pretty much failsafe and straightforward. It is absolutely not necessary to learn a 4-tape set to effectively use the Yojimbo as an impact weapon. The closed knife has two basic grips, reverse grip (ice-pick) and point forward (which is actually the rounded slender tail-end of the handle). I favor the reverse grip, capping my thumb over the pivot area. Both the handle’s shape and the many gripping serrations lock the knife in your hand. If you are feeling fancy, you can even use the divots for flipping from reverse to forward grip on the closed Yojimbo. The Yojimbo’s tail is a very effective stick for attacking pressure points and compliance techniques. In my Jiu Jitsu training we often practice with the EBO-stick, Holland’s version of the Yawara stick. These techniques transferred effortlessly to the Yojimbo.
Closed, the folder is slim enough to offer a good grip, aided by a lot of handy serrations. The Yojimbo is even effective in point forward techniques. The divot could have been a bit bigger in my opinion, but I have yet to drop the knife unintentionally. Remember, drawing and using a closed knife is not a good idea to do -legally- on someone who is unarmed. But doing this against multiple or armed attackers should be a sign of restraint. I will never stop carrying my AAA Mini Maglites.
The blade is -very- sharp from the box. Look up reviews and info on the Ronin to learn what lies behind this bladedesign. Summarized, it cuts deeper and longer than a curved edge. The tip is a bit fine and susceptible to breaking when dropped. If you drop the knife point-first, you won’t lose an inch of the blade, rather the millimeter of sharpened edge. An incident that resulted in a new knife for me, and a sharp trainer ;-). The tip damage could be repaired on a Sharpmaker.
Why did they make the tip this fine? Well, to produce a very sharp tip of course! Even with the Sharpmaker repaired tip, I can point to a single hair on my arm and pick it up with the blade. It’s devastating on old T-shirt covered with newspaper. The tip doesn’t just rip, it actually cuts! Quite a difference with the sinusoidal (yes I read the Spyderco Story!) blade of the Dodo for example. There, the tip guides the cutting object into the perfect cutting position, or rip. Interestingly enough, this testing put a whole new spin on my Spydercard. I always regarded it as a novelty knife, but it shares a surprising similarity to the Yojimbo. It’s also pretty sturdy too, and offers a full-handed grip. Opening the Spydercard requires a bit of practice though.
Suggestions for improvement
There is one thing I would like to see improved in future runst, the clip. The clip’s divot does not line up perfectly with those in the handle. It does not affect function, but it’s something a collector likes to see improved. Furthermore, the clip is long, resulting in more tension on the screws, which have loosened up after a while. Loc-tite fixes this problem, but it’s not a perfect solution for a left-right reversible clip. The clip’s length also results in a little bit of rattle on the end, since tension decreases along the clip from the screws to the tip. Why not make the clp shorter? Even if the divots had to move up a bit, I wouldn’t mind at all. I’d prefer a shorter fatter clip, than this longer clip with the decreasing tension at the end.
In the end, tension was improved by taking the clip off and bending it into the desired shape. By the way, this long piece of smooth still makes the ‘feel’ of the knife more slippery than it has to be. Again, this does not affect the actual security of the grip, but a smaller or grippier clip would add to the feel of this ultra-grippy knife.
Li’l Temp vs. Yojimbo
I got the Yojimbo to replace my beloved Li’l Temperance, since it was going out of production. Besides collecting interests, I like to learn new stuff and keep up with evolving designs. I am a firm believer in the 3-inch bladed tactical folder for public carry. This not only means PC looks (handle colors) and PC blade lengths, it is also the basic platform by which I judge all my carry knives. A three-inch blade just plain works, at least in my (urban) environment.
First, the Yojimbo is a (very good) impact weapon closed, whereas the Li’l Temp just isn’t. The Yojimbo’s blade shape is optimized for MBC, whereas the Li’l Temp is good for both MBC and utility use. The Li’l Temp’s handle offers an outstanding secure grip, and places emphasis on the grip strength of the ring and middle finer. just like the Yojimbo. But the Yojimbo has a more positive stop on the handle, due to that enormous finger cutout. The Yojimbo also carries more comfortable IWB, It’s longer than the Li’l Temp, but lighter and slimmer.
The opening mechanics of the Li’l Temp are superb, a bit better than the Yojimbo actually. The Yojimbo in the waistband allows for more fingers on the handle before drawing the knife, but somehow the wider handle on the Li’l Temp is just a bit faster to draw and open than the Yojimbo. Then again, my Li’l Temp has about two more years of experience on the Yojimbo. Both knives come in PC colors, green and blue, but the Li’l Temp has a bit more conventional and therefore friendlier looking blade shape than the Yojimbo. However, the Yojimbo’s blade, looks much smaller because of that dramatic taper. Now, I also like my Li’l Temp because of its quirky and custom made look. And I still think the Li’l Temp is still a bit more unusual looking than the Yojimbo, mainly because of the 3D handle design. Still, you would be hard pressed to call a blue Yojimbo a run-of-the-mill tactical folder.
Overall, the Yojimbo is just a more versatile MBC player, left- and right-handed carry reversible, perfectly functional as an impact tool and easier to carry. Looking for a fighter/utility blade? Get a Li’l Temp. Looking for a fighter and a utility piece? Get a Yojimbo and a Paramilitary.