Karambit, the tiger’s claw

13 min


Karambit, New1

Karambit, the tiger’s claw.

The first time I saw the Karambit I was immediately fascinated and intrigued by its shape and approach to fighting with this type of knife.

After a very short time I realized its power, versatility and its dangerousness so simple curiosity became a real research, a passion that led me to an in-depth study of the technical baggage of this ancient weapon.

It is not easy to find real Karambit experts but it is a real approach to combat that also involves a basic study of human anatomy to build an extremely dangerous technical system.

In the approach to Karambit it is not only to strike but how and where to do it, to make the fluidity of movements a vortex circle with no way out.

There is a lot of difference when a user of the tool builds a knife but it is even more so with some types of knife and with the karambit.

By now you see objects of all kinds, some ridiculous for the study of self-defense from a cutting weapon but basically no one starts from the base, Short knife fencing, which means that he did not understand anything and has or you have a schematic view of combat, unfortunately it does not work like that, neither with bare hands and even less with such a lethal weapon as the knife or the karambit.

It is no coincidence that despite over 20 years I also continue to study and practice Kali Filippino / Silat where there is an important use of cutting weapons, short knife fencing because for me it is a fundamental as well as contact sports standing (Boxing / Muay Thai) and on the ground (Grappling and BJJ) which are very useful because you understand the profound difference between the various sports contexts and defense from aggression that you allows you to create the correct connections, I am absolutely against systems such as Krav Maga, etc. when you start talking about the physical combat phase, because I consider them schematic and cleared in the West as a marketing product more than a real research and evolution of combat, to be clear I have friends who teach it but among these the good ones have not practiced systems but developed the real skills /attributes necessary for combat by practicing combat sports, if you want to believe in fairy tales you are free to do so but you will not move reality by one mm and the knife is not a game.

If you want to learn more click on this link but let’s go back to karambit and its history. Here I do not devote myself to the technical part of using the weapon.

Karambit, the tiger's claw coltellimania.com

The karambit or kerambit (phonetic: karambìt) is a small knife of Southeast Asian origin (Indonesia and the Philippines) characterized by a crescent shape and a ring at the extreme base of the handle.

Karambit is a hook blade from Southeast Asia

In the Philippines the knife is pronounced as Karambit while in Indonesia and Malaysia it is pronounced as kerambit.

In the West it is known as Karambit.

Simple, isn’t it??

In nature, predators have natural weapons that give them superiority (teeth, nails, etc.).

Man, always a great inventor and tool operator, made up for the lack of nails by creating knives for his survival.

According to one version, karambit mimics the tiger’s claw.

The karambit is a weapon mainly used in the Southeast Asian martial arts of Filipino Kali and Silat.

Karambit has been a great success among practitioners of different martial arts and fighters from all over the world for its efficiency in combat.

The curved blade like the claw of felines is perfect for severing tendons and muscles, creating deeper wounds such as cutting a traditional knife, while the ring compared to the knife makes it extremely difficult for an opponent to disarm the hand.

A bit of karambit history

The very first form of karambit dates back to the thirteenth century and was called Kuku Bima (Bima’s Claw).

Bima is a Hindu deity often depicted with a small blade wielding as he emerged from his clenched fist.

With the arrival of The Arab merchants in the Asian archipelago the design of the blade has been redesigned according to the model of the Curved Arab knife, the janbiya.

But the true definitive form of karambit was born by observing nature, trying to reproduce the kuku macan (the tiger claw), an animal that has always been feared and respected by local populations, is in the claws of the tiger was found the inspiration to obtain the definitive form.


The first karambit prototype, much larger than its current size, was born as a battle weapon and was called karambit besar (great karambit).

The blade was often soaked in poison to make it even more lethal, while the curved shape favored techniques aimed at cutting blood vessels and severing the tendons of the arms and legs.

Over time this blade was shrinked to make it more and more manageable and flexible in use, until it reached the “current” dimensions that immediately identify it as a weapon of traditional Indonesian heritage.

In peacetime, karambit was relegated to a purely use of work in the fields or in woodworking.

With the advent of firearms in war and battles, karambit has become only a secondary weapon, in case it is disarmed or to act covertly, a work tool and at the same time a weapon of self-defense.

Some ancient texts tell that Karambit was essentially a tool for farmers to perform work on wood and other daily activities.

Some have developed hand-to-hand combat techniques to be used as an effective and lethal personal defense weapon.

