The Philippine sword called a kris is not to be confused with the Indonesian keris, although they share superficial similarities resulting from common ancestry. The keris originated in the 13th century on the island of Java in the Indonesian archipelago.  Later, the smaller keris elongated during its migration to the Philippines, Malaysia and other southeast Asian countries.

The kriss is a superbly balanced and effective weapon.  With its distinctive iron blade and a fantastic looking wood hilt and sheath, the kris the apex of the Philippine metal smith’s craft. The kris sword is foremost a fighting knife used to take the heads and arms off with a heavy blow.  The size and shape of the knife suggests it was created for the Philippine martial art known as “escrima”, or “kali”.

Kris are very distinct in appearance, with various shapes and sizes.  One typical type is noted for its asymmetrical, undulating wavy blade, -- to be feared for excruciating pain during a stabbing. More often, the kris is used as a slashing weapon. The undulate movement of the blade provides a continuous entering cut for the edge, and the point is very sharp with a wound channel wider than any part of the blade. (Monkey Knife Fighting)  The blade typically widens near the handle where sharply pointed protrusions act as a guard.

While widely known throughout South East Asia, the Kriss sword is particularly popular to this day with Moro Muslim insurgents of south Philippines on the islands of Mindanao, Sulu and Jolo. The Kris is undoubtedly the most famous of Moro weapons. There are many variations from tribe to tribe.

Kriss are produced in numerous places in the Philippines, for example, the province Pangasinan on Luzon Island in northern Philippines or Batangas province south of Manila, where blacksmiths influenced by Muslim sword making have been making these swords for more than a century.  People in the the Philippines and beyond will travel far to get one of these famous quality blades, hand-made by blacksmiths in those two provinces.

See Moro Kris Nomenclature for the names of parts of this edged weapon.


Kris Daggers and Swords of Indonesia and the Philippines