The karambit is considered as one of the most lethal knives designed for hand-to-hand combat. However, its functions are actually more than just that. It can also be used for self-defense, overall utility, and a few other activities.
Even though karambit isn’t really new, it just recently gained rising popularity in recent years due to being featured in several movies such as The Raid 2 and Liam Neeson’s Taken. Apart from that, video games like Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist and CS: Go popularized the knife as well.
In this article, we’re going to talk all about karambit knives, their functions, history, purposes, advantages over other knives, and a quick buying guide to help you get your very first karambit.
What is the Karambit Knife?
The Karambit, likewise spelled as either Korambit or Karembit, is a multi-use knife that features a curved blade, a safety ring, and an ergonomic handle. It’s designed to be sleek and efficient for self-defense, knife fighting, and everyday carry (EDC). The karambit’s shape is akin to that of a Sumatran tiger’s claw, and it certainly does a really good job for skinning animal hide. The karambit is also nicknamed Kuku Macan (tiger’s claw) due to its shape and design.
Originally, the karambit is a fixed blade, though you can see modern foldable versions on the market these days.
The history of the karambit can be traced back to the 11th century when it was first used as a utility blade and a farming tool in Indonesia, particularly by the Minangkabau tribe in West Sumatra. This simply means that the knife has been around for almost 1,000 years.
When Indonesia’s trade industry boomed, the karambit was able to spread to various parts around Southeast Asia, causing it to gain traction outside of its origin. It later found itself being categorized as a “defensive weapon” due to its ability to effectively hook and gain control of an assailant’s appendage.
The knife originally didn’t have a safety ring. It was probably added by the time it was categorized as a defensive weapon. Apart from safety, however, the safety ring also has a few other purposes. One of them is to provide the user with an efficient grip by preventing the blade from sliding back through the hands. It also makes the knife extremely difficult to disarm and allows its user to increase weapon retention other than relying on grip strength alone.
Back then, karambits were made using various materials that were generally accessible in Southeast Asian environments back then. These days, however, they can now be made from various metals, with steel as the most common. They’re still used these days for EDC as well as utility or defensive blades.
There are three main types of karambit, and each of them has different features and purposes despite sporting an almost identical appearance. They’re as follows:
- Manual folding blade – this refers to karambit that needs a manual application to use. As the name implies, you can fold the blade inside of the hilt for storage and safety.
- Fixed blade – a fixed blade karambit doesn’t come with a folding mechanism and the blade rests in the same spot. This type’s actually the oldest and most affordable out of the three.
- Butterfly – the last one is the butterfly. Compared to the other two, this one has an automatic function that opens the knife with just a press of a button.
How to Use a Karambit Knife
Using the karambit efficiently actually requires skill and a lot of practice. The art of using it lies in a proper understanding of the various holding techniques used for holding a karambit.
That said, in order to properly use the knife, you have to learn and practice the various gripping techniques which are as follows:
The forward grip, also called standard grip, is used for daily chores which demand precision and control. This allows you to enjoy stability, control, and some degree of leverage. However, it’s lacking in reach, power, and maneuverability. To use a karambit using a forward grip, simply follow these steps:
- Place your hand to allow your palm to face up and flat.
- Place the knife on your palm, making sure that its spine faces your body.
- Also, make sure that the ring is facing towards the left while the tip is facing away from your body.
- Then, slide your pinky into the safety ring.
- Close your fingers around the handle.
- Keep on practicing the grip so you won’t end up hurting yourself.
The reverse or combat grip offers maximum stability, control, power, and leverage. However, it heavily lacks precision, and the reach is quite limited as well. This type of grip is only used for combat and tactical situations. Here’s how you can achieve it:
- Place your hand so your palm is facing up.
- Place the knife and make sure that the spine faces your body.
- This time, the ring should be on the right while the tip faces away from your body.
- Slide your index finger to the safety ring then close your fingers to grip the knife properly.
The extended or upward grip is designed to extend the reach of the knife. While it comes with lots of downsides, it does provide extra maneuverability and reach in certain situations. Here’s how you can do it:
- Hold the knife in a reverse grip position then rotate the blade toward the body then over your index finger.
- After that, the blade should land at the backs of your fingers.
- Also, you should make sure that the blade tip is pointing upward.
Karambits can be used on a wide variety of tasks, particularly those involving cutting through things. Due to their sharpness, they are capable of cutting through various materials such as canvas and ripstop nylon with ease.
