For over forty five years I have been experimenting and training with many types of fighting knives. Just when you think you know everything there is to know about a subject something new comes up. That’s how it was for me with blade geometry and the dynamics of cutting. My test-cutting mediums are not very exotic. They consist of simple cardboard tubes, hollow tubes formed by loosely rolling two sheets of newspaper, or foam swimming pool noodles.
One night at our dojo I spent time working flow drills with a new knife from Laci Szabo called the Kamaitachi. This knife is like a kerambit on steroids or some African inspired cutter. When I emailed Laci about how he intended for this knife to be used he replied, “it is the simplest of all of my knives to use.” Sorry Laci, but that didn’t answer my question. Because of its unusual hooked shape I dismissed the Kamaitachi as a stabbing weapon and concluded that it would only be suitable for ripping and tearing actions. Despite this I decided to try some experimental thrusts with it. The stabbing qualities of the Kamaitachi really impressed me! I thought that the offset point would create an undesirable torquing effect upon impact but it didn’t seem to. When used for thrusting it works best if it is held in what I call a modified reverse grip. In fact for any technique the kamaitachi seems more comfortable when held this way.
A bigger surprise awaited me when I tried slashing with the Kamaitachi. It performed poorly. This was a disappointment considering its talon-like curvature. Based on this one practice session I dismissed it as a cutting weapon. Later I decided that maybe the Kamaitachi and I needed more time together. There is an old saying that, “familiarity breeds contempt,” not so when it comes to weapons. In this case familiarity proved to be what I needed to adapt to the Kamaitachi’s quirks. By applying a whole new blade approach-angle I finally achieved the results I was looking for and discovered a new level of cutting efficiency with the Kamaitachi.
Laci’s stated design philosophy is that a knife’s ergonomics ought to be tailored to the way a human being moves, not the other way around. That makes sense to me. I feel like I have also figured out which way to move my body to keep the Kamaitachi happy. The top knife is the exotic Szabo kamaitachi.