The Kerambit Gambit Handicap

Kerambits

     There's an old story going around about me and a kermabit. The tale goes that during a seminar, lunch break, in the 1990s, a guy walked up to me and showed me his kerambit, and I looked at it, opened a nearby window and threw it out the window of a two-story building. This isn't true. I would never do that to a guy's property. I can say confidently that not only would I not be so rude as to throw his property out a 2-story window, I would never throw my own kerambit out a window either – because I would never own one in the first place.

     Being somewhat in the business of knives, I am all too often shown kerambits and asked questions about kerambits. You know, the curved bladed knife that looks like a single animal claw. Some folks think they are God’s gifts to knives. And I am shown and see way too many karembits. I see photos and photos of them in the web. God, they look cool. All kinda science-fictiony. Klingon-like. Deadly. Tiger-paw looking. I can honestly proclaim I have never seen a kerambit I didn’t think was very, cool looking. Wow!

     Lord knows I don’t want to be attacked by one. But I don’t want one. Don’t need one. Don’t want one. Because of the Karembit Handicap. I hope I can leave this up here on the web as a source for people with these questions for me and questions in general about the true value of the knife in the big picture. I hope I can offer some reasoning and answers about the subject. The following are my personal beliefs and how I have come about them. If you love you some karembits? That’s fine. Enjoy a happy, healthy life. For me? Out the window they go! Figuratively of course.

     As a questioner, as a skeptic, never a fan-boy, not naïve, I just don’t fall for people or systems. Worshipping a system-head or a system is a recipe for potential mistakes and failure. If you never question your revered leader, you fail to evolve. So does he and the system he does. Or folks never question gear of the revered. Do you think you must fight with a Klingon knife because you worship the culture, look, feel and history of Klingons? Or are you really looking to fight and survive with the best edged weapon? Are you so mystified by a culture that you can’t see the faults? I know Systema people who like it so much, they start believing in and supporting Communism. I know Kung Fu people who change their religion. Communism and Zen Buddhism should have nothing to do with kicking a guy on the nuts or selecting the best knife. If you want to learn how to fight with hands, sticks, knives and guns? Keep hero-worship OUT of the picture. Keep system worship out of the picture. I think this imperative. I constantly see folks doing unnecessary things just because Dijon Superfly does them, and they are too blind to question. I think you can respect a system head and, or a system, but worship is not good. How much do you salivate? 

     The kerambit handicap. I cringe every time I see an attendee with a kermabit trainer in a seminar. I know that this person will have an extra and harder time doing even the most simple, obvious, historically successful knife moves. My knife training course is built to be as simple as possible, as fast and effective, with the obvious and simple tools, which are the straight blades. Curved blades complicate simplicity.

keram 2 -post size

     I recall the first time it happened in a New England seminar in the 1990s. A rather famous, Silat guy showed up with his curved plastic trainer. He had difficulty doing even the most simple, primitive knife things all day long. He couldn’t stab deep which is forensically the most successful, quicker kill method. It was plain to see that when slashing, his curve and tip would get stuck in body parts. Did he know he had to improvise and construct more steps, more “work-arounds,” to get the job done? I don’t know because he just flow drilled around the reality like there were no obstacles. Some do see this truth. Through the years the curved blade trainees still appear in my classes. The curve group often has to pow-wow off in the corner to make a simple thing work, because they are mentally and physically confined from the shape of their knife. Their adaptations always involve extra work-arounds and training to do something otherwise done simpler with the straight blade. 

      What do I mean by simple, proven moves? One simple and obvious move? Studies by the Marines in 1980s – while researching World war II knife tactics in the South Pacific, the USMC study group discovered that the uppercut stab to the groin/intestines, and, or the diaphragm/heart and, or even up inside the jawbone – the common hooking uppercut was a very successful. Successful, but oddly, not really emphasized and in most cases not taught. Yet, Marines instinctively still did them. Naturally. Natural. This research led to the implementation of these very natural moves in training courses. Instinctive. Natural. Simple. Now, can you do this natural, saber grip uppercut into these areas with a karembit. No. You can't plummet a kermabit, even one with a bottom side out grip, as deep and powerful into these vital parts as a saber, straight knife. Aside from results, the saber, straight knife movement is more natural, and the kerambit will require extra training and still won't garner the same success. Don’t get me started on all these examples as this will become a book and not an essay.