In wartime, the small Karambit was always held by the warriors as a “secondary” weapon, in the case of disarmament.

Some say that the first Karambits appeared on American soil in the late 1800s, but the earliest certain evidence is in the 1950s among the American communities of Filipino and Indonesian emigrants.

Between 1970 and the early 1990s practitioners of the Martial Arts of Southeast Asia began to spread the fighting techniques involving this particular blade.

Currently it is used as a self-defense weapon and used in various Asian martial arts disciplines, such as Pencak Silat or kali and it is through the study of these disciplines that I have known Karambit.

Karambit Real and Karambit Training

Even if it is apparently a simple object, it actually contains technicalities that cannot be overlooked.

There are two main types of Karambit, depending on the size:

Female Karambit

The female karambit is a small version, the size of a palm tree and the tip protrudes very little from the fist that holds it and is almost invisible.

In the past the tip of the female karambit was immersed in poison and with a simple scratch the blade could kill.

The female karambit remains very hidden and keeps the ring that can also be used to hit, it is one of my favorite versions of karembit!

Karambit, New1

Male Karambit

The male karambit is large, the tip protrudes a lot from the fist holding it, so that the fighter can use the efficient mechanics of the gun grip.

Today there are also foldable versions, karambit folders with quick extraction systems and opening from the pocket.

Modern design Karambit tends to be smaller than traditional ones and often have a serrated blade.

The most popular modern versions of karambit are of the male type.

Karambit, the tiger's claw coltellimania.com

The parts that make up the karambit

“What is karambit?”

The basics, let’s look back together on its origins:

The karambit is an incredible multipurpose knife designed for the safety, accuracy and efficiency of those who use it. It has a curved or hook blade, an ergonomic handle and typically at least one safety ring.

The predecessor of modern karambit emerged in Indonesia during the 11th century as an agricultural tool and utility blade.

Due to Indonesia’s thriving commercial industry, karambit spread rapidly throughout Southeast Asia.

Despite its Indonesian origin, it has developed strong roots in Malaysia and the Philippines.

Karambit, the tiger's claw coltellimania.com

The design of the knife may vary slightly depending on the exact geographical origin, but a karambit will always have an arched blade.

In addition, a karambit will always offer its user functionality far beyond that provided by a straight blade.

Traditionally, the design is based on the shape and curve of a tiger claw.

As such, the blade must be optimized to tear, tear and slice.

The curved blade of karambit has always been appreciated for its precision and stability in its use also as a valuable tool used in different types of work before its appearance of combat knife and for its self-defense applications.

In battle, the blade’s bow offers the ability to attack and counter fluidly in a single movement and easily change the directions of movement.

It also allows you to hit from multiple attack lines at once, although you can’t see the angle in question because it’s behind your opponent.

The design allows you to easily hook, trap and otherwise manipulate the position, limbs and direction of your opponent’s strength.

This creates a fighting advantage for the karambit fighter.

In addition, many Karambits have multiple surfaces or cut edges arranged in various configurations, each of which offers different benefits for both utility as a tool and for use in combat.

Karambit, New1

There are different types of Karambit based on different factors, technical, stylistic, functional.

If you want a personalized Karambit it is a type of knife among my favorites! Write me an email.


The Karambit in Combat

Historically it has been widely used as a utility blade during routine daily operations, it has been considered the “everyday” blade or EDC of ancient Southeast Asia.

Even today, in the remote Philippine and Indonesian provinces, karambiti present themselves as a choice of “pocket knife”.


The very original versions (drawings of the 11th and 14th centuries) of Filipino karambit and Indonesian karambit may or may not have possessed a safety ring, also known as a ring of retention, but past centuries and the function, characteristics and use of the blade have evolved,

The safety ring has turned into a karambit design requirement.

In every geographical area of the Philippine, Indonesian and Malay archipelagos there are many variants of traditional Karambit:

  • Kuku Bima as West Java
  • Kuku Hanuman: West Java
  • Kuku Machan: Sumatra, Central Java, Madura
  • Kerambit Sumbawa: Sumba Islands
  • Kerambit Lombok: Lombok Island
  • Lawi Ayam: West Sumatra

The origin of the karambit, according to historical accounts of the early 11th century.C., comes from West Sumatra and was invented by the Minangkabau tribe.

The peoples of South East Asia have the characteristic of observing a lot what is foreign and making it with their creativity a personal tool.

This was the case with the combat techniques derived from the Spanish influence that occupied the island and it also happened for karambit.

