What is a Wrist Knife?

Erica Stratton
Erica Stratton
Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

A wrist knife is a general term for almost any style of blade held sheathed at the wrist. A well-known style of wrist knife is the bracelet-like blade worn by the Turkana people of Kenya, Africa. Wrist knives have also made appearances in fantasy and science fiction movies, books, and video games, such as Assassin's Creed. The knives depicted in these movies and games tend to be elaborate in design.

The Turkana wrist knife was created by the Turkana tribe in Kenya, but its use has since spread to neighboring areas. These wrist knives were created by forging a wide metal blade in the shape of a full circle with a leather-lined hole so the blade can be slipped on the wrist. The outer edge of the blade is then sharpened, and a strip of leather is molded around the edge and held on with clips to protect the wearer from accidental cutting.

Turkana wrist knives are said to be used for fighting in close quarters. The blades are not removed from the wrist when fighting, but instead are worn while the warrior makes short slashing motions. Fighting with such knives is typically ritualized for populations such as the Turkana. Their use may have come about from the cultural taboo that a Turkana cannot kill another Turkana with a spear.

Other kinds of wrist knives are typically any style of knife that is carried in a sheath strapped to the wrist. A wrist knife carried in this way is sometimes considered a concealed weapon. Thus, ownership and use of such knives may be legislated and varies from country by country.

Wrist knives are also a common feature in sci-fi and fantasy armories. Concealed wrist knives are often carried by ninjas and other assassins. Some of these fantasy weapons have retractable blades or are capable of catapulting a knife across the room. One of the most famous wrist knives belongs to the character Altair from the video game Assassin's Creed. One of Altair's signature weapons is a concealed wrist knife with a retractable blade, which he uses for quick assassinations.

The creation of retractable blades is usually restricted by legislation and design. Even for many blade enthusiasts, the creation or carrying of a wrist knife is considered risky due to laws which banning such weapons. For this reason, projectile wrist knives are mainly a prop found in movies.

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Discussion Comments


I thought that the wrist knives of the Turkana were no longer used but I read recently that they still use them. Apparently, some other tribes in Sudan have adopted them as well.

Even though I think it's a cool idea, I also find the weapon very scary. I certainly wouldn't want to be at the receiving end of a blow from someone wearing this knife.

As far as I know, weapons are very important to the Turkana tribe and they have other original pieces too, like finger knives.


@bluedolphin-- I don't think anyone is manufacturing retractable blades or wrist knives. But you can actually make your own as a hobby project if you want. I remember reading in the paper that a young man had made one at home, inspired from Assassin's Creed.

But let me remind you that it's illegal to carry it and you should never go outside with it. And it might be a good idea to replace the blade with a plastic, harmless one because you could seriously hurt yourself in the process of making it. It's probably better not to try this hobby project unless you don't mind a missing finger or two.


So do any of the retractable wrist knives we see in movies actually exist in real life?

How do they make them for movies or is it just props? I've always thought that these things exist, but the article seems to imply that they don't.

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