Last updated
Kerambit knife and sheath.JPG
A traditional karambit.
TypeConcealed blade
Place of origin Indonesia (West Sumatra)
Blade  typeSingle, double or triple edged, crescent curve
Hilt  typeWater buffalo horn, wooden, ivory
Scabbard/sheath Water buffalo horn, wooden

The karambit or kerambit (as used in Indonesian), kurambik or karambiak (both from the Minangkabau language) is a small Indonesian curved knife resembling a claw from Minangkabau people of West Sumatra. [1]



King Adityawarman statue holding a karambit, he was a king of Pagaruyung Kingdom or Malayapura, a state in West Sumatra (1347-1375). Adityawarman.jpg
King Adityawarman statue holding a karambit, he was a king of Pagaruyung Kingdom or Malayapura, a state in West Sumatra (1347–1375).

The karambit is believed to have originally been weaponized among the Minangkabau people of West Sumatra [2] where, according to folklore, it was inspired by the claws of a tiger. As with most weapons of the region, it was originally an agricultural implement designed to rake roots, gather threshing and plant rice in most of island Southeast Asia. It's a smaller variant of the Southeast Asian sickles (Filipino garab and karit; Indonesian celurit , arit, or sabit; and Malaysian sabit). As it was weaponised, the blade became more curved to maximise cutting potential. Through Indonesia's trade network and close contact with neighbouring countries, the weaponization of the karambit was eventually dispersed through what are now Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and the Philippines. [3] [4]

Culturally, the karambit was a subject of condescension in Java because of its history as a weapon of the agrarian peasantry, as opposed to the kesatria (warrior class) who were trained in the keraton or royal palace. European accounts tell that soldiers in Indonesia were armed with a kris at their waist or back and a spear in their hands, while the karambit was used as a last resort when the fighter's other weapons were lost in battle. The renowned Bugis warriors of Sulawesi were famous for their embrace of the karambit. Today it is one of the main weapons of silat and is commonly used in Filipino martial arts as well. [5]

Superficially, the karambit resembles the jambiyah but there is no connection. The jambiyah was always designed as a weapon and serves as a status marker, often made by skilled artisans and jewelers using precious stones and metals, whereas the karambit was and still remains an unadorned, modest farmer's implement and useful utility knife. [5]


Karambit (Tecnica 1).jpg
Karambit (Tecnica 2).jpg
A modern karambit, held in a hammer grip (up) and the other held traditionally (down).

The karambit is held with the blade pointing downward from the bottom of the fist, usually curving forwards. While it is primarily used in a slashing or hooking motion, karambit with a finger ring are also used in a punching motion hitting the opponent with the finger ring. Some karambit are designed to be used in a hammering motion. This flexibility of striking methods is what makes it useful in self-defense situations. The finger guard makes it difficult to disarm and allows the knife to be maneuvered in the fingers without losing one's grip. [5]

The short Filipino karambit has found some favor in the West because such proponents allege the biomechanics of the weapon allow for more powerful cutting strokes and painful "ripping" wounds, and because its usability is hypothesized as more intuitive, though there continues to be debate about this matter. [5]


Knife (Korambi) with Sheath MET 36.25.823ab 002june2014.jpg Knife (Korambi) with Sheath MET 36.25.869ab 005july2014.jpg
Knife (Korambi) with Sheath MET 36.25.873ab 002july2014.jpg
An 18th-19th century Malayan style Karambit (left), an 18th-19th century Sulawesi style Karambit (top) and a 16th-19th century Sumatran style Karambit (bottom).

There are many regional variants of karambit. The length of the blade, for example, could vary from one village or blacksmith to another. Some have no finger guard and some feature two blades, one on each side of the handle. Traditional types include:

Additionally, modern karambit may have spikes or spurs on the front or rear ricasso, which may be intended for gripping clothing or horse tack, tearing flesh or for injecting a poison, such as the upas. [6]

Modern forms

The modern Western interpretation of the karambit is far removed from the original agricultural tool. They may have folding blades, are finished to a high standard, made from expensive materials as opposed to being rudimentary and makeshift and are generally larger to accommodate larger hands. [7]

See also

Related Research Articles

Culture of Indonesia Overview of the culture in Indonesia

The culture of Indonesia has been shaped by long interaction between original indigenous customs and multiple foreign influences. Indonesia is centrally-located along ancient trading routes between the Far East, South Asia and the Middle East, resulting in many cultural practices being strongly influenced by a multitude of religions, including Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, and Islam, all strong in the major trading cities. The result is a complex cultural mixture very different from the original indigenous cultures.

Pencak silat Indonesian martial art

Pencak silat is an umbrella term for a class of related Indonesian martial arts. In neighbouring countries, the term usually refers to professional competitive silat. It is a full-body fighting form incorporating strikes, grappling and throwing in addition to weaponry. Every part of the body is used and subject to attack. Pencak silat was practiced not only for physical defense but also for psychological ends.

Seni Gayong is a style of silat from Malaysia. It was the first martial arts association to be registered in the country, and is now the biggest and most internationally known Malaysian silat discipline. Gayong is overseen by the Pertubuhan Silat Seni Gayong Malaysia (PSSGM) or the Malaysian Silat Seni Gayong Organisation. This organisation is currently led by Dato' Ismail Jantan. While it is most popular in Malaysia and Singapore, there are also branches in Vietnam, Australia, France, Kuwait, Tunisia, Britain, and the United States.

Silat Southeast Asian martial art

Silat is the collective term for a class of indigenous martial arts from the Nusantara and surrounding geocultural areas of Southeast Asia. It is traditionally practised in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Southern Thailand, Southern Philippines and Southern Vietnam. There are hundreds of different styles and schools which tend to focus either on strikes, joint manipulation, weaponry, or some combination thereof.

