Friday, February 11, 2005

Krabi-Krabong, Article by Tony Moore

To the Thai people, Muay Thai is just as popular as pro football, basketball, and baseball is to Americans. It is their national sport. Yet even to the Thai people, Krabi-Krabong as not as well known. It's thought of by many as more of a ritual art then a combat system. yet the Muay Thai that they love so much has decended from the weaponry technique of Krabi-Krabong.
In the US., very few people have been exsposed to KK, the majority of sport based Muay Thai practitioners weren't even aware of it's influence on the system they diligently train. In recent years it's been getting a little more exsposure and is slowly getting recognition. Ajarn Wilson is one of the highest ranked active students and resides in the US. If you live in the Pacific Northwest, you should certainly take advantage of the fact that he lives in your front yard. If you don't live close by, bring him in, you won't be dissapointed.



Here is more on Krabi-Krabong written by Tony Moore.

Written by Tony Moore in remembrance to Por Kruh Samai

Some years ago I was watching TV, just relaxing in the late evening. My day had been taken up first by work and then afterwards play, which in my case was training in Muay Thai (Thai Boxing). Watching a Programme Transworld Sports and not paying too much attention suddenly the sound of Thai music and a picture of a Thai flag appeared on the screen. My attention was grabbed! This was my first real look at Krabi Krabong. The school featured in the Programme was the Buddhai Swan Swordsmanship Institute of Ayutthaya. On the Programme they announced that Arjarn Samai Mashamana was the only living Great Grandmaster of this ancient fighting art of Thailand.
In the interview Arjarn Samai showed many weapons and his family gave demonstrations of this fascinating fighting art. I was sold! My ambition was then to visit that school. It took me nearly a year before I found it. When I was visiting Thailand I asked many people if they knew about the school. Many did but nobody seemed to know where the school actually was. When I did eventually find it, I met the old man who I’d seen on TV. Little did I know that this person was to have a profound effect on the rest of my life.
Arjarn Samai came across a real gentleman in every sense of the word. He showed me around, talked to me about |Krabi Krabong and the Buddhai Swan and showed me many photos. In some of the pictures I noticed a foreigner, (which I later discovered to be Jason Webster from the USA who was the firs foreign student to gain a Gold Sash at the school.) So I, jumping in with both size nines, asked how one would become a student – well you never know until you ask! "Oh" the Great Grandmaster answered "You have to be personally introduced by a member of the school or a high-ranking officer or official of the Thai army or government" he told me.

Written by Tony Moore in remembrance to Por Kruh Samai

Well it just so happens that I have a very good friend in Thailand who works for the Crown Property Office. I contacted my friend and asked if it would be possible for him to come along to Buddhai Swan with me and also to give me a letter of introduction. We went back to the school and I was lucky enough for Arjarn Samai to accept me as a student.
The Buddhai Swan being steeped in tradition and adhering strictly to the old ways, the student must go through an Induction Ceremony. This began with prayers and offerings to the sacred shrines at the school. And the reciting of the pledge by the student to be faithful; to the art, the school, the head teacher and all the students. The student is then asked to drink holy water from the shrine. This is from a huge urn in which all swords from great warriors and teachers of the school are immersed. It is said that if one breaks the vow, any bad thing the student does will return to him ten-fold. The same is said if anybody dares to harm a student of Buddhai Swan.
After the ceremony the student is taken away to learn the dance known as Yodt Kru (the acceptance dance). Then the training began. My allotted time was from 11am to 4.30pm every day but some days I would stay at the school until 6pm. At the end when I was to say my farewells to Arjarn Samai and his family, I was told I would be awarded Red Sash (Instructor Grade).
Can you imagine the thrill; all I had wanted was to just visit the school. And then to train at the school but here I was an accepted member and representative for the school. This was my introduction to Arjarn Samai and the Buddhai Swan School. Since then I have had many opportunities to learn at the school, to get to know the history of both Arjarn Samai and the founding of the school. I would like to take you now into a world of wars and battles, mysticism, spirits, heroism and sacrifice which is interwoven with the story of Buddhai Swan.

