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The Khukuri – A Structural Analysis

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Despite the thick, relatively narrow edge bevel, and the thickness and heaviness of the blade itself, and fairly modest sharpness, the khukuri dealt a powerful cut on this one-gallon water jug, as can be seen in this series of spectacular photographs.

Photograph 1
Photo by Carlo Molina

Photograph 1: A one-gallon water jug, carefully balanced on a narrow 2-inch fence post, to simulate an enemy’s head.

Photograph 2
Photo by Carlo Molina

Photograph 2: The moment of impact. Notice that the khukuri has passed completely through the tough plastic skin of the jug so fast that the water in the jug has only begun to escape and the bottom half of the jug has not been disturbed from its narrow perch atop the fencepost.

Photograph 3
Photo by Carlo Molina

Photograph 3: The khukuri has completed its stroke. Water flies out of the deep gash in a wide arc and the top half of the jug slides off the bottom half and topples toward the ground, dragging the bottom after it.

Photograph 4
Photo by Carlo Molina

Photograph 4: The tough plastic jug, AND the paper label have been cut as cleanly as though sliced with a box razor.

Photograph 5
Photo by Carlo Molina

Photograph 5: The khukuri’s heavy 11” blade is approximately a full centimeter thick almost to the point. The traditional khukuri’s stroke is more like the smash of a tomahawk rather than the delicate cut of a sword.

Despite its small size, the khukuri’s blade is more than capable of deflecting the weight of a close-quarters attack with a rifle-and-bayonet, and possibly even damaging some rifles to the point that they would not function. The heavy thickness of the edge bevel means that it will chop aggressively while resisting sticking in mediums like green wood and heavy brush, or a gunstock.

These features make the khukuri ideal for application by a soldier in combat. It lends itself to straightforward, battlefield-type cuts that are exceptionally powerful and difficult to block. More sophisticated bladework involving feints and misdirections, however, can be difficult to impossible to execute, and possibly injurious to the tendons, ligaments or muscles of the martial artist practitioner. Redirecting that centimeter-thick blade in mid-flight can put fearsome stresses on human joints.

Nevertheless, tests suggest that the khukuri’s blade geometry (its unorthodox boomerang-shaped blade) is actually superior structurally to the blade geometry of a katana in that it packs more POTENTIAL cutting power into a far smaller size.

Structural analysis of the khukuri’s blade geometry and edge geometry suggest that with minor modifications – a higher, narrower edge bevel (about 7/8”),  more distal taper from hilt to point, lighter weight, and a thinner blade, and a true, razor edge – it would likely out-cut the much larger katana.

These modifications would make such a khukuri slightly less durable than the traditional khukuri, but it would significantly enhance cutting power. It would also allow the blade more technique in the hands of an advanced knife or short sword expert who relies on feints and misdirections to out-position the blade of a skilled opponent.

Fortunately, the folks at Ex-Gurkha Khukuri House are known for their openness to innovation and new ideas. Perhaps they will eventually produce a “Ronin Model” designed to give the fabled Japanese katana a run for its money as a weapon of finesse.

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Luca Rajabi
Luca has been passionate about martial arts and eastern philosophies since childhood. As an athlete, inventor and entrepreneur Luca founded SciFighting on the principal lessons learned from his life experience "fighting" to preserve his health and fitness. Although born with inherently poor and inconsistent health he pushed forward to learn as much as he could about the sciences of technology, medicine and mental health. Years of study, working with physicians and combined analysis finally began to bare fruit by his early twenties. Starting with Fencing, cross training and body building then moving to Boxing, Western Kickboxing, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiujitsu, Eskrima and an eclectic assortment of self defense techniques. Luca's core philosophy is that to win a battle every fighter must balance their mental and physical health. Luca has said that "With well developed technique, conditioning and mental focus a sound strategy will most often win over brute strength alone." It is in this spirit that he passionately advocates for the "Science of Fighting".