Why The BAT’LETH Design? (Star Trek Theory)


Anyone who has seen a Klingon likely is aware
of the Klingon Sword, the Bat’Leth, the “Sword of Honour.” Some of my favourite
videos from around the internet are those of people with experience with swords and
melee weapons attempting to understand the real world practicality of a Bat’leth and
most come to the conclusion that you could use it as a balde… but that’s about it.
It shouldn’t be classified as a sword and in terms of design, it’s rather odd. It
looks cool though. They’re not wrong and the expanded and main
Star Trek lore does also address this once or twice. The thing is, the Klingon’s are
a deeply stubborn and traditional people and the blade is a part of their heritage.
Forged from Baakonite in the era of space faring, the original was said to be created
by Kahless the Unforgettable. It was said that he shaved a lock of his hair, took it
the Kris’tak Volcano and plunged it into its molten rock then quenched the blade in
lake Lursor to forge it. So you try telling a Klingon that their greatest warrior messiah
designed a crummy weapon, their likely to run you through with said crummy weapon. Probably
while saying something like “seems to work to me.”
I like to interpret the stories of Kahless as parables, not literal events but maybe
ones inspired by truthful elements. For example, it could be that he did indeed forge a sword
using molten iron ore harvested from a volcano and quenched the blade in water collected
from Lake Lursor as making the trek from one location to the other with a red hot blade
is… unlikely. My head canon also tells me that perhaps, in order to provide carbon for
the steel, he infused it with his hair which is 45% carbon. Again, no proof, but hey, they’re
Klingon myths. The design of a bat’leth is said to be based
primarily around the martial art that taught its use, again a fighting style created by
Kahless to teach to his people so it’s possible that the fighting style evolved around the
sword rather than the tool being an extension of the form, lending credence to its (at first)
seeming unwieldiness. As the Klingon’s prize themselves on their melee combat prowess,
it could be seen that the succinct use of a Bat’Leth in combat is a far more impressive
feat than that of using a disruptor or Mek’Leth, items that a KDF officer also carries should
they need arise. As their whole warrior caste revolves around winning honour in combat,
pride in using such a high-end weapon could be a motivating factor for its continual use.
We see that assassins and the like are often issued with Mek’Leth daggers and there existed
numerous other sword styles used by the Klingons so its preference has to have a reason beyond
practicality. Legend goes on to state a number of feats
completed by Kahless with his new blade most notably the slaying of the Serpent of Xol
and Molor, the Tyrant Emperor of Qo’Nos early history. However, perhaps some more
clues to its unique design can found in Klingon myth as he is said to have also used it as
a tool. He carved a statue using it and harvested his father’s fields. Looking at the curved
nature of the blade, it does look rather scythe-like to me and I have to wonder, was it originally
a farmer’s tool that was adapted for a cheap means of defence? It wouldn’t be the only
weapon in history to have this happen. In our real world, there are many martial arts
that have evolved from mundane sources. Nunchaku, Tessen and the Tekko are all said to have
their origins as tools that were adapted into a fighting style and with the strong eastern
inspiration present in the Klingon creations, this could make a good parallel.
The blade too has been pointed out at being better at defence than offense with its wide,
“catch-all” convex curves. (Possibly weighted so in favour of protection that it comes at
the cost of offense.) And again, this might be on purpose, In all my time watching Klingons,
I have never once seen them use a shield. That would be an obvious choice for them right
a race with such a focus on melee combat would surely have developed the idea of hiding behind
a thing to stop a pointer thing from reaching you?
Again, this is tied to the Klingon culture. They are a far more aggressive race than humanity
and in battle it’s common to be overcome by a bloodlust, no time for hiding while there’s
slaying to be done. Culturally this means that shields might have a stigma attached.
Kahless’ innovations in battle actually seem to be all focused around controlling
that urge that the warrior race has. The Mok’Bara martial art is similar to ju-jitsu and practiced
with a meditational tone to its movements while Tom Paris once described a Bat’Leth
workout as both physically and mentally taxing as it required a lot of concentration. By
designing the weapon with defensive purposes in mind and teaching a more controlled fighting
style, this could be why Kahless had such great success in defeating his enemy’s armies.
Whereas other’s succumbed to their aggressive instincts and threw caution to the wind in
order to fell their opponent, Kahless’ unique style and weapons allowed him to fight with
his mind while warding and deflecting blows, all without the attached dishonour of “cowering
behind a shield”. My conclusion is an odd one. Yeah, the Sword
of Honour is strange choice for a melee weapon, neither truly a sword, axe or staff and more
of a mix of all three, without the dedicated strength of any. But the Klingons love them
and will use them at any opportunity. I suspect that the weapon may have more humble beginnings
than Klingon legend states before being adapted and tuned by Kahless. The spiritual dedication
to the blade that it demands seems to be designed to temper the unwieldy into something controlled
and deadly, much like the Klingon instinct for combat and probably went a long way in
securing the mythological figure’s success. I’m not sure how much of this was intended
by designer Dan Curry when he created the thing, but you can justify just about anything
with sufficient world-building. And that’s why I love Star Trek.
Theres’ a saying, “The blade of a Bat’Leth always points to Sto-Vo-Kor”, signifying
the reverence the weapon holds in their culture for both the wielder and those slain by one
so they’re not likely to put it aside anytime soon. Thanks for listening to my ramblings,
but this is the sort of reasoning I’ve built up over time to explain the unorthodox, but
Iconic Klingon blade. Thanks again and until the next Video, I’ve been Ric and I’ll
see you later. Goodbye.

7 thoughts on “Why The BAT’LETH Design? (Star Trek Theory)

  1. The design of the Bat'Leth is… not great for fighting, maybe, but Shad is emphatically not a sword expert in general or an expert on exotic weapons specifically, so he is not the best person to cite. He's really quite a shitty fencer even with normal weapons.

    Here's a video from someone who does know a lot about exotic weapons who has some better ideas about how to make the weapon work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZR18e0woxM

    I would also add that, as long as the weapon wasn't too heavy, the double-ended design would allow you to transition to a one-handed grip and make sudden one-handed cuts from the left or right side, which would extend your reach and allow you to surprise your opponent by going for a target they had left uncovered. You see a similar thing done in Irish stickfighting arts.

    I would still prefer a normal sword, personally, or… well… a gun, but something like this would work if it was made light enough to be mobile.

  2. Personally, I find the Bat'leth to be an awesome melee weapon, especially in close quarters combat. If you study the history of war on Earth you find that in many cases, well, all cases, where armies of old, that is pre-gunpowder, armies clashed and a sword was useless in such close confines. A Bat'leth, on the other hand, could be used to strike the head and rip out the legs and groin, as well as provide defense from swords.
    The Klingon maintained a fighting style that promoted close combat so you could see the life go out of your enemy's eyes when you struck the death blow. Myself, given the choice of using the bat'leth against a broad sword, I'll take the Bat'leth everytime.

  3. I think your point with hair does make sense. It was discovered That Vikings put ashes of bones their deceased and animals when forging a blade and adding carbon made them actually harder and more resilient.

  4. Doesn't Worf explain to several people that a bat'leth is custom made by the user to his or her own specification so there usually are no two hand made ones identical, however some have been made by replication and therefore are copies of an original design.

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