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Old 17th December 2012, 04:50 AM   #1
TribalBlades
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Default The Khukri - Myth or Fact ?

ok now i have heard these 2 pieces of information, many a times, about the Gurkha Khukuri. i want to know whether these are myths or solid facts and if there is any basis of proof.

so here goes:

1)WHen the Khkuri is used to kill or maim someone or a some creature, and draw blood from it, the little notch at the base (The Kauda/ Cho), makes the blood drop off the handle rathar than fall onto the hands. i honestly dont understand this mechanism.

2) It was used as a boomerang in the past, but the knowledge of the exact technique to throw it, has now been lost.
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Old 17th December 2012, 05:39 AM   #2
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I would suggest that question number two is incorrect .
A boomerang is quite a specific foiled shape; nothing like a kukri .
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Old 17th December 2012, 07:48 AM   #3
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Kukri was used as boomerang by a " famous Indian tiger hunter" in the old Italian TV series "Sandokan". Other than that, I am unaware of any real use. Unlikely to pass as an academic evidence:-)
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Old 17th December 2012, 09:14 AM   #4
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no one really knows what the cho is for. some say it breaks the blood flow from reaching the hand, some say it's a religious mark, some old khuks do not have one, many modern kamis (blacksmith's) say a blade is not a khukuri without a cho. some are open like shown, some are closed & thus are not a place where blood would drip off. some are shaped like a cloven hoofprint, some like pagodas. in the words of the QI quizmaster stephen fry, 'nobody knows'. they just are.

the gurkhas do joke when asked silly questions, and may even say the cho is a sight for aiming the khukuri when throwing it like a boomerang. when they get annoyed at people wanting to see or hold their khukuris, they will tell the tall tale that they cannot be drawn unless they taste blood, which has been developed into another urban myth.

ghurkhas are also not dumb enough to throw away their favourite weapon, rendering themselves unarmed. while it physically could be thrown, the probability of hitting anything with the point or edge is low, and they'd be better off throwing a rock.
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Old 17th December 2012, 09:41 AM   #5
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The kami, dealers etc, I asked in Nepal were certain, it was religious symbolism, They turn the blade edge upwards to study it. The likes of Rawlson was told the same thing.

British newspapers in WW1 refered to Gurkha throwing there kukri like boomerang, some tabloids said they even tied bits of string to them to pull them back afterwoulds! {Do you belive what newspapers say?}

Historicaly some Gurkhas on occasion draw there own blood to feed the Gods, if that was there wish & belief. It certanly wasnt common but as Kronkew says , was a good way of detering people asking to handle there kukri.

One day a year all Gurka weapons are still blessed by blood sacrifice, {Although due to various laws on English based bases they normaly sacrifice a marrow or some such!, when abroad they use animals though.Same as in Indian & Nepali army.}

Interestingly as late as 1951 the War Departmemt said to Wilkinson Sword that the cho or Kaudi had to be machiened to microscopic tolerances, When asked why they said, for use as a sight for throwing... or words to that effect!

Do you trust the war Departent types any more than a tabloid journalist?

Interesting photo.... took than one many years ago....

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Old 17th December 2012, 03:48 PM   #6
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interesting insights. THank YOu.

The Kauda might be a symbolic depiction of the God of Destructive Forces, Lord Shiva's Trident.

Quote:
Interesting photo.... took than one many years ago....

hahaha!

i just used it for reference. i hope you don't mind!
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Old 17th December 2012, 09:20 PM   #7
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The lore on historic ethnographic weapons is probably one of the most entertaining aspects of studying them, and quite frankly, most cultural and tribal groups have often had a field day telling these in the queries of curious travellers and tourists.
Myths abound in the west on the intriguing notching of blades as well, and in the years I pursued answers on many of them, there really are none that might be construed as fact, though some have some plausibility.
Some of these are notches on the blades of some 18th c. Austrian cavalry sabres; notches at the back on Meditteranean fighting knives (also a nuance added to original Bowie knives in America) and possibly other instances.

