The Nifo Oti, The Samoan Kukri. By Tim Tufuga

The Samoan Kukri, le Nifo Oti

The Samoan Kukri, le Nifo Oti

The Samoan ‘Kukri’, le ‘Nifo Oti’, is, perhaps, the most lethal hand to hand combat weapon ever devised within the Pacific bellicose cultures.

The weapon is unique in design and is particular to the Samoan warrior culture. The history of the origins of the weapon has its mythical origins like a Shaka Zulu mini series whereby a warrior Prince forges a weapon from some mythical diety. However, Samoans are less superstitious but will nevertheless attribute the origins of the weapon to two brothers Tunu ma Fata in a time when the Samoans were struggling with their war for independence against the imperial rule of the Vava’uan Tongans.

The liberation of the Samoans from Tongan colonisation would, inadvertantly, be attributed to two factors. Firstly, the Tunu ma Fata twins, whom would later on become the first Malietoa royal line of Samoa, and, secondly, the weapon they had invented, Le Nifo Oti.

The functionality of the weapon is ingenius and it is unique to Samoan military history. The weapon’s primary advantage was the particularity of the design. A blade like weapon which had two sides with primarily opposite functions. On the one side, there is a serrated edge with a hook and on the other a smooth edged blade. The hilt is designed as a fulcrum, to give balance to the blade, and the ability for the warrior to either use the weapon singlehandedly or to grip the handle with both hands. The movement of engagement is primarily to approach the enemy in squarely in a frontal close quarter assault, with the initial movement to ‘parry’ with the initial strike by the enemy’s weapon, and to effect a lethal counter offensive technique. This primary engagement requires the actual contact of combat weapons, either a Club or a Staff, before the Nifo Oti becomes lethally effective. Initially, the parry movement is to allow the Nifo Oti to make actual contact then to ‘catch’ the enemy’s weapon, by latching the weapon on the serrated side with the final movement, whence once the enemy’s weapon slides the weapon through to the hooklike latch, the hook, in turn catches the enemy’s weapon, and in the process, disengages the weapon with a swift deft movement by the Samoan warrior. The enemy’s weapon will be flung assunder renderring the enemy weaponless and defenseless. Once disarmed the enemy is without a weapon and is vulnerable to the smooth edged blade of the weapon which is then initiated will lacerate and dismember the fallen enemy. The opposite side of the weapon is then utilised which will lacerate the enemy and will severe limbs and in particular to decapitate the fallen disarmed foe.

Hypothetically, when initiated by a Nifo Oti specialist of the highest order, the Samoan warrior, may in fact be able to disarm a person armed with a sword, a Katana, with the same close counter technique as aforementioned with equal lethal potency.

Tim Tufuga

source: http://www.ashokaarts.com/shop/antique-samoan-nifo-oti-chopper-or-axe-type-weapon

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  1. #1 by Nicholas O'Brien on December 10, 2011 - 11:27 am

    Nice Post Tim, I prefer the look of the wooden variety, are they ceremonial? Are there other examples of the nifo oit with teeth or stone chips etc?

    • #2 by timbtufuga on December 11, 2011 - 8:07 am

      There is no standard design of the Nifo Oti, suffice it to say that the principle are universal. The ceremonial Nifo Oti is often merely ornamental and dysfunctional as an actual weapon. The handle is to short and unbalanced and is ineffective in actual combat. The original weapon is made of Samoan indigenous hardwood, which I am uncertain of the variety (it may be derived from the Banyan Tree?) Or the Tamaligi. I am uncertain of the integrity of the wood though. The weapon is balanced at the hilt (serving as a fulcrum)

      The traditional design of the actual weapon when used by warriors in 19th century conflicts is not illustrated at any examples over the internet. So I am unable to show you the original design at all. The design currently illustrated is a late 19th century modern upgrade using westernised steel which is superior in integrity to the original hardwood. The serrated edge however was not incorporated in this late 19th century photo. The weapon illustrated in the link is a poor imitation of the original Nifo Oti as used during the Samoan wars including the war against the Tongans.

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