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The khukuri, often shortened to "kukri" here in the U.S., is both a utility knife & a weapon. The khukuri likely was derived from the Greek sword known as the kopis. Usually shorter than a typical sword, but longer than a typical knife, the khukuri is often easily recognized by the canted blade. Classically, the khukuri is thick, as much as 10 mm or more, with a leaf shape that flares out where the blade bends, the tip aligned below the user's hand. This knife originated more for chopping & slicing than for stabbing.
Nepalese in origin, the knife's utility was noticed by the Nepalese Ghorka (usually called "Gurkha" by foreigners) soldiers as having great potential as a weapon as well. The Ghorka were known to be fearsome fighters, and their khukuri took on a mythical status. This mythical status was only amplified as as foreign nations, including Singapore, India, and England brought Gorkha units into their own armies.
Today, the khukuri is still produced by several companies in Nepal, with their own virtual armies of blacksmiths. The khukuri is also produced by manufacturers large & small all over the world. Some are thick, some are machete thin. And the khukuri has found its way off the battlefield again, as the utility of it's tip-forward design is simply undeniable.
This group is dedicated to the khukuri, or kukri, in all it's forms, old & new.
Latest Activity: Aug 7
Classically, the khukuri was basically a hybrid of a sword & an axe. The Ex-Gurkha Kukri House (EGKH) khukuri that I will show in photos here (with the brown wood handles & the desert camouflage scabbard) feels much more like an axe than any other large knife that I've ever held. And with its 12 mm (0.47 inch) spine, it even resembles an axe.
One of the most intriguing kukris on the market to me is the Kabar Kukri Machete. Cold Steel has a few kukri machetes of their own, but these are more classic machetes in their manufacture, stamped steel blades with thicknesses in the 2 mm to 2.5 mm (0.08 to 0.1 inches) range. The Kabar Kukri, on the other hand, is just over 4 mm (0.165 inches) thick -- well over 1/8 thick, very nearly 3/16 (0.1875) inches thick. How could it be a machete as that thickness?
In my opinion, the Kabar Kukri Machete really isn't a machete in the sense that it is a large thin blade meant mostly for cutting brush, grasses, & vines. Rather, the Kabar Kukri Machete is a machete in the sense that a machete really is a large, often thin, knife. And compared to my EGKH khukuri at 12mm, the Kabar's 4 mm thickness does seem rather thin.
However, in light of all this confusion on my part (albeit a beginner's confusion), it would seem more appropriate to call Kabar's Kukri Machete, & really all kukri in the 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch thickness, kukri knives, maybe anything under 1/4 inch to be kukri machetes, and anything over 1/4 inch to be, simply, kukris. Most of the kukris in the American market -- the ones made by American-owned companies such as Kabar, Busse, & even United Cutlery -- would tend to fall into the "kukri knife" category.
Of course I may be splitting hairs here, since I'm still using the terms "kukri" and "khukuri" interchangeably. And I haven't really defined what, in my understanding, qualifies a khukuri/kukri as such.
To my understanding, a kukri is a knife with a forward cant that occurs along the spine of the blade. This definition helps to keep the kukri distinct from other knives such as bolo knives or knives with recurved edges & dropped points.
Not that I don't like bolo knives or drop point knives with recurves -- to the contrary, these are some of my all-time favorite knife designs. But I think it's important to keep such a distinctive blade design distinct from other knives that, while potentially attractive, simply are not kukris. An excellent example of a knife that confuses the kukri buyer is the Gerber Gator Kukri Machete -- it falls into the category of drop-point recurve knife, maybe even as a bolo knife -- but it is far from being a kukri.
While I'm sure there will be those who disagree with this point of view, I don't believe the size or the handle shape have any impact on whether a knife can be deemed a kukri. While a very small kukri will not be able to chop the way a very large kukri would, knives with drop points or clip points can be of any size and still be considered drop points or clip points.
Similarly, I don't see the need for the handle to have the bell-shaped pommel to be considered a kukri. This is because, simply, my definition of "kukri" revolves more around the design of the blade. While the flares of the bell-shaped pommel help keep the knife in the user's hand while swinging the knife, a small kukri simply might not need this feature since it is unlikely to be used to chop or hack at anything.
Further, a beak at the pommel to keep the knife from slipping from a user's hand is hardly unique to the khukuri knives of Nepal -- & this seems to be a design feature at least partially imported from the Greek kopis swords that likely spawned the khukuri. While the bell shaped pommel is functional, likely it's also somewhat aesthetic as well.
Finally, there are so many kukri knives on the market today that do not have the bell-shaped pommel, it seems to be less essential to the design than the canted blade. In essence, the canted blade, by my definition of a kukri, is a necessary element of the definition, while the flared bell shaped pommel is not.
The khukuri, as an off-shoot of the kopis, likely started off as a weapon that was transformed into a knife that could serve both utility & weapon functions. Such dual-purposed tools were common in Asia in recent millenia. While the bell shaped flare is likely helpful in certain weapon swings, it is likely to get in the way more than a pommel with only one flare or beak to stop the pinkie from sliding off the knife while performing more mundane tasks (if nothing else, it is weight that most of the time is simply unnecessary).
While I feel fairly confident in my findings on these matters, I still admit that I am quite new to kukris. The kukri is a form that has rather well-known and specific origins, at least to some degree, and my cultural knowledge here is very limited. Admittedly I haven't contacted Kabar as to how the company chose the name "Kukri Machete" as opposed to "kukri" (there's a good chance they chose this name not to differentiate it from classic khukuris, but to differentiate this knife from the smaller "Combat Kukri" in its line).
I hope to hear from you if there's anything you disagree with, or anything you agree with, in my analyses. I'd also like to hear from you if you like kukris (& even if you don't -- I was in the same camp for years, & then, one day, I just became a bit obsessed with kukris -- so trust me, I can relate).
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