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Krabi-Krabong is a traditional Thai martial art still practiced in Thailand. This tradition focuses on hand-held weapons as well as empty hand techniques. Specifically the:

"Krabi" (sword)
"Plong" (quarterstaff)
"Ngao" (staff with blade in the end)
"Daab Song Meu" (a pair of swords held in each hand)
"Mae Sun-Sawk" (a pair of clubs)

Although for most Thais Krabi-Krabong is a ritual to be display during festivals or at tourist venues, the art is still solemnly taught according to a 400-years-old tradition handed down from Ayutthaya's Wat PutthaiSwan. The King's elite bodyguard are trained in Krabi-Krabong; many Thai cultural observers perceive it as a "purer" tradition.Like Muay Thai of 70 years ago, modern Krabi-Krabong matches are held within a marked circle, beginning with a "Wai Kruu" ceremony and accompanied throughout by a musical ensemble. Thai boxing techniques and judo-like throws are employed in conjunction with weapons techniques. Although sharpened weapons are used, the contestants refrain from striking their opponents - the winner is decided on the basis of stamina and the technical skill displayed. Although an injured fighter may surrender, injuries do not automatically stop a match.

Human beings were born with an instinct to fight for survival, especially self-defence against the most serious danger, that is, “the danger of war”. Each human race created methods of self-defence both with and without weapons, varing according to geographical and racial characteristics, until they became their national art of self-defence and a part of their culture. In Thailand, the Thai art of self-defence with bare hands is “Muay Thai” and one of those with weapons is, e.g., Krabi-Krabong. Both of the arts of fighting have kept Thailand an independent country up until the present day.

The Sukhothai, Ayudhaya, Thonburi and early Rattanakosin (Kings Rama I - IV) periods of Thailand were all periods of wars against invaders. All men bore the responsibility to be soldiers. The Thai tradition beleived that being a fighter was the important characteristic of “brave men”. Not only were the commoners fighters, but the nation's leaders or kings had also to be brave fighters. Every type of fighting was considered to be an art for rulers. In the past, training for the art of Muay Thai and that for Krabi-Krabong would be carried out together, simultaneously. This was because in real fighting all sorts of weapons were used, but if the weapons had been dropped or fighting was at close quarters, the skill of Muay Thai would also be used.

Knowledge of Krabi-Krabong includes the equipment used in fighting, the skill of dancing, the fight itself and personal skills and talents. The following are the details:


Krabi-Krabong is the art of fighting with various kinds of weapons; both short and long, e.g. sword, long knife, long wooden staff, a glaive with curved blade, lance, short staff, and protective equipment, e.g. shields of various shapes. Each weapon can be used differently, as follows:

1. Krabi (long knife): a weapon for slashing and stabbing, made of good quality iron, flat with a pointed tip, to be used for fighting on level ground.

2. Daab (sword): a weapon for slashing and stabbing, made of good quality iron, flat with a curved tip, heavier than Krabi, to be used for fighting on level ground.

3. Ngaaw (glaive): a long weapon for slashing and stabbing, the Ngaaw itself is made of good quality iron, flat with a curved tip similar to that of the daab but shorter in length, with a long wooden handle, to be used for fighting at a distance from an elephant's back

4. Plawng (long staff): also called “Si Sawk” (lit., “two yards”) is a long weapon for striking.

5. Dahng (shield): a protective device, made of hide or rattan, of oblong shape, curved in section like the fibrous layers on the trunk of a banana plant.

6. Khehn (shield): a protective device, made of hide, of oblong shape.

7. Loh (shield): a protective device, made of hide or weaved rattan, or metal, round in shape, bulging out at the centre.

8. Mai Sahn (short staff): a square piece of wood shaped to the bones of the forearm, to be worn on both forearms and used both as a striking and blocking weapon

9. Meed sahn (short knife): a short weapon, shaped like a daab, but shorter.

10. Khwaan (axe)

11. Hawk (arrow)

The Thai arrange the said equipment or weapons into 3 catagories according to their purpose.
1. Real weapons : used in fighting and warfare.

2. Imitation weapons used for performing demonstrations : called “kreuang mai ram”, they started to be used when Krabi-Krabong was used for exhibition bouts. Originally, real weapons were used in the exhibition dance before the fight.

3. Imitation weapons used for training : called “kreuang mai dtee”, these imitation weapons are made of rattan, which is a wood easily found in Thailand, with tough and durable qualities. These weapons are used in training as, if the real weapons were used, they might wear out, or be dangerous to the training partner. The use of “kreuang mai dtee” started in the early Rattanakosin period.

Krabi-Krabong Skills

The important skills to be learnt in Krabi-Krabing are those of: skill in weapon performance and skill in striking (skill in fighting).

The Krabi-Krabong trainees should practice these styles of dancing until they are so skilful that they can perform them during the Wai Kru before using them in an actual fight. These styles of dancing, which are equivalent to the “warm up” for international sports before the actual games, were known to the Thais from long ago. The Thais have suitably added the beauty of dance, accompanied by music, to the exercise of bodily strength.
The skill in striking : In Krabi-Krabong, the fighting skill is called the skill in striking, which includes the main techniques of striking and the fighters' own personal styles of modified techniques.
The main techniques of striking : consist of strikes for attacking and defending. Both techniques contain fixed procedures for attacking and defending which the trainees have to practice until they are proficient. These techniques show the importance of various parts of the body.

The modified techniques of striking : are techniques used in real fighting which have to be modified according to the circumstances and cannot be fixed.

