Loi Krathong Demos (1980s)
On this page we share some demonstrations that were shown as part of a Loy Krathong festival during the 1980s in the Netherlands.
Background: At that time, martial arts, combat sports and self-defense from Thailand and Southeast Asia were still unknown in the West. Demonstrations like these served to shape an awareness of Thai martial arts in general. They promoted tourism in Thailand and served to promote culture and the economy. Until the nineties, the Muai-Thai Studio participated in such infrastructural measures from time to time and thus paved the way for countless Muay Thai trainers, coaches, clubs and associations in Germany, the Netherlands and Europe.
Excursus: What is Loy Krathong?
Loi Krathong (also: Loy Krathong, Thai ลอยกระทง) is a Thai festival celebrated annually throughout the Kingdom of Thailand and nearby countries. Usually this happens in November, more precisely on the full moon night of the 12th month of the traditional Thai lunar calendar.
DAAB Sword Dance
The traditional sword dances (Ram Daab) originally come from ancient Free-Warrior rituals that were used to prepare for war and are closely connected to the Saiyasart. Already with the Gleeh-Warriors, such magical rituals served to say farewell to worldly life or to call ancestors and spirits for magical aid.
Later, among other things, they also became dances that told stories, transmitted secret messages, served to honor personalities (see The Curse of King Naresuan) or were even used in executions (see Phi Hua Khat).
It was only in modern times that the ritual fighting dances, which are known for example from Muay Thai (see Ram Muay), the folkloric sword dance forms of Krabi Krabong or the northern Thai folk dances of Fon Jerng Dab (ฟ้อนเจิงดาบ) from the Lanna area developed through detours and splits.
The sword dance (Ram Dab) shown in this video is something special. On the one hand because it is one of the first ever recorded sword dance performances outside Thailand and on the other hand because it shows the original form of what was passed on by Krabi Krabong practitioners, for example, only in a greatly shortened or imitated version.
In this video, the experienced observer is able to identify the individual sword fighting techniques that underlie this dance and possibly recognize a secret message in the movements.
GRABONG Staff Dance
The ritual staff dances of the Free-Warrios (Ram Grabong) are based on the same principles as the sword dances. They also originally served to prepare for war through magical rituals and reveal the respective fighters mastery of the individual staff fighting techniques.
Quarterstaff fighting in the sense of GRABONG requires a pure harmony of movement between body and long staff, which must not hinder each other during the fight. This requires different handling and turning techniques from and to each body position.
They clearly differ from artistically influenced staff turning techniques (juggling, spinning, fire stick, etc.). It is said that the art of expertly guiding a GRABONG is to move a bulky object such as a long stick so skilfully that it appears soft as a rope and thus effortlessly overcomes the opponent’s defense.
The staff dance shown in this video was also passed on by Krabi Krabong practitioners only in a shortened or imitated version. Unlike the folkloric staff dances of the Thai or other show-fight-oriented performances (e.g. from Kung Fu), the original staff dances (Ram Grabong) do not use a light show staff made of bamboo, rattan or aluminum, but heavy war staves.
To use such a long staff without endangering oneself and others requires a particularly high degree of skill.
DAAB Sword Fighting Demonstration
As you can see, they mastered the sword handling, their Wai Kru and their Ram Daab. If you take a closer look, you can also see that they were trained to hit and harm their opponent instead of cutting thin air or just hitting the blades against each other (see Show Fighting or Krabi Krabong).
DAAB students first learn to fight with only one sword (1:1). Later, a second sword is added (see Daab Song Mue). However, the highest form of traditional sword fighting is the one-handed sword form (see DAAB NARESUAN), in which only one sword is used to fight with (1:1 and 1:2).
Originally, it was planned to use steel swords at this demonstration, but the Dutch authorities did not give permission for this, so wooden training swords had to be used.
MUAY / MUAI Demonstration
In this video, students of Master Toddy’s Muay Thai Academy demonstrate their Muay Thai alongside with our Muai students from Berlin. All these students were among the very first non-Thai fighters ever and therefore deserve a special place in the history of both types of combat.
The reason for this friendly joint venture was to show the Western audience not only the existence of “fighting from Thailand” in general, but also the differences between modern combat sports (Muay Thai) and traditional martial arts (Muai).
These are not only reflected in the type of protective equipment used (boxing gloves or bandages, see Bare-Knuckle) and clothing (Muay Thai boxing pants or traditional three-quarter trousers), but also in ritual features, such as the Mongkon and the Wai Kru as well as the differences in the technical spectrum that arises from the respective objective of combat sports or martial arts.
Equally recognizable is the difference between the two types of combat and Muay Boran, which was invented about a decade after this demonstration.
LING LOM Demonstration
Only a handful of people have learned this martial art so far, which certainly has to do with the enormous physical and psychological demands of this type of combat.
Ling Lom involves a very large proportion of ground combat, which is never trained and carried out on mats or tatamis, but always on hard ground. Thanks to the sophisticated falling and rolling techniques of Pahuyuth, this works smoothly and injury-free on asphalt, concrete or (as in this video) a stage floor.
The grappling techniques (see grip techniques or grappling techniques) of the LING LOM are another distinguishing feature to fighting types such as Muay Thai but also MMA. They are based on the knowledge of Sart Bambatgay about the anatomical structure and the limits of muscles, bones and joints. From the reversal of healing massage techniques arose the grip techniques of Ling Lom. Connoisseurs of traditional Thai massage will surely be able to discover some parallels in this video.
Originally, it was planned to give a deeper insight into the Ling Lom at this occasion, but the organizer asked for a reduced version that would focus more on Muai, as it was presented in the beginning at fairs and events and eventually led to the invention of Muay Thai or Muay Veti.
Looking back, one could say that this contemporary document shows how the transition through technical reduction from Ling Lom to Dtie Muai and finally to Muay Thai took place a few hundred years ago.
The freely improvised sword fighting part with steel swords (!) at the end of the video was spontaneously added and brought us some trouble with the Dutch authorities.