The Indonesian archipelago was a commercial crossroads, with the main spice trade and Arab traders always had with them the traditional curved knife called Janbiya, extremely common in the Middle East.

The Minangkabau tribe imitated the curved anatomy of this knife and added a ring (safety ring) on the edge.

It was originally used as an agricultural tool to collect roots, bulbs and cut rice lolla.

Through Indonesia’s trade network, Kerambit has spread to other neighboring countries: the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), etc.

Historical accounts of European historians describe that the basic armament of Indonesian soldiers was a spear in their hands, a wavy sword (Kris) with a sheath (sheath), placed on the back or in the middle, while carrying an auxiliary Kerambit that would only use it if they lost their other weapons.

Karambit or kerembit has become very popular as a very common self-defense weapon as a self-defense for women, who carried it hidden in their hair or in their traditional clothes (Sarong).

Safety ring

The safety ring is placed at the end of the handle and allows you to insert a finger through the ring before closing your hand on the handle of the knife.

Some karambits have a secondary safety ring located on the handle shaft just below the blade itself, which allows you to “tighten” the blade.

The introduction of the safety ring was originally designed to prevent the blade from sliding back through the user’s hand by working in odd angles, in difficult activities or in specialized environments (such as underwater or hanging upside down).

In battle, the safety ring provides a strong and safe hold in all conditions and through the most unexpected stresses.

The particularity of having the karambit safety ring makes the knife particularly difficult to disarm or turn against its user and also allows the wielder to rely on the design of the blade to increase the preservation of weapons rather than depend on the grip force alone.

If the user’s hand is open or closed, moving or in a motionless position, handheld, palmly or anywhere in between, due to the safety ring, a karambit knife is always safe and in an optimal position for use.

Finally, grip safety and increased gun storage are especially useful when the knife is covered in dust, mud, water or blood in a battle, or when karambit is used at the difficult or precise angles required in combat application.

karambit, the tiger's claw

The advantages in karambit combat:

  • It is an ideal weapon for cutting, hooking and tearing shots
  • The ring can be used to hit like a knuckle Duster or Knuckle Puller
  • Thanks to the gun grip there is a greater transfer of kinetic energy (Force Multiplier)
  • Its disarmament is almost impossible
  • Even if you open your fingers it doesn’t fall
  • With rotary movement it causes severe whiplashes
  • The handling of the attacker’s shots is very well exploited (Trapping with karambit)

The disadvantages in karambit combat:

  • It penetrates easily by opening tendons, ligaments and bones but tends to get stuck
  • Can only be used from a very close distance
  • It’s hard to pull out of a scabbard and that’s why there are quick-draw folders
  • It has poor concealment due to the curvature of the blade and for this there are several variants or use female karambit.

The Karambit and the battle test!

There are few weapons, blades or tools capable of creating damage with an impressive ease like a karambit to the point that even today it has its own deadly “grace” and a mysterious appeal.

For an experienced karambit expert, the ability to effortlessly maneuver the blade in a variety of positions, especially during the unpredictability of combat, without fear of losing grip on their weapon is invaluable.

While the blade originally served exclusively as an ancient everyday utility tool in the same way as the modern “Swiss army knife”, in Indonesian villages and the Philippines, karambit was quickly used for use in battle and for self-defense.

At one point, karambit intertwined with Pencak Silat (also written Pentjak Silat), the indigenous art and unimaginable deadly Indonesian close combat combat.

It is now widely recognized as one of several traditional weapons commonly associated with silat and other southeast Asian martial arts, particularly Filipino kali.

Often in movies and videos available on YouTube you see more the spectacularization of karambit as a skill game making it rotate too much in the air, making many useless movements, while its use is simple and limited to a few single or combined movements.

In historical combat the karambit was used in combination with a long weapon, then used with the live hand.

Also in the use of the weapon as an armed hand or double karambit In addition, they move the karambit around the targets, while the exact opposite must be done (targets should move towards the blade through the bridle)

Continuous blade rotation (Spinning) is often done only by impression, whereas in reality blade rotation is mainly practical for three reasons:

  • Using extended grip
  • Execution of whiplash,
  • Opening the karambit to hook and tear

The empty rotation of the karambit makes no sense!

Southeast Asian martial arts
It is difficult to say whether art and battle have influenced the design of the karambit or the unique combative advantages of this instrument have influenced the technical development of the Pencak Silat, but regardless of this it is a fearsome and formidable instrument of destruction.

