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The karambit (also spelled kerambit or korambit) is a knife found among the cultures of Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. In all of these cultures it was used as an agricultural tool as well as a weapon. It is said that the shape of the karambit is related to animist beliefs about the power of tigers, and thus the karambit is in the shape of a tiger claw. In fact, there is also a non-sharpened, ceremonial version made of wood that is clearly shaped like a claw.
Karambits are traditionally used in the martial arts of Pencak Silat, Bersilat, and Eskrima.
The karambit is characterized by a sharply curved, usually double-edged, blade, which, when the knife is properly held, extends from the bottom of the hand, with the point of the blade facing forward. In Southeast Asia, karambits are encountered with varying blade lengths and both with and without a retention ring for the index finger on the end of the handle opposite the blade. However, in addition to being held blade facing forward and extending down from the fist it may also be held blade to front extending from the top of the hand.
The karambit has attracted interest in the West recently as a martial arts and personal defense weapon. Most karambits produced in the West for use as weapons are based on the small Filipino variety, which features a short blade and index finger ring. Both fixed blade and folding (generally single-edged) karambits are produced by a number of makers,
Karambit Use In Modern Martial ArtsGenerally, the short Filipino karambit has found favor in the West with some martial artists because it is believed that the biomechanics of the weapon allow for more powerful cutting strokes, particularly against an attacker's limbs, even with a short blade. The index finger ring makes it very difficult to disarm and it also allows a finer measure of control as compared with a straight knife.
From a self-defense standpoint, the smaller, single-edged versions of this knife are thought to be more intuitive to an untrained wielder, when used in a slashing action much like the claws of an animal. The type of damage is also theorized to be more conducive in defending oneself, where lethality is less important and can even be a liability.
Proponents argue that stab wounds or “slicing” wounds from straight blades are often not felt immediately by an attacker because of epinephrine, allowing them to continue to attack even if fatally wounded. However, the claw-like blade of the karambit, while not very effective for more lethal stabbing, is capable of a much more painful ripping action when slashed across an attacker’s hands, arms and torso. It can be lethal if major arteries such as the brachial, femoral or cartoid are severed. The hooked blade can be used to trap an opponent's limbs by exploiting the natural instinct to avoid being cut.
There are drawbacks to the karambit, however. Inserting the index finger into the retention ring can take too long and can be difficult to do in the heat of the moment. Also, if the handle is not gripped properly, the blade can be wrenched by an impact, which can injure or break the index finger.
Many takedowns and techniques used with the karambit center around major arteries and joints. For this reason there also are karambit-shaped weapons made of wood or plastic, pointed at the end, that are used for blunt-force striking methods or on pressure points.
Karambits are issued to Federal Air Marshals of the United States to be used in the event that a Marshal's firearm is grabbed by an attacker.