Best Karambit Knives For Serious Self Defense

By Just In Case Jack | Last Updated: August 18, 2022

Skilled Survival’s Karambit Knife Buyers Guide

If you’re seeking information to find, use, or sharpen a Karambit Knife – you’ve come to the right place.

The karambit knife is one of the best blades you can wield in a knife fight.

It’s unique, it’s powerful, and it’s deadly. But like most things in life – “not all knives are created equal.”

Some are worth your money, but a handful are complete rubbish.

That’s why today, I’m going to share everything I know about the Karambit knives to help you get a knife you can be proud of.

Here are the specific topics I’ll be covering:

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Best Karambit Knives On The Market Today

Once you’re ready to choose a karambit knife, there are plenty of models on the market.

Folding Karambit Knife

If you want a compact karambit knife, you’ll want a folding blade that fits in your pocket.

But in any folding knife, the folding mechanism is the critical component. It’s the weak point – so make sure it’s reliable. And like most things in life, you get what you pay for…

This is why folding knives tend to be more expensive than a comparable quality fixed blade knife.

But they’re more compact and less conspicuous to carry, which is a big bonus in many EDC situations.

1
Spyderco Karahawk Specialty Knife
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2
FOX 479 G10 Black Emerson Wave Folding Karambit
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3
CRKT Provoke Kinematic EDC Karambit Knife
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4
Smith & Wesson ExtremeOps CK33 7.9in S.S. Karambit Folding Knife
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5
The Tactical Karambit Knife
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Fixed-Blade Karambit Knives

As appealing as a folding karambit knife seems at first, it always has a critical path of failure in the mechanism.

Are you familiar with the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid!)? If so, you’ll understand – the more straightforward a tool is, the less likely it is to fail.

For this reason, many people prefer a full-tang fixed blade karambit knife for hand-to-hand combat.

This robust, one-piece build leaves little in the way of weakness.

6
CRKT Du Hoc Fixed Blade Knife with Sheath
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7
Schrade 9Cr18MoV Grey Ti Coated Karambit
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8
Schrade 8Cr13MoV Grey Ti Coated Full Tang Fixed Blade
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9
Cold Steel Steel Tiger Karambit
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10
Ape Survival's Black Karambit Knife
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A Brief Karambit Knife History Lesson

It’s a fact of human nature that conflicts arise. And every culture develops its own particular weapons to defend itself.

Most modern weapons (i.e., guns) tend to take on a similar design. But if you look back at the traditional bladed weapons of a culture, it’ll tell you a lot more about what makes them unique.

For example, in the jungles of Southeast Asia, humans are not always at the top of the food chain. Both leopards and tigers hold dominance in pockets of pristine habitat.

These big cats hold a place of reverence, in dense jungles, and in the minds of native people.

So it’s no wonder that one of the most storied fighting knives from this area takes the shape of a tiger claw!

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What’s A Karambit Knife Anyway?

The karambit is a compact fighting knife – one with a distinct forward sweeping blade that ends at a point.

The blade shape likely developed in Western Sumatra. It may have stemmed from modifications to a small handheld farm tool. Why? Because a similar tool was used to cut and rake roots and thresh and plant rice.

A karambit is similar in design to a small sickle, but with a more open hook to the blade.

Once invented, it spread throughout Southeast Asia over the coming centuries. It became a common and popular weapon for the peasant class in the region.

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Best Karambit Knife Uses

Despite its humble beginnings, the karambit developed into a fearsome fighting tool – one with a reputation for being brutally effective.

The karambit knife is the main blade of choice in many warrior cultures of the region. It’s also commonly used in Filipino martial arts.

It’s still considered one of the deadliest melee weapons of all time.

The unique design of the karambit has made it a favorite for hand-to-hand combat instructors. Many believe it has a more intuitive striking ability than alternative fighting knives.

If you’re looking for a real fighting knife, the karambit might be your best choice.

The forward sweep of the blade is reminiscent of a tiger’s claw. It hooks and digs into an enemy, rather than slicing along the skin.

The sharp point focuses all its striking energy on one spot. This design helps it penetrate deep through clothing, armor, and tissue alike.

And once it penetrates the surface, the blade will naturally dig even deeper when a victim tries to pull away.

Stop and think about THAT – NASTY!

This automatic “deepening of the blade” results in devastating injuries, especially if the attack focuses on the weakest points of a body.

Here’s a video of a small karambit knife slicing through meats to give you an idea of how much damage these knives can inflict!

Beyond the distinct forward-curved blade, Karambit knives often include a large finger loop in the handle.

The addition of the finger loop allows for a solid grasp of the knife with either hand. And many blade masters have taken advantage of this by learning to fight with one in each hand.

Not only that, but many karambit blades work in both an upward or downward grip position.

Most karambit knives feature “enclosed” finger loops (as opposed to open ones). This closed-loop design helps to keep the blade secure in these different grips.

This loop can wrap around either the index or little finger, depending on the vertical orientation of the hold. This “locked-in” grip allows for powerful cutting strikes from any direction.

