The keris (also spelled keris) is the national weapon of Indonesia and the oldest distinctive weapon in that culture. It is found throughout the archipelago, as well as in Malaysia and the Philippines. It was the tool of ancient heroes and kings, becoming a symbol of both courage and beauty. Sultans had elaborate versions of the kris made for them by famous bladesmiths. Keris blades are hammer-welded of special iron, even meteoric iron.
According to tradition, the kujang, with its curved blade, was the weapon of West Javanese kings. It is said to take its shape from the antler of a deer. Many Indonesians believe it has mystical power and can bring good luck.
All Indonesian silat masters use the golok, especially in West Java. The blade length of this bolo-style weapon is usually between 12 and 24 inches. They are sometimes coated with scorpion or cobra venom to increase lethality.
The pisau belati is the universal kitchen utility knife in Indonesia. With a blade length of 7 inches or less, it is legally sold in any open-air market. It is carried everywhere by street vendors, fruit sellers, meat cutters, etc. It is the knife most likely to be available when a fight breaks out.
The mandau comes from South Borneo, the land of the Dayaks. The mandau is a jungle knife as well as the traditional headhunting sword. The handle is usually decorated with goat hair or human hair. The mandau may be used in combination with a shield, and the blade may be coated with poison for special occasions. While headhunting is supposedly no longer part of the Dayaks’ animistic religion, there is no doubt that the mandau is still capable of deadly battle.
The badik comes from Sulawesi and is a weapon for infighting. Its blade is usually 5 to 7 inches in length. The Bugis people of South Sulawesi are most noted for using it. The Bugis fighting style emphasizes quick and fatal strikes to the heart, stomach or kidneys. They practice by tying a sash around the waists of two fighters so that each must sidestep to avoid the stomach thrust of the other. In combat, the badik blade is sometimes poisoned.
The tombak (spear) is used in most silat styles. In the old days, it was used from horseback or for long-distance fighting on foot. Most traditional spears today are kept at home as decorations, but as late as 1945, they were used in combat against the Japanese. Even sharpened bamboo spears were pressed into the fight against Japanese and Dutch oppressors. Sharpened bamboo makes for a slow death, and most enemy soldiers would have preferred to be shot or stabbed with a sword. The spear could also be used effectively against a bayonet. They were not meant for throwing, like a Roman pitumm, but for stabbing, like the Zulu assegai.