The tribal combative arts of Southeast Asia have a long history of bladed warfare. In fact, there is a maxim within the world of Silat (the various Indonesian martial arts systems) that “without the blade, there is no Silat.” Given this deeply rooted blade culture of the regions of the former Majapahit Empire, the history of some of the most devastating and unique edged weapons is existence, including the Karambit, Parang, Golok, and the Keris, can be traced back to this part of the world. While these mentioned are some of the more widely recognized blades, there is one devastating little blade that often goes undetected by all but the most astute students of the blade.
The Kapak Kecil (lit. small axe) is a weapon of Javanese origin believed to date back to the 15th century during the Majapahit Empire. It is said that a female blacksmith named Pandai Minah, who migrated from Java to northern Malaysia, first introduced this small axe, which was used for farming, cutting fruits, and other daily tasks, to the Malay region. It was her brother Pandai Jenal who is said to have redesigned the Kapak Kecil, most notably the handle, into its current weaponized form.
Rich Robinson, a lifelong martial artist, weapon collector, and owner of BlackHeart Knife & Tool, has picked up where Pandai Jenal left off by designing his own modern rendition of the Kapak Kecil, the Stiletto Mini Axe. After years of attempting to acquire one of these rare and elusive mini fighting axes, Robinson finally decided to make his own, and did what Americans do. He made it better!
The traditional Kapak Kecil measures around 18 centimeters from the tip of the blade to the end of the wooden handle. The curved wooden handle, made from kayu nibung, a type of wood common to Southeast Asia, comes to a very sharp point. The weapon has three portions that are used to cause damage to one’s opponent: 1) The flat “hammer” portion is used for inflicting blunt force trauma by striking. 2) The sharp edge is used for cutting, hacking, and ripping. 3) The pointed handle is used for stabbing, hooking, and trapping.
Maintaining the spirit of this ancient weapon, the BlackHeart Stiletto Mini Axe possesses all the damage potential of its ancestor. Robinson’s version, however, is a solid piece of CPM 3V steel with canvas Micarta handle scales, rather than the steel head and wood handle construction of the traditional weapon. This full-tang design extends out to form the pointed spike used for stabbing, a definite improvement over the pointed wooden handle.
The use of the mini axe is a bit different than other bladed weapons and requires quite a bit more skill and understanding of blade geometry and human anatomy to be effectively employed. Because of its small blade size, the mini axe is used to target shallow vital targets (primarily the carotid artery and jugular veins in the neck) and boney areas of the body (to include the ribs, face, head, spine, hands, and joints) using punching (hacking) and slashing motions. Although the blade is small, the zero grind on the BlackHeart mini axe makes it incredibly sharp for an axe head, another improvement over Jenal’s design.
As you can tell, I am extremely impressed with the design of the BlackHeart Stiletto Mini Axe, but I am just as impressed with the craftsmanship of the weapon. From the precise hand-ground bevels, to the ergonomic diamond cut handle, to the deeply engraved markings, to the final Cerakote ceramic coating, everything about this BlackHeart blade screams quality and perfection. It is as much a work of art as it is a functional tool.
I am quite proud to be one of the few possessors of a BlackHeart Stiletto Mini Axe. In fact, the one that was sent to me by Rich Robinson was a prototype. To my knowledge, the only other one in existence at the point of this writing is the one Robinson made for himself. Robinson was even kind enough to serialize the one he sent me using the letters “CFS.” I don’t know if he has any plans to add this to the BlackHeart catalog, but I’m sure he can be convinced to do a custom order if you desire to get your hands on one of these beauties.
(Update: Due to overwhelming popularity of this article and requests from readers to purchase the Stiletto Mini Axe, BlackHeart will be adding this item to their website for purchase in the very near future. The retail price of the Stiletto Mini Axe will be $375.00. Law Enforcement, Military, and Veterans are eligible for a special discount. Interested buyers can contact Rich Robinson directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to order prior to this item appearing on the BlackHeart website.)
All BlackHeart knives and tools are 100% American-made from American products and materials. From the raw materials they’re made from, to the files and grinders used to shape them, they are American through and through. Every blade is ground freehand in the Honzukuri/Hamaguri convex style (used on Japanese swords) and treated using their advanced vacuum heat treat, cryogenic quench, and triple tempering process.
Photo Credits: Chad McBroom