Thailand’s Krabi Krabong martial art now taught in Thai schools (video)

copyright Kru Tony Moore — Creative Commons license

Since moving to Thailand over 17 years ago, I have only been familiar with the Thai martial art Krabi Krabong for two reasons.

I knew the royal bodyguard corps of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) were trained in Krabi Krabong, and I had seen the Thai martial art performed at cultural shows held in various places around Thailand for tourists.

I had no idea, however, that at least one school in Bangkok was now teaching students Krabi Krabong.

Instruction that is being done in an effort to both resurrect the ancient Thai weapons-based martial art, and to help Thai girls physically protect themselves.

A video on YouTube from the excellent news service South China Morning Post this morning (see below), however, clued me in to Thai schools now looking at Krabi Krabong as an appropriate class in school.

As the video explains, the two words in Krabi Krabong mean ‘sword and stick (actually it’s ‘staff’)’, which are basically the weapons used for the martial art. A long staff or a long sword, or two of either, and both wielded simultaneously.

Thus making a master of the weapon-based martial art a lethal weapons themselves.

The history of Krabi Krabong

The Thai martial art was used by ancient Thai soldiers as a form of fighting on the battle field. It was particularly relevant as, before the age of the gun, all fighting in battle was done at close quarters.

It is not known how long the weapon-based martial art was used in Thailand, however, as the earliest known written account of seeing Thai warriors fighting this way was from 1689. This was reported at the time by a French diplomat, who was visiting the Kingdom of Ayutthaya.

Both King Naresuan  and King Taksin were also known to be Krabi Krabong masters.

The art of Krabi Krabong itself was generally passed down from father to son, and from master to apprentice, by word of mouth rather than in written form. This is also why the history of it is not particularly accurate.

Krabi Krabong in Thai schools

As one young girl mentions in the South China Morning Post video, the martial art is being taught at her school as a self-defense routine and to “train women to fight back against men”.

In that particular school, Phatcharaphon Banditketmala, the Krabi Krabong coach, is also adding new moves to the age-old routines.

As he explains, “The new routines came from the movies and other media. The students mix different styles and routines to create new tricks, making Krabi Krabong limitless”.

A smart move as, just like most other things, even ancient martial arts have to evolve over time or they risk the chance of dying out.

If you are interested in learning Krabi Krabong, it is still possible to do that privately as several martial arts centers in Thailand, including Tiger Muay Thai in Phuket.

Related reading: What is the sport of Sepak Takraw — Thailand’s acrobatic volleyball?