SABAI – Traditional scarf fighting

SABAI is a traditional weapon-based martial art, that uses soft items such as whips, ropes, fishing nets or scarfs as improvised weapons.

In ancient history it was a common custom to give young women away as concubines. Since they were not allowed to carry any weapons or flee in case of a raid, these women were usually condemned to become defenseless victims.

In order to protect them ancient Free-Warriors (Pahuyuth) secretly taught them how to fight with scarfs (SABAI) and thus gave birth to the most dangerous of all Pahuyuth disciplines.

The SABAI equalizes physical strength. This makes it an excellent choice for self-defense purposes against stronger attackers (e.g. women’s self defense).

SABAI is traditionally passed on in honor of the many nameless women who suffered violence and/or gave their lives throughout history.

You need a sword to kill a tiger …


SABAI is primarily a martial art by women for women. It is soft, supple and extremely deadly. It balances out differences in physical strength and is therefore an excellent choice for defense against stronger opponents.

Clothing, textiles and other soft objects are almost within reach. A scarf, a handbag loop, a jacket or a belt are rarely be identified as a weapon by most people. Ignorant attackers therefore usually notice it way too late that they are dealing with an armed person, that is capable of defending herself.

The eponymous SABAI is a scarf, a traditional costume worn by women in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and the coastal region of Sumatra. It derived from the Indian sari. However, this does not imply any affinity with Indian martial arts, because the concept of using flexible weapons was already known to the Gleeh-Warriors.

The term „Sbai“ comes from the Khmer language and describes any kind of thin, soft fabric. In the context of the Pahuyuth discipline of the same name, SABAI does not only mean shoulder scarf but all kinds of flexible weapons. Traditionally, this also includes ropes, whips and fishing nets for example.

The fighting style of SABAI is primarily defensive. Above all, evasion or diversion techniques are used. SABAI warriors rarely seek a direct confrontation. The aim of this rather defensive fighting style is the covert manipulation with the scarf, which often reveals its purpose only in the second or third movement. Aggressive attackers are lured into the trap and get more and more entangled, the more they fight back.

It is said: A SABAI warrioress is a victim who ambuscades her attacker.

The offensive fighting capabilities of the SABAI result from whip-like blows and the active use of pulley effects. Enemy body parts and weapons can be accelerated in any direction. In addition, there are binding and knotting techniques that can restrict the aggressor‘s ability to move or even bring him to a standstill. Knowledge of human anatomy and its limitations allows to fix limbs or damage joints with a short jerk. Scarf attacks that are directed against the neck vertebrae or respiratory organs are usually fatal.

An experienced SABAI warrior is never unarmed or defenseless. She knows how to defend herself with her own and improvised weapons against a single attacker as well as against a group of armed and unarmed opponents.

She masters fighting with flexible weapons in standing position and on the ground and can also use fist, foot, elbow and knee techniques. SABAI warriors are also often trained in LING LOM, which increases the dangerousness of their fighting style many times over.

Scarf Handling

Scarf fighting techniques

Pahuyuth compendium sabai techniques cloth scarf

SABAI Students of the basic level (green belt) learn 156 basic techniques.

Pahuyuth compendium techniques handbook square

The Pahuyuth Compendium contains the 156 school techniques of SABAI.

The Pahuyuth Compendium is the new technical handbook of the basic level.

It contains the basic techniques of MUAI, LING LOM, MEED, MAI SAWK, DAAB, GRABONG and SABAI.

SABAI – The secret martial art of the concubines

At about the same time as the official recognition of the Lauw Tai Mung area by the Chinese (around 2000 BC), the Thai adopted the Chinese custom of keeping concubines.

At first, these women served to preserve political peace in the upper social classes by sending them to foreign cities or kingdoms as a pledge or proof of loyalty. These women were integrated at court as respected concubines.

Since they were forbidden to carry weapons and were not allowed to flee in case of an attack (an unauthorized escape would have brought shame on the family and would have resulted in the execution of up to seven relatives), they were almost always condemned to end up as defenceless victims.

Legend has it that the women of the Glie tribes (early Thai) came up with the idea of teaching young women how to fight with simple clothes and scarves. It is also known that concubines secretly trained this art in the royal palace and passed it on in their circles under the greatest secrecy.

Until the epoch of Nanjauw (ca. 600 A.D.) SABAI was almost unknown. Only through Kru Maeh Boua (teacher mother-water rose), the daughter of Kru Kun Plai, the knowledge about this kind of fighting could be gathered, restructured and led back to Pahuyuth.

Since then SABAI has been regarded as the most dangerous Pahuyuth discipline, especially when used in conjunction with LING LOM.

Pahuyuth sabei sabai tuch scarf shermag cloth martial arts-kampfkunst-frauen-women selbstverteidigung self defense berlin warrioress

SABEI – Effective self-protection and self-assertion for girls and women since 2000 B.C..

SABAI – a martial art by women for women

As with all Pahuyuth disciplines, most means and methods of SABAI go far beyond the legally permissible level of legal self-defense.

Nevertheless, training in Pahuyuth cloth fighting can provide the basis for healthy self-assertion and competent self-defense for girls and women. An experienced cloth fighter is never helpless and can easily defend herself against larger and even armed attackers.

SABEI for men

Of course men may also learn SABAI. This, however, only under certain conditions. For example, it is common for male participants to have to acquire fictitious female names under which they are known during the cloth training. Under certain circumstances, for example, the wearing of lipstick can be made a condition for male participants.

This tradition may sound funny to outsiders. But anyone who respects women so little and takes his male ego so seriously that he would would deny this practice has no place in a women’s martial art like SABAI. Didactic measures like these help to prevent dangerous fighting knowledge from falling into the wrong hands.

Pahuyuth sabai training

Showing the ropes – equality is a matter of course at the Pahuyuth School.


You are interested in scarf fighting and want to learn SABAI at the Pahuyuth School in Berlin?

Pahuyuth has a traditional training and teaching concept with belt steps. The aim of our teaching method is to provide a well-founded and safe martial arts education in the physical as well as the mental sense. At the same time we want to prevent that dangerous knowledge gets into the wrong hands and can cause damage.

The entrance requirement for the discipline SABAI is the Pahuyuth student status (green belt), which requires passing the entrance examination.

Admission to the entrance examination again requires a participation in the trial student course.

Interested? Then visit our trial training page!

…but only a rope to catch him.