Patterns and procedure in performing Krabi-Krabong :

In performing Krabi-Krabong, the following stages of training should be followed:

1. Paying obeisance : In ancient times, when the king used to preside at training sessions or competitions, the paying of obeisance was done to the king. In addition, the ancient Thais had a high respect for the king, therefore even when the king was not there, the fighters still paid obeisance to the king. This performance, besides being for the king, also pays homage to the triple gems in Buddhism, parents, and teachers who passed knowledge on to them, and also includes the recitation of the sacred chants to increase their mental power for fighting their opponent.

2. Kheun Brahman Styles : These are the important principal styles to be taught. There are two kinds of Kheun Brahman: Seated Brahman and Standing Brahman. The Kheun Brahman style is a dance moving in four directions, which is why it is called Brahman, as the god Brahma has four faces. The name also comes from the four qualities of Brahma, vtz., Mettra, Karuna, Muttita and Ubekha, which are the qualities that the teacher will impart to his pupils.

3. The dance of the fighting techniques : The techniques performed depend on the weapons used in fighting, any fixed techniques chosen for performance are acceptable.

4. The Walking around : A type of walk in readiness to fight. This walk will cover the whole distance to the edge of the groud and return to the starting point. Whilst at close quarters to the opponent, each competitor will move somewhat to the left, so that only the tips of the weapons may touch or hit each other slightly.

5. The fighting : The attacking and defending techniques learnt and the personal aptitude in fighting will be used.

6. The asking for pardon : When the fight ends, both competitors will ask their opponents to pardon any unintentional wrongdoing during the fight. This forgiveness is an important quality that the teachers must impart to their pupils.

Music accompanying the demonstration of Krabi-Krabong

Krabi-krabong demonstrations will be accompanied by the music of Javan flute and Indian drum. The music performance is divided in phases as follows:

1. Played before the fight , in the Wai Kru ceremony.

2. Played as a stimulating intermission , after the Wai Kru ceremony.

3. Played during the fights .

The music will be appropriate to the weapons. For example, Krabi-Krabong will use Krabileela music; Ngaaw, Kheun maa. Nowadays, it is rare to find experts capable of playing the specific music for any weapon, so there has been adaptation of the music and the use of one kind of music for all weapons.

The use of musical equipment in the demonstrations derives from the Thai characteristic love of joyfulness. Whatever activity they undertake, there will always be musical accopaniment. Besides arousing enjoyment in the fighters and the audience, it provides the correct rythm for dancing. The use of music to accompany the fighting started in the Ayudhaya period and is still used today.

The Dress

The dress used in Krabi-Krabong demonstrations is the same as that worn by ancient Thai warriors; a tunic, sleevelesss or with long sleeves, with sacred inscriptions, and wide-legged mid-calf-length trousers.

In addition, the demonstrator will wear a Monkon which is made of sacred cotton thread. In ancient time, the Monkon would be worn all the time even during the fight, as the Monkon is a sacred charm which the pupil received from his teacher, and will provide him with confidence in fighting to win as well as to safeguard him from dangers.

The Study of Krabi-Krabong

When a Thai studies Krabi-Krabong, the important thing he has to do is to submit as a pupil or to accept the Master as one's teacher showing that one willingly obeys to be taught, trained, and have one's characteristics moulded by the teacher. The teacher in return accepts that person as his pupil, is happy to pass his knowledge willingly on to him as if he was his son or other descendant. In olden days, acceptance as a pupil was not done easily. The pupil who sought knowledge would have to serve at the teacher's home so that the teacher would be able to observe whether the pupil had paid attention to study, and had patience, attained good qualities satisfactorily and was trustworthy, before the teacher would perform the pupil acceptance ceremony.

Kru Nak Tebhusadin Na Ayudhaya outlined the practice of Wai Kru and the submission as a pupil as follows:

1. The religious ceremony

2. The ceremony of submission as a pupil

2.1 Offerrings to the teacher.

2.2 The pupil must prepare five white flowers, incense sticks, one white candle and money to pay homage to the teacher.

2.3 The master of ceremonies will prepare the sacred water and paste for anointing the pupil's forehead.

2.4 A group of ceremonial performers will lead by pronouncing the words of submission and the oath.

2.5 Sitting still thinking of teachers and feeling loving kindness.

2.6 In accepting any student, the teacher will receive the flowers, incense sticks and candle, and anoint the pupil‘s forehead, whilst the pupil will drink the sacred water, and put the candle wax on his head.

Afterwards there will be a demonstration of the pupil's skills, then a feast. The Wai Kru ceremony will be performed every year and also each time before a demonstration, but not as a big ceremony, only using flowers and incense sticks as offerrings.

Krabi-Krabong is the Thai national art of fighting with personal characteristics. The teacher will emphasise the teaching of “the person” (the pupil) to be good before he teaches the skills of fighting, so that the pupil will use the knowledge gairned in the proper way which will not be harmful to society. The study of Krabi-Krabong is not only the study of the skills of fighting, the pupil must have good understanding and study Thai ways of thougth and belief which are disquised in various forms and symbols of the Krabi-Krabong sport. Such thougths and beliefs have moulded the Thais into specific characteristics such as the respect for seniority, gratitude towards teachers, politeness, cheerfulness, belief in the importance of mind in controlling the body, and so on. After having studied the abstract and concrete values of Krabi-Krabong, one will be considered to have real knowledge of the Thai Krabi-Krabong.



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