This is the second article in my series documenting the building and testing of a Titanium Kukri. Please see the first article here.

This article will be followed by the third and last installment of the series which will document the final comparative tests between the Ti Kukri and the steel Kukri.

History of the Kukri

I felt I should give some more background to the Kukri and detail some of my thoughts on the design. The Kukri or Khukuri is a forward-curving banana-shaped knife synonymous with the Gurkhas. The Gurkhas are Nepalese soldiers recruited by a number of military forces around the world, most notably the British Army and the Indian Army. The Gurkhas have a long-standing reputation for their fearless military prowess. The Kukri was used to great and terrible effect by the Gurkhas in various military actions.

One notable action in North Africa was followed by the unit’s situation report which read: “Enemy losses: ten killed, ours nil. Ammunition expenditure nil.”

For more information on the Gurkhas and the Kukri, see the Wikipedia articles (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gurkh…https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kukri) as reasonable starting points for further research. I’m not going to regurgitate the information that is freely available on the Kukri. Instead, I am going to launch into my own thoughts on its development and use.

There is still some debate about the origin of the unique design of the Kukri since it closely resembles several weapons of antiquity including the Greek Kopis and the Egyptian Khopesh (shown below). It may have been influenced or inspired by these earlier designs at some point in the distant past. It is also quite possible that the design of the Kukri, the Kopis and the Khopesh is an example of convergent evolution of weapons.

Drawing of a Greek kopis in action, from Richard Burton’s The Book of the Sword, 1884

Egyptian Khopesh, Image by Dbachmann, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1500876


​I cannot say which theory of the design’s origin is true but I will say that in the three examples mentioned above, the forward-curved sickle shaped blade is very similar to the far more ancient leaf-bladed bronze sword typically employed by ancient bronze-age warriors (shown below). Typical bronze-age swords were surprisingly effective at cutting and stabbing. Their simple leaf-shaped design having evolved over a substantial period of time (at least a couple of thousand years) to make the best use of the material they were made out of. The widest part of the blade was generally at the optimal cutting point which concentrated mass and force at that point while still allowing a very sharp, tapering point for stabbing.
Leaf Shaped Bronze Age Swords. Image by Dbachmann, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1500841

In addition, when analysed in more depth, the blade can be seen to form a pair of arches which could carry force from the hand grip to the optimal cutting point more effectively than a straight blade.

Bronze represented a technological revolution in terms of its hardness, work-ability and durability, but it was still relatively soft when compared with modern steel. Bronze weapons would occasionally bend with use. This was not a major concern because they could easily be bent back into shape and re-worked if necessary. I would like to suggest that based on the behaviour of bronze weapons, it is not impossible to imagine a scenario in which a typical bronze sword was bent forward in the rigors of battle with the wielder unable to straighten it due to the pressure of combat and thus being forced to wield a forward-bent sickle-shaped blade. This ‘happy’ accident might have convinced the wielder of the merits of a forward-curved blade in terms of cutting ability. This could have happened in multiple locations and times and could have been the ‘seed’ of the convergent evolution of the forward-curved sickle-shaped sword.

Weapon Shape, Bridging and Traditional WuShu

I believe that the Kukri design is an optimised cutting design because of the arch structure which can communicate force effectively to the optimal cutting point from the hand. This arch structure is usually combined with an unusually thick spine in a typical traditional Kukri design (for the overall size of the blade). I believe that the arch shape combined with the thickness of the spine prevents the blade from excessive warping when a cut is made.

If you look at slow-motion video of a sword cut (see example below), you’ll notice that swords generally warp and vibrate along the flat of the blade. This represents energy that has not been effectively transmitted into the target. Hence energy wastage. I believe that the Kukri design represents a much-improved design for cutting because the blade is less likely to warp along the flat due to the thick spine and arch shape.