It also allows for a protected “hammer” strike as well, using the metal loop as a striking point. Many karambit knives include a small point as a part of the loop; this makes a downward hammer blow deadly.

With a blade so focused on fighting, it’s not as versatile as other knives for daily tasks.

For example, ordinary camp chores (i.e., food and firewood prep) are more complicated with a karambit. Why? Because it’s tricky to use the sharpened curved edge for such delicate peeling and slicing tasks. And it’s not made for chopping or batoning wood either.

It does, however, work brilliantly in some specific tasks such as cutting rope, vines, and other tough-to-slice items.

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How To Fight With A Karambit Knife

Effectively fighting with a karambit blade takes serious training. But intense training is necessary even if you train with other slicing blades in the past.

Why? Because the fighting styles are so unique to the karambit.

So if you want to master the karambit style of fighting, it’s best to seek a professional. Look for someone who specializes in karambit knives from a martial art instructor familiar with Filipino methods.

But you can start with some basic training instruction online and buy training blades online (rubber blades with blunted tips).

First, you need to understand the various grips common to karambit fighting techniques – here’s a brief overview of one, to get you started.

Reverse And Forward Grips

The Reverse and Forward grips are most common. But others allow for more reach or to disorient your opponent.

Paul Ingrahm produces some of the best instructional karambit videos in recent years. He’s an expert instructor at the Kali Center or Luke Holloway at Raw Combat International.

Once you understand the different grips, tackle each one slowly. Make sure you’re comfortable with each style of attack and defense before moving on.

Many of these knife drills need a partner to master. A partner allows you to perform repetitions until they become second nature.

After you have mastered basic moves, there are plenty of advanced strikes to tackle. Many of these advanced moves prove deadly in combat.

Most of these involve short, high-energy strikes. Attacks look more like boxing than a traditional knife fight.

This setup is due to the frequent use of the reverse grip, which allows you to “punch” the hooked blade forward.

Here are a couple of combo moves to get a sense of what’s possible with a Karambit IF you learn how to use it.

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Best Karambit Knife Features

As with any other critical piece of gear, it pays to invest in quality.

A Quality Blade Material

The steel chosen for a knife blade is the most critical part of the entire knife. You can’t have a good knife if its steel is of poor quality.

But there are plenty of different “high-quality” steels on the market. So you’ll have to choose between two main steel types:

1. High-carbon

Pros/Cons Summary: It’s easy to sharpen to a fine edge but requires maintenance and corrosion prevention.

2. Stainless steel

Pros/Cons Summary: It needs very little maintenance and holds an edge well, but it’s hard to sharpen and can be brittle.

So your steel preference depends mainly on your skills and diligence in maintaining your blade. There is no right or wrong answer, just make sure to buy a high-quality metal no matter which path you choose.

A Quality Handle

The handle should be comfortable in either forward or reverse grips. And the finger ring should comfortably fit over both your index and little fingers.

Some people like the handle to have molded finger position slots to help with the proper grip and finger placements.

It shouldn’t be too snug, as that may prevent you from changing grips if needed.

Quality Construction

Ensure the blade and handle are securely connected. And any extra design features (pocket clip, folding mechanism, etc.) are well-constructed.

Full tang is always more robust than partial tangs or a folding karambit knife with hinges.

But, on the other hand, a folding karambit knife is more convenient to carry.

Blade Length And Angle

A karambit’s shape is always forward sweeping, but there are variations on blade length and angle.

  • Longer blades are more deadly in combat but more challenging to carry and conceal.
  • Shorter blades have less reach but can fit comfortably in a pocket.

You should also consider whether you intend to carry the blade concealed or not. And whether you want a folding karambit knife to carry in a pocket or a fixed blade that needs a sheath.

A Cautionary Note On “Karambit” Blades

Over the years, I’ve run across several blades that claim to be a karambit but are a back-swept design.

These may be fine blades. But you should be aware that they are fundamentally different knives.

These are, by definition, *NOT* karambit’s and do not function (or fight) the same way.

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How To Sharpen A Karambit Knife to A Razors Edge

Due to the inward curving blade on a karambit knife, you can’t effectively sharpen it with a flat stone or pocket knife sharpener.

Instead, a karambit requires a curved surface such as a diamond honing cone or a gouge sharpener.

This video shows how to sharpen a karambit blade using a rounded whetstone and strops. It uses a DIY base that you can make yourself.

When you decide to sharpen your karambit blade, work slowly at first. Make sure you have the proper technique down, and you’re not causing damage to the edge in the process.

Once you’ve successfully sharpened the blade a few times, it will become muscle memory. You’ll quickly settle into an efficient sharpening technique.

And there’s nothing more satisfying than putting (and keeping) a razor-sharp edge on ALL your bladed tools.

Final Thoughts

One of the things that separate humans from nearly all large land predators is the lack of claws.

But with a karambit knife, you can rectify that oversight. You can give yourself a devastating claw-inspired hand-to-hand combat weapon. The karambit is a weapon that’s incredibly versatile and deadly (if you know how to use it).

Sure, it will never match the camp utility of a survival knife or bowie knife. But a karambit is a valuable tool to have in your arsenal.

Jason K.

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