The legacy of the Gurkha Blade

It was once said that if a kukri was drawn, it had to “taste blood”.

The Gurkha blades’ true origin is vague. The many origins of its name also, like khukri, kuri, khukuri etc just makes matters worse in tracing its home, but it is conventionally synonymous with the Gurkha people of present-day Nepal. Gurkha Kukri is usually complementary and it is often rare to say one without the other.

 

Gurkha blade

By early as 7th century BC, this blade was already being used in the Himalayas by the Kirati people. But its popularity came in the fore during the Anglo-Gorkha war of 1814-1816. During this time, the British who first encountered the blade being used by the Gorkhas would later come to spread its popularity, into what came to be known as the Kukri propaganda. The British usually portrayed a picture of a Gorkha sharpening his knife, which would send chills down the spine of all their later enemies, such as the French. Some believe that Alexander the great’s Calvary used kukri blades during his invasion of India. However, these claims cannot be substantiated.

The Kukri was used by the founding father of Nepal, Prithi Naraya Shah, King of the independent kingdom of Gorkha who invaded the Kathmandu valley in 1657 and conquered it the following year.

Famous kukri blades used by ancient Gorkha warriors can be found today. The Kukri of King Drabya Shah, the Gorkha King of 1627 can be found at Nepal National museum. Fisher Kukri of the Sepoy mutiny against India in 1857 is preserved at the Gorkha Museum, Winchester United Kingdom.

 

The Gurkha Kukri blade is a special knife, bent downwards in the middle of the blade, and is made from high-grade steel, and wooden or animal skin handle. It is one of the oldest and the most famous battle knife in the world. Its unique curve makes it a sought-out after blade by many survivalists and outdoor enthusiasts. It handles snugly when held in the fist, and it also has a notch at the end of the blade which helps to stop the flow of sap or blood on to the handle which would otherwise make it messy and slippery when using it. Although it is debatable what the notch on the kukri is actually for.

khukuri Gurkha kukri

Original kukris come with a Chakmak and Karda which are other smaller knives used to perform smaller complementary tasks with the kukri. The Chakmak is blunt on both sides and is suitable for light duties such as starting a fire with a lint and sharpening the kukri and Karda. To sharpen a kukri, the blade is placed on a flat surface facing downwards, while the edges face either side. And then while applying a little pressure downwards, comfortably do a single stroke from tip to notch on the edges till you get the desired sharpness. The notch will prevent going up past the blade. For faster results, you can use a sharpening stone.

The Gurkha’s have served with the British Army for over 200 years in Wars and conflicts all over the world Including:

 

  • Anglo-Gorkha War
  • World War I
  • World War II
  • Falklands War
  • Hong Kong
  • Borneo
  • Kosovo
  • And now in Iraq and Afghanistan

Today the Gurka soldiers are an integral part of the British Army and have fought loyally together all over the world in many major conflicts. These soldiers still carry their kukri into battle, the Gurkha blade is a knife with a legacy.

How To Handle a Military Kukri 

The military kukri is a Nepalese knife with a machete-like inwardly curved blade. It’s a versatile blade which doesn’t need much practice or skill to handle. With so much to do with a kukri, here are some tips on how to handle a military kukri.

 

Holding The Kukri

kukri basic grip

 

The normal hold involves extending the thumb atop the index finger with a closed-tight fist grip around the handle. It’s recommended for exercising, training, during combat, and for close encounters.

 

 

 

 

kukri improvised grip

 

The improvised hold has the thumb slightly bent on the blade’s spine with the fist closed tightly around the handle. This gives pressure to effectively and tirelessly throw, swing or force the kukri against any surface.

It is an ideal position while using the kukri for cutting, striking, slicing and peeling off objects or doing any domestic or outdoor work. While the normal hold is advised for above waist level movements, the improvised hold is better for below waist movements.

Carrying Or Wearing The Kukri

Carry and Drawing a kukri

People carry kukris based on their comfort. The most common method of carrying the kukri is at waist level on one side, with the kukri facing straight opposite of the free hand.

As villagers and farmers don’t wear belts, they wear a sash around their waist and use it to carry the kukri, facing downwards at about a 60-degree angle parallel to their stomach region. Soldiers on duty wear it on the right side of their belt while they wear the kukri in the center of the backside during parades.

Drawing In and Out

unsheath kukriRight-handed people must firmly hold the back side of the scabbard while their left palm grips the handle. The right hand then gently draws the kukri out. Make sure your left-hand doesn’t overlap the scabbard’s front edge to avoid injuries while drawing the kukri.