As for the kukri, the 'cho' or choil was profoundly a key feature important to Gurkhas on thier kukri, and while no apparant use has ever been explained satisfactorily for this notch, it was important enough that even military versions produced by the British for the Gurhkas included it. While Spiral and Kronckew are two of the resident authorities here on the kukri now, I recall John Powell who was in my opinion an oustanding authority and author on the kukri, but left here some years ago. It seems that he had rather accepted symbolic purpose for the cho, and most likely toward the goddess Kali I believe it was. The suggestion that it was a bovine hoof was I believe discounted.

I think as Rick has well noted, the kukri is by no means aerodynamically suited as a 'throwing knife', nor would any Gurkha intentionally disarm himself from his key weapon as Knonckew wisely notes. The use of a kukri in this manner in a TV program of course as Ariel says, hardly constitutes worthy evidence, but I am astounded at this incredibly esoteric trivia! You constantly amaze me Ariel!!! Also, as noted, Gurkhas are quite attached to thier personal kukri, and reluctant to give them over to anyone even for curious inspection.

The well worn and seemingly almost universally used 'chestnut' on a blade needing to taste blood before being resheathed seems used for so many edged weapons its hard to list them all, but I think most derive from the old Japanese myth about Muramasa blades, which were cursed and demanded blood. This propoganda was so effective these blades were outlawed if I recall the tale correctly.

The cho to divert flow of blood away from handle, nonsense, much like these explanations for blade features like the fullers being termed 'blood gutters'. These were actually to lighten and strengthen blade and had nothing to do with flowing of blood, though obviously a dynamic expected in use of the sword as intended.
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Old 17th December 2012, 10:07 PM   #8
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Thanks Jim, yes its a shame JP had to leave the kukri world, {I am sure he looks in & reads sometimes still though.}

The kaudi represt many Gods, Kalis cliterous is certanly one, Shivas cow hoof symboll another, many represents different Temple roofs, including Buddhas. The Nepalis , Hindos & Gurkhas dont follow one God, they follow many.

Heres some clasical temple roof or stupa types...












And thats just of military issue mk.1 kukri, made from 1903 to 1915!

There so many kaudis if studied its unbeliavable!

Even ones like this!

{Courtsey of Singhaofdarjeeling on IKRHS.}

I reckon never mind a chapter a book could be writen on kaudi alone!

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Old 18th December 2012, 12:39 AM   #9
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I'm working on something else, but a while back, on the Himalayan Imports forum, someone published a little computer analysis of a khukuri blade. It was interesting, because it suggested that a lot of stress accumulates on the blade at the cho, and if the cho isn't there, there's a fairly good chance of the blade splitting. Because the cho is there, the blade doesn't accumulate stress on that part of the edge a crack, and therefore, the khukuri can hit with full force. The smiths would have figured this out by seeing blades split where the cho is and experimenting with putting a hole in the blade at that point to stop the crack before it starts.

While I don't think this reason is definite, it's nice in that it doesn't particularly matter what shape the cho is. The fact that there's a break in the edge at the point of maximum stress is the critical thing.

Best,

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Old 18th December 2012, 02:12 AM   #10
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As with much internet material on my hard drive, the original source for this collection of kaudi photos has been lost. I believe it was originally put together by Artzi Yarom; John Powell posted it on IKRHS. In this version the blade edge is turned up as Spiral suggests to better illustrate the symbolism of the designs.
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Old 18th December 2012, 08:54 AM   #11
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Excelent Berk, Thanks Fearn if you can find that thread Id be interested to read it.

Although thiese are full of symbolism {Like all Hindu weapons} The kaudi can have less estoteric uses as well.

Pour full fat milk {To emulate blood.}all over the blade & wave the kukri around & you will find less milk gets on your hand if there is a kaudi or step.{Realy... try it. }

It provides a break in the sharpening line so the edge ends at the same spot even if roughly resharpened in the field. {Or village.}

Kukri that break have been overhardend in the riccaso/tang area, fileing the kaudi allows one to know how hard or not the blade is at that point & allows the kami to re adjust temper if neccasary.