     Now look, you can cut somebody with a torn-open, tin can. I also don’t want to be attacked by a torn tin can or anything sharp. Broken glass bottle. Nope. A spear? Hell no. But the question remains, is a tin can will cut you, but is it the smartest thing to use? Do we need the Tactical Tin-Can course? No. You just get a knife. Get the best knife. A straight knife that stabs with deep efficiency potential and slashes without getting stuck in bodies and some clothing and can also, easily perform dozens of chores.

     Am I just untrained and dumb in the wild and wooly ways of the karembit? Since 1986, from here to the Philippines, I have been force-fed a steady diet of balisongs and karembits. In some cases they were parts of my FMA lessor and black belt tests. A balisong has a goofy opening method, but once it’s open it’s a straight knife. I hope the handle stays closed for you because in the heat of the fight, you probably won’t be about to slip that handle clip into place that holds the balisong handle together. As soon as I held a kerambit in my hand, it felt wrong and much of what they asked me to do was clearly unnecessary when compared to all the other straight blade training. And aside from the Kerambit force-feeding I was force-handed, as a former cop and an investigator most of my adult life, from arrests, cases and forensic training, I learned the straight knife is far superior and can do everything better and simpler than any curved knife, just about any time. The curve of the blade is a handicap. The more the curve, the more the handicap.

     Sellers of Kerambits have much sales-pitch, yadda-yadda about the cancer-curing perfections/wonders of the curved shape. They proclaim that just about everyone on the planet already uses, benefits and really needs the really curved knife. EVERYONE uses and loves the kerambit, everyone except the real people you see, you know, work with and read about and watch in documentaries, etc. I suggest you challenge every line of the sales pitch because in the end, it is not the selection of the practical. In actuality…

  • Butchers don't use them. 
  • Surgeons don’t use them.
  • Cooks don't use them.
  • Hunters don't use them. 
  • Fishermen don't use them. 
  • Soldiers & Marines in the know don’t use them. 
  • People don’t use them to camp.
  • Workers with real labor jobs won’t use them.
  • People don’t eat with them (this is a big point).
  • Prosecutors and police love to see you use them.

     If they are so perfect and superior, why are they not used by humanity? Try giving a farmer, a factory worker or a camper just a kermambit and see how long that idea lasts before they trade out for a straight blade. Many, if not most, of the big name kerambit twirlers have never been in the military. They just don't know that a military knife in the field must be very versatile and able to perform many everyday chores as well as fighting. 

     The biggest point in the above list, to me is that the human race has evolved to hunt, grow, prepare food and eat with a straight knife. Ever try to eat a steak with a kerambit? Cut and butter bread? I have a friend who likes to tease me on this point and threatens to send me a video of him eating a steak with his curvy kerambit. I’ll bet he can! I’ll also bet he can eat a steak with a torn, tin can. The point is, not that you can or can’t, but rather – what is the smartest tool to use. And we can’t forget, kitchen cutlery has reeked international havoc in self-defense, crime and war. In civilized countries over 99% of all knife violence is with simple, kitchen cutlery. A pretty good success rate for the straight blade. (By using them, I mean predominantly use them. I am sure in my hate mail over this, someone will name a special circumstance where someone drops his regular straight knife and reaches for a curvy hook to catch an oddball body, fish or animal part.) 

     And needless to add, take a guy with a straight, blade knife in a saber grip versus a guy with kerambit and let them duel. Who do you think has the advantage? Spar it out. Take two Dijon Superflys and spar this straight vs. curved, combo out. I can tell you from doing that for decades and organizing/ref experience that the saber grip straight blade has the advantage. Not that dueling is the end-all knife encounter, a final judge, oh no, but dueling can and does happen. And listen to this – this is telling – even the Dijons still teach and use a lot of straight knives too. Most teach more straight knife than curved knife. Why bother? If the Kerambit was God's gift for knife work? Wouldn't they give up on straight blade material? 

     But they look cool, so Klingon and purty! And Dijon Juan Superfly is soooo cool with his flow drills on youtube!

     “Oh my Dijon! Oh my….and…and Dijon does so many arm manipulations.”

     Do you think you will really hook and push around so many angry, adrenalized arms with a kerambit as Dojon Superfly does in a cooperative flow drill on Youtube? And by the way, a straight knife can push arms around too.

