Story and Photos by Joshua Swanagon
Those of you that are familiar with TOPS Knives, know that they make hard use knives for hard use scenarios. Working with designers from military, law enforcement, martial arts and outdoors backgrounds, their catalog is very robust and covers many different fields – all requiring cutlery that can hold up to the heaviest abuse.
If you have been following TOPS Knives for any length of time, then the name Waysun “Johnny” Tsai might be familiar to you. If not, Johnny is well known throughout the martial arts community around the world, founded the C.U.M.A. (Combined Universal Martial Applications) Survival School and has authored many books, magazine articles and video series on various different aspects of the martial arts, self-defense, survival and knife related topics.
His knowledge and long experience in the fields of martial arts, combatives and security have led him to design some brutal knives – for TOPS Knives and others – that are focused on self-defense and knife combatives. One of his knives (and now two with this new design) have gone on to be featured in the art of G.I. Joe’s Snake Eyes comic books, as Snake Eyes’ edged weapons of choice.
However, TOPS Knives and Johnny have outdone themselves, and opened a whole new category for TOPS, with their new sword, the CUMA KAGE – a sword built for absolute mayhem.
Make sure to enter to win a brand new CUMA KAGE below >>
I first saw the CUMA KAGE at the 2019 SHOT Show and will admit I was a little unsure about it at first, due to its weight. However, after receiving the finalized production model, I feel pretty good about where they took it.
At 35.5 ounces – due in large part to its .250-inch blade stock – I am not going to say it is a light sword, but it is definitely not as heavy as the prototype. At just over two pounds, the KAGE is a lot to wield but the balance is very well done and helps to alleviate any stress that a heavier sword can cause.
With an overall length of 23.75 inches, the KAGE has a design that eludes to a Ninjatō (the sword of the legendary ninja of Feudal Japan), with modern twists. The end of the 15.5-inch blade features a pronounced belly, beginning at the sweet spot, 8.5 inches from the handle. The belly provides a good forward weight for heavy chopping tasks but does not throw the KAGE off balance in any way.
The blade flats, on both sides, feature three fullers that start at 5.5 inches in length and decrease successively to 2.75 inches. The fullers add a nice aesthetic to the blade, while also providing good weight reduction to the thick sword. The tip of the KAGE, for the first 9 inches of the spine, has a swedge included to aid in penetration, while also assisting in more weight reduction. The blade features a saber grind, giving the KAGE a sharp edge, but keeping it robust enough to withstand hard use.
The handle features the two tone Micarta scales that TOPS has been adding to some of their knives lately, which is nicely rounded for comfort. There are four bolts holding the handle scales in place, with the area between the bolts lightly scalloped out for a very ergonomic feel. At 6.5 inches, the handle is just long enough for a two-handed grip but is a bit crowded.
There are two finger notches, just behind the guard, that are not deep enough to be annoying or uncomfortable but are just deep enough to help index the blade, without looking, and provide additional retention.
At the hilt and pommel, the scales have some sharpened edges that bit into my palm (at the pommel), causing some light bruising, when chopping with two hands. But this could be easily remedied with some light sandpaper to round them off, if you plan on a lot of two-handed use.
The pommel features an aggressive skull crusher, which protrudes downward from the grip and includes a lanyard hole; providing the option to add a lanyard for additional retention during hard use tasks. The skull crusher is beveled, bringing it to a devastating point, adding one more level of close quarters lethality to the KAGE.
The sheath is constructed of Kydex and utilizes a removable steel ring and leather loop for dangler style carry. However, the entire length of the sheath is also lined with eyelets, allowing for other options to affix the sheath to your person or gear.
As an added bonus, Johnny also offers training versions of the KAGE, created by Chris Caban of Hog Mountain Tool and Tactical, so you can train safely. They are constructed of high impact materials and include a paracord wrapped handle. The length and shape mirror the KAGE beautifully but are much lighter (of course).
I have to admit, I have been looking forward to writing this article from the day the KAGE showed up. I just knew this one was going to be fun, and it didn’t disappoint.
Because ice can be hard on an edge, I wanted to start right off with a bang. I took a milk jug and put it in my deep freeze for a couple days, to ensure that it was completely solid all the way through. I placed the block of ice, free standing, on a pallet – that was next on my list – and proceeded to chop at it using a two-handed grip. As I mentioned earlier, the handle scale bit into my palm pretty good, but the KAGE was able to hack up the block of ice, with no signs of wear to the edge.
Next, I moved on to the pallet and started on the frame. Since the wood was flat (because it was part of the frame) it didn’t cut so much as crashed through – which was still pretty bad ass. I then moved to a side, where the wood was standing upright, and was able to cut deep into the old seasoned oak pallet. I was able to hack my way through two pieces of the old oak, simultaneously. At one point I hit a nail but there was still no damage to the blade, aside from one minor glint (flat spot) on the edge.