Various individuals such as medics, backpackers, logistics companies, first responders, and more can benefit from the utility usage of the knife.
However, the knife is used mostly for tactical applications, considering that it’s a combat and fighting blade. Tactical karambits are small and can inflict heavy damage despite requiring only minimal effort. It has a very sharp point which can cut through flesh with ease. Compared to a straight blade that can only go deep if forced inward, the karambit can glide through any resistance with no problem at all.
Apart from those, the karambit also works as a great dive knife since it can cut through hosing and lines easily. It also works well in rope rescue and other similar scenarios. Though it’s not a hunting knife, it’s still capable of delivering the same function as it allows precision without the fear of the knife cutting through your hands.
Due to a karambit’s versatility, it simply goes without saying that it holds a ton of advantages over other types of knives. Here are just some of them:
- Easy maneuverability – one of the best things about the karambit is that you can employ various moves as it’s very easy to maneuver. This allows you to defend yourself in a self-defense scenario without your movement being limited.
- Non-slip handle – another advantage the karambit has over other knives is its non-slip handle. This allows you to secure a grip on the knife without having to worry about it slipping through.
- Multi-purpose usage – the karambit is no doubt the most versatile type of knife as it can be used on various applications and is not just limited to combat and self-defense. You can use it for cutting things when trapped in an emergency situation, skinning animal hide in the wild, and more.
How to Buy Your First Karambit Knife
If you’re planning to buy your very first karambit, you have to consider several important factors to make sure you can get the right knife for your needs. They’re as follows:
- Blade material
A karambit’s blade can be made of either high-grade iron, stainless steel, or refined carbon. Since the knife has a curved blade, you must pay special attention to the material used for creating it. Stainless steel blades are often the best choice since they’re lightweight and relatively affordable. Moreover, they only require low maintenance.
Carbon steel, on the other hand, tends to be a lot harder to maintain. However, you can expect it to be more durable and long-lasting.
- Protrusion ring
Otherwise known as the safety ring, the protrusion ring is one of the main reasons that make a karambit unique and more than just a curved knife. The protrusion ring will help enhance your overall grip and stability, thereby allowing you to perform actions even under a lot of pressure.
When choosing a karambit that has a protrusion ring, make sure that it’s very comfortable to use and is big enough to fit your fingers.
- Blade length
Blade length is a major consideration when buying a karambit. Most knives on the market will have a blade length of 3 inches, indicating that the knife will be around 5-6 inches long. You want to choose a blade length that’s within the laws in your area.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is it legal to carry a karambit?
A: The karambit is mostly considered a concealed weapon together with the likes of EDC blades and standard pocket knives. This means that it’s legal at a state level. However, there could be certain laws that will outlaw its usage depending on where you’re from. If you want to know whether it’s legal to carry a karambit or not, you should make sure to research your local laws before buying the knife.
Q: Is a karambit dangerous?
A: Technically, a karambit is just a tool, so it’s pretty harmless on its own. However, this can be a different issue when used by the wrong hands. Just like any knife, the karambit should be handled with care. Compared to most knives, it’s very sharp and has a different handling mechanism which a lot of people will find awkward. Therefore, it’s best not to treat a karambit as a toy but consider it as a tool that requires skill and practice to properly and safely use.
Q: Is the protrusion ring really necessary?
A: Despite the protrusion ring being one of the features that make a karambit unique, it’s not really that necessary. What you’re after is the knife’s capability to hook, tear, and slice things with relative ease. However, this only applies to those who are already experienced in using the knife.
For beginners, a protrusion ring is really helpful as it will allow them to practice using the ring without the dangers of the knife slipping through their grip and cutting their hand.
Q: Which type of karambit to use?
A: The type of karambit you should choose will depend on your needs. In general, a fixed blade knife is highly reliable as it doesn’t have any moving parts. However, concealing it is more difficult. Meanwhile, a folding blade offers better concealability but might lack the safety required for certain situations.
Therefore, you want to go for a karambit that’s designed for the utility and functionality you’re looking for. Just keep in mind that there’s no “one size fits all” when buying one.
Now that you’ve known almost everything there is to know about karambits, it’s time to decide whether you prefer this type of known or would rather go for the more traditional straight bladed ones.
Hopefully, we’re able to provide you with all the necessary information you should know about karambits, their history, uses, advantages, and how to find the right one for you.