Kerambit / Lawi Ayam / Kuku Macan

These knives belong together as a class inspired by the claw of the great tiger, Pak Macan (pamacan).

The name given to the knife varies by region, speaker, age and other factors. This is typical of the region.  The "tiger claw" group of knives includes the kerambit (karambit, koerambi, korambi, koerambit), lawi ayam (kuku ayam) and lawi macan (kuku macan)

The kerambit originated in Java (Indonesia) and spread throughout the archipelago, Malaysia and to the Philippines.  Although its original use is agricultural, it was also used as a weapon. Smaller kerambits were hidden in clothing or even in the hair, a weapon of last resort. The Bugis warriors of Sulawesi are famous for their use of the kerambit in their martial arts. The version found in the Philippines has a shorter blade and is favored by western martial artists.  

The kerambit was a weapon of the agrarian peasantry, making it a subject of condescension in Java among the warrior class. Nevertheless, the kerambit was sometimes carried by those warriors as a backup weapon. European accounts tell that soldiers in Indonesia were armed with a kris at their waist or back and a spear in their hands, while the kerambit was used as a last resort when the fighter's other weapons were lost in battle

The kerambit is held with the thumb over the hilt’s head (or with the first finger into the hole) so that its blade curves forward from the bottom of the fist with the tip towards the front. It is primarily used in a slashing or hooking motion to the opponents abdomen. When stabbing upwards (radak) it can cause atrocious injuries.  The dagger is designed for an upward ripping movement into the bowels of the victim. Reversed, with the blade above the fist, the kerambit is very effective in a downward slashing or pick type attack to the shoulders.

In ancient times the cutting edge of the blade 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.

The kuku macan and lawi ayam are similar in design and can be considered cousins of the kerambit.