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The machete (pronounced /m?’??ti/) is a large cleaver-like cutting tool. The blade is typically 50 to 60 centimetres (20 to 24 in) long and usually under 3 millimetres (0.12 in) thick. In the English language, an equivalent term is matchet,[1] though the name ‘machete’ is more commonly known.

In tropical and subtropical countries, the machete is frequently used to cut through rainforest undergrowth and for agricultural purposes (e.g. cutting sugarcane). Besides this, in Central America it is not uncommon to see a machete being used for such household tasks as cutting large foodstuffs into pieces — much as a cleaver is used — or to perform crude cutting tasks such as making simple wooden handles for other tools. It is also common to see people using machetes for their odd jobs such as splitting open coconuts, working the lawns, or other related activities. Additionally, it is the most popular no-fire weapon used by bandits and outlaws.

In many (tropical) countries, a machete is a common and ubiquitous tool. Consequently, it is often the weapon of choice for uprisings. A machete should also be classified as a basic sword, because it can be used like one. Machetes were the primary weapon used by the Interahamwe militias in the Rwandan Genocide,[2] as well as the distinctive tool/weapon of the Haitian Tonton Macoute.[3]

In 1762, the Kingdom of Great Britain invaded Cuba in the Battle of Havana, and peasant guerrillas led by Pepe Antonio, a Guanabacoa councilman, used machetes in the defense of the city.[4] The machete was also the most iconic weapon during the independence wars in that country (1868-1898), although it saw limited battlefield use.[5] Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, owner of the sugar refinery La Demajagua near Manzanillo, freed his slaves on 10 October 1868. Armed with machetes, he proceeded to lead them in revolt against the Spanish government.[6] The first cavalry charge using machetes as the primary weapon was carried out on 4 November 1868 by Máximo Gómez, a sergeant born in the Dominican Republic, who later became the General in Chief of the Cuban army.[7]

The machete was (and still is) a common side arm and tool for many ethnic groups in West Africa. Machetes in this role are referenced in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.[8]

Some tropical countries have a name for the blow of a machete; the Spanish machetazo is sometimes used in English.

In the British Virgin Islands, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Trinidad and Tobago, the word planass means to hit someone with the flat of the blade of a machete or cutlass.[9] Throughout the Caribbean, the term ‘cutlass’ refers to a laborers’ cutting tool with a 12-to-18-inch (30 to 46 cm) upturned blade.[10]

The Brazilian Army’s Instruction Center on Jungle Warfare developed a machete with a blade 10 inches (25 cm) in length and a very pronounced clip point. This machete is issued with a 5-inch Bowie knife and a sharpening stone in the scabbard; collectively called a “jungle kit” (Conjunto de Selva in Portuguese), it is manufactured by Indústria de Material Bélico do Brasil (IMBEL).[11]

In fright night horrors such as Friday the 13th this has been Jason’s favorite tool.

The panga is a variant used in East and southern Africa. This name may be of Swahili etymology; do not confuse this tool with the Panga fish. The panga blade broadens on the backside and has a length of 16 to 18 inches (41 to 46 cm). The upper inclined portion of the blade may be sharpened.[12] This tool was used as a weapon in South Africa particularly in the 1980s and early 1990s when the former province of Natal was wracked by conflict between the African National Congress and the Zulu-nationalist Inkatha Freedom Party.

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