I am fortunate to have a friend who owns a body shop and had an old car door laying around, that he allowed me to brutalize. I started by stabbing into the side of the car door, ten times, and the tip penetrated right through the steel door with no issues at all – at one point the blade penetrated 11 inches deep. After this test there was a little more slight glinting along the edge, and the very tip – barely a 16th of an inch – broke off. But this can be fixed easily with a little sharpening. The finish showed signs of wear but did not expose any steel.
I then stood the door on its side and began delivering destructive blows to the edge of the steel. The KAGE cut deep into the steel but did take some damage to the edge. Although it was not bad damage, I will need to re-sharpen it and remove some of the rolls and nicks that developed. However, this is not an indictment of the blade, that was a brutal test and it held up beautifully – a testament to TOPS’ heat treat.
I then tested the skull crusher on an ammo can and was easily able to make some lasting impressions in the side of the can. The point on the skull crusher delivered very focused devastation and would work extremely well for its intended purpose.
Finally, I placed a watermelon onto the side of a pallet and took one slice to see how well it would still cut – even after all this mayhem. It sliced right through the watermelon cleanly – although the watermelon looks a bit of a mess in the photo, because the pallet fell over (due to a sudden breeze) when I was getting the photo and the watermelon fell on the ground, causing it to break a little. But I was very impressed with how cleanly it still cut after everything.
Although this is not TOPS Knives’ first foray into long blades, this is the first sword to become a part of their lineup. Having been a TOPS Knives user for many years now, I cannot say that I am surprised by the performance of the CUMA KAGE, it handled my battery of tests exactly how I imagined it would.
Known for their high level of craftsmanship and construction, TOPS Knives are designed specifically to be able to withstand brutal use like this and continue operating. This is exactly why many in the military and law enforcement trust their lives to TOPS Knives, and is also why I do brutalize them in my testing, so you too can see that they live up to their name.
From design to construction the CUMA KAGE did not disappoint and is a force to be reckoned with. If you have been trying to decide on a short sword that will be able to handle anything you can throw at it, the KAGE is worth taking a very serious look at. TOPS and Johnny got this one right on many levels. K&G
Join the Conversation, comment on this story below. >>
Blade Material: 1095 RC 56-58Blade Length: 15.50 inchesOverall Length: 23.75 inchesBlade Thickness: 0.250 inchesBlade Finish: Black Traction CoatingWeight: 35.5 ouncesSheath Material: KydexMSRP: $360.00
TOPS Kniveswww.TOPSKnives.com(208) 542-0113
TOPS KnivesBlade HQKnife Center
Want to win a brand new TOPS Knives CUMA KAGA, along with a Knife & Gear Society patch and sticker? This is your chance. And it’s easy too.
All you have to do is go to our Instagram page (@knifeandgearsociety) and follow us, go to TOPS Knives’ Instagram page (@topsknives) and follow them and then comment on the story below, letting us know what you like about this short sword – based on the story above. Please make sure to include your Instagram User Name, so we can contact you on Instagram if you win.
That is it. It really is that simple. Once we have verified that you have done all three, we will add your name to the drawing, which will take place on Friday, September 4th. The winner will be notified via PM on Instagram and will have 24 hours to respond.
Shipping and handling will be covered by Knife & Gear Society and will be taken care of as soon as a winner is established – Continental United States only. There will be no substitution prizes. Knife & Gear Society is not responsible for lost or stolen prizes.
Joshua Swanagon has studied survival in both urban and wilderness environments in Colorado and Michigan for most of his life, while also adding experience in harsher terrains abroad. He utilizes his experience and years of diverse martial arts and combatives training and real world application as a self-defense/combatives instructor, published freelance writer and Field Editor for various magazines in the fields of knives, survival, self-defense and tactical subject matters. Joshua also brings with him his years of experience as Editor of, and Subject Matter Expert for Knives Illustrated Magazine.
I love the Kage. I think it will make a nice compliment to my Cuma Tak-Ri 2.
Hi Im @tomas_sabin and I would like to win Cuma Kage because there is always lots of things that needed to be cut on little pieces
Hello, @sky_fir3 here. I would love to win the first ever sword produced by Tops. If this sword can survive everything Swanagon threw at it and still be functional and sharp, I NEED this in my collection!!! I own a few other Tops knives and am floored by their craftsmanship and quality. One more wouldn’t hurt.
I would love to win one because unlike some others, these was meant to be use , abuse and to continue operating. My Instagram name is jimmyleejoslin.
This thing is beautiful. I would love to win the CUMA Kage. Who doesn’t need a big ass knife or “BAK” as I like to call it! It would be great for the rainforest adventure that’s on my bucket list all the way to killing zombies that I am hoping will never come to existence! The thing is just too versatile to not be a staple in anyone’s arsenal. I’m sure whoever wins will treasure it. I never seem to win anything but I definitely had to try! Instagram: @g86martin
Pretty much everything has a old school feel with a new age twist
Definite need this for my bug out bag.
This thing looks awesome, it would be great to go camping with—fun and functional!
