What Is A Bolo Knife?

Krieger 1926 Philippine ethnic weapons Plate 12

Philippine-originated, the bolo knife is a weapon known for its deadliness. Although it was only an agricultural tool, in the beginning, it eventually influenced the world’s military warfare.

A bolo knife is a long, heavy knife that was initially made for farming. Besides the Philippines, it’s used in several countries in Southeastern Asia. Many laborers prefer it for clearing vegetation as it is always available and efficient to use. Throughout the years, it’s been used for many reasons besides this one. But we’ll discuss that later.

Although soldiers were equipped with advanced weaponry, some preferred bolo knives when it came to one-on-one combat. You might be surprised that it was used in World War I and II.

In this article, we’ll answer the following question: What is a bolo knife? In addition to that, we’ll cover its uses, what it’s made of, and more.

What Exactly Is A Bolo Knife?

A bolo knife was initially made for agricultural and farming purposes. But later on, it turned into a deadly rebel knife.

When you look at it, you’ll find that it’s similar to a machete. However, what makes it a favorite for many workers in agriculture is its uniquely-curved blade. But the blade thickness is more than an average knife. Also, it curves and widens the more you reach the tip, which guarantees precision when chopping.

The shape of the knife can slightly differ according to its use. A ‘jungle bolo’, which is meant for combat practice, features a longer and less wide blade near the tip. As for those used for gardening purposes, they have more round tips.

Who Uses Bolo Knives?

A bolo knife is the primary cutting tool used by laborers in the Philippines, Cuba, Indonesia, and more countries. In addition to that, people use it in their training to master Kali, which is a famous Filipino martial art.

As for the history of its use, you should know that it was originally made to be used when harvesting crops or clearing vegetation. However, when revolutionaries found out how lethal it could be, it became a weapon of war.

As a result, it was used during the Philippine Revolution. It was also used later in the Philippine-American and Spanish-American wars.

Even though the army men were heavily armed with guns, they sometimes relied on bolo knives for combat. Later, in WWII, the Filipino resistance depended on bolo knives to fight off the Japanese soldiers.

What A Bolo Knife Is Used For

Nowadays, the uses of the bolo knife serve agricultural purposes, especially in Southeastern Asia.

First of all, it can be an efficient tool for harvesting narrow row crops. These include beans, soy, and rice. Why it’s such a fantastic tool for this job is because it has a certain bulge that adds more to the chopping power.

Second of all, it’s the best tool to use when splitting the hard shell of coconuts.

Also, as we mentioned before, people use it in forests or jungles to cut vegetation and clear paths.

If you’re familiar with Filipino martial arts, you’ll find that people train using bolo knives to master them. These martial arts include Kali, Arnis, and Eskrima.

What A Bolo Knife Is Made of

Let’s discuss the materials that make a good bolo knife, starting with its unique, curved blade.

This blade is made of durable steel, usually high-carbon steel. Aside from being solid and sturdy, it’s a long-lasting material with rust-resistant quality.

The next thing that makes a well-constructed bolo knife is its handle. Mostly, you’ll find this handle made of wood. However, you might come across bolo handles made of animal horn.

You might wonder how everything goes together. Well, the sharp, curved blade fits inside a groove in the wooden handle.

Some handles can also come decorated with bamboo strips in attractive shapes and designs.

This structure, and the distinct shape of the blade, give bolo knives the advantage of landing precise blows every time they’re used.

Of course, back when they were used in wars, high-carbon steel wasn’t available as a blade material. This is due to the fact that they were hand-forged.

Therefore, army men used scrap metal to make these knives.

Can You Legally Buy a Bolo Knife in the USA?

In the US, bolo knives are treated the same way that machetes are. They’re classified as agricultural tools by US law, therefore they’re legal to buy and carry.

Unlike owning stabbing knives, you should be worried about owning or carrying a bolo knife.

In this section, we’ll address shipping and traveling with a bolo knife.

Shipping Bolo Knives

If you want to ship a bolo knife by mail, you should only make sure that it’s well-covered. You should also keep it from moving in the package in a way that might reveal what it is.

Also, bolo knife manufacturers put special stamps on their packages if you order them online. This way, you won’t have to wait forever to receive yours due to inspection.

Traveling With Bolo Knives

As well as owning a bolo knife, you shouldn’t face any problems when traveling with one. Again, this is because it’s classified as an agricultural tool.

However, you shouldn’t carry it on you, but place it in your luggage instead.

Now, you’ve guaranteed that there will be no trouble for you if you bring a bolo to the US. Nevertheless, you should check the international law if you plan to take it elsewhere.

To Wrap It Up

Bolo knives have evolved over the years. They went from being agricultural tools to deadly war weapons, to combat weapons.

No matter how they’re used, they remain as symbols to the Filipino culture. Because they represent important events in Filipino history, they’re often given as gifts to military soldiers.

Lastly, you should know what a bolo knife is called where it’s commonly used. For instance, it’s ‘Itak’ in the Tagalog language, ‘sundáng’ in Cebuano, and ‘talibong’ in Hiligaynon.

All these unique languages are among the most important ones in the Philippines.

To be honest, it’s fascinating how something as simple as a bolo knife managed to represent so much. To some people, it meant heritage. Others depended on it to get their work done. No matter who used it, no one was able to resist its lethal charm.

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