Indonesian Karambit



Actual blade length – 1 1/2 inches
Handle size – 3 1/2 inches
Inner ring size – 1 inch
Over-all length – 5 3/4 measured from end to end with the curve
Saw teeth gripping area – 1 inch

The Karambit (many times spelled Kerambit or Korambit) is believed to have originated among the Minangkabau people of West Sumatra where, according to folklore, it was inspired by the claws of big cats. Karambit can be translated as, “Tiger Claw.”

As with most weapons of Indonesia and SE Asia in general, it was originally an agricultural implement designed to cut roots of certain vegetables, and for properly planting rice. As time went on, it eventually became a mainstream weapon. The blade evolved becoming more curved to maximize cutting potential for tactical usage. Through Indonesia’s trade network and close contact with neighboring countries in SE Asia, the karambit was eventually dispersed through what are now Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines. In modernistic times, it is seldom seen in these areas. In ancient times, it was far more prevalent. The Karambit is well known to be a major weapon of many Pencak Silat systems. The Karambit is also a part of a limited amount of Filipino styles such as Kali, Arnis, Eskrima, Malaysian Bersilat, Bruneian martial arts and in some Kuntao styles.

European accounts tell that soldiers in Indonesia were armed with a kris at their waist or back and a spear in their hands, while the Karambit was used as a last resort when the fighter’s other weapons were lost in battle or used to get to their weapon when taken by surprise attacks. The Karambit was also popular among women who would tie the weapon into their hair to be used in self-defense. Even today, there are some Silat practitioners who regard it as a woman’s knife though many men still practice and fight utilizing the Karambit.

The renowned Bugis warriors of Sulawesi were famous for their embrace of the Karambit. Today it is one of the main weapons of various Silat systems.

The Karambit is held with the blade pointing downward in an “ice-pick” position, usually curving forwards however occasionally backwards. While it is primarily used in a slashing or hooking motion, the Karambit with a finger ring are also used in a punching motion hitting the opponent with the finger ring. Some Karambits are designed to be used in a downward motion or jabbing motion with the point followed up with a slash and/or a joint manipulation of some sort. This versitility of striking methods is what makes it so useful in self-defense situations. The finger guard makes it difficult to disarm and allows the knife to be maneuvered in the fingers without losing one’s grip.

This particular design on the Indonesian Karambit is perfect for the in-fighting methods the Karambit is well known for. The pointy “saw teeth” on the back of this Karambit make is nice and easy to do joint manipulations by digging in and grabbing muscle or clothing. This is accomplished by ripping the muscle by pulling the opponent towards the warrior to get in tighter, crowding, trapping and unbalancing the enemy, then cutting  the parts of the body that can have very fatal consequences. Targets are pinpointed cutting vulnerable areas like the ligaments and tendons. Also when the stomach area is slashed, the intestine can be cut or torn apart inside or pour out leaving the enemy suffering badly. This brutal tactic would scare neighboring hostile opponents to not want to go back and fight again. In ancient times, the cutting edge was almost always smeared with some type of deadly poison, which acted almost instantly upon entering the bloodstream which created many myths about this weapon due to such quick deaths and/or heavy sickness from these types of cuts. The Karambit can be well hidden, so it is a good weapon of deception. This particular sheath is designed for hiding it in a sarong in ancient times, or in more modern times, a pocket.

The Karambit is also known as, the Kerambit, kerambik, Kuku Bima, Kuku Hanuman, Kuku Macan, korambit, kerambet, lihok which translates to “actions of the blade” in the context of utilizing the knife in the Philippines, and the sanggot also in the Philippines, meaning sickle.

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