I am sure there other practical reasons as well, But putting the power of the Gods into your blade & protecting you from the malevolent spirits Hindus believe are attracted to weapons that have maimed & killed is going to be fairly high on the list, I suspect.

Spiral

Last edited by spiral; 18th December 2012 at 02:35 PM.
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Old 18th December 2012, 03:57 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Berkley
As with much internet material on my hard drive, the original source for this collection of kaudi photos has been lost. I believe it was originally put together by Artzi Yarom; John Powell posted it on IKRHS. In this version the blade edge is turned up as Spiral suggests to better illustrate the symbolism of the designs.

Wow superb pictures. dont mind if i use them elsewhere, will ya?
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Old 18th December 2012, 06:18 PM   #13
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I don't know if you can see this thread without being a member of bladeforums, but here's the blade forums link.

The analysis is also posted here on Google Docs, which requires you to have a Google account.

In reading the Google version, I'll admit that I was wrong, in that the geometry does matter somewhat. A simple semi-circular cutout reduces the stress the most, and sharp angles bring the stress levels back up, where the sharp angles occur.

Hope this helps,

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Old 18th December 2012, 06:53 PM   #14
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Thanks Fearn interesting,,,A fascinating read.

As the auther says though....

"I did not use real values for the geometry. I used generic structural steel material properties and did not account for the variation in modulus from the differential heat treatment or hardening. I did not check for mesh convergence, or verify my results were in accordance with the beam equations. I did not apply realistic loading conditions. In other words, please take these results with a grain of salt!"

As many of those factors are critical in the design & forging of kukris I think his advice to take with a grain of salt is correct.

But Many good points raised especialy re. reduction in transmited shock & vibration I think. I hadnt considered that before. I am sure thats a valuable hypothisis.

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Old 18th December 2012, 09:07 PM   #15
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There's a master's thesis waiting to be written here, really.

A few of things that can be done:

1. Creating a proper model of a khukuri, with the three dimensional shape, bend, and differential hardening of the cutting edge.

2. Playing with the tip angles, blade size, bend angle, thickness, cho shape, etc., to see how these affect the properties of the blade.

There's such a variation in khukuri shapes and sizes that someone really could have a lot of fun. If there are simple conclusions, they could even feed these back to the kamis who make those blades, so that the kamis could play with new blade shapes suggested by the model.

Best,

F
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Old 19th December 2012, 08:37 AM   #16
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fearn,

i fixed the missing tacoma narrows video at bladeforums
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Old 19th December 2012, 01:25 PM   #17
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Thanks Fearn, Kronckew.

All good stuff!

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Old 21st December 2012, 04:03 PM   #18
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These three have by far the most common kaudi

But many early kukri didn't have kaudi at all, this kukri of Prithvi Narayan Shah, potentially lends itself to the blood dripping theory near the bolster;

Even the Gurkhas are unsure about its signifigance, check 13.36 in on the vid;
Gurkhas 'In the Highest tradition'
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Old 22nd December 2012, 10:45 PM   #19
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A clearer Life size photo taken in 2005 by myself showing the slight vestige of the kaudi on the same kukri.

This is typicle on the so called "kaudi less" pieces of this era.

The older the kukri the smaller the kaudi does seem to be generaly true...

Spiral.




Heres a karda based on the same style as many of these old kukris, with the minute kaudi still visible.



{courtsy of Runjeet at Akall arms.}

There are many other examples in Kathmando national museam...
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Old 23rd December 2012, 05:57 PM   #20
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Interesting point of view about what a kaudi is Jonathan;

In the Nepalese army they refer to the kaudi as the kauda, and their explanation of its function (in both 2008 and 2009) is the notch in the blade that acts as a blood dripper, as did the 3rd Gorkhas when I was invited to have tea with them in 2008.
3rd Gorkhas base


I would also refer you to this link I put up in a previous post, about 13.30 in;
Gurkhas 'In the Highest Tradition'

Here are some notch-less kukri from the National Museum


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Old 23rd December 2012, 06:14 PM   #21
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There may be a more simple explanation for these Kukri without a kaudi.

