Buddhai Swan Institute
The Story So Far.
by Arjarn Tony Moore
It has been very reassuring to know that since the recent articles appeared in a UK martial arts magazine, many people have become interested in knowing about my school the Buddhai Swan Sword Fighting Institute of Ayuddhaya.
It has been one year since the beginning of the school’s troubles and as stated in other articles, I do not wish to go in to the problems at the school, as this is a family affair. The only important thing now is the future of the Buddhai Swan Institute.
At the date of writing the news is that the school has a 70% chance of surviving at its present location. The present site of the school itself is deemed very important to all the students, as just inside the main gates there stands a very old monkey-puzzle tree. It was sitting under this tree that Por Kru Samai Messamarn had his vision of the rebirth of the Buddhai Swan Institute.
Fashioning weapons from rattan found around the immediate area he began to revive the ancient art of Krabi Krabong. People passing the area would ask what Por Kru was doing. He told the people of his vision and very soon people were coming to study.
As the numbers of students increased a school was built on the site and It was not long before Por Kru was teaching the elite forces of the Thai Army, just as the original school in Si Ayuddhaya had once done. The original school was situated at Wat Phutthai Sawan and is believed to have been the birthplace of the art of Krabi Krabong and Muay Thai.
The name of Buddhai Swan is synonymous with the art of Krabi Krabong and the history of the school is extremely fascinating, but would take a full volume to relate.
At present in Thailand there is great interest in the traditional styles of fighting, even at Lumpini Stadium, which is famed for professional Muay Thai, there are now regular exhibitions of Muay Kaacheurk (Muay Boran). The biggest promoters in Thailand, Songchai Promotions, are thinking of organising a Muay Kaacheurk competition fighting under the old rules with bound fists.
Krabi Krabong is also enjoying an upsurge in interest. I would like to believe that as interest in the more traditional Thai Martial Arts has grown outside of Thailand this has influenced a huge revival of interest in the Thai martial arts heritage within the kingdom.
On 5th May 2004 I made my annual pilgrimage to Buddhai Swan to perform Wai Kru (paying respect to teacher ceremony) in honour of my late teacher Por Kru Samai. During the journey to Thailand I was very apprehensive about how this year’s celebrations would be – was everything going to be OK or could this be the end of 600 years of history?
The day was fantastic. With exhibitions from Buddhai Swan’s top students and everybody in a very positive and optimistic mood, the event was an amazing success. Many people from all walks of life had come to make donations to help preserve the school.
A special thank you must go to Panthainorasingh Camp in Liverpool who raised almost seven hundred pounds to help support the school. My own school, Sitsiam Camp made a donation of an undisclosed sum as all the students had made donations in sealed envelopes.
It’s good to see schools outside of Thailand, who make a living from the Thai Martial Arts, giving something back to the art and showing their support in keeping this dying heritage alive.
Presentations of elaborate commemorative daab (swords) were given to each of the sponsors by the Major General of the Chonburi Artillery Battalion of the Royal Thai Army. Many high-ranking officers from Chonburi who train in Krabi Krabong under the auspices of Por Kru’s son Arjarn Werayut, head teacher at Buddhai Swan also came to pay their respects to Por Kru Samai. It was a great honour therefore when the Major General invited me to come to Chonburi to teach Krabi Krabong to the Thai army on my next visit to Thailand.
Accompanying me on this trip were three of my students from the Buddhai Swan Institute UK, Ian Bolton, Tony Jones and Joel Yarwood who’d come to Thailand to train in Krabi Krabong and Muay Thai and who thought that on May 5th they’d see displays and demonstrations by the best of the best at Buddhai Swan. On arriving for training at Buddhai Swan on the first day of the trip, they found that they themselves would be giving an exhibition and that they had to start practicing the highly complex movements and techniques of four-man fighting, culminating in a demonstration on Por Kru’s birthday.
So pleased was Arjarn Sira Messamarn with the demonstration that he awarded Ian Bolton and Tony Jones basic instructor grade in the art of Krabi Krabong.After the Wai Kru ceremony and weapons displays everybody was invited to Por Kru’s birthday party giving people time to talk about the future of the school and how we could all help to promote and preserve Buddhai Swan and the martial arts of Thailand. Arjarn Aart, one of the head instructors at the Buddhai Swan is already teaching at Petchburi University.
In the future he wants to open a school in Petchburi Province, a popular tourist spot. Arjarn Aart's idea being to build an old-style Thai fortress, which will house a school for the Thai martial arts. This will also be open to the many tourists who visit Petchburi to see the Royal Palace and the many Temples in the province. On weekdays tourists can come along to watch the training and at weekends there will be special displays and exhibitions of Krabi Krabong and Muay Kaacheurk performed by the students of the school.
Kru Pedro Villalobos was also present at the celebrations. Kru Pedro runs a successful Muay Thai camp in Chiang Mai but also teaches Krabi Krabong and Muay Boran. Kru Pedro asked myself to build an Internet site promoting the ancient martial arts of Thailand. This would open doors for the many interested foreign students to find out more about these elusive subjects.
Kru Orr, the youngest of Por Kru’s daughters has asked and been granted special permission from the monks to teach at the orphanage in the grounds of the original Wat Phutthai Sawan in Si Ayuddhaya. The rebirth of the school on the original site, watched over by the monument of the three great Kings, U-Thong, Naresuan and Taksin, continues the illustrious 600-year history of this unique warrior institute.
Later during the trip, my students and myself accompanied by students from Buddhai Swan visited Wat Phutthai Sawan and the many monuments around the ancient capital, Si Ayuddhaya. We received hands-on history lessons about the background of the school and the great heroes who fought to save Si Ayuddhaya during the conflicts with Burma and Cambodia.
It was on the second day of the Si Ayuddhaya leg of our journey that I was extremely honoured to be asked to perform at a local Thai cultural festival, which featured demonstrations of Krabi Krabong and Muay Boran, by students of the town’s University. One of my teachers, Kru Lang invited me to participate on the show.
Kru Lang is renowned throughout Thailand for his performances of the Wai Kru/Ram Muay (Ritual Dance) and has won many awards and commendations for his elaborate displays.
I arrived at the festival site in the grounds of Wat Bhopitr. For me personally, to perform the Ram Daab (Sword Dance) whilst my teacher, Kru Lang, a renowned master of the art of dancing, simultaneously performed the Ram Muay (Boxers dance), in the old city of Si Ayuddhaya, the birthplace of Krabi Krabong and Muay Thai, was a truly unforgettable experience and a memory I will cherish for the rest of my life.
Today with the increased interest in Muay Kaacheurk and Krabi Krabong, it seems likely that Buddhai Swan will see a new chapter in its long and illustrious history but, even though we have a 70% chance of saving the school, nothing in life is ever certain except death itself!