Kuku Macan (Sumatra)

Code:  IN8

This weapon is identified as a contemporary Kuku Macan from Sumatra, also called a “Tiger Claw” or a Kuku Ayam.  (The knife should not to be confused with the “Tiger’s Claw”, or Bagh Nakh, from India.)  The Kuku Ayam is a large version of a Lawi Ayam, both of which are cousins of the Malaysian Kerambit.  

So awed were the ancient Sunda people by the power and beauty of the Pak Macan (“pamacan”, “ great tiger”), that this common blade of the people was patterned after the shape of the tiger’s claw.  Kuku Macan translates as “tiger’s claw”.  The smaller Lawi Ayam means “cock’s tail feather” or “spike chicken”.  Personally, I would rather have a “tiger’s claw” than a “spike chicken” if trouble came around!

The blade is finely etched and blued. On one side, the pattern is distinctly floral.  On the other side, the pattern more abstract, looking like waves.  The sheath and the handle is stained hardwood, one side carved in a spectacular crocodile motif.  The handle has a steel ring at the base abutting the blade. 

The blade is 14 1/2" and  1/4" thick, hand-forged spring steel tapering to  a 4 1/2" false edge.  The weapon has an overall length 20", including the sheath 22" long. 

This weapon is held with the thumb over the hilt’s head, the blade pointing straight down and the tip towards the front.  When stabbing upwards (radak) it can cause atrocious injuries.  The dagger is designed for an upward ripping movement into the bowels of the victim. The blade is strongly curved with the edge on the inside, but part of the back side is also sharp.  Small versions of this knife (e.g., Lawi Ayam) have been favored by women, who conceal them in their hair or the folds of a sarong.

Like the Kerambit (another kerambit),  in ancient times the cutting edge of the Kuku Macan was almost always smeared with some type of deadly poison, which acted almost instantly upon entry into the bloodstream via laceration of the flesh. Even the smallest cut was enough to usher the poison into the bloodstream. Knowledge and use of poisons derived from various species of poisonous frogs, snakes, scorpions and spiders were considered an essential element of a warrior's arsenal of close-quarter combative skills. These poisons rapidly accelerated death and were mostly feared for their nearly instantaneous killing power.

Edged Weapons of the Indonesian Archipelago