     Spinning. The ring in the handle alone does not a kerambit make. I have seen some folks calling a straight knife with a ring in the handle a kerambit, just because of the ring. No. It has to be a curved blade. Now, to what degree of a curve, I can’t precisely say. I think you know one when you see one. The ring is for retention and spinning. On spinning, another dubious kermanbit characteristic- the Kermabit sellers page says,

     “Karambit spinning is showy, flashy and useless without significant training, practice and understanding of the application. New users should not spin karambits until they're intimately familiar with their blade, its balance, the way it fits into their hand in various grips and while in motion AND, most importantly, until they've received instruction.”

the-kermabit-gambit-knife

     Further, “…many people don't use the smaller muscles in the hands and it takes time to build them up.”

     Confessions from a kerambit salesman! And there you have it from the source. More stuff to do. More muscles to build. More unnecessary stuff to do.

          Straight, bent, curved. The curve of the knife. The more curve, the worse. There are knives on the market that have some bend to them, some just a slight bend, bended/angled with no curvey claw. Some right-angle bends remind me somewhat of carpet knives. The sharp, 90 degree bend of the carpet knife, its position to the handle, is superior to the more curved kerambits, otherwise thousands of carpet layers would have invented kerambits or they would all use kerambits. They don't. Some folks, like carpet folks, work projects that require that sharp point, at the maximum position of their hand grip for the job. As a detective I have worked some serious assaults involving carpet knife attacks. 

     The somewhat bent edged weapons list might include the infamous kukri. The kukri is not a curvy kerambit. It has its own heft and is used much like a straight edged weapon.

kukri-carpet-knife

 

     Straight? Bent? Curved? These bended ones are better than the curvy ones, and seem to have some ‘hammerfist-like” and "punching-like," natural applications. But, the more the bend? The more the pointy curve? The more problems. To use them as efficiently as a straight knife, which cannot be completely done, you have to add-on, learn more, have extra tricks to stab and slash. And, speaking of hammer-fists, the hammer fist is a very natural movement, with very natural target acquisition, and really supports the reverse or ice-pick grip, straight-blade stab. Why ruin that principle with a curved blade that sticks out and then forward from the bottom of hand, killing the hammer-fist instinct. So…more Kerambit training is therefore needed. More extra training.

 

horseman-cavelry-swords

     As mentioned in the above military photo, it gets stuck in people and things. The curved point is called a hook, because…it hooks. I see the kerambit practitioners simulating cuts with figure 8 patterns and X patterns in the air, or in front of partners. No contact. Do they not realize that with contact, their point embeds into the person and the bones and the clothing, gear, etc? X pattern over. Figure 8 pattern over. And now they must learn an extraction technique, unique to that knife. Extra stuff to learn. (this is also true with the tomahawk/axe craze. On first impact? THUNK! NO more slap-dash, dancey, prancy axe moves, just a big-ass axe sunk into a skull or chest. Extraction! Use foot if needed to push-pull)

   The most curved knife “out there?” The classic rescue knife. One carried just to cut seat belts and ropes. You can’t even clean your nails with this one. I think that anyone can see this is really limited in overall use. The more the curve, the less you can do. I am sure when you need a seat belt cutter? You really need a seat belt cutter. So, get one and cram it on your belt. Squeeze in that two inches more next to your shark repellent, and radiation pills, for those times you really need stuff like that. (Oh, and yes, a "regular" knife can cut a seat belt too, and I'll bet has many more times than a specialized seat cutter.)

kerambit-too-curved-blade-the-rescue-knife

     I constantly hear from kerambit owners that they "like" or "really like" their karembit. But when I ask them why? Most people can't give you a good answer. Look, what do I care about people, their fixations, fascinations and hobbies? Get a kerambit and mess with it. Do all that extra training. Place it on a rotating pedistal. One in each pocket and on a neck chain. Get the t-shirt and ballcap. Follow the Dijon. Smile. Live long and prosper. These are just my personal beliefs and opinions. I know I never want to be attacked or cut by a kerambit, or a torn, tin can or a rescue knife. But to me, a karambit is a handicap to simplicity. People are just too hypnotized by the shape, culture and hero-worship.

Reread this line again –

"And this is telling, even the Dijons still teach and use a lot of straight knives too. Why bother? If the Kerambit was God's gift for knife work? Wouldn't they give up on straight blade material?" 

     What did they tell us in school years ago, when writing an essay? "Contrast and compare." If you really contrast and compare, without bias and fixations? What do you come up with? Being that we are Force NECESSARY, and not Force UN-necessary, I will never bother with or waste my time teaching a damn kerambit. Do please, howevere continue to show me your kerambits. They are all very cool looking. And I certainly will not throw them out of any window. Only, you know…figuratively.

Email Hock at HockHochheim@ForceNecessary.com

 

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