The navaja is a traditional Spanish folding-blade fighting and utility knife. One of the oldest folding knife patterns still in production, the first true navajas originated in the Andalusian region of southern Spain. In Spain, the term navaja is often used to generally describe all folding-blade knives.
The etymology of the word navaja is derived from the Latin “novacula”, meaning “razor”, and the Andalusian knife known as the navaja is thought to have derived from the “navaja de afeitar”, or straight razor used for shaving. Like the straight razor, the navaja’s blade folds into the handle when not in use. A popular slang term for the navaja in the 19th century was herramienta, which translates as “(iron) tool”.
Despite official disapproval, the navaja de muelles became popular throughout Spain as a fighting and general utility knife, and was the primary personal arm of the Spanish guerrilleros who opposed Napoleon during his invasion and subsequent occupation of Spain in the Peninsular War of 1808-1814.
Around 1850, a metal pull ring was incorporated into the lock to facilitate blade closure. Pulling the metal ring cammed the backspring upward, freeing the blade from its lock and allowing the blade to fold back into the handle. The pull ring was eventually discarded in favor of a low-profile metal lever.
The navaja was first adopted as a fighting knife by the peoples of Andalucía in southern Spain, including the Spanish gypsies of the day, the Gitanos. In this part of Spain, knife fighting was regularly taught as a skill, often passed down from father to son as a rite of passage to adulthood. Among navaja aficionados, the barateros of Malaga and Seville were cited as the most skilled practitioners of fighting with the navaja.
Photo Source: iCollector