Written by Tony Moore in remembrance to Por Kruh Samai

The history of Buddhai Swan is rather incomplete because all records were destroyed in the great siege of Ayuddhaya in 1767 so most of the facts stated here have been passed down by word of mouth through successive generations. King U-Thong (Rama Thibodi I) founder of the city of Ayuddhaya built the Buddhai Swan Temple in Ayuddhaya in 1350. The Temple belonged to the monks from Lanka and also housed a school for teaching Thai weapons. The system taught is believed to have been Phraya Arjarn Prong’s and the Pichai Sung Kran system. The school was established to teach the Siamese art of self-defence, Krabi Krabong.
Major Generals and all Officers’ of the army attended the school to teach them the methods by which to protect their country. And themselves It is a recorded fact that three Kings trained at the Buddhai Swan Temple: Phraya Taksin, Putt’ a Yodt Fa and Somdet Paworn Raja Chao Mahaseeha Sook Raknarn. Probably the most famous of these three King’s would be Phraya Taksin. To write even a brief history of his many exploits would take up a whole tome by itself.
Suffice it to say and I quote "Taksin, one of the most remarkable men who ever wore the crown of Siam" (from "A History of Siam by W.A.R. Wood). We cannot talk about King Taksin of course, without mentioning his renowned Commander-in-Chief Phraya Pichai Daab Hak (Daab Hak meaning Broken Sword). In the heat of a fierce engagement his sword broke in two. With one sword and the hilt of the broken one he led his army to victory.
On two occasions Ayuddhaya fell to the Burmese. The first time during the reign of King Naresuan the Great 1555-1605. An outstanding warrior King from Thai history, not only saving Ayuddhaya but declaring Siam’s independence from Burma. The second time was in 1767.

During this time, Ayuddhaya was a centre for trade and commerce and the fighting arts were sadly neglected. The city was easy prey for the Burmese who supposed that if they captured Ayuddhaya and with it the Temple of Buddhai Swan, it would weaken the Siamese people because it was the Burmese belief that Buddhai Swan was the fighting spirit of Siam.
Fortunately this was not to be. They had done wrong to a student of Buddhai Swan; in this case, Phraya Taksin and the prophecy once again proved true, when King Taksin, rising from the ashes of the destroyed Ayuddhaya, built up his own army and routed the Burmese with great loss to the enemy. (Incidentally, during the same period a similar school existed in Burma named Samnak Daab Pra Kanee. This school no longer exists today.) On Two occasions, warriors from Buddhai Swan have played a major role in keeping Siam a free country. Solid proof of the efficacy of the fighting system taught by Buddhai Swan.The name Buddhai Swan is something the Thai people are rightfully proud of.
Gradually throughout the next two centuries the Temple of Buddhai Swan fell into disrepair, until the birth of somebody destined to re-establish the school’s fame. No man could have been better suited to carry the name of Buddhai Swan forward into the 20th century than Por Kru Samai Mashamana who loved his King and country and his students who became part of his immediate family.
Nothing and nobody was more important than the preservation of the Siamese art of self-defence. Today the original Temple of Buddhai Swan is being excavated and many artifacts and treasures have been discovered at the site. A monument to the three kings who studied there stands proudly on the site as a reminder of the school’s glorious past. Arjarn Samai Mashamana (who was known to his students as Por Kru, meaning father-teacher) was born on 5th May 1914 in the Maharat District of Ayuddhaya.

His father worked with the countryside development agency and was believed to be the only expert in the full traditional weapons system of Thailand. We believe that it was from his father that Por Kru Samai’s interest and love of the weapons system began. After these wars, the Siamese capital was moved from Ayuddhaya to Thonburi and then to it’s present site Krung Thep (Bangkok).
This move was instigated by King Taksin because the new site was far easier to defend and more importantly because Ayuddhaya was irreparable. A man of high moral principles, Por Kru Samai dedicated his life to humanity. Early in his life he worked as a teacher in youth clubs in no less than thirty-six provinces across Thailand. He was also a very famous photographer for the PIM-THAI newspaper. Due to the nature of his pictures he found himself in life-threatening situations on at least two occasions. During the Second World War, Por Kru Samai worked closely with the underground movement who was attempting to undermine the Japanese occupation. He wrote the truth about the now infamous "Death Railway" and the corruption, which was rife at that time, This also must have been a very dangerous time for him. Just after the war, Por Kru received an incandescent vision from the spirit world.
n the vision he was told to rebuild the Buddhai Swan Sword Fighting School of Ayuddhaya. The following day, Por Kru, motivated by the vision, walked for miles seeking the designated place to build the school. He was led to a large tree, the place where the school would in the future be re-constructed.
His sole possessions were fifty satang -1⁄2 baht (nowadays the rate is 58 baht = £1.00) and a small bag containing that day’s rice ration. Undaunted, he went into the bush at the side of the path to cut himself some rattan and bamboo from which he could fashion some training weapons.

