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Krabi Krabong
Krabi Krabong practitioners in Thailand.jpg
Krabi-krabong practitioners in Thailand
Focus Weaponry
Country of origin Thailand Thailand
Olympic sport No
Meaning Sword-staff

Krabi-krabong (Thai: กระบี่กระบอง, Thai pronunciation: [krabìː krabɔ̄ːŋ]) is a weapon-based martial art from Thailand.

The system's name refers to its main weapons, namely the curved sword (krabi) and staff (krabong). Typically, two swords are wielded as a pair. Unarmed krabi-krabong makes use of kicks, pressure point strikes, joint locks, holds, and throws.

The weapons of krabi-krabong include the following:

  • กระบี่ Krabi: sabre/single-edge sword
  • กระบอง Krabong: staff/pole
  • ดาบสองมือ Daab song mue: double swords, one in each hand
  • โล่ Lo: shield/buckler made from wood or buffalo hide
  • พลอง Phlong: stick/ cudgel, usually either paired or used with a shield
  • ง้าว Ngao or Ngau: bladed staff
  • ไม้ศอก Mai sok san: a pair of clubs worn on the forearms


Krabi-krabong was developed by the ancient Siamese warriors for fighting on the battlefield. It have been used in conjunction with Siamese unarmed combat or muay boran .

Elephants were an integral part of warfare in Siam. They would commonly be mounted by higher-ranking warriors like generals or royalty. The legs were the war-elephant's weak spot, so they had to be guarded by up to four foot soldiers.

In Thailand, monks acted as teachers to their local community. Young boys would be sent to the temples where, aside from learning about Buddhism, they would be taught subjects ranging from languages to astrology. One such establishment was the Buddhaisawan Temple in Ayutthaya where the monks taught sword-fighting to their students. The origin of these monks is unknown but they are believed to have come from the kingdom of Lanna in northern Thailand. The modern Buddhai Swan Sword Fighting Institute was led by Sumai Mesamana until his death in 1998. His son Pramote Mesamana began training in krabi-krabong at the age of 6. According to the younger Mesamana, the art was passed down in his family from father to son ever since the Ayutthayan era. Today he runs the Buddhai Sawan Krabi Krabong Association in Lad Prao. Some of the premiere foreign students and teachers of krabi krabong who have researched and trained throughout Thailand are Tony Moore(UK), Vincent Giordano(NYC) and Pedro Villalobos(Spain/Thailand).

Historical practitioners[edit]

Naresuan the Great[edit]

During the 16th century, the Burmese ruled over parts of Siam. Naresuan was born to King Maha Dharmaraja but until the age of 16 he was a hostage of the Burmese. Upon his return to Ayutthaya, he renounced allegiance to Burma on behalf of his father the king. Having studied at Wat Buddhaisawan, Naresuan was well-versed in fighting with the single-edge sword (krabi). The Burmese attacked the capital numerous times in succession but were always repelled by Naresuan's forces. In a final attempt to retake their Thai states, the Burmese sent an army of 25,000 warriors led by the crown prince of Burma atop a war-elephant.

Knowing he was outnumbered, Naresuan charged his own elephant through the Burmese soldiers and fought directly with the prince. Using a halberd (ngao) Naresuan cleaved the crown prince in two, from the shoulder to the hip. With their monarch now dead, the Burmese fled the battlefield and wouldn't become a serious threat to Thai sovereignty for more than a century. Naresuan ascended the throne in 1590 and under his rule Siam encompassed the Shan states of Burma, and part of Cambodia.

King Taksin[edit]

Ayutthaya became progressively weaker during the 18th century. The Thais and Burmese had been almost constantly fighting each other along the border territories since the time of King Naresuan the Great. In 1758 the Burmese began a siege which lasted nine years. Buildings, palaces and temples were laid to ruins while documents, archives and records were all destroyed. Royal treasures were stolen and all but 10,000 of the city's one million inhabitants were sold into slavery.

Taksin learned krabi-krabong while studying in Wat Buddhaisawan as a boy. But more than his martial expertise, it was Taksin's skill as a military strategist that allowed him to quickly attain the rank of general. Before the capture of Ayutthaya, the young general Taksin fled with 500 followers to Rayong. He reorganised his forces and began attacking the Burmese invaders in small bands, destroying their supply routes. Word spread and within a few months Taksin rallied the Thai people to battle once again. Despite being only half the size of the Burmese army, Taksin's troops managed to drive out the conquerors and restored Siam to nearly its former size. With the previous king Ekatat now dead, Taksin was convinced that he was Buddha's reincarnation and proclaimed himself king in 1767. Seven years later, he decided to give up his role as military commander and instead sent out generals to campaign in his stead.

Among all the warriors under Taksin's command, the greatest fighter was Phraya Pichai Daab Hak, a nickname meaning "broken sword". Phraya Pichai was an expert with the dual swords (daab song mue) and acquired his moniker during a battle in which he continued fighting after one of his swords was broken. Another notable general was Chao Phraya Chakri. Though not as skilled a martial artist as Phraya Pichai, Chakri was as brilliant a commander as Taksin. Under his leadership, Siam captured the Lao kingdoms of Vientiane, Luang Prabang, and Chiangmai.

Taksin ruled from 1767–1782, but near the end of his reign he became increasingly dictatorial. He was said to have frequently flogged Buddhists monks and executed some of his concubines on false charges. A revolt broke out in the capital of Thonburi and it was agreed by both the army and the nobility that Chakri should take Taksin's place as king. The current royal family of Thailand is descended from King Chakri, also called Rama I. Taksin himself was put to death but not in a conventional beheading. Instead, Taksin was wrapped in a velvet bag and beaten to death by his ministers with clubs. This method of execution was instituted to avoid spilling royal blood, and Taksin is the only known Thai king to have been killed in such a way.

See also[edit]


  • Tony Moore (2004). Muay Thai: The Essential Guide. New Holland Publishing. 
  • Donn F. Draeger and Robert W. Smith (1981). Comprehensive Asian Fighting Arts. Kodansha International. 

External links[edit]