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
"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
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
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.
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
Patterns and procedure in performing Krabi-Krabong :
In performing Krabi-Krabong, the following stages of training should be
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
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
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
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 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
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.