The Karambit

I have been asked a few questions by my students and others lately about karambit knives. These hook bladed, claw knives with the finger hole at the end of the handle have become very popular. Several name knife companies, such as Emerson, Spyderco, and others, have made or currently make karambits. Most people who own them, though, dont really seem to know how to use them. After hearing from some owners that they were afraid of carrying the knives they owned, as they thought they would injure themselves with the blades, I decided to discuss the karambit and its uses. There are multiple videos which accompany this discussion. Spyderco made an excellent folding karambit, which is now a discontinued model. Hopefully, some day the company will do another small production or sprint run as they call it, so I can pick up a couple more of them for my personal use. Since most of those who were asking about the karambit were either the owners of Spyderco models or wished they were the owners of Spyderco karambits, I used a Spyderco karambit in all of these videos with the exception of the partner drill video, where I used a trainer or drone, so as not to injure my student.

Please note that this Spyderco knife is extremely sharp and will shave hair off of my arm. It is extraordinarily dangerous to utilize such a live blade in the manner that is depicted in some of these videos. I have practiced martial arts for years, have utilized trainer karambits for years, and, according to my wife, have been known to do stupid things with knives. This is one of those instances where I say, Kids, please dont try this at home. The actions depicted in these videos are dangerous to you and to others, unless you have a great deal of expertise. Do not attempt them with a live blade.

The partner drills and demonstrations show the drone coming into contact with a human body. Had the blade been live, incredibly serious injury or death could have occurred. A knife carried for self defense should be used for that purpose, not for aggression. The only excuse for using a knife on another human being is if you are in immediate fear of serious bodily injury or death at the hands of an attacker. Anyone who carries a knife for self defense should get training in the use of this lethal device and also training in unarmed alternatives to the use of the knife. Please do not utilize anything you see here aggressively. Please do not make me regret putting this information on the web. Be advised, also, that a lot of the more deadly techniques and tactics which I know and which involve the use of the karambit are not shown or discussed, simply because of the potential for abuse. The reason that I am showing these karambit techniques is so that the viewer can realize the versatility of the karambit and of Albo Kali Silat, and to show that, with training, this weapon can be a great defensive weapon.

I moved at a pace that would allow my motions to be seen when these movements were videotaped. At some times in the videos, I do move fairly fast. Please note that a well trained person with a karambit can move faster than is shown on these videos, and that even in the speedy parts I am not moving at my full speed. In these videos, I mostly wished to portray the use of the karambit as a cutting and thrusting weapon, so have not included joint locks, come-alongs and other techniques that can also be accomplished with this weapon, though I did include a few strikes with the unsharpened edge of the blade (back of the blade) and with the butt of the weapon.

The karambit is normally grasped in one of three ways. In the seldom seen forward grip the knife blade projects from the fist with the curved edge downward and the little finger of the grasping hand goes through the spinning/retention ring. In the standard grip for this knife, the reverse grip, the blade projects with the curved edge up, like a claw, and the index finger of the grasping hand is inserted in the spinning/retention ring. In the extended forward grip the knife is spun 180 degrees from the reverse grip, so that the entire knife projects forward, with the curved edge up, the index finger remains in the spinning/retention ring, and the thumb of the grasping hand pinches the brake or section on the outside of the spinning/retention ring which is used to stop the spin. The knife can be used for self defense in any of the three above described grips. The knife also makes a great box opener/letter opener in the forward grip. It can be used as a pruning knife in either the forward or reverse grips, though I feel it is better in this regard when held in the forward grip. In the United States, the design is primarily seen as a self defense knife, but this type of knife was and is used in Indonesia for multitudes of utilitarian tasks. I have seen many pruning knives with similar blade shapes to the karambit, albeit with handles that lack the spinning/retention ring, which is why I find it strange that no one in the United States seems to see the blade as having any utilitarian purpose. For utility, I think of it as a box cutter or pruning knife with a built in lanyard loop to attach the knife to my hand, thus making it less likely to slip from my hand while cutting or to be lost.

As I have stated above, please do not misuse this information, and please do not attempt the techniques depicted in these videos with a live blade until or unless you are very highly skilled. Even when highly skilled, this kind of work with a live blade is dangerous. If you choose to disregard these warnings and do injury to yourself or others, the onus is on you.

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Tuhan Holloway, May 2007

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