Celurit Sickle, Billhook

A Celurit or Clurit is generally a sickle with a pronounced crescent-blade patterns which curves more than half a circle and a long handle, is widely used for agricultural purposes and also in Pencak Silat. When compared to the Arit, the Celurit is slightly larger.

Silat Patani is a style of silat originating in the Pattani kingdom, now a state of Thailand. It is primarily practiced in northern Malaysia and southern Thailand. The art is also known as silat tua because tradition credits it as the oldest form of silat Melayu. It is sometimes called silat tua Yawi, being the Thai-Malay pronunciation of Jawi in this case referring to the Thai Malay community. These two latter names are increasingly popular among Malaysian practitioners, so as not to acknowledge the Pattani origin of the art.

Weapons of silat

Listed here are the weapons of silat. The most common are the machete, staff, kris, sickle, spear, and kerambit. Because Southeast Asian society was traditionally based around agriculture, many of these weapons were originally farming tools.

Inti Ombak

Inti Ombak is a style of pencak silat which blends martial arts descended from the Mataram Kingdom of Central Java with those hailing from the island of Madura. In English it is often abbreviated to IOPS, short for "Inti Ombak Pencak Silat". The Inti Ombak Pencak Silat Union is guided by three caretakers in accordance with the Javanese adage "In the front as a leader, in the middle as a moderator, in the back as an advocate". The current caretakers are Ki Poleng Sudamala of Yogyakarta, Daniel Prasetya of Colorado, and Tjahjadi Tanudjaya of Tengerang. The school's international headquarters are located in Yogyakarta, Indonesia while the US headquarters are in Loveland, Colorado.

Badik Knife, Dagger

The badik or badek is a knife or dagger developed by the Bugis and Makassar people of southern Sulawesi, Indonesia.

Sewar Dagger

Sewar refers to a dagger of Indonesian origin, typically carried in a belt and used mainly in Sumatra, Indonesia. The blade is also referred to as Sewah by the Gayo people, Seiva by the Minangkabau people, Siva by the Alas people, and Siwaih by the Acehnese people.

Indonesian martial arts

Indonesian martial arts includes a variety of fighting systems native to or developed in the archipelago of Indonesia, both the age-old traditional arts, and the more recently developed hybrid combatives. In the Indonesian language the term bela-diri is used to mean martial art, and in essence the Indonesian fighting arts are meant as one's defence against perceived threat and assault. Other than physical training, they often include spiritual aspects to cultivate inner strength, inner peace and higher psychological ends.


Rangkiang is a granary or rice barn of the Minangkabau people used to keep rice. The rangkiang is a distinctive feature of Minangkabau architecture. The structure is traditionally found in the courtyard of a rumah gadang, the traditional house of Minangkabau people.


A balairung is a village hall of the Minangkabau people of West Sumatra, Indonesia. It has a similar architectural form to the rumah gadang, the domestic architecture of the Minangkabau people. Whereas a rumah gadang is a proper building, the balairung is a pavilion-like structure used solely for holding a consensus decision-making process in the Minang society.

Huriah Adam was a famous dance artist from West Sumatra.

Pura Lingsar

Pura Lingsar was built by Anak Agung Ngurah in 1714, located 15 km from Mataram. Lingsar origin from sasak language mean clear revelation from God, the area has a spring, which scared by Sasak people, who belief Wetu Telu.

Mayura Park

Mayura Park was built by Anak Agung Gde Ngurah Karangasem in 1866, located 2 km east Mataram.

Bedil tombak Early firearm from Nusantara archipelago

Bedil tombak or bedil tumbak is a type of early firearm from the Nusantara archipelago. The weapon consist of a gun or small cannon mounted on a wooden pole, forming a type of weapon known as "pole gun".

Minangkabau culture Culture of the Minangkabau people

Minangkabau culture is the culture of the Minangkabau ethnic group in Indonesia, part of the Indonesian culture. This culture is one of the two major cultures in the Indonesian archipelago which is very prominent and influential.

Minangkabau music

Music of Minang is a traditional and living genre of Indonesian music that grows and develops in the Minangkabau culture area. Music whose origins are related to Malay Music is generally played by musical instruments such as Talempong, Saluang, Minang rebab, Serunai, Tmbourine, Aguang, Gandang, and Violin. Minang music is also played to accompany various dances such as the Pasambahan dance and the Piring dance.


  1. Farrer, D. S. (5 June 2009). Shadows of the Prophet: Martial Arts and Sufi Mysticism. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 91. ISBN   978-1-4020-9356-2.
  2. Agus Mulyana (2010). "KERAMBIT: Senjata Genggam Khas Minangkabau". Sumedang Online. Archived from the original on 28 January 2015. Retrieved 9 October 2014.
  3. Proyek Pembinaan Permuseuman Jakarta (Indonesia). Koleksi pilihan museum-museum negeri propinsi. Proyek Pembinaan Permuseuman Jakarta: 1989. 65 pages
  4. D. Christo (2014). "Karambit FAQ". Karambit.com.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Tarani, Steve (2002). Karambit: Exotic Weapon of the Indonesian Archipelago. Unique Publications. pp. 15–22. ISBN   978-0-86568-206-1.
  6. Sheikh Shamsuddin. The Malay art of self-defense: silat seni gayong. North Atlantic Books, 2005 ISBN   1-55643-562-2, ISBN   978-1-55643-562-1. 247 pages. pp234
  7. Emerson, Ernest (February 2004). "The Battle Blade". Black Belt Magazine . Los Angeles, California: Active Interest Media, Inc. 42 (2): 80–85. ISSN   0277-3066 . Retrieved 3 March 2015.