Katāri - the Art of Knife-Fighting

A dead foe is a harmless foe.  
— Varṭī, Katāri expert
    Katāri is a martial arts popular both as a sport and for fighting. It used two long knives, utilizing both quick and deadly strike with grappling and control. Katāri practitioners make up for their lack of range with fast, agile footwork and feigns to work their way inside their opponents effective striking range before dispatching them with brutal strikes and a vicious clinch. It is particularly popular in places were it would be impractical or illegal to wield larger blades, while almost anyone can hide a knife.      

Form and Function

The key to victory is keeping your enemy off-balance. Never let them know from where the blow will come. When in doubt, a swift knee to the groin tend to even the odds.  
— Varṭī, Katāri expert
  Katāri is a aggressive and violent style of fighting, using one dagger in each hand to deliver strikes and to control the opponent. Grips and pulls are used to drag the for off-balance while quick foot-work is a key defense, especially against larger weapons. Kicks are never used, with practitioners preferring to keep their feet close to the ground, but knees are sometimes utilized in the clinch. The grapple and clinch are some of the most effective weapons of the Katāri. They use the daggers to create an opening, then the grappling to neutralize their opponents ability to strike back. Once in the grip of a Katāri, the smaller blades are much more effective in creating short and brutal stabs.    


    Katāri practitioners are equally comfortable at the ground or standing. They use their knives to snag clothing or limbs in either position, and the other to deliver blows. Some Katāri use serreted or hooked knife to make such maneuvers even more effective, while traditionalists prefer the simple, double-edged dagger. The viciousness with which Katāri can deliver punishment has earned the art a reputation for savagery and uncivilized conduct. Masters of the art maintain that it is preferable to be rude and alive rather than polite and dead.      

Ceremony and Sport



  Katāri come in two major forms: one meant for killing and one meant for sport. While similar in broad strokes, they are very different when put to practice. The sports version of Katāri put more emphasis on foot-work and speed, with most matches being scored on points rather than finishes; a rule that the Katāri of the killing kind derisively refer to as "playing tag". When competing, sport Katāri use either blunt or wooden knives.   Sport Katāri have a mixed popularity. It is nowhere near the sensation that Saen-Kaw is, but in the city-states where there is a strong tradition of Katāri there are matches held almost every week. Tournaments and competitions between schools and variants of the style in such places attract much attention and popular Katāri are those who know not only how to fight, but how to sell the fight.      

Knife-Fighting Society

  Katāri practitioners usually form together in schools, headed by one or more masters and their paying students. Apprentice practitioners tend to double as cheap labor, tending to the school property and cleaning under the guise of training. This kind of organization is true for both forms of Katāri and form the most common base from which new practitioners are taught.   Katāri schools have a complicated relationships with one another. They are in direct competition over students, and through them money and prestige. Feuds between schools can lead to brawls in the street, though they rarely lead to actual deaths. When they do, it is never good news for either side. Arguments over which style has merit continue without end between students and masters alike.   At the same time, there is a sense of camaraderie and pride when pitted up against other martial arts or outside influences. More than once, bitter rivals have come to the others defense when one of them was handed a defeat by an outsider.    



  The Dagger-Dance is a form of ritualized combat, initiated by challenge and fought as a duel between two master Katāri. It takes places in an shrinking platforms, usually with students of either master removing chairs or tables, testing the fighters footwork and agility. It is usually fought to first blood or until one or another fell from the platform. Duels to the death do happen, but are more somber affairs without the theatrics.    

Styles of Katāri

  Katāri come in several different variants, with different approaches or equipment. While all are broadly the same, suggesting as much to its practitioners is generally a bad idea.   Below are some common variants:   Katāri-Ka trades always use one long dagger and one forked dagger. They focus on less on blitzing strikes and more on measured counters to initiate their grappling exchanges.   Katāri-Sah feature by far the most controversial of additions in the view of other Katāri, that of throwing their daggers. Wise Sah carry spares, in case one should miss.   Katāri-Kata is the most common sports version. They do not train to kill, but only to hit. Wrist-control and clinches that neutralize are defensive techniques, while learning a clinch-guard that keep them safe while on the receiving end. They train exclusively to fight other Katāri.        


  Katāri practice are generally divided into two: striking and grappling. Strikes are practiced first against static targets or dummies with protusions that move on a hinge. Katāri always practice this with wooden clubs rather than knives and to bring metal to practice is akin to announcing a challenge, which is why rivals frequently do so.   Grappling take place on hattick weave mats, focusing on technique first and strength second. Either training can be grueling and serious Katāri are always fit.   When they are not practicing, they are sparring. Katāri of the traditionalist bent tend to go hard during spars and injuries are common. Others, particularly those with students that are the children of wealthy merchants or powerful nobles, have learned the value of restraint.    
Jumping Strikes   Leaping attacks are high risk and high reward technique. A downward stab or elbow from a jump can be devastating, more than capable of killing or incapacitating an opponent. Improbably executed however, it leaves the martial artist vulnerable to be intercepted or countered while off-balance.   For this reason, jumping attacks in Katāri are usually done to display superiority over an opponent. It is sometimes dismissed as simple showing off, but Elite Katāri fighters are able to incorporate them more freely into their attacks to great effect.


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3 Dec, 2018 20:01

Uuhh, these golden daggers look fancy. I recognize similarities to fencing. Are they intended? And are there special suits for sports-Katari, like the Budos of most Asian martial arts?

12 Dec, 2018 05:37

Very Interesting. As someone who studies knife work. I find the concepts interesting and very workable. I can tell there was a lot of thought put into this. Anything that brings the art of the knife to light is very good in my book.

12 Dec, 2018 07:51

I am glad you approve. :)

11 Mar, 2019 11:42

I added a bit on jumping strikes as well and why they're usually just showing off. :D