Passers- by stopped to ask him what he was doing. He explained that he would soon be opening a sword fighting training school named after the historically famous "Buddhai Swan." In a short time people began to train there and news travelled quickly about the Great Grand Master with knowledge of the full system of the Nation’s self defence and traditional martial arts. Just as in the past, many high-ranking army and police officers became students of the school. As the school’s fame spread, wealthy benefactors presented themselves to Por Kru wishing to become Patrons of the Institute. Very soon their contributions helped to re-construct a purpose-built school dedicated to preserving the cultural heritage of Thailand and to helping promote Krabi Krabong worldwide.
In 1956, His Majesty the King of Thailand presented Buddhai Swan with their own Standard. This flag was awarded to the school for their dedication in educating people in the Thai weapons and culture of their Nation. On 6th November 1957, Buddhai Swan received legal permission from the Ministry of Education to promote traditional Thai Fighting Arts and to organise Krabi Krabong worldwide. Por Kru has since been honoured many times by the Thai Nation. Two of his most coveted awards were presented to him on behalf of His Majesty the King.
The first for his dedication to the art of Krabi Krabong and second to "A real Thai Person" meaning polite and humble, and also for "Helping the Thai people to know more about their ancient methods of fighting which had saved Thailand from invasion many times". This was the first time in the country’s history that such an award had been presented. The Buddhai Swan School has always been in great demand to give demonstrations and perform re-enactments of famous battles, often for the Royal family of Thailand.

Written by Tony Moore in remembrance to Por Kruh Samai

It was Buddhai Swan who gave the spectacular demonstration of the re-taking of Ayuddhaya, which actually took place in the ancient ruins of that city, during the state visit to Thailand of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth of England in 1997. This was a great feat of organisation and choreography, all arranged by Por Kru Samai and his family. This demonstration has since been shown on TV all over the world. How to describe Por Kru, the person? I can only reflect upon my own experiences and one particular incident that comes to mind.
Por Kru had invited me to come to Thailand to train with the Buddhai Swan students as they prepared for a demonstration to be performed before Her Majesty Queen Sirikit of Thailand. During my training at the school I was taken seriously ill with food poisoning and spent most of the day lying in bed. Por Kru’s son Kru Werayut told me, that it would be better for me to go to the hotel and get some antibiotics from a pharmacy. I took this advice and left for my hotel.
The next day saw me really sick and unable to leave my room. I needed to get better and quickly. After a full day spent trying to recover, I returned to the school. First to greet me was Por Kru Samai, who told me in no uncertain terms that I would not be able to give the demonstration because I had missed an important day of training. Por Kru then retired to his room – no more said! Steve Wilson from the USA had also been invited to give the demonstration.
He felt that it was a hard decision and was sorry for me because I had put so much into the demo. "It’s Ok" I said "I’ll just have to work harder today". I trained all day with no breaks just a sip of water now and again. Steve worked with me and when he felt tired he took a break during which I continued to train staying on and training well into the night. After a time, Por Kru came from his room and said "Show me the demonstration". Steve and I did our thing. "Good" said Por Kru "Tomorrow training for demonstration".

I thanked him. I knew it would have been pointless pleading illness because I had missed an important day of training – after all you can’t call a war off for a day because you feel sick! The only way to prove you really wanted to be part of the team was through hard work.
Anyway I did give the demo and also spent five days as a member of the Thai Army. This to me sums up the nature of Por Kru, hard but infinitely fair. The only way you earned something was through sheer hard work and perseverance. Today, I am a 9th degree Gold Sash, the highest award you can receive from the Buddhai Swan.
All this has been possible because of my Father-Teacher, who called me his son and allowed me and granted permission for me to carry the name of Buddhai Swan. I will be forever grateful to Por Kru Samai Mashamana who on 28th August 1998 passed away and in his own inimitable manner donated his body to science.
This was the story of Por Kru Samai Mashamana, a unique man who has earned more than just a mention in the History of the Martial Arts.


Posted by Chalambok (aka – Ajarn Wilson):

Thanks a lot William. Ajarn Samai was like a father to all of his students. I have seen him sleeping in his recliner and wake up to correct Tony and I whenever we would do something wrong. He was a very spiritual man. And totally unpredictable. I was riding with he and the family toward Ayuthaya to buy some swords. Off in the distance was a large temple, with a parking lot full of cars. Curious, we found the entrance and pulled in. As we walked toward the door, I could hear chanting from the inside, 9 monks first and then the crowd. We took off our shoes, stepped across the threshhold and the first words I hear from the microphone are "and Mr Steve Wilson." Standing ovation. Well, not quite, but a resounding round of applause from all present. PaKroo and I were ushered to seats at the front, given heaping plates of food and tea to drink. He turned to me, patted my shoulder, and said "I love travelling with you Steep."