Today when a person goes upon a crazy, violent rampage he can be said to have “run amok”. The origin of the word “amok” is actually Malay. The term entered the English language as an idiom when English traders encountered the strange practice of “running amok” among the Muslim peoples of Malaysia, Indonesia, and the southern Philippine Islands.


There, men would for a variety reasons work themselves into an uncontrollable rage; and go on a murderous killing spree. A man so running amok would cut down any who came across his path! This would continue until his neighbors, bystanders, or the authorities killed him.

Some scholars consider the origin of this strange and deadly practice to lie in the Islamic prohibition against suicide. When “dishonored” a Muslim man could regain his honor (manhood!) by going amok, and dying with sword in hand; forcing others to kill him and thus accomplish his suicide.

 At the turn of the 20th Century in the Philippines, the practice took a new and unique turn; as Moro insurgents against American rule “ran amok”, attacking and assassinating American administrators or army officers.


The juramentado would prepare for his mission by having his TESTICLES TIED OFF WITH COPPER WIRE! In a state of intense agony, the juramentado would spend the night working himself into a killing frenzy. By the next day, the juramentado would be in such agony; in such an altered state of consciousness, that his mind would no longer register additional external pain. The juramentado would be led to where his target was expected (usually in public places). Just before being unleashed against the victim, his arms and legs were tied with occluding ligatures; reducing blood loss from expected wounds to these extremities.

 At that moment the juramentado would charge forward (often out of a crowd) and assault the victim with the distinctive Moro sword, the Kris; or the equally nasty-looking hacking knife, the barong. Despite being shot multiple times by the victim and his escort or comrades-in-arms, the juramentado would not stop hacking till the target was slain.

After which, the juramentado would collapse and die; likely contented.

 Right:  Moro warrior in traditional armor.

Below: Moro warriors pose for photo, circa 1900


The problem was exacerbated by the fact that sidearm of the American Army in the PI was a .38 caliber revolver. This small caliber proved utterly incapable of stopping the juramentado.

 For this reason the US Army adapted the .45 caliber colt pistol: the heavier bullet of the .45 could knock the charging juramentado onto his back, stopping his frenzied “amok” dead!

The Colt .45 revolver (not the later automatic pistol) was issued to the Philippine Constabulary (the American-led Philippino force created to fight the Moros and keep the peace throughout the archipeligo) in 1903. It proved much superior to the standard .38 caliber pistols used by the regulary American Army.

That, and the Winchester pump-action shotgun, then coming into service in both the Marines and Army, are the weapons that stopped the rampaging Moros!

There has been much discussion about the veracity of this bit of history; wither or not the .45 caliber could have made a difference. But in his  Annual Report of June, 1904, General Leonard Wood (commanding American forces engaged against the Moros in the PI, stated his opinion on the subject:

“It is thought that the .45 caliber revolver (Constabulary Model 1902) is the one which should be issued to troops throughout the Army…. Instances have repeatedly been reported during the past year where native have been shot through and through several time with a .38 caliber revolver, and have come on, cutting up the unfortunate individual armed with it… The .45 caliber revolver stops a man in his tracks, usually knocking him down… It is also recommended that each company …. be furnished with … 12-guage Winchester repeating shotguns.. There is no weapon in our possession equal to the shotgun loaded with buckshot.”

For more about suicidal Islamic killers, see:

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  1. Pingback: ISLAMIC SUICIDE ATTACKS NOTHING NEW | Word Warrior of So Cal

  2. Pingback: WAR! « Temple of Mut

  3. BillT says:

    I can verify GEN Wood’s statement from experience (not from the Moro Wars — from Vietnam, 1970) about the efficacy of a .38 against a pumped-up opponent. I hit a sapper with at least four rounds from my .38 — all chest/torso hits — and he ran an additional 75 meters before he dropped.

  4. juramentado says:

    I doest agree with the content of this blog. there is no such thing as a Muslim killing other people if they are humiliated or something… as a Muslim it is clearly state that killing other people with no reason is a big sin. unless ones life is threatened by other people or protecting ones religion like what had the tausug people (Moro people) do. before writing this blog I suggest read more about Muslim people..

    • barrycjacobsen says:

      I not only have done much research on this subject (as with all subjects I write on); I worked in the Philippines over several years during my days in Special Forces. I worked side-by-side with Moro officers; and got this account verified by them, from their own mouths.
      Thank you for reading and enjoying my piece; and keep the suggestions coming.

    • Chad Javier says:

      I cannot speak to the methods described here for the Moro preparing for their amok behavior, but this depiction matches EXACTLY the stories my Father, Mother, Grandparents, and GREAT-grandparents shared with me while growing up in Cebu … killing EVERYONE they encountered, for seemingly no reason.

