A karambit is a tool that originated in the Indonesian Archipelago, likely first conceived by the Minangkabau on the island of Sumatra. It is styled to resemble a tiger’s claw. It potentially had a more utilitarian role. As an implement it was useful for digging out roots and tubers and for reaping or cutting, but also created functionality as weapon. The word Karambit derives from the Minangkabu word ‘Kurambik’.
The karambit was more likely a peasant’s tool than a warrior’s weapon. The warrior-class at the time carried a Kris or Kalis as their secondary weapon, a wavy bladed dagger or short sword, a weapon that requires substantially more technique to create.
The Emerson Super Karambit grafts a karambit and folder together into a neat, functional package.
Personal use bias
I use an Emerson Super Karambit as my primary right hand draw. The reason I like it is that it draws very quickly. I prefer drawing in a ‘hammer’ grip as opposed to a ‘traditional’ karambit grip, ie I insert my pinkie finger into the loop, drawing backwards to activate the ‘wave’ feature which opens the knife against the lip of my pocket and then bringing the knife up into a close-middle type of stance.
Δ My ‘hammer’ grip. Knife is looped through the pinkie finger, my thumb pushes against the ridges machined into the base of the blade and handle providing me more control.
Δ A more ‘traditional’ karambit grip where the index finger is looped through knife and the blade is held downwards. I find this grip awkward and I struggle to action the knife from here.
What I like about the Emerson Super Karambit
Economy of effort. Because the ‘wave’ feature opens the knife for me I don’t have to worry opening the knife with my thumb or forefinger. Ie. I can concentrate on other things.
Unlikely to fumble. I used to carry an orthodox folder as my primary draw. When pressure testing myself to see if I could draw my folder under pressure I often found that under sustained attack it was challenging to draw and open an orthodox folder effectively, even with practice. Even worse sometimes I would fumble and drop the weapon entirely. With my pinkie finger inserted into the knife this becomes much less of a possibility.
This is my ‘oh shit’ knife. Ie, a situation that develops so rapidly that your opponent is already in your clinch range before you even know you’re being attacked. It draws very quickly and I’m unlikely to drop or fumble it. In a CQC situation I would use my karambit to create space between me and the other combatant so that I can better control the dynamic of the fight. Ie. I can create space so I can draw a force multiplier like a concealed carry firearm or a baton, or I can decide this fight isn’t going well for me and I can attempt to disengage.
Knife fights are not sustained affairs. Wherein lies the karambits strength and weakness. If you’re looking for a fight ender, the karambit is likely not the weapon for you. The curvature of the blade makes defeating your opponent quickly and efficiently challenging. A curved blade makes it very effective at hooking, raking and tearing, but does not lend itself to good penetration. Especially using it in a hammer grip. Having said that it is very good at creating space.
High one and two cuts/rakes across the eyes and face are incredibly demoralising. Cuts to the head and forehead tend to bleed profusely, especially with increased heart rate. Blood running into your eyes is debilitating and severely reduces combat effectiveness.
A karambit is good at counter-chopping, aiming at your opponents hands, weapons and wrists. Because of the loop feature you are unlikely to drop your weapon resulting from a jarring blow when the karambit meets an opposing weapon, wrist bone or a watch.
In training I found that a Karambit works well in very tight quarters or if you are being grappled or clinched. I also found it was easier to retain control of the weapon if someone was trying to grab your wrist or the actual weapon itself.
If caught in a situation where lethal force is required, I suggest accessing your opponent internally up through the soft tissue under the chin, either into the jaw or trachea twisting the the blade before retracting the weapon to create as large a wound as possible. The loop on the karambit aids in back pull and retention.
Alternatively directly into the eye socket or in through the ear canal. Although less effective with body shots remember to angle the blade to clear ribs. Up through the anus while not immediately deadly is psychologically distressing.
Generally the longer the fight lasts, the worse your chances get. Prolonged knife fights and parry and riposte sparring is fiction. Adjust your mindset accordingly. Be aware that you will likely be injured post encounter. Know how to apply a tourniquet and to apply pressure to a wound, not just to yourself but also potentially to your opponent or others that have been injured. Learn about shock and how to treat it. You don’t need to be an EMT, but CPR, treating shock and stemming blood flow saves lives. It should be mandatory knowledge.
The Emerson Super Karambit is well designed tool. It is however a very personal choice for a primary carry. You need to weigh up and assess your own ability, strengths, weaknesses as well as your personal style and mindset to whether this the right tool for you. As a disclaimer while I have needed to draw my firearm to defend myself and others I have never had to draw a knife in a hostile environment. Hopefully I will never have to. My Emerson Super Karambit is used mostly to open DHL envelopes and cardboard boxes. Everything I have mentioned is purely theoretical or has been practiced in a controlled training environment.
If you are going to carry a folder, as with a firearm, you need to be proficient in its use. Train relentlessly. But also train safely.
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