The Karambit knife is a traditional southeast Asian curved blade resembling a claw, used as both a farming implement and as an effective close combat weapon. In the West it is commonly referred to as "the tiger claw." It has been adopted by military forces around the world and individual martial arts enthusiasts. 

In Southeast Asia, a karambit is simply a curved blade with a single solid edge. It has a half-moon shaped point on the tip and it is usually made of either stainless steel or spring steel. 

In the West, a karambit knife is normally constructed as two independent blades that are held together by friction or by locking the blades into place so they cannot be opened without unlocking them. This type of mechanism makes it nearly impossible to lose your hands on either end of the knife.

karambit knife

The History of the Karambit Knife

The history of Karambit knives dates back to the 16th century, where they were used by warriors native to Indonesia, particularly those belonging to the island of Java in Asia. The name "Karambit" is derived from the Malay word "karambi" which means ‘to strike'. This reflects how this particular type of knife was originally designed as a weapon used in combat situations. 

The design is attributed to Aceh warriors, who came up with the design to be used for close quarter combat. These Aceh warriors used it alongside the Kris, with the Karambit tucked into their belt and the Kris in their hand, in order to fend off their enemies in a fight.

  • Evolution Over Time

Many years later, the knife made its way over to the Philippines where it was further adapted by Filipino martial artists during their time as warriors for both Spain and America. 

They used various types of Karambit knives for self-defense, but due to its curved blade design, it was not considered as a suitable fighting tool by some Filipinos. Consequently, they utilized that design element to make another weapon called "Bolo". 

Bolos are longer and more traditional compared to Karambits because of its straight handle. The Bolo became the weapon of choice for Filipino warriors in battles against their enemies.

  • Karambits For Martial Arts and Fighting

The knife eventually reached the Japanese and Thai cultures, where it also gained popularity and was made famous by famous martial artists like Hwang Kee, who were well known for their skills with a Karambit. 

The history of Karambit pocket knives then influenced the Brazilian martial art, Capoeira, particularly the "Ginga". This is a style of fighting that involves making an opponent lose his balance by dodging or deflecting attacks in order to deliver an attack on one's opponent.

The Karambits Have a Strong Grip

The handling characteristics of a karambit folding knife make it ideally suited for close quarter combat situations, where speed and quick response are critical factors in victory or defeat. 

Roy Benavidez, who wrote the book "The Complete Encyclopedia of Combat Knives and Martial Arts Equipment" , has stated in his book that a karambit is the ideal fighting knife because of its ability to apply an even pattern of pressure around an opponent's body. 

Pressure is exerted in a circumscribed area and allows an attacker to exert more force than he would normally be able to. The advantage a karambit gives over a straight edge knife would be related to the blade's ability to provide multiple points of contact, which is important in any close combat situation.

Karambit folding knife

You Can Choose Your Own Style

It should be noted that every individual has their own way of holding a karambit folding knife. The method of holding a knife for maximum effectiveness is an extremely personal choice, and each person must find the way in which it feels most natural to them. 

One method of holding a karambit is to point the blade straight down with the tip of the blade resting on your thigh. This grip allows you to use your arm more effectively, and can also be used as a guide for close quarter combat techniques.

Karambit Folding Knives: What are they Used for?

  • Effective For Self Defense

Karambit knives have traditionally been used as a fighting knife from Southeast Asia, but now they are more commonly found in Western cultures due to their ease of concealment and light weight for carrying. They are excellent self defense knives, specifically against attackers. 

With their curved blade and outwardly pointing finger guard, this design makes it possible for a user to effectively direct attacks at multiple targets with or without contact.

  • Karambits as Combat Knives

The name itself is a corruption of the Malay word "kukar mbit", the Indonesian word for "fang" or "claw." Kukar comes from the Arabic khukuri, meaning claw, and is popularized in Malaysia as a name for knives. 

It was an Indonesian knife form that became later adopted as the official representative of Karambit knives. The current versions of Karambit folding knives are not of traditional Indonesian design, but are modern interpretations with elements from different cultures and regions.

Characteristics of Modern Karambit Knives

For a very long time, the design of the karambit has grown to be a symbol and legend of fighting, terrorizing people. To fight against this legend, let us look at the facts. 

  • Blade

The blade of these knives is made from either high carbon steel or tungsten-carbide and comes with an outside "finger" guard fashioned to protect the user's fingers when using the knife in close combat. 

  • Finger Guard

The finger guard also serves as a weapon in itself since it can be used as an effective and lethal striking weapon. 

  • Curvature Of Blade

The curvature of the blade allows it to be used to hook and trap an opponent's fingers or hand. It is also useful for catching onto a belt loop on an assailant's clothing, allowing the user to make a quick improvised disarmament of their attacker should the situation call for such measures. 

Karambit knife

A Popular Choice for Military Personnel and Defensive Purposes

The karambit folding knife is popular among law enforcement and military personnel in self-defense applications, serving as both a lethal weapon and a tool for subduing assailants. There are many ways to use the karambit effectively in a fight. 

One method of using them is to hold it with an inward-facing grip while maintaining contact with your target so you can control them with ease and keep them from attacking you further.

Types of Karambit Knife

Various materials are commonly used to make karambit knives:

  • Titanium and Steel Blade Knives

Titanium with steel blades on the front of the blade and softer metals in the back, such as copper or brass, is a popular material. In most cases, the blade of this type is made from one piece of metal, stainless steel in most cases, for instance. 
Wearing gloves when handling or using these can be difficult because there is only about half an inch exposed on the front part. Wearing gloves is also important for maintaining the blade's sharpness.

  • Wooden Knives

A wooden version exists too, which is less expensive and lasts much longer than metal. Because wood has a much lower chance of losing its edge or getting damaged when it's being carried, it's much more portable. 
Wood and metal knives made of composite materials are also very tough, but since only the tip of these knives is made of metal, they will not cause severe injury when thrown.

  • Karambits With Sheaths

Other individuals choose to have a sheath custom-made for their cool knives, which greatly reduces their risk of losing the blade. 
In particular, a metal sheath will not work if the sheath rips or tears, because the blade can only be reinserted so many times. There is less likelihood of these breaking with plastic or leather sheaths, but they do tend to be somewhat heavier than wooden sheaths.

The Karambit's Design Makes it Unique!

Karambit knives have penetrating blades and may be used for stabbing, slashing, or pressure point attacks because their design keeps them relatively safe in use and difficult to disarm by most conventional means. One of the most noticeable features of these knives is their design, which is made up from a curved blade with a straight handle. 

This design is designed to be used in both open and close-hand techniques, allowing for increased versatility for the user. As it was originally designed as an Indonesian weapon, it has evolved over time and been adopted by various cultures around the world.

Also Read: Exceptional and Easy Karambit Knife Tricks