The Kukri is the symbolic knife of the Nepalese Army and you can identify it by the inwardly curved blade. It is a tool in times of peace, and a weapon in times of war. Now that we know a bit of history, let’s see how to use a kukri.
Here is a list of questions we might answer: What are the origins of this Nepalese blade? Who created it and what for? What can we learn from its design? How do you cut, chop, use, and fight with a kukri machete? Taking care and maintaining the blade is another important topic.
This is more of an introductory article where I shall be discussing history, application, design and blade maintenance. Then I will provide a few pointers on how to safely work with the kukri in domestic chores.
I plan to cover a comprehensive guide on how to use a kukri in combat, based on the fighting practices of the Nepalese guard corps.
Disclaimer: I am no expert by any means. I write from personal experience because I enjoy doing so. If you hurt yourself or anyone else, I don’t hold myself liable for the actions of other adults. As with any article on the internet, take it with a grain of salt.
Origins Of the Kukri Knife
There is always something new to learn, and that’s true even for well-read sword collectors. Whether you are a complete novice or an authority, you will find this very helpful.
I love this video, and I hope it elucidates many of your questions about kukri knives:
Truth is, nobody knows precisely where the blade originated from. We don’t know who created the kukri, or why the inwardly curved edge became so popular.
Historians believe the forwardly curved sword design is the oldest in the world. They traced them to ancient Egypt, to the khopesh infantry sword. The common belief is that this type of weapon must have come from Khopis, Greece, about 2500 years ago. That is when the Ancient Greek conqueror Alexander the Great went on his legendary campaign of conquest, from his homeland all the way to India. The Greek Hoplites fought with spears and short, inwardly curved swords, called khopis. The local Indian warriors must have adopted the model later, after seeing its effectiveness in battle.
Others say the kukri was developed by the Mallas, who had political power in the 13th century Nepal. The machete could serve as a tool or a weapon.
Nowadays, it is the iconic sword of the Nepalese Army. It is not just an ordinary item. It holds great historical value and significance, especially for the people of Nepal. According to the words of Maharaja Padma Shamser Jangbahadur Rana (first Nepalese prime minister):
“The Kukri is both a National and a Religious weapon used by the Gurkhas. A typical Gurkha carries it while he’s awake and puts it under his pillow while retiring.”
To understand how to use a kukri, we must learn about the environment where it originated from, its background and history.
What Is the Kukri Used For?
There are many stories and legends surrounding this sword. Most of them are exaggerations of historical facts. According to one tale, no kukri has ever broken in battle. Of course, the Nepalese fighters did not bash their blades on heavy, armored targets. The kukri is good at very close quarter combat, but it would not be my first or second option on the battle-field. This training demo offers a nice insight into the kukri knife fighting styles:
The knife has a thin, slim, sharp edge, and a dull spine. They file it against a stone, to match the user’s needs. The primary purpose of the kukri is not to win a war, but to save your life when survival depends on having the right tool at hand.
It can also make life easier, in a mostly agricultural society. Some of that includes working the fields, gathering food, chopping branches, and clearing bushes. Fighting with a long knife for your life is, of course, another perk. I will write another article on how to use a kukri in combat, as a basic training guide.
As for surviving in the jungle, there are machetes that outshine the Nepalese kukri. They have a longer blade, more suited for a wide range of applications.
Design and Steel
The Nepalese Army issues kukris to the new recruits who join the ranks. They carry this blade throughout their military careers; they wear it like a badge of honor. It becomes a part of the uniform and as such, it deserves respect. When a soldier retires, he keeps it as a symbol of his proud military service.
The Nepalese army kukri is a little smaller than the British model, which has a standard size. It is smaller and lighter, thereby easier to carry and handle. This is the simplest kukri model, it has all the basic features while holding true to the traditional style and design.
What kind of steel is this short-sword made from? Nowadays, it is stainless or high-carbon steel. You may even find tool-steel kukris. But most models that I have seen are from carbon-steel – which possesses a good balance between strength and hardness. These blades can be as thick as 7 mm at the spine. Most of them are tempered.
Historically, traditional blade-smiths forged the kukri from iron or steel, and the handle out of Water buffalo horn. The handle size is approximately 5 inches (15 cm), which provides an easy grip.
Fighting in close-quarter with a knife is very dangerous, one wrong move, one split-second delay, and you’re a goner! Combat knives and short-swords need to be perfectly balanced, fast and maneuverable – to save your life in those dangerous situations. The kukri is no exception! It is a really good fighting knife – light enough for combat, yet still strong and sturdy for outdoor survival.
Good kukris are well-balanced. The handle offers a comfortable grip, with great freedom of rotation and wrist movement.
