Protection, peace, war, prestige, death, and beauty – all these can relate to the swords of Southeast Asia.
In every corner of the world, the blade comes in different shapes and sizes. Therefore, these come with many meanings and uses.
Like in other parts of the world, Southeast Asia has their own set of beautiful and deadly swords. These are as efficient as the Katana of the Japanese, or the powerful German Zweihander.
Here is a list of the different swords coming from Southeast Asia.
The Dha or Dah from Myanmar is a weapon with a term that means knife or sword. Different ethnic groups from Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos used this.
It is a Burmese term that means blade. The same term in Thai is Darb / Daab.
These swords have a vital element that helps you distinguish them from other weapons. The defining features include a grip with a rounded cross-section and no cross guards. It also has a long, arched, & single-edged blade, plus a little disc guard.
Indonesian Luwuk is a short sword that is famous in Central and Eastern Java. It is one of the deadliest blades used in the Paregreg War. During the time of the battle, only those from the warrior classes or nobility could use the Luwuk.
The Wilah or its blade is straight and single-edged. It retains the same width from the tip to its base. Some Luwuk have blades that are smaller from the middle, and up.
The Luwuk’s blade’s made using Damascus or Pamor steel. The blade’s tip tapers like a knife. Yet its blade faces the user and the user would grip this backwards. It’s crafted with animal horn or wood and its length does not go over 85 centimeters.
The Golok isn’t exactly a sword but a cutting tool. It is like the Machete and comes in a lot of variations. One can find the Golok all over the Indonesian archipelago. Its uses include being a weapon and an agricultural tool.
Its weight, size, and blade shape varies, but the common length of the Golok is between 25 to 50 centimeters. It is shorter and heavier compared to the Machete or the Parang. Its common uses are for branch or bush cutting.
In the past, the smiths crafted the Golok using a spring-like carbon steel blade. It has a softer temper compared to other bigger knives around. Although different, this aspect makes the blade easier to sharpen and dress in the field.
Many manufacturers create Golok that are factory-made. At the same time, there are still a lot of handmade pieces available in Indonesia.
The Kelewang or Klewang is another type of bladed weapon. It originates in Malaysia and Indonesia. The weapon is a mix between a Machete and sword with a single-edged blade with a notch that protrudes close to the tip.
For its measurements, the Klewang is like the Kampilan and the Golok. Its blade measures around 38 – 76 centimeters long and can be a bit curved or straight.
The Pinuti is a sword from the Visayas, Philippines. It is an agricultural tool. Its grip is light since its material is guava wood. For its blade, it measures 40 – 45 centimeters long.
Pinuti means “whitened” in Cebuano. As a farming tool, it takes on a darker patina. This is because of its contact with animal and plant fluids. When farmers sharpen the blades for battle, they polished until it reaches a nice clean white.
The Parang is a cleaver or Machete-like weapon used throughout the Malay archipelago. It weighs around 2 pounds and has an edge that makes use of a convex grind. All in all, the blade has three edges.
The front area is sharp enough for skinning. The fine back end is great for carving. For the middle area, it is wide enough for chopping. Horn or wood are the common materials for the hilt of the Parang. A nice feature of this blade is that it has a widened end to avoid slips and slides in wet conditions.
A weapon used by the Dayak people was the Pandat war sword. It is a common weapon among people from the Northwest of Borneo. They never used this sword as a tool.
The Pandat is heavy and short, featuring a single-edged blade and iron hilt. Passing through its handle is a small cross-piece of bone or iron.
The wielder holds the sword with one or two hands and will execute a downward stroke. A bend is present, close to the hilt, and has an angle of 25-degrees. The bend is in the transition between the blade and handle.
The back and the edge of the blade are straight. These run apart, making the area along the sword’s tip the broadest portion of the weapon. For the general measurements, these often range from 22 and 28 inches. Its handle is usually 16 inches long.
Commonly, those who made the Pandat used wood for its sheath. It features traditional patterns that adorn this. It may also have tufts of hair, feathers, or may be painted with in red.
The Balisword is a huge version of the Balisong and features two hilts covering the blade. It is 94 centimeters long when the sword is open. For the average blade size of the Balisong, it goes at 43.5 centimeters. Its hilts are around 50.5 centimeters long.
Balisword is a term that combines “Balisong” and “sword”, describing the unique design of the weapon. Its length can range from two to six feet.
The Kalis is a kind of Philippine sword that features a double-edged blade. It usually has a wavy section just like the Kris. The uses of its double-edged blade can be for thrusting and cutting. It is larger than most Kris, making it a sword rather than a dagger.
The wavy part of the Kalis allows for easier slashing in battle. It makes pulling the weapon out of an opponent’s body easier. This is not like straight blades that tend to get stuck in between bones.
The Bolo is a cutting tool that originates from the Philippines. It is similar to the Machete, and is also what people commonly use in Cuban sugar fields and Indonesian jungles.
Its primary use is for clearing vegetation. In the Philippines, martial artists use the Bolo for training in Arnis.
When it comes to the weapon’s build, it has a handle made from animal horn or native hardwood. Its full tang steel blade curves and widens along the tip.
The Kampilan is a sword that different Philippine ethnic groups used. The weapon has a single-edged blade and a distinct profile.
It has a tapered blade with a broad base while it gets thinner along the tip. Sometimes, the flatter side has a protruding spikelet. People believe that its bifurcated hilt represents the open mouth of a mythical creature.
The Dahong Palay literally translates to “rice leaf”. It is a Philippine sword that originates from Batangas and Mindoro. It features a single-edged blade.
Its shape is similar to the leaves of rice which may have been the reference of the sword’s name. Another possible reference for its name is the local green snakes that are venomous. These reptiles were also known as “dahong palay”.