JUST cos it has a curved blade doesn’t mean it’s a kerambit!!
I first came across the kerambit in the early 80’s when training with Jak Othman. At the time, he was the ONLY person teaching in Europe who knew what one was, and who taught it. EVERY silat practitioner in Europe that I met, DID NOT KNOW WHAT ONE WAS. When I went to Jakarta and Sumatra, I spoke to many silat people there, and went to weapons centres and shops, and NOT ONE silat person knew what a Kerambit is. When I went to Malaysia and Singapore, pretty much everyone knew. They would wink, make a small hand gesture, and smile when you acknowledged the secret hand signal.
Over the years and decades, I have seen more and more stories of how people have been teaching the kerambit, and how long they have been masters of this weapon. 20 years earlier, they hadn’t seen or heard of it. But that’s it.. they are just stories. Everyone is the hero in their own narrative and I notice that a lot of silat people wont acknowledge that they have a lack of knowledge in an area. They teach you to fight with axe or tomahawk, sword, and spear, sarong, and scarf, whip and blow pipe. They have so many weapons to fight with. They all come back to the love affair with the kerambit. BUT not all curved blades are kerambit- to be a kerambit, it needs a finger ring, AND a hooked blade going in the right direction. In Indonesia they also have a Lawi Ayam- cock’s spur, which is a single edged weapon, and more 90 degrees. It is also held in a reverse grip to the kerambit- From the TOP of the hand not the bottom. IT IS NOT THE SAME.
Seen in films such as Taken, and John Wick 3, the kerambit is also known as the tiger claw. Harimau practitioners? Maybe not. It is small, hidden and because of its nature is banned throughout S.E. Asia. The original onnes I bought were made from Buffalo horn, but with those places shut down by the police, there are now Thai, and Indonesian imports around. The photos show the different styles.
The kerambit is not the ultimate weapon though. It is a backup weapon, a weapon of stealth and guile, and because of its size a very close quarter tool. I have seen pictures of people squaring off with the kerambit shown in front. That is not its nature. That is like Ninjas having glowing neon signs.
You don’t advertise the kerambit. You let your attacker bleed, and wonder where that cut came from, because he cant see your blade. Its power as a weapon is that it is hard (but not impossible) to be disarmed, as the ring isn’t released from your finger even if the grip is loosened. Because it is small, it’s other strength is that it doesn’t need space to be deployed.
I have seen people brandish the kerambit, and teach long sessions on how to flip the blade. That is what makes people think you don’t know what you are doing. SURE you CAN flip it, but its not a showy weapon. Shiny and bright goes against the dull rusty darkened blade to blend in against the dark clothes and skin and night time training. The kerambit is traditionally double edged. The American versions are single edged for their laws, but that then gives you ridiculous twisted body positions and techniques. Others have “added” to the design, introducing spurs and striking points, or thumb guards. All irrelevant, unless you want to make life more complicated.
I was taught that the Kerambit was a pirate or ladies tool, so some have spikes and saw backs to bite into flesh or the wooden hulls of the boats back in the 13th and 14th Centuries.
FMA seems to have adopted and adapted the kerambit to their arts, and in the main it is quite nice. There is a lot of flowery techniques associated with the kerambit, most of which are unnecessary and meant to add to a curriculum rather than teach technique. REMEMBER the Kerambit effectively originated in Malaysia, so unless you learn Malaysian silat you aren’t learning authentic Kerambit techniques, you are learning silat or kuntao or Kempo or whatever, WITH a kerambit. THINK- the kerambit is called a tiger claw. How does a tiger use its claws? It doesn’t have a lot of fancy techniques it rips and shreds, and that is the purpose of the kerambit.