Blade size measures approximately 9 inches (23 cm). Blade thickness is 8 mm, at the spine (it is thicker in certain points). Some models have wider cheeks. The actual weight of the Kukri blade is around 1 lbs (450 gr).
How to Maintain Your Kukri
The longevity of the knife depends on how well you care for it. Don’t worry though! Maintenance is minimal. Listed below are ways to take good care of your kukri.
Some of these counter-measures might not be necessary if your blade has a protective coating, to cover the exposed steel surface.
1. Cleansing with Oil
You should clean all your carbon-steel machetes with machine oil. Good blades are not stainless steel, which means they are prone to oxidation and rust. A seasonal brush and clean with an oily rag keep your kukri safe and happy. I am a caring person, even more towards items than people. Needless to say, I want my blades taken good care of.
One good swipe right after you work with the tool, or at least once a month if you are not using it. Carbon-steel is vulnerable to corrosion and even contact with humid air might cause rust. This is especially true if you live in a humid environment, where there’s a lot of moisture in the atmosphere.
Another thing you might watch for is never to leave your fingerprints on the blade. If you happen to touch it, wipe the blade clean before storing it away. Unless it has a protective coating, which is non-reactive to humidity and other chemical agents.
The reason I insist on oil cleansing and no fingerprints is aesthetics. I want a rust-free kukri with a shiny edge – no rust spots, weird coloring, etc! That is all.
Normally, if you don’t provide care to your blade, it won’t become it less functional overnight. Just less pleasing to the eyes! You will still be able to use it the same way. It won’t damage or make it weaker, just less aesthetic.
3. Shine and Polish
The next step is to apply polish to the other components, sheath and handle. This is tricky, and I confess, I didn’t try it myself, I only heard other people ‘s stories and experiences. You can apply shoe polish, to cover bruises and scratches on your leather sheath.
For the wooden handle, you can apply some furniture shine. The maintenance of the knife is not just about the blade, it is about all components and accessories.
How To Use a Kukri?
Using a kukri knife requires knowledge, skill, and mindfulness for safety. You should be aware of the potential for accidental self-harm. Take wood splitting for example… Knowing how to position yourself to avoid an axe-head shattering your tibia bone is basic 101. Hammers and nails build houses, but they may also break your fingers. Here is a video explanation of what you can do with a kukri, and how to use these tools:
For safety and convenience sake, it is recommended that you carry the knife tucked safely in a belt sheath when you are not working.
Don’t take it with you through the populated areas. Most countries classify blades that exceed a certain length, as weapons. If the police catch you carrying an illegal weapon, they can give you a fine and prosecute you, and take your precious sword away. So, always follow the law of the land.
So, when transporting it personally or by courier, make sure you package it properly in a sealed container. You need to make sure it doesn’t look like you are hiding it – or ready to use it in a moment’s notice. Once home, you are free to take it out and carry it around your backyard and garden.
When carrying the kukri, hang the sheath on your belt, at waist level of your less dominant hand. It is effective for a fast, secure draw. I can’t believe I’m talking to you as if you are going to war! But if you are, I hope you make it back to read my next post!
Make sure the kukri is tucked securely in the sheath, so it doesn’t slide out. That sharp edge can leave a nasty cut!
These are basic guidelines, for safe use and maintenance. You probably are more interested in technical combat and self-defense. Because I didn’t want to make this post too long, please see this basic kukri combat guide article.
How To Choose the Best Kukri?
Now we know how to use a kukri, let’s see how to pick a good one when purchasing online.
You should consider criteria like blade characteristics, steel, size, sheath, weight, finishing, and style design. Your choice becomes more difficult, the more options you add.
What are my first criteria for purchasing a blade? I will give you my decision strategy. I am visually oriented, so I need to like what I see. If I don’t like it, I usually don’t even consider buying it – unless it stands out fantastically in some unique way! The next important thing is steel. I like carbon-steel, but if I can budget spring or tool-steel, then that’s even better. Fittings need to be tight so that the handle doesn’t play.
Beyond those three factors, I rarely consider anything else. But I read lots of user reviews before making a final decision. As far of auxiliary components go, I care little about their quality (sheath, scabbard, boxing, etc).
I told you about my personal strategy. What are your criteria? To make the best purchase that suits your needs, you first must know what you want – what satisfies you! Self-awareness is the key to everything.
Maybe you care less about the visual aspect and put more weight on application / use. If you lean less towards aesthetics and prefer a razor-sharp edge, then that is OK. We have a selection of high-quality kukris at low cost, with a full review.
The Kukri is not only a household tool but a weapon of combat, deployed with great effectiveness throughout the centuries. It is a knife that carries great importance, with significant historical background. We must respect it since it holds so much history.
For me, it is a cherished tool, which I often use and enjoy working with. I don’t live in the woods, nor do I have to fend for my life – but even a city boy can have an adventurous edge.