      • barrycjacobsen says:

        I got a first-hand account from a Moro officer in the Philippine Constabulary back in the 80’s.

      • The Garden of Andalus says:

        I don’t wonder if Muslim Moro would do Juramentado against the US Soldier after horrific incident that claimed thousands of lives of Tausug Muslims Moro men and women including children in Bud Daho was perpetrated/ massacered & mercilessly killed by the American soldiers under US Major General Leonard Wood. Got it in the web, do kindly search the brutal massacer in year 1906 done by the Christian US Soldiers to Muslim Moro in Bud Daho, Sulu…

      • barrycjacobsen says:

        The “massacre” occurred long after the advent of Juramentado attacks on American (and Pilipino) officials; so, no, there is no correlation. The battle you speak of was against a Moro stronghold in a volcanic crater; where the Moro insurgents were gathered in force, in rebellion against the government. The deaths of “civilians” (though perhaps that is the wrong word when you are talking about the dependents of a rebels, who are within a rebel stronghold; under the laws of war they are not protected) was criticized in the USA. When a similar gathering of Moro insurgents some years later, then American commander Pershing used much more restraint.

    • postallady18 says:

      Muslim will kill in Allah’s name…read your Qur’an…the only reason they need is your not like them…period !!

  5. Bryana Chardonay says:

    juramentado please explain the mass killings that are not in open combat/warfare but done in secret bombings and other horrendous acts by extremists, you dont have to agree with something to make it any less sad as it is it is what it is,nutcases are everywhere and have perverted the word of God to suit their own ends for millennia now.and in every denomination and doctrine

    • barrycjacobsen says:

      Christianity is a religion of love and peace. Yet throughout its history, men have killed others and claimed to be doing so in its name… Men will always find a rationalization for the wicked deeds they do.
      That said, Islam is NOT a religion of peace. It is a warrior’s religion, and expressly allows for religious war (jihad).

      • Morte says:

        “That said, Islam is NOT a religion of peace. It is a warrior’s religion, and expressly allows for religious war (jihad).”
        – Don’t make laugh. Most if not all religions sanction war against the infidels, ALL religions allows fight against evil(doers). Presumptuous assumption, nothing else.

      • barrycjacobsen says:

        Sorry, Morte/Rcaleb ( wrong. Most religions do not sanction war against infidels.
        Not Christianity, Buddhism, nor Hinduism have such a concept as Jihad.
        Christians have a concept called “Just War”. First, war must occur for a good and just purpose rather than for self-gain (for example, “in the nation’s interest” is not just) or as an exercise of power. Second, just war must be waged by a properly instituted authority such as the state. Third, peace must be a central motive even in the midst of violence. War against others because they are “infidels” is NOT a reason for war or killing.

  6. johnpfmcguire says:

    I wonder if that’s also where the term “to go nuts” comes from.

  7. P.S. Among other religions, the Tao Te Ching says, “Victory is to be treated as a funeral procession.” The reasoning is not particularly surprising: even if you win, you have killed and you have had your own killed. Something like the person who said, “Talking about winning a war is like talking about winning an earthquake.” Now Taoism does not begin and end with the Tao Te Ching, but its first classic left others to inherit the words, “Victory is to be treated as a funeral procession.”

  8. juramentado says:

    Let me say I got paid 200 piso a day as a extra in the making of the pinoy movie “juramentado” in 1983 and when I got back to Manila I did not run amok with that pay!

  9. The Garden of Andalus says:

    IN the result of my researh of Philippines past history of 14th century – seems the whole Philippines archipelago from South to North including Manila (now the capital) till the tips of nothern island of old Philippines were known as a Muslim Land meaning majority of the folks leaving in this whole archipelago were Muslims, and were ruled by the Muslims Families, ruler were called as Rajah (in my other researh Raja is an Indian/Urdu word meaning Gorveror or King), other ruler like in Southern Philippines’ island of Sulu called Sultan (Arabic term for the Head of State/ King) was known as Sultanate of Sulu that covers almost the whole Southern Philippines Island including the well known Tourist ISland Resort of Palawan – what an amazing old past vast history !? But as we know right now Philippines the only Cristain Country in Asia, but the history says this was Islam by Land…

    • barrycjacobsen says:

