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Silat Weapons of Destruction - Kapak Kecil (Small Axe)

This article was written by my good friend and Harimau Berantai teacher Maha Guru Jak Othman. It focuses on kapak kecil, a weapon used in the Java Berantai silat style. Although the Minangkabau Harimau silat system does not traditionally use this weapon within its teachings, the knowledge Guru Jak shares in his writings is of great worth to any pesilat (silat player) no matter what the fighting style.

A pesilat should be able to adapt their art to use any weapon. The kapak kecil is a very effective fighting tool in mid and close range - the handle is used in trapping and striking, whilst the blades for hacking and punching your opponent. Using your langkah (footwork) and kelekan (body angling) to avoid attacks from your opponent helps utilize the kapak to its full effect, targeting the ribs, chest, neck and head.

Read and learn as knowledge never decreases when shared.

—Pendekar Scott McQuaid

Maha Guru Jak Othman

Kapak Kecil

By Guru Jak Othman

While the world is still amazed by the effectiveness of the kerambit, there are many more silat weapons still unknown to the rest of the world. I would like to introduce you to a cute little tool, but deadly in the hands of a silat expert. This little one is called kapak kecil, kapak literally means axe and kecil is small or mini.

The axe has been a tool of farming and combat for thousands of years. Since man knew how to put wood and stone together, the axe was born. The early Malay models are called 'beliung'.

Anywhere around the world, the axe started as a farming tool. Later it gets bigger, heavier and sharper as it progress towards becoming a weapon of destruction.

The art of the axe fighting progressed and evolved along the evolution of its shape and size of becoming a feared long and mid range weapon. Certainly, a choice for big and strong warriors, they were the axe men that terrorized the world in many battles throughout the centuries before the arrival of firearms.

Maha Guru Jak Othman in Action with Kapak Kecil

Working with the Kapak system from Java Indonesia by exploring, learning and practicing the
Kelantanese versions under several sources have been a great supplementary to my family kapak fighting arts. In the Harimau Berantai clan, the kapak kecil is an arsenal of the Srikandi, the lady warrior. But the pendekar (the guys) carry them too as last in the line weapon, the last resort.

Originally a tool for cutting fruits and other food stuff, the kapak kecil is always kept extremely sharp. In order to be safe from any accidental cut, this version is normally sheathed.

Like the kerambit, the kapak of the Srikandi is also an ornament of beauty. It is normally knotted in the hair bun of a woman pesilat. Other places to conceal could be hidden in her bengkung (sash) or strapped to the side of her leg.

During the war of independence against the Dutch in Indonesia, in an assassination mission, the Srikandi slipped through enemy lines and entered the chamber of the commanding office and practically killed him at point blank range.

It is best to get the job done by hacking the neck veins from behind or the side, but killing from a frontal close range with a kapak is not a problem to a skilled practitioner.

Guru Scott McQuaid Using Kapak Kecil

There are various methods of holding the kapak kecil in Harimau Berantai silat. They are the classic blade up, blade down and punching/slashing methods between fingers.

To understand the effectiveness of the kapak lets study the anatomy of the tool. It is divided into two parts - the mata (blade) and the batang (handle).

In ancient times the mata was generally made of at least three layers of metals. However, today the spring iron has become a perfect replacement. The destroyer parts of the mata consists of the kepala or the hammer head for striking and kekapak which is the pointed and sharp end of the kapak for tearing, slashing and hacking.

The batang was naturally made of several species of tropical hard wood, but the most popular is 'kayu nibung'. Nibung is easily obtained at most muddy beaches of South East Asia.

This wood is not only extremely hard but also possesses natural poison, making it potentially lethal when it enters the blood stream. Naturally the batang is used to trap and stab the opponent.

As a defense weapon the kapak is acceptable but attacking with it is not recommended. The kapak is not the normal farming tool but a special version for mid and close range application. Small in size, it measures between 3 cm to 15cm.

This little known weapon is a great asset to a pesilat.

Originally published in 2010 on website.