It’s easier pulling the kukri if the scabbard is moved slightly downwards while drawing. The blade’s spine should always touch the scabbard’s inner back side while drawing the kukri out. Similarly, follow the scabbard’s curve while inserting it in. If the scabbard gets loose and opens a bit with extensive use, push the handle against the scabbard’s edge after tucking the kukri into it. This locks and tightens the kukri between the scabbard’s inner walls. If the kukri is too tight, apply some oil to both its sides before tucking into the scabbard. Leave the kukri in the scabbard somewhere cool and dry for a few days to let the leather stretch and accommodate the kukri.

 

Swinging The Blade

The kukri has to be swung in a slightly angular movement with the edge hitting the target at about a 75-degree angle. Avoid hitting the target at a straight, 90-degree angle because it pressurizes and rattles the blade to make cutting difficult.

Swing the blade at an angle for targets that are not positioned and swing it straight for fixed targets. Make sure you are about a foot or two away from the object so that there’s enough space to freely and forcefully swing your hands.

 

Combat

Position yourself at an elevated level than the target. Stand slightly sideward with feet stretched 2 feet apart and body weight resting on the back foot. Keep the free hand stretched out to aim at the target while the striking hand is bent with elbow parallel to shoulder.

Quickly lean towards the target to transfer your weight from the back foot to the striking hand and release the stroke. Bring your free hand aside and back while your striking hand comes in full strength for optimal balanced action and a clean lethal blow.

 

Stabbing

Stand to the target’s side with knees slightly bent and feet stretched apart. Keep the free hand stretched forwards towards the target and the kukri hand backward at waist level. Execute the stroke by pulling back the freehand out of the way while the striking hand comes in.

Leaning towards the target generates more power by transferring the body weight from the back to the front foot. Proper timing and movement guarantee swift and efficient stabbing.

 

Remember, a kukri handling technique is not necessarily a fighting technique. However, once you learn how to handle a military kukri, you can easily, confidently and responsibly use it as a fighting tool for self-defense purposes and not as an actual fighting weapon.

How To Sharpen Your Kukri

sharpen a kukri

Kukris usually come with two small knives on its back – the first, a sharp-edged Karda which is a small utility knife used for tasks the kukri can’t perform. The second is the larger, double side, dull and unsharpened Chakmak used to sharpen both blades.  

 

The kukri is best sharpened against a smooth leveled surface with its edge facing sideward. Apply little force to drag the Chakmak from the kukri tip to the notch a few times on one side and then flip and repeat on the second side. 

 

Always maintain a rhythm while sharpening the kukri, and work from the tip to the notch. As sharpening with a chakmak takes time and is tiring, sharpening stones or any other sharpening hardware is often used for faster and better sharpening.

Before you start really putting your new kukri to work, It’s good practice to do some hard chopping around the yard.  Manufacturers may not mention it, but sometimes due to the polishing process, you could be left with some soft metal near the edge of the blade that may roll on you when you first use it. Don’t freak out or get upset as this is normal. However, it is a bit of a pain to deal with when you are out in the field or camping. Best to get these things out of the way when you are at home.

 

How To Use This Guide

The purpose of this guide is to provide some tips on how to hone the blade and do minor touchups while you are out on your next trip.

Ideally, you would have sharpened your kukri before you go out into the field. A good quality blade will remain sharp for a while. If you’re planning to stay out there for a long period of time then it might be worth bringing along the following items to keep a good edge on your blade.

As you won’t have the convenience of a vice or really want to carry large sharpening tools with you when you are out and about.

Tools You Will Need To Sharpen Your Kukri

2000 grit sandpaperA rectangular rubber eraser.Chakmak (or a butchers sharpening knife).
how to sharpen a kukrihow to keep a good edge on a kukrichakmak

 

The Sharpening Process

  1. Facing the edge of the knife headed to you
  2. Grasp the knife firmly and slightly up at an angle
  3. With the Chakmak, start at the tip of the blade and work it back to the notch.
  4. Then flip the kukri, rinse and repeat.
  5. Wrap the sandpaper around the eraser and use it for quick touch-ups after you have aligned the edge with the Chakmak.
  6. When you are happy with the sharpness accomplished. You are done.

Just a note of caution. You don’t want to the edge to be razor sharp as this will increase the risk of turning it on very hard wood.