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Parts of a barung sword


19th century antique barongs


The Barong (sometimes spelled Barung) is a short, wide, leaf-shaped single-edged blade, considered as the national weapon of the Moro Tausugs of Sulumarker in southern Philippinesmarker.

Physical description

Blade

A 'shandigan' barong is a rare type, in which the cutting edge is swollen; the sample above also has a false edge on half of its spine


Close-up of the shandigan barong's damascene lamination pattern


Barong blade lamination patterns


Barung blades are thick and heavy with the weight aiding in the slicing capability of this sword. Barong blade lengths range from 8 to 22 inches (20 to 56 cm). Newer blades on the other hand, tend to be longer at 18 to 22 inches (46 to 56 cm). Damascene patterns are also sometimes evident but again most often not as controlled as the more widely known Malay kris.

Hilt (handle)

Barung hilts commonly have a metal sleeve (ferrule) and lacquered cord wound around the hilt, for a better grip


Most handles had a silver (sometimes brass) sleeve and lacquered braided fiber rings that lie on top. Nobility hilts were made of ivory, carabao horn, or Philippine ebony. Lower class and fighting barung had less elaborate hilts and were smaller in size.

The most common pommel motif is the cockatoo (though there are exceptions such as the naga-serpent motif), with a long metal ferrule (commonly made of silver, though copper, brass, swaasa, and on particularly on WW2-era barongs aluminum is found) that tend to be around 8 cm (3 inches) in length. Often the ferrule will have lacquered braided natural fiber rings to aid in grip. Sometimes these fiber rings were on top of the ferrule, but often what would appear to be a solid metal ferrule would in fact be a number of metal bands that alternate between the fiber bands.

Banati (bunti) is the wood of choice for Moro barungs and krises


Cockatoo pommels tended to be made of banati, however on higher end barongs belonging to those of the upper classes rarer materials such as ivory, carabao horn, kamagong (Philippine ebony), etc. were used. Higher end barongs belonging to the upper classes often had large elaborately carved junggayan (elongated) cockatuas. Barongs for the lower classes, and ones meant primarily for fighting have less elaborate cockatoo pommels of much smaller sizes, often featuring de-emphasized crests or beaks (and on fighting versions mere vestigial elements of the crest and beak motifs). At some point near WW2, cockatoo forms changed. Crests became more triangular, and began to emerge directly from the back of the pommel, whereas older cockatoo had crests that flowed from the butt-plain of the pommel. Also beaks started to become more massive, and rectangular in form. Of particular note are barongs used by juramentados (those who had taken the rite of Magsabil), often they would sport smaller blades with normal size hilts. These barongs are often mistaken as children's weapons, but are in fact meant for adults.

Scabbard

Older barong scabbards tended only to be partially wrapped with large rattan lashings, while newer barong scabbards sport a full wrap of thin rattan. Also, the scabbards of older barongs featured thinner flat boards, where-as post WW2 barong scabbards are of much thicker stock, and feature a central ridge line. The terminus on modern-made scabbards tends to turn upward to a more dramatic degree, often at a near 90-degree angle, and feature squared tips. As with kris scabbards of the post WW2 era, mother of pearl inlays begin to appear at the throat and tips of barong scabbards as well.

Other information

Because of its distinctive thickness, the barong has become legendary for being able to cut the barrels of muskets and rifles - a characteristic which proved particularly useful in the Moro wars against the Spanish during the early colonial period, where battles such as that in Fort Pilarmarker, where Rajah Dalasi of Butigmarker took on a solidly entrenched, technologically superior force. In contemporary battles, moro Barongs have been said to be used to slice through M-14 rifles.

This weapon is used in the forms of martial arts known as Kali, Eskrima, or Silat, all of which originate from the Philippines.



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