The Deadly and Lethal Weapons of Southeast Asia

The earliest blades from Southeast Asia can be traced as far back to the 1st millennium BCE. One of these weapons was the axe which had other functions that were useful for daily living. In the past, such pieces used against man could be efficient for hunting animals meant for food. These were also good for clearing jungle growth and a wide range of everyday tasks to help these people survive.

Evidence shows that people from this area depended a lot on weapons that were versatile. They were effective for offense, defense, and for daily tasks. A lot of these were capable of meeting the demands of daily life but were also as deadly.

Here is a list of the best and deadliest blades and tools that originated from Southeast Asia.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Balisong – Can a Small Knife be as Deadly?

The martial arts practiced by most Filipinos include Arnis, Eskrima, and Kali. These martial arts often make use of a variety of weapons and blades in their repertoire.

One of these weapons is the Balisong – a sharp knife featuring two handles. The techniques integrated with the blade are usually complex, requiring high amounts of training. It takes some time before one can master this since it’s a tricky weapon to use.

Chabang or Tekpi?

The name of the blade means branch since the Chabang is a truncheon made of iron that features three prongs. Called the Chabang in Indonesia and Tekpi in Malay, it is said to have originated from India.

The wielders of the Chabang often use this in pairs. Most of the time, they used the weapon for defense. Its two outer prongs are for trapping or breaking the enemy’s weapon. Among the Silat practitioners, it is a weapon claimed as the king due to its efficiency. Specifically, it is a great weapon for defense against blades.

Its production and development often take place in areas like Timor, Bali, Maluku, Java, and South Sulawesi.

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The Chopper, Parang

The Parang is a cleaver or chopper that functions like a machete. Its blade cuts through overgrowth with ease and is also a deadly weapon of Southeast Asia. Its blades appear straight or curved; plus, they range from small to sword length sizes. And because they are easy to buy, the Parang became the most popular weapon in Silat.

Vegetation in Southeast Asia is woodier compared to South America. So, the Parang  underwent further optimization so it can be stronger. With that, the Parang becomes more efficient for chopping actions. Its blade is also more beveled in an obtuse manner to prevent any bindings in the cut.

This is the same as the design and rationale of the Indonesian Golok and Filipino Bolo. The Parang has a blade ranging from 10 – 36 inches and weighs up to 2 pounds. The convex grind is for achieving its edge.

The blade features three different edges: a very sharp front for skinning, a wide middle for chopping, and a fine back for carving. Its handle is often made from horn or wood with a wide end for preventing slips. The Tang is of hidden Tang style, but there are also full Tang designs available.

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Golok – Efficient or Not?

The Golok is a variant of the Parang and is a primary weapon used in Western Javanese styles. Its blade is heavy along the center and its length ranges from 10 – 20 inches. Generally, its size and weight vary, and so does its shape.

It tends to be shorter and heavier compared to the Parang or Machetes. It is often used for branch and bush cutting which makes it efficient. The traditional Golok features an edge-wise taper or convex edge. This prevents the blade from getting stuck in woodlands compared to flat-edged Machetes.

These are often produced using a springy carbon-steel blade with a softer temper. It makes them easier and quicker to dress, as well as sharpen in the field. But, it also requires more attention than usual.

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Weapon or Flute? The Lethal Sumpitan

The Sampitan, it is a hollow bamboo tube that works as a blow pipe. It allows the user to shoot poisonous darts or Damak to the enemy.  This is one of the oldest weapons to date and used as a hunting tool during the prehistoric times.

The blowpipe or Sampitan is also the most notable long-range weapon found in Silat. Its common use is for killing by stealth. The reason why people from Borneo relied on this for survival was due to its efficiency and accuracy.

This Sampitan usually measures around 1.8 meters long and made from hardwood. It is often equipped with a spear-like tip used for stabbing.


The Kris is a unique piece from Indonesia and Malaysia which are countries that were part of the Malay world. It has a variety of forms that range from Malaysia and North Sumatra to Mindanao of the Philippines.

Often, the Kris is a long dagger or a short sword that has slender proportions. The blade has a rough texture but sharpened on both edges while the base always widens along the hilt. It’s also rare for this weapon to be very sharp but still is an effective piece.

Aside from being a weapon, the Kris is also a spiritual object. People believed that it possessed magical powers. Others said that it possessed good or bad luck. They used this for display or as a talisman. Writers such as Taming Sari, Empu Gandring, and Setan Kober have mentioned the mythical Kris blades in traditional folk tales.

This was also the auxiliary weapon of court soldiers. Sometimes, it served as an accessory for a ceremonial dress. It indicated one’s social status and it also stood as a symbol of heroism.

Photo Credits: Wikimedia Commons

The Curved Karambit

The Karambit or Kerambit, Karambol, or Karambiak is a small knife that looks like a claw. Some claim that the Minangkabau people of West Sumatra turned this into a weapon. According to stories, the Karambit was a weapon based on the tiger’s claw.

Like the other weapons from the region, this blade was first an agricultural tool. It was a primary piece for raking roots, planting rice, and gathering threshing. It is a smaller variant of the Filipino Panabas / Karit or the Indonesian Arit / Sabit.

When it became a weapon, its blade’s production became more curved to improve its cuts. Because of Indonesia’s trading network, the Karambit became available in other neighboring countries. These places included the Philippines, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar.

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