      Yes, the Muslims from the Sultanate of Brunei (on the island of Borneo) conquered the Kingdom of Manila in the late 15th/early 16th century. And, as they did all throughout the world, from the Middle East to across North Africa and into Spain in the 8th century; the new Muslim rulers imposed Islam on the country. Then the Spanish came, later in the 16th century, and imposed Spanish rule.
      So what?
      That is the tides of history: conquerors come, impose their will on the conquered, and often with it their religion. Islam has done that, Christianity has done that.
      Your (erroneous) point seems to be that if a land was ever, at some point predominantly Muslim in its religious leanings, then it is forever after “Islamic” land. By that flawed logic, Spain and Balkans are “Islamic Lands”; even though they were originally Christian, and threw out their Muslim conquerors centuries ago. If that logic was turned about on you, the same argument could be used throughout the Middle East to throw out the Muslims. Because ALL of the lands except Arabia were once either Christian, Jewish, or Zoroastrian lands! Islam conquered them in the 8th-9th century, by force of arms. Its hardly honest to complain when someone stronger does the same to Muslims, in turn.
      BTW, it is a rhetorical canard to continue to call Muslims (in any conflict) as “peaceful native Muslim peoples”. First, Islam has always been among the most warlike religions in the world. Secondly, in many places Islamic rule was maintained by a foreign elite (as with the Moors in Spain); and is not “native”. Your attempt is to win the sympathy of the uninformed reader; painting Muslims as victims. They are as often the aggressors as not; so please do not attempt to wrap Islam in the mantle of “victimhood”.

      • Fed says:

        Give referrences that philippines was became muslims by force or by sword like what spanish did? Give any details in history that their is an army of muslim conquer island of the philippines.

      • barrycjacobsen says:

        I don’t know exactly when southern PI became “Moro”. But from at least the 16th century, when Christianity came to the northern islands, there was tension between the two. When and how is really irrelevant to the story, in any case.

  10. The Garden of Andalus says:

    When Spaniards did arrived in this island in the 16th century, then they just got suprised, horrified, angered that even in this far-flung island Muslims could be found??? During the Spaniards first arrival in Manila in 16th century they were met by the Muslims Ruler of Manila & its Muslim people with warmed welcome but history showing after short period ellapsed the Spaniard forces under King Spain killed mercilessly all the Muslims people of Manila unless they would embraced Cristianity… But the native Muslims resisted against the persecution & barbaric killings by the Cristian Spaniard towards the peaceful native Muslims people of this Philippines islands… Then now the Spaniard starting to described Juramentado to the Muslims resistants that depend their horor & Islam… Muslim people of this whole archipelago were knowned & called by the Sapaniards as Moros (derived from the Spanish word meaning Moors) meaning Muslims of Spain & North Africa. Therefore, Moro Juramentado started since the time in resisting against the Barbaric Cristian of Spain ERA in the Philippines.

    • barrycjacobsen says:

      Well, that is your (rather biased) point of view. Its not, however, the generally accepted historical opinion.

  11. Chuckster says:

    However docile the moros were at the time of Spanish occupation, Their extremists have grown in violence of biblical proportions over the following centuries. Their supposed martyrs are now referred to as terrorists and bandits. Your abu sayaf demons’ exploits put this christian barbarism you mentioned in perspective. To say that you are peaceful is to say that hamas militants are a bunch of saints. The bastards of spain, no matter how violent, did the Filipinos a lasting favor. They allowed and provided us with an out from a confused and confusing religion.

  12. Chuckster says:

    Thanks Barry for a piece of history regarding this subject. I’m trying to develop a Pinoy Superhero based on these Jurumentados. I’m just presently trying to do a workaround with regards to this copper wire binding of the nuts ritual.

  13. RF says:

    Funny how the muslims here try to play the victim and make Christians seem the (only) agressor.
    All I can see is that everwhere in the world it is the muslims who are the cause of aggression.
    Whether it be in Africa , Phillippines, Thailand , you name it.

    And those brave Moro warriors..
    Weren’t they pirates on a killing spree in the past as well?
    Nice fellows.
    Chopping innocents to peaces with their Barongs.

    The followers of Islam are constantly pointing at others and never admitting their faults and the evilness they have done and still are doing.
    And stop saying, people who do these acts are not true muslims.
    If that is so, then very large groups of the muslim community are not muslims.

    To me it’s just a bunch of crap.
    Then again, I’m not religious at all.
    Although baptised catholic(I was a baby, what could I do),I do believe in another dimension after physical death. Higher Spirits etc..
    But have no need for so called holy books.
    I’m not that insecure that I need a life-manual.
    Not a piss poor manual anyway.

    Muslims thinking you go to heaven when killing infidels or non believers.
    Their heads are full of non-sense.
    Where do they get the idea that killing others because of difference in belief is a just thing to do.

    That’s what those people are.

  14. wordyprex says:

    The muslim territories in the Philippines were and are controlled by tribal leaders.
    They maybe datus or sultans. but the point is, only one family controls a tribe.
    family wars and tribal wars are very common in muslim held territories. always a tooth for
    a tooth, a death for a death.
    Juramentados were used not just against spaniards and americans but even to their rival tribes.

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