written by: Mark E. Cody
Perhaps one of the most unique amongst the myriad of blades of the Indonesian archipelago is the Kerambit. The origin of this unusual blade can be traced back to the early Eleventh Century. The people of Indonesia,
Malaysia and The Philippines used the Kerambit as a basic, multi-function, utility blade. Like The Okinawans, who adopted
common tools into weapons for personal protection, those who carried the Kerambit soon realized that it was well suited as
a defensive weapon.
Although of ancient origin, only recently has the Kerambit found growing popularity as a martial arts/ defensive
weapon in America and Europe. Guro Ray Dionaldo, Founder of FCS(Filipino Combat Systems) is one of the leading proponents of the Kerambit.
Guro Ray has incorporated this weapons versatility into his system and has demonstrated
the effectiveness and practicality of the Kerambit as a defensive weapon.
The Kerambit is a blade with a pronounced curve, and is usually double edged. It is designed to be held in an
inverted grip. The Kerambit possesses a hole at the pommel through which the index finger is placed, thus providing for an
extremely secure grip. Because of this design feature this blade is very difficult to disarm.
The Kerambit looks very much
like the claw of a tiger or other large predator. Nature has designed some of its most proficient killers with natural weapons
designed to penetrate, tear and subdue its prey. Nature deprived man of a natural defense such as a claw or a talon, but the
Kerambit makes up for this shortcoming.
Let us examine the way in which an animal equipped with claws uses them. The claw has two basic means of inflicting
damage. The sharp point of the claw sinks into the flesh of its prey, creating a stab-like wound. After insertion, the claw
can tear and rip in a similar fashion to the way in which a blade cuts. Animals with claws tend to attack with an arching
(as opposed to linear) motion. The arching slice tends to maximize the damage inflicted by the claw and at the same time,
hooks and pins the target. We cannot completely rule out the use of the Kerambit for a linear, thrusting attack, bearing in
mind that the snake uses his Kerambit-shaped fang in this same manner. This exception, notwithstanding, the claw-shaped weapon
is usually used in an arching attack that pulls the prey into closer range to the predator. Resistance tends to make the claws
dig deeper, inflicting more damage.
From these examples from nature, we begin to see the potential for the Kerambit. This blade design offers much
more control and sensitivity than the traditional blade design. It lends itself well to Jujutsu-like manipulation of your
opponents limbs and body. The greater degree of sensitivity and control allows the Kerambit wielder to inflict a greater or
lesser degree of damage on the opponent in accord with the legal and moral constraints of the defensive situation.
A smaller, weaker defender can use the Kerambit against multiple, armed attackers to inflict maximum damage,
thus minimizing the danger to oneself. The law enforcement officer or soldier, trying to neutralize an opponent without mortally
wounding them can use the Kerambits restraining ability to this end.
The Kerambit blade can be used to hook and pin a limb, utilizing both leverage and the pain compliance response. People
tend to have a natural aversion to being cut. They will generally attempt to move their flesh away from a blade. While the Kerambit can be used to actuate pressure points, in some respects, like all blades,
it causes any tissue it connects with to react with the pressure point-like pain
It is not an easy thing to de-claw an attacking tiger, or to defang a striking serpent. Likewise, the Kerambit
is not an easy weapon to disarm. Because of the finger-hole grip, most disarms are rendered ineffective, for even if the hand
opens, the blade is not lost. Most disarming techniques capitalize on the weakness of the thumb when attacked at the proper
angle and with the proper leverage. By securing the blade to the hand via the index
finger, this manner of disarm is defeated. Because the hand closes around the grip, leaving only blade exposed, there is little
to work with to achieve a disarm.
The Kerambit is useful with
the basic FCS principles of Baiting and Occupying all the weapons. By Baiting we offer stimuli such as a feint that causes
the opponent to react in a predictable manner. This enables us to occupy all the weapons at our opponents disposal. This is
to say that we minimize our opponents ability to utilize his hands, feet and/or actual weapons at his disposal.
The Kerambit is an excellent
weapon for fighting at transitional distances. It can easily be used at long, mid and close range. While effective at all
ranges, it is at its best at close range. It is fast, hard to see, hard to track and almost impossible to disarm. Once a Kerambit
wielder has bridged the gap between himself and his opponent, it becomes very easy to end the confrontation with a vast selection
of techniques of varying degrees of damage to the opponent.
Advantages of the Kerambit
very difficult to be disarmed
more sensitivity and control than a normal blade
affords fluidity for multiple cuts
is a greater transfer of energy from the body to the blade due to the grip design.
Disadvantages of the Kerambit
of the blade makes it more difficult to carry concealed.
more difficult to draw from a scabbard than a straight blade.
All things considered, the advantages
of the Kerambit far outweigh its disadvantages. This ancient blade will continue to grow in new-found popularity as Filipino Combat Systems instructors disseminate information on its use.