Thursday, 4 April 2013

Malay Weapons


There are several weapons unique to the Malay world. The keris is already known as a weapon that is uniquely Malay. It is carried in the waist belt (bengkong) of the ruler and also the groom during a Malay wedding. The keris is often not much talked about or a range of collection open for public viewing. Even though we may have seen a few keris, the Malay keris collection is very large and varied among the Malay rulers who own them. Almost all Malay rulers have a keris that represents their kingdom or rule. Malay males have inherited the keris from their noble forefathers. My father also inherited a few Minangkabau keris from his forefathers but he went to Sumatra to return them to their rightful owners. Usually, females do not own a keris as they don't need to.

Malay weapons. The keris is at far left. 


The keris sundang is a long keris with a round tip.

Keris sundang

Kapak kecil

In the early 1970s, there was a young Malay male who showed up at our front door one fine evening. My father answered the door. His face was covered with  blood and his clothes were stained with blood from a sustained head injury.

My father had let in the injured man live with us for the night. After much interrogation, it was made known to us kids that this young man had sustained severe head injuries after he was attacked with a kapak kecil (kapak kechilkapak kecikkapak kechik). I was made to nurse him! I didn't like the unwelcome injured visitor. We didn't have a telephone in the house then. My father went to 'work' the next day and reported him to the police. He was taken away by the police while I was in school. I didn't see him after school. It was good that he was gone but the memories of that incident remained.

The man's name was Abdul Rashid, just like my father's. What happened to him? This injured young man was a bogus doctor at GH Kota Bharu. He had tried to woo and date a Malay kampung girl from Pengkalan Chepa, a seaside village well-known for numerous kapak kecil attacks back then. The girl refused to marry him and he went to the girl's village to pick a fight with the villagers. Of course the villagers attacked him with their infamous weapon, a kapak kecil. The detailed nature of the attack was unknown but the villagers had used the girl to con him to the village. They spilled little stones on the narrow village road. He road a scooter and had fallen off from his scooter when he came to the spilled stones. The villagers then attacked him with a kapak kecil and he bled. He got away and came to our house. He found our house in Pengkalan Chepa after asking around for my father, then a lecturer at Maktab Perguruan Kota Bharu (MPKB), now Instiutut Perguruan Kota Bharu (IPKB).

At age 12, I didn't know what kapak kecil was but I was curios to find out what kind of weapon it was. I saw kapak kecil for the first time when I visited Muzium Islam Kelantan on 28 March 2013. It was displayed along with the other Malay weapons, many are deadly weapons. The kapak kecil is a small light hammer that is carried in the back pocket of a man's trousers. It is meant to knock a person on the head (katok kepala).


The badik is a curved weapon for stabbing (senjata untuk menikam). It is similar to the sickle (sabit) used to cut grass.

Sengat Pari

The Malays eat sting rays (ikan pari). The ivory is used as a weapon for stabbing called sengat pari (sting ray). Steve Irwin, in the TV serial Crocodile Hunter, died after he was accidentally pierced by a sting ray.


There was a big ornate weapon that I never knew and never heard about - the kerewang. The kerewang looks like it was made for a play or drama, and has ornate carvings, 'Mak Yong' designs. I don't know what they used it for but it serves to knock a person on the head (katok kepala). I have not heard about injuries sustained from a kerewang attack. I do not know where they make the kerewang.

Other Malay weapons

There are other Malay weapons which have not made their way to museums. One is the parang. In Kelantan, the parang is narrow and straight, with a bound handle made of stiff nylon rope, and an 8-in long narrow blade. In Malacca, the parang is a wide and with a curved blade, and the entire parang and handle are one moulded piece made of cast iron. Almost every Malay home will have a parang, mainly to crack open a coconut (for obtaining santan for cooking) and to clear bushes around the house or cut small stems and to chop small trees.

There have been incidences of Malay men running amok (from the Malay root verb amok and the verb mengamuk). Amok happens all of a sudden, when anger ticks a man and he turns to a killing spree, and the parang is used to chase after victims. Of course the outcome of such amok is fatal. The amok man may turn upon himself and kill himself in the end. Amok is not well researched in Malaysia. It may run in families. It probably relates to extreme uncontrollable anger that has to vent at some point. It could be due to many reasons - excessive pressure (amat tertekan), excessive jeering (banyak diejek), loss of a wife to another man (bini diambil orang), disturbing another man's wife (kacau bini orang), loss of money or land (kehilangan duit atau tanah), family feud (perkelahian antara ahli keluarga), fight with another man in the village (berkelahi dengan orang kampung), someone stole another man's possession (mencuri), etc. It could be revenge or some other causes.


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