Dear Kyai Carita,
As I'm mostly handling the Jogja's style handles, which are very probably the smallest style of keris' handles, I suggest a slightly different/modified way of (Javanese) keris handles gripping. I, and most experienced keris's lover here in Jogja as I observed, pinched the end of mendhak where it meets ganja (very much likely as you pinch your steak knife). The end of the handle should rest firmly on the lower part/base of your palm, and other fingers (that are, your middle, ring, and little fingers) should keep the handle that ways. In this way, your elbow, forearm and pesi should make a straight line (in 'ready-to-stab' position) while the tip/point of angled blade should resemble your (now curled) index finger. You may employ this method just before you draw your keris, as the proper way to draw the Javanese keris is to push the 'thorn' part of wrangka with your thumb. If you are right handed, the gandhik should face left and the buntut urang/'tail' should protect your outer side of the hand. It is suggested that you held the keris at waist height, and strike only the opponent's abdoment or heart, by pushing the keris with your palm. If the keris where made and handled properly, it's handling would be very firm and as natural as pointing and thrusting with your index finger. It is, as Alan said, a serious (and deadly) weapons. Despite it's 'clumsy' appearance, it has been proven to be very functional and ergonomic as a stabbing weapon. IMHO, that's why other area outside Java (while many expert believe, Java is the home of keris) adopt the keris as one of their personal 'arsenal', despite their own 'indigenous' weapons such as Badik or Rencong which roughly are the same 'class'.
Pinching blumbangan/pejetan, as Alan suggested, would certainly works and very fine too, but it may stained your blade (something you wouldn't consider in the face of enemy, I believe). Handling and drawing the keris as the same as golok would show instantly (in Java) that the handler is inexperience. Please remind, the Javanese handles are gauged for Javanese, which, I believe, has smaller hand/palm than Caucasian, in general.
About the handle position of Javanese keris, it is already 'battle ready' as it is. No need to change it to an angled position such as Malay/Bugis handle. It just need a firm and proper fitting. No gap allowed between the ganja, mendhak and handle. It is recommended to use shellac to mount the handle to give it firm fit, If you consider to use it as a weapon. I should tell you, contrary to common belief to mount keris handle with hair in old days, ALL Jogjakarta Court and their very immediate families' keris handles are shellaced. Hair and cloth seems to be used by commoners.
About the poisons,..
Well, as Alan said, warangan mainly composed of Arsenic, which is a 'slow poison', unless you take it a teaspoonfull. Proper method of 'marangi' would only leave a small amount of it on the blade (I'm not saying none!), which, I believe, not capable of poisoning someone to death in hours. It may have some effect, such as a long healing wound, but will not kill you instantly or in hours. I don't know the effect of other poisoning methods already mentioned. While it is written in Ensiklopedi Keris, I have never met,heard or found someone here in Jogja practising the 'Cacab/Cem-ceman' method. I suggest someone give it a try (to mice or other creatures, if you have a heart, and not human or fellow forumities certainly), and I would love to hear the result
Another way of making the blade poisonous by villagers in marangi process include coating the blade with over-saturated warangan solutions (usually the white, low grade, cheap one) and to let it dry under the sun without cleaned it first. The result is the blade covered with warangan powder, which is not only ugly and dirty, but may corroded the blade as the acid wasn't cleaned properly. Rust may occurs in several days. Don't do it at home, please.
About the 'poisoning' effect of keris or tombak, Harimurti AKA Ndoro Hari, the son of Prince Tejokusuma HB VII (as already mentioned by Kiai Carita as a famous Pendekar of Jogjakarta) had a story, which is quoted in a book dedicated to him, written by one of his students, S. Lumintu (and then quoted by me
): When Ndoro Hari was young, he used to follow the close 'free-fight-championship' followed by many pendekars, and only pendekar allowed. It was a very deadly championship, as 'free' means 'free', you may use any method and any weapons you wish. The death result, was very common. One day, Ndoro Hari must fought against pendekar which use a tombak pusaka as his weapon. Ndoro Hari saw as if there was a flame covering the tombak. He knew, it was a deadly tombak. At the end of the fight, Ndoro Hari, who used no weapon, managed to catch the tombak under his armpit and step on the wooden shaft and broke it, and thus succesfully defeat his opponent. Unfortunately, when he caught the tombak, it left a minor cut on his waist. Just after the fight, he felt he lost his strength, and the cut felt like burning. He asked his companion to brought him to a Kyai who was his teacher in Ngawi quickly, which was several hours away (Ndoro Hari had many teachers. He wandered Java to learn pencak silat). Reaching Ngawi, Ndoro Hari was already weak, he couldn't walk by himself. His teacher quickly helped him. 'If only you are late for an hour or two, your life couldn't be saved,' the Kyai said.
A flame covering the spear point or keris, is quite 'common' reported. But it could only happen in a very serious situation, when the bearer very intended and determined to use the pusaka as a weapons. One cannot turn it 'on' and 'off' as if it is a flashlight. Belief it or not belief it, one should be very careful with such a weapons, or any weapons.
Keris in general has many functions and aspects, which developed through times. IMHO, one function don't necessarily erased anothers. It only add another dimension. But if we discuss a single specific blade, we may discuss what dimension this specific blade belongs to. Was it intended by the maker
as a weapon, as a social-class attribute, as a talismanic device, as just a daily clothing accessories or other functions ? One specific blade could serve more than one function, and very limited ones were intended by the maker to serve all aspects/functions.
Sorry for 'repeating' your post. I 99% agree with you. I save the 1% for future use
Yes, I owe you a new keyboard. I do owe many keyboards and apologize to the forumities who incidently 'broke their keyboard' by one or other reasons, after reading my previous post