I think this rumor got started after some young, macho, knife fighting, British soldier pulled out his kukri to show it off to some American soldiers. He accidentally cut himself. Embarrassed, he told them, “I have to cut myself because this is a knife used to kill, and it needs blood!!” Poor guy was just trying to save his dignity.
I’ll bet a lot of truth is on Bear_Nenno’s side.
Trouble is, yojimbo, back in dormatory life I ran across a guy who owned one of those knives. And a lot of lore seems to come with the things (or, at least, the lore comes along with anyone who would actually own one of 'em).
He would tell the story: “if it’s taken out of it’s sheath the knife must taste blood.”
Click on the link yojimbo provides…note that the base of the blade just before it meets the handle has a couple of grooves with a slightly protruding center. We were told in serious tones that that was where the owner of the knife would prick his finger to “feed” the blade when he brought it out to polish and sharpen it.
The fellow who owned the knife liked to show it off and brag about it. But he never fed the blade.
I was at the Aldershot military tattoo as part of a Navy display and the Ghurkas were there. Like us they didn’t fit in to what is really a British army affair so we ended up socialising.
They have lots of legends and there may be some historical truth in them but in answer to your Q Yoyo then the answer is no - unless they are trying to impress someone at the time.
The Kukri is regarded as a tool more than anything.
One legend is that when a male child is born the father will take a Kukri and thow it up into the beams in the house and if the boy works out how to get at it before a certain age then he is a natural warrior and must seek his future in the Ghurka regiments.
You might be surprised to know that the Kukri is often made from a car spring, maybe not the military ones but certainly the day to day use ones are.
On TV they showed a special about the Ghurkas in Indonesia a few months back. In one scene a Ghurka was talking and joking with the locals. While there was no sound during this (The commentator was talking about how they were trying to get ‘in’ with the locals to earn their trust, etc.) one scene, it showed the soldier jokingly pull out his kukri, pretend to shave with it, then pass it around for some guys to look at, then take it back and sheathe it. So I would say that that is a definite no to your answer.
I don’t believe the knife story is fact - although ordered to draw the Kukri under battle conditions might be an exception - but it does speak of the Ghurkha’s tenacity and military determination, which does seem to be verified by anyone who has seen them in action. The last stories I heard were of a night attack on the mountains just outside Port Stanley in the Falklands. They made sure the Argentinean’s knew who and what was going to happen. I was told it was very, very ugly for 10 minutes – no gunfire from the British side - but the Argentinean conscript’s just weren’t interested. Hell of a thing to have to deal with those guy’s anywhere – let alone in the mountains. I understand their reputation is well earned.
Having said that, I have been to Nepal and the Nepali people are the most gentle, sweet natured and decent people on the planet. Truly a beautiful people.
Until last year I lived just outside Aldershot, and compared to the Paras (members of the Parachute Regiment) the Gurkhas were models of civility and restraint. The Paras tended to be loud-mouthed alcoholic 19-year-olds with major attitude problems; the Gurkhas I met were without exception quiet, polite and friendly.
I agree wholeheartedly with this characterization of Gurkhas (though I have met only one). One day the west will manage to outgrow the idea that military effectiveness can only be obtained by encouraging raw aggression.
The selection process for the Gurkhas borders on the improbable. Something like one in six thousand Nepalese applicants actually gets accepted into the mercenary force that the Queen employs. They also work extensively in the employ of the Indian Army.
It is notable that during the Falklands War, the British, constrained by lack of shipping space, brought a disproportionate number of elite troops to the ground war. Commando, Para, SAS and SBS units all participated, as did the Gurkhas.
Field Marshal the Viscount Sir William Slim, “Uncle Bill” to his troops in the CBI Theatre of WWII, had the highest regard for his Gurkha troops, both for their fighting abilities and their sense of humor (“only a Gurkha would stand up and laugh” at the sight of a Corps Commander [Slim himself] losing his composure under fire). He relates this story:
“It was here that some Gurkhas were engaged in collecting Japanese corpses from the corners inaccessable to bulldozers when one Japanese, picked up by a couple of Gurkhas, proved not to be as dead as expected. A Gurkha had drawn his kukri to finish the struggling prisoner when a passing British officer intervened, saying ‘You mustn’t do that, Johnny. Don’t kill him!’ The Gurkha, with his kukri poised, looked at the officer in pained suprise, ‘But sahib,’ he protested, ‘we can’t bury him alive!’” (Defeat Into Victory, p. 336.)
As the kukri is used as often as not as a machete, I think it would be found impractical to draw blood with it at every use. However, I wouldn’t doubt the Gurkha inclination to use it in such a capacity for a New York minute.
My father served in the Army Air Corps in WWII. He was stationed in India for most of the war, and met soldiers from all over the British Empire. He never mentioned the Gurkhas practicing this custom, but he said that he once encountered a Sudanese soldier who did.
Frank Herbert used this type of custom in his novel Dune in relation to the Fremen’s crysknives. He said that the blade would degrade if it did not taste blood every time it was removed from the sheath. (Derleth, who it just happy he gets to use his knowledge of Dune in the SDMB.)