When it is in the hands of an expert pesilat (silat practitioner). A “player” is someone who practices martial arts in Southeast Asia, including not only the Indonesian Pencak Silat, but also Filipino Kali, Arnis, Eskrima, Bersilat Malay, Brown Arts and Kuntao.

It is very rare to find a karambit expert who also does not practice Indonesian martial arts, or Filipino or other Southeast Asian martial arts.

The exact spelling of “karambit” may vary regionally and across martial arts, but both “karambit” and “kerambit” are commonly accepted as correct.

The blade’s name is sometimes misspelled as “korambit”, “kerambet”, “karambite”, “carambit” or with another combination of vowels, but regardless of how it is written, the pronunciation is almost always “kah-RAHM-bit”.

In the Philippines and many of the Filipino martial arts (kali, eskrima, arnis), karambit is known as “lihok” or “sanggot”.

One thing certain about this knife, no matter what you call it, the karambit is unparalleled for its ability to create damage in combat, proven tactical advantages and the finesse of the battlefield.

How is a karambit made

Each karambit shares several identifiable parts of the nucleus and to be considered a karambit, a knife must meet the basic “anatomy” requirements.

New styles and variations of karambits open up all the time and custom karambit knife builders reward creative, but functional, designs.

Some karambits look quite exotic, but regardless of design or precise appearance, these 5 features form the basis of the anatomy of karambit:

  1. Curve blade
  2. Point
  3. Inner Edge (Concave Edge)
  4. Outer Edge (Convex Edge)
  5. Ergonomic handle

Karambit, the tiger's claw coltellimania.com

Without each of the above features and parts, a knife cannot be considered a karambit.

The design is simple, to the point and time tried.

Many traditional karambits, especially those southern to the Philippines, only meet the above requirements – they lack a safety ring or other attributes commonly associated with this curved southeastern blade.

Modern Karambits typically have at least some (but more often all) of the following parts:

  1. Safety ring (retention ring)
  2. Back blade
  3. Front brake
  4. Rear brake
  5. Thumb support

Karambit, the tiger's claw coltellimania.com

These are the 10 fundamental parts of karambit that form the structure of the blade.

Everything else is creative details, custom versions, artistic/technical/personal preferences of the builders or the user.

Changing the blade material, handle materials, cheek fixing systems, rings blade shape, grooves, ring, filework/edgework or any other feature of the design, etc.

The design can have many variations adapting to specific tastes, personal preferences and uses.

If you need a custom karambit design and want to know more about the basics of karambit? Contact!


Karambit in cinema

A little curiosity for the canine martialists, in cinema in recent years this type of knife has risen to prominence using it in many drops of movies and serials here are some examples:

  • Ong-Bak 2 – The birth of the dragon a fighter wields two karambits.
  • Die Hard 3, Sam Philips plays Katya who kills a policeman with a karambit.
  • Ior I’ll find Liam Neeson confronts a guard armed with karambit.
  • The Man From Nowehere, Ramrowan repeatedly uses a karambit to fight or execute someone – including the protagonist.
  • In the television series Nikita (2010 television series) used by Roan.
  • In the video game Call of Duty Black Ops, the protagonist Mason and Woods kill two Russians using a karambit knife in traditional mode.
  • Used by a hitman charged with killing the protagonist in the film The Promise of the Assassin
  • It is used in the movie The Punisher.
  • Used in the movie The Raid 2: Berandal.
  • It is used in the television series Fargo by the hitman Lorne Malvo.
  • In the video game Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist, protagonist Sam Fisher uses a karambit knife.
  • In the video game Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is available as a rare skin instead of the default knife.
  • It is used in the television series Lucifer by Mazikeen “Maze” Smith

Karambit Mini


The Karambit is an object that embodies man’s quest to have one of the most effective natural “weapons” in nature, the tiger’s claw.

It is a very versatile weapon and can have many uses but that requires to be used properly of an important training to use it safely.

Stay Tuned!

Street Fight Mentality!


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Andrea F

Maker and Enthusiast of Knifemaking. Other: Engineer / Professional Blogger / Bass Player / Instructor of Boxing / Muay Thai / Brazilian Jiu Jitsu / Grappling / CSW / MMA / Self Defence / FMA / Dirty Boxing / Silat / Jeet Kune Do & Kali / Fencing Knife / Stick Fighting / Weapons / Firearms. Street Fight Mentality & Fight Sport! State Of Love And Trust!


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