Love the blade, but come on yall know I’m going to modify it if I win
Honestly I’d love to have one simply for the fact I’ve yet to even handle one!
@unknownethos I would love to have this thing to just absolutely put it through some tasks like the ones above. Set up some station and just have fun cutting. Like most it’s been a hard year and this would be an awesome way to just have some fun!
Definitly need one of those
‘IG= molon_labe_nc ‘ I’m new to the edc world and the cuma kage would be the crown jewel of my collection and it would be very helpful clearing trail’s and making new ones I got my fingers crossed over here in nc really hope to win that beauty. Ig name molon_labe_nc
What an awesome sword. Would use this as a chopper at camp also make a great machete. @destrywilcox
Would love to win the Kage just for its sheer awesomeness. Steel piercing, ice cutting, watermelon slicing badness. It would also be my first tops.
The Cuma Kage is about perfect for the Florida area I live for camping, cleanup work in the yard and defensive purposes. Not to mention the review here gives it such high marks. @donald.cole.9003
My IG username is @Capt_Casey_EDC and I fell in love with the Cuma Kage from the first time I saw it covered at Blade Show last year. I have always had a love of blades since I was a young boy from using my uncles machete to clear brush on my grandparents property to earning my whittling merit badge in scouts. I would absolutely love to add the Cuma Kage to my collection where it would get used frequently in my camping and bushcrafting adventures or just around the house trimming hedges or limbing trees. Good luck to everyone participating in the GAW and thank you Tops and Knife & Gear Society for giving us the opportunity to win such an awesome tool!
I really like longer blades like this, and the way the belly at the tip adds mass and weight means this will be a great chopper. I’d use this beast to help me clear a bunch of acreage I just acquired. IG name is @AmericanDissent
Excited to enter. Love this piece. Love every tops I own. Can’t wait to get the Kage and try and destroy it. @dailyhustletactical on instagram
It sounds like a beast, but looks elegant. I like the placement of the belly, it seems like an efficient slicer.
I would love ro win the CUMA KAGE. I was planning on getting it anyway but this would free up the money for more TOPS knives. I already have probably 20 or so TOPS knives which you can never have enough. Thanks for the chance.
Very thought out blade in design and function not to mention it looks great. Would be excellent for use in the woods around were I live or a conversation starter in the man cave. Very cool
Really dig the blade shape and handle on this bad boy.
If this is the first, you’re set the bar pretty high, can’t wait to see what follows.
Hello, I’m @sheepdog_7
I love the CUMA KAGE’s homage to similar blades throughout history with modern materials, design and construction.
It would serve to be an excellent tool for whatever task that you intended to carry out on your daily adventure.
Thank you for the opportunity.
I’m justin.barnes.450 on IG. I would enjoy using the CUMA KAGA to clear brush along my hillside to make walking trails.
@citykidbushcraft tops has the reputation for some bad ass knives! The ergonomics of this blade and the overall design aesthetics make it a must have!
I would enjoy owning and using the Cuma due to it’s versatility in the field and the sheer fact it’s your all’s first Short Seord that’s making it into your lineup!! Excellent Looking Blade!! Thanks for GAW Opportunity! @jeremyelliott1
It wood work great in the backwoods of NC where I live(Internet so slow here that this is my third time typing this, it just wont upload) a machete just ain’t enough for my neck of the woods. I’ll probobly make some walnut and ebony handle scales for it(I’m a woodworker who loves messing with stuff) so it will be a fun project as well
Plus, you know for when the zombies come.
I like the Cuma because it combines a practical woods/ field blade with a bit of tactical design. I would use it both in the woods and in an urban environment , for utility, defence and breaching purposes.
It would work great for camping and exploring in the woods.
The CUMA KAGE looks like about the only tool tough enough to take on my latest project, a 501’ bamboo “wall” that my neighbor planted 40 years ago along the property line of my wife and I’s first home. This bamboo grooming process will likely require months of blade abuse, sore muscles, and gallons upon gallons of fluids. I’m looking for a blade willing to work as hard as I am to keep my new wife happy.
@Beaudus. Beau K.
Finally a rock solid full tang machete blade. So many I’ve found made out of thin weak steel. Great Job! Can’t wait to get my hands on one!
Id love the cuma kage for clearing trails and brush on my photography and camping adventures, have a few tops knives and love their designs and quality! I’m sure this bush sword won’t disappoint! Would love a wack at it…well with it
@brianromeoecho As a new Tops knife owner, I’m floored by the quality they offer! As a resident of the “Low Country” of South Carolina, I’m fully aware of how valuable this type of blade is in swamp environments. The KAGE looks like the perfect tool to accompany anyone in my home environment. The length & blade geometry alone appear to be capable of most any need you’d face here, including the unfortunate feral hog that wanders within striking distance lol. Yes, that happens on occasion. Very cool giveaway!!!
I think it’s just an awesome blade and would love the opportunity to add it to my go bag.@gus acosta3
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