Monday, December 31, 2007

REVIEW: Krabi Krabong: The Buddhai Sawan Path Deluxe 2 DVD set

"The sword was the principle weapon during the turbulent history of Siam but the art of fighting was taken a step further in skill by warriors who fought with blades in both hands."

- Por Kru Samai Mesamarn


Product Description

Krabi Krabong: The Buddhai Sawan Path is the first groundbreaking series to accurately document the ancient system of Thai weaponry. The art of Krabi Krabong as it was taught at the original Buddhai Sawan was a highly refined fighting system whose effectiveness was linked to an individual warrior's agility, strength and speed of attack. A thorough knowledge of body mechanics enabled those skilled in its use to engage in combat with a wide variety of weapons, delivering devastating blows with an elegant simplicity of movement.

Krabi Krabong translates into the study of the short and long traditional Thai weapons and mastery of the art was the product of a strict program of weapons training and discipline taught for more than 425 years to the most promising young Thai military men and nobles by the monks and teachers of the original Wat Phuttisawan school in Ayutthaya.

This unique two disc DVD set shot entirely on location in Thailand from 1993 through 1998 focuses on the life and work of the late Por Kru Samai Mesamarn and the unique system he crafted to survive the ancient Thai fighting traditions.

Disc 1 - Thai Warrior Heritage

A powerful and moving look at the life of the late Por Kru Samai Mesamarn (1914-1998) and his attempts to keep the art of Krabi Krabong alive. This detailed documentary uses archived photos and footage shot throughout his life to give a rare glimpse into how the training was developed and done on a daily basis.

Running time: 67 minutes plus Bonus Footage


Disc 2 - The Primary Weapons

This DVD focuses on the use of the primary weapons: the single sword, double sword and staff with direct instruction from the late Por Kru Samai Mesamarn on how to properly develop these devastating weapons. Though based on only a few tenets - such as power, speed and simplicity - the art utilizes these techniques in combinations and variations of which there are endless permutations. The goal being the immediate response to an attack with quick, decisive strikes to incapacitate with sudden and unexpected force.

Running time: 85 minutes plus Bonus Footage

Reviewed by my friend Hugo:

There are two comprehensive disks in this incredible documentary, so I will review each one separately.

"Disk 1 - Thai Warrior Heritage," pays tribute to renowned weapons instructor Por Kru and a system of combat "born from the ashes of warfare". Background information is given on the environment the arts were developed in. Prominent historical figures like King U Thong and Phraya Pichai are covered, as well places and events, like Wat Pu Thai Sawan, the royal swordsmanship school that inspired the Buddhai Sawan.

One of the most interesting segments shows children learning basic Muay Boran training sets. Muay Boran, the bare-knuckle predecessor to Muay Thai, gives students a solid foundation "that integrates seamlessly into weapons work". The training sets are an efficient way to learn basic punches, kicks, knees and elbows. These techniques are eventually practiced in set sparring, and later in a light, strategic, freestyle manner. The ancient method of hand wrapping with ropes, inherited from the Muay Korat system of bare-knuckle boxing, is also shown.

Children practice Wei Kru, a dance-like set of movements that is part warm-up and part meditation, similar to what is seen before a Muay Thai match. The students' level of technique is impressive to say the least.

There are brief but captivating demonstrations of other forms of Krabi Krabong, like Lana, which is found in Northern Thailand, and the Muslim arts of the south. There are also a few examples of weapon arts from Burma, Cambodia, and Laos.

Three categories of weapons are covered (attack, protective, and projectile), as well as two single sword types, the staff, the shield, and other weapons. The names and numbering system behind the Standard Eight Drill are also introduced. Students practice two man drills and are taught the principles behind each weapon. First they learn how to battle against matched weapons and then move on unmatched weapons.

The disk is packed with ceremonial coverage, demonstration clips, and training footage. There is nothing on the market that covers the history and background of Krabi Krabong as well as "Disk 1 - Thai Warrior Heritage" does. This is essential information for anyone interested in Thai martial arts and traditional weapons in general.

"Disk 2 - The Primary Weapons", is an instructional that covers the basics of Por Kru's teaching methods. The Primary Weapons consist of the Daab Son Mue, or double swords, the Daab, or single sword, and the Krabong, or staff. The Standard Eight targets and the four series of cuts are drilled for each of the weapons. Nothing is added to the original teachings; they are presented in the order Por Kru taught them.

Although Disk 2 has very little narration, Vincent Giordano's experience as a cinematographer shines through. Footwork, body alignment, proper stance structure, and weight distribution are all clearly filmed under the watchful eye of Por Kru. Virtually every relevant angle is shown - no words necessary, although students do call out the names of the Standard Eight targets.

Anyone interested in traditional weaponry can benefit from this video. There is a strong emphasis on the basics. Students practice techniques in a slow, controlled manner, which makes it easy for viewers to grasp of the principals behind Krabi Krabong. Although the movements can be done solo, it is best to work in tandem with a partner.

The order in which the weapons and drills are taught show common threads that flow from one weapon to another. Por Kru was one of the first graduates of Thailand's physical education program; his ability to integrate new ways of teaching the ancient warrior arts was a stroke of genius. Disk 2 gives a taste of what it was like to train under such an accomplished master.

"Krabi Krabong: The Buddhai Sawan Path" contains is a true treasure for both academics and martial artists. Those familiar with Vincent Giordano's work, which documents the traditional arts of Southeast Asia, will appreciate the wealth of information contained in this set. Vincent also has an informative newsletter called The Vanishing Flame, as well as other DVDs that cover various arts.

Ordering Info



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