I reviewed the Fox knives folding Karambit over a year ago. It proved a very popular article with collectors, martial artists and a good deal of video gamers who emailed me with a variety of questions on Karambits. Apparently a Karambit features in a recent game which has no doubt boosted interest.
I am a collector of anything metallic and well engineered and I study Japanese martial arts under the excellent Sensei Peter Brown in the U.K. The combination of factors led me to begin practicing with the folding Fox Karambit trainer (blunt) and knife (sharp)which thus far have been superb. Of course the folding aspect is somewhat of a new development in Karambit history so I thought I should try a fixed blade version which is more faithful to the original design.
It is theorized that the Karambit (or Kerambit as some spell it) originated in Sumatra. Stories differ but the general consensus seems to be that the shape was inspired by a Tigers claw. People would have used these curved blades in both functional and martial ways. There is evidence of very large versions of the curved knife which would have suited martial application through to small versions which would serve as a personal everyday use type tool. They would not have been overly precious about their knives as many collectors are today and would have used the curvature for digging, game prep, general cutting and possibly as a last line of defence. It would be wrong to consider the Karambits primary design and use as weapon based. People had already worked out that long sword or spear like things worked much better as weapons than short little knives. The Karambit was, I believe, born out of a utilitarian concept.
The trade routes of the time led the Karambit to be adopted by various cultures across South East Asia, in particular the Philippines who integrated it within their own martial arts system. The Karambits could be seen in use by many agricultural workers who found its scythe like action ideal for pruning and harvesting.
The current upsurge of interest in Phillipino martial arts has been mainly thanks to a variety of films and even computer games popularizing the style. The Karambit can be flipped and manipulated by a dextrous practitioner in a very elegant and aesthetic manner making it highly suitable for the big screen.
Modern Karambits tend to have moved away a little from the traditional shape. Many are angular and encompass a variety of gimmicky additions which can detract from the simplicity of the original concept. I wanted to take a look at a blade that encompasses proven simple design alongside modern materials and knowledge. The Kalinou from Bastinelli offers just that..
The Kalinou is a fixed blade design in keeping with tradition. The sheath is an excellent Kydex piece with plenty of holes for paracord attachment. This could be worn in multiple positions on belt/pack/webbing/neck. Some people hate Kydex stuff and yearn for leather. Personally I am not keen on leather. It holds water, it rots, it requires stitching and buckles which have limited durability. Kydex is impervious to moisture and temperature and takes a good deal of battering before it breaks. Personally I have never managed to break a kydex sheath despite treating them fairly roughly.
The Kalinou clicks out of the sheath smoothly. The first thing I noticed was the weight. This is a really light knife weighing a svelte 2.9oz. It took a little getting used too but within a few minutes I had it spinning and flipping nicely. I don’t think that the flipping has any positive effect other than being therapeutic and fun but many martial artists include it within routines. It seems to serve more in form than it does in function.
Flipping – pretty but not particuarly useful!
The kalinou is noticeably thinner than many of its kind which enables its light weight and maneuverability. The G10 handles provide good grip and look fantastic against the matt black N690CO PVD coated steel. The rear ring is thinner than I was used to but provides a comfortable finger hole which proved to be a good size for me (lg glove size hands).
The PVD coated blade is crafted from N690CO steel which is popular in Europe (it comes from Austria). Some have called it Austrian 440c but I think a comparison to VG10 is more fitting.
The blade is incredibly sharp out of the box. Being curved you would need to use a stick/rod type sharpener on this. I have not had to because it has only been used for practice. You could of course employ the blade to practical use if you wished but I think there are cheaper options out there for everyday task type use. Most are going to either collect this and keep it pristine or train with it. Now I should add that by training I do not ever suggest using a live blade with a participant. That is what training knives are for. But should you become proficient and wish to practice on thin air using the real thing then fine. Be aware that such practice still poses a danger to you and should not be attempted by people without proper guidance from their Sensei.
The blade is thick enough to do its job but maintains the thin profile and lightweight. The PVD coating has been durable over the last few months and shows no visible signs of wear as yet.
The flawless design is down to Bastien at Basinelli knives in France. However those of you with a keen eye may have spotted the iconic Fox knives logo on the Kalinou. Fox actually produce these for Bastinelli. I am a fan of Fox knives, I have owned a few and they have all been incredibly well made – in fact I have their Specwog model up for review next. Fox are well adept at producing sharp, strong, able blades and they have done it perfectly here.
As mentioned already the Kalinou is going to see limited practical use with most buyers. It has functioned superbly for me as a tool to train with. I should mention here that the curvature of the handle and blade are crafted to a specific style/grip. The Kalinou really needs to be used tip down and pointing away from you. In this classic Karambit grip it sits perfectly. You can wield it tip up but it feels a little odd in the hand. When gripped in the former style the tip points proudly forward becoming a small extension of the closed hand and the curvature fits the palm to perfection. It moves effortlessly with a little practice and is alot easier to manipulate than some of the heavier modern Karambits. My Sensei passed similar comments. He liked the minimalist design and the high quality. He noted that Karambits in general have limited use aside from practice. The law in most developed countries would not look kindly on anyone carrying such an unusual blade design.
Conclusion and price.
If you are a collector of Karambits or you use one in your training then I thoroughly recommend the Kalinou. It really is a beautifully crafted piece and I could not fault Bastinelli’s excellent design or the quality of build from Fox Knives. If you are looking for a utilitarian Karambit then I would personally select something a little cheaper. The Kalinou is far to lovely for manual labour!
It is by no means cheap neither is it ridiculously expensive. Bastinelli has it for sale directly from his site for £135 which given the high quality of both materials and engineering is about what one would expect. They are available in the States for around $200.
In short I would say if you are looking for a fixed blade Karambit in a traditional style then look no further. The Kalinou has everything a Karambit should in a gorgeous looking lightweight package.
Fox Knives – www.foxcutlery.com