All too often, you see people talking about a knife and calling it a karambit, but a closer look shows the handle is straight. Or people argue the merits of a spring assisted hawkbill knife over a fixed blade karambit.

Who’s right? We actually don’t care, that’s entirely up to you. We’re more interested in understanding the knives a little more.


The karambit was first created in Southeast Asia, for use in agriculture and fishing as an everyday carry. It is almost notorious for user safety, with an unusual addition that is still rarely seen. Legend has it that the inspiration for the shape came from a tiger’s claw. Trading with other islands soon saw the design spread, until the armies of two or three islands adopted it as a weapon.
The exact region the hawkbill came from in uncertain. Like the karambit, the hawkbill’s shape came from observing nature and is based off a hawk’s beak. This knife was also used extensively in farming and fishing communities, but it sounds like its introduction as a combat weapon is more recent.


Often times, the two designs are mistaken for each other, but there are significant differences for those who know what to look for. Both have a curved blade, which is where the similarities end.
The hawkbill’s blade has a straight spine for a portion of the length before curving down. It resembles a hook, or a hooked beak, rather than a half moon.

The karambit is evenly curved in a C shape, and the spine follows it precisely until it meets the edge in a point. So, the entire knife, handle and all follow this curve.


The karambit has one to two finger rings in the handle for safety purposes. If there’s only one loop, it’s located at the end of the handle. The second one is at the base of the blade. These allow the knife to be securely gripped, and to maintain that hold even in the worst conditions. In the case of a fight, it would be nearly impossible to disarm a person using a karambit.

The hawkbill’s handle is straight, and the blade as well for a short distance before curling into the hook. A hawkbill will, on occasion, have the karambit’s safety loops added to the handle, but is still distinct from the karambit because of the straight handle.

As you look for a new knife, also bear in mind that it may be worthwhile to receive some specific self-defense training in the use of these knives.

Ask your retailer when you are looking at spring assisted hawkbill knife for sale if they offer any self-defense classes in the use of the knife.

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