‘Knife or Death’

Area woman competitor in Tuesday night ‘Forged in Fire’ episode

A “CUT” ABOVE THE REST — Wintersville resident Jessica Elias will be one of the competitors on episode five of “Forged in Fire: Knife or Death” on the History channel on Tuesday at 10 p.m. Elias was the first woman to compete at national and world BladeSports International Inc. events. She has traveled the country for competitions, including to Dallas, where she was a national winner of the woman’s division in 2016. -- Contributed

WINTERSVILLE — Jessica Elias of Wintersville will be watching some late-night television on Tuesday.

But it won’t be just any old TV viewing experience of channel surfing and dozing off.

This will involve a viewing party with family and friends, all tuning in to watch her as one of the competitors on “Forged in Fire: Knife or Death.”

The show airs at 10 p.m. on the History Channel.

Elias is part of the fifth episode of the new nonfiction competition series that premiered April 17.

“The nation’s top bladesmiths, martial artists and knife experts slice, stab and chop their way through some of the most daunting obstacle courses ever seen,” Elias reads from the channel’s website. “Hosted by WWE Hall of Famer Bill Goldberg, the six-episode series features fearless competitors as they race against the clock putting their blades and blade-wielding skills through a grueling gauntlet of challenges such as slicing through flying watermelons, hacking through massive ice blocks and severing various types of ropes, tubes, metals and item-filled crates,” she reads as part of the explanation of what the show entails.

Specifics and details of the outcome, however, are no-no topics for the 32-year-old, who describes “Forged in Fire” as “a hot show out right now which many people watch.”

In anticipating Tuesday’s broadcast as “the country’s most experienced bladesmiths, martial artists and knife experts knife, stab and chop their way through a blade-shattering time for a chance to win a $20,000 grand prize,” Elias adds, “This has been a challenge unlike any other, and I’m excited to let people see the results.”

The website explains, “In two different timed courses — ‘Knife Fight’ and the ‘Dead Run’ — each obstacle challenges competitors to test numerous facets of their blades from strength, durability and sharpness to the speed, precision and overall technique of the blade wielder. After all competitors attempt the first course, ‘Knife Fight,’ the top two performers face off in the ‘Dead Run,’ an even more rigorous final test of their sharp blades, coordination and minds. The winner of each episode will earn a cash prize and a coveted spot in the season finale where they will compete in the ultimate showdown to be crowned the first-ever ‘Forged in Fire: Knife or Death Champion.'”

Elias, who works as social media and advertising director for Apollo Pro Cleaning and Restoration, got involved in BladeSports cutting competitions several years ago when she worked as the creative director for the Wintersville-based L.T. Wright Handcrafted Knives.

It’s where she got the inspiration, encouragement and support to give the cutting sport a “slice” of her attention, specifically by the company’s owner, L.T. Wright.

“I needed to learn how to market knives, so I joined in the competitions as the first woman to ever compete,” Elias explained. “I competed in my first competition with all male competitors, I made it to the first nationals competition in Ozark, Ark., and then competed at world competition in Atlanta.”

Elias was the first woman to compete at national and world BladeSports International Inc. events. BladeSports International Inc. is a Texas nonprofit corporation formed to promote knife safety and provide workshops and cutting events for its members. BladeSports also works to inform and educate the public with regard to the safe use of a knife as a tool.

“After seeing how great it was, I encouraged women to join,” she said. “We started a woman’s division of our own and now have more than 15 women competitors competing throughout the country,” said Elias, who was a national winner of the woman’s division in 2016.

“I have traveled all over the country for competitions,” she said of her involvement in more than 10 events during the past four years. The sport combines, finesse, skill, technique and strength, according to Elias, and the timed competitions involved, for example, chopping a 2-by-4 in half, and cutting hanging ropes, rolling ping pong balls, full bottles of water, cans, tennis balls and drinking straws.

It was at the end of December that Elias was contacted by the producers of the show.

“They contacted me about my fan page on Facebook,” she said, explaining they had seen her page along with YouTube videos that had gone viral of her competing in cutting events over the past four years.

In January, she was contacted again and headed to Atlanta in early February for three days to film the show.

“I was honored to be picked to be part of the first 40 for the whole first season, which is a pretty big deal to be pared out of thousands of people, because some people heard about it and tried to apply, and I had friends not picked to be on the show,” she said.

“The big thing about this is I had no idea what I was getting myself in to, but I wanted to prove myself. My passion is this, and working hard to do well at these competitions,” she said.

“I went into it blindly not knowing exactly what my competition or obstacles would be,” she said. “The only thing I had was my competition chopper designed by Dan Keffeler.” The knife is a 15-inch competition chopper with a sharpened cutting edge of 10 inches.

“The actual show I was a nervous wreck, but that’s just in my blood, but once I was there, I was ready to take on the course,” she said. “I overcame challenges I thought I would never be able to face and get through. This is completely different than any other BladeSports competition I was a part of,” Elias added, noting it was special to meet Goldberg. “He came up to me and said I was an inspiration to so many and that what I was doing I should be very proud of myself.”

Elias is glad her path has led to competing.

“I took this on as a way to market knives in the beginning, but then once I got into this whole ‘knife life’ industry, I discovered there was more to it than just blades and cutting,” Elias said. “It was about the people who I have met over these years and throughout the country that have become such close friends of mine. It’s about everything else. It’s not just about me cutting, it’s about everything else involved within this industry,” said Elias, who holds a seat on BladeSports International’s board.

“To be a part of this growing organization is amazing,” Elias said. “I have met so many people from different cultures and backgrounds all over the world. I have made friends with hobbies and interests the same as my own.”

“I have put so much passion and dedication into this that to be on this show was an amazing fete that I never thought would happen in a million years,” added Elias, who explained she has been working on designing her own line of knives that she’ll hopefully be able to grow in the next year.

“I feel as if I have been opened up to a culture of learning and fun with so many people I have been blessed to be introduced to,” she said.

Future plans include heading to BladeShow to represent BladeSports International and Jantz Knife Supply in June.

But for now, Tuesday will be a cut above the rest of the days in the week of May 13.

Elias will be watching the show “with close friends and family who have been rooting me on since day one.”

Those supporters include her mother, Debbie Elias, but she’ll be thinking of her father, too, the late Joe Elias.

“After my father’s passing two years ago, I dedicate everything I do to him and my mother,” Elias explained.

“They both inspired me to never give up and fight the fight,” she said. “My father was my biggest fan. He told everyone he knew about what I did. I’m sad my father isn’t here to see me on TV, but I know he was by my side as I was filming and will continue to be on this journey.

“I know when I go out and compete I give it my all, and at the end of the day, win or lose, I can say I held my own, because I will forever live by my father’s motto — ‘It’s a beautiful day,'” she said.

(Kiaski can be contacted at jkiaski@heraldstaronline.com.)

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