When looking at the karda, the cut out on the blade can be used to get a firmer grip on it, more of the hand.

Looking at the larger Kukri and the curves of the hilt at this point, the same reason can be applied, move the hand forward creating a more controlling grip and thus creating a hand and half use if required.

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Old 23rd December 2012, 06:30 PM   #22
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I would definitely agree with you Gav
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Old 23rd December 2012, 06:55 PM   #23
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Yes, but I'm not sure how comfortable a forward grip would be on a Khukuri. Some of them have sharp points on the inside curve, after all.

Personally, I tend to think of it as the equivalent of the old Bennett's Bend patent, which was a nineteen degree bend in a tool handle to make it easier to swing and hold. Obviously khukuris have a >19 degree bend in the blade, but it does have the advantage of not requiring the user to hyperextend the wrist to cut with the blade closer to horizontal.

Best,
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Old 23rd December 2012, 07:13 PM   #24
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I know nothing about these but Gav made good comment. From a carving point of view, as in more controled whittling, for what ever reason choking off the full action of a blade makes good sense.
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Old 23rd December 2012, 08:11 PM   #25
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Clearer photos needed, but at least one of those has a kaudi, kauda, cho, etc.etc.




I think at least 2 in the museam didnt though...

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Old 23rd December 2012, 08:17 PM   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim Simmons
I know nothing about these but Gav made good comment. From a carving point of view, as in more controled whittling, for what ever reason choking off the full action of a blade makes good sense.
I use a choked blade all the time (SOG Seal Pup), and it works, but it's not the same as the notch we're seeing here. That's why I question it.

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Old 23rd December 2012, 11:19 PM   #27
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I do think on these kukri that have a cut away as opposed to a kaudi, that the main function is to try and prevent blood/fluids etc getting onto the hand, nonetheless I do think Gavin's point especially regarding the karda is valid.
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Old 24th December 2012, 10:29 AM   #28
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I sent pictures to the former curator of the Nepalese Army museum and famed Nepalese army historian Lt. Col. Prem Singh Basnyat (also a former CO of the Nepalese Para Commando) pictures of the kukri with the cut away area like the ones below, and he said they are not classified as kaudi/kauda, just unusual kukri;

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Old 24th December 2012, 04:50 PM   #29
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To be clear, the problem with choking up on these blades is the central metal spike at the base of the edge. If you put your index finger on that point and rotate the blade around it, it's going to hurt. One might even hypothesize that some smith put the point there expressly to keep people from choking up on the blade.

The other issue is that, if you do choke up, you've got the mass of the handle hanging out at a weird angle (or the blade is at a weird angle). On a straight knife, choking up is great, because the handle is back, in your hand or out of the way, and acting as a bit of a counterbalance.

I won't say it wasn't done. I'm just skeptical that that was the original purpose.

F
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Old 24th December 2012, 05:14 PM   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fearn
To be clear, the problem with choking up on these blades is the central metal spike at the base of the edge. If you put your index finger on that point and rotate the blade around it, it's going to hurt. One might even hypothesize that some smith put the point there expressly to keep people from choking up on the blade.

The other issue is that, if you do choke up, you've got the mass of the handle hanging out at a weird angle (or the blade is at a weird angle). On a straight knife, choking up is great, because the handle is back, in your hand or out of the way, and acting as a bit of a counterbalance.

I won't say it wasn't done. I'm just skeptical that that was the original purpose.

F
Interesting thoughts Fearn but these examples shown do not have this acute point but rather an appropriate arc for a finger. That and that the width of the handle and bolster continue through at this width and remain roughly the same but not widening also support this.
I do see the one image where this acute point could be considered but by design, this blade narrows further to allow for a forward grip.
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