DAB KAM FAH | Janine Yasovant | Scene4 Magazine | August 2020 | www.scene4.com

Dab Kam Fah
The Swords of the Sky
 Interview with Karl Singha Surasak

Janine Yasovant


Martial Arts in Thailand thrives: boxing, fighting maneuvers with swords, wooden weapons known as swords and fighting equipment from ancient times. There are many dedicated groups throughout the country that pursue these activities. They demonstrate that the martial arts in Thailand is a good medium for creating unity in the nation. And luckily, modern technology can be used to increase skills when it is performed on stage, in drama or in a movie that is about Thai national history. In addition to the annual performances that are performed in various provinces in beautiful and famous temples, sword-making ceremonies are regularly performed to let people know that they still exist.


This also includes dressing according to customs and working with teachers to honor and reward the subjects learned by those teachers. The activities are an expression of respect for teachers, seniors, and all other participants.

The people who love to practice fencing have the opportunity to participate in movie production as an opportunity to express and propagate culture. It is an activity that brings people who love the same arts to meet and talk to create mutual understanding, to be easier together in a difficult world, and to receive complete compensation when becoming a stage performer

Karl Singha Surasak is an engineer who works at the government pharmaceutical organization in Bangkok, Thailand. He is  a member of "Dab Kam Fah", which is a Bangkok interest group dedicated to learning Lanna sword fighting. He came to Chiang Mai to give an interview about the activities of the group,.where I had the opportunity to interview him.

JY. Please tell me about the history of the sword school.

KS. The Dap Kam Fah "Sword of the Sky" was founded by Ajarn Nutputpong Kanthasen It is a sword course that incorporates the Dab Chao Ram "Sword of Chao Ram" and "Athamas sword".


We applied and adapted the Lanna ancient sword course to the new format under the name "Sword of the Sky", Dab Kam Fah in Lanna Thai language. At present, we have no school, it's just an group for those who are interested in sword fighting, under the training of teacher, Ajarn Nat Nutputpong Kanthasen. If we want to learn how to fight, it is not easy to find a school.

The current style of Lanna sword technique is mainly focused on battle tactics, Nowadays they mix it with beautiful dances which is very different from the past.


Regarding sword dance training, I had a chance to talk with granddad Amorn Pongsuwan, he said that there are three forms of sword dance:

    Dance to Buddha. It emphasizes beauty and delicacy. (Current format) The sword dance comes from the poem Rai that was memorized from the past. People who came to practice could recite all the poem as well

    Mae Tha Dance is the dance of many sword fighting schools. Mae Tha dance brings many patterns of dancing, for the example: Bid Boa Ban (Lotus flower twisting ), Pla Liad Had ( Fish come along the river ), Si Khlai, bring the swords to rub the skin without injury, Kaew Klao the pattern of dancing to protect the head with two hands that hold the swords.

    Mae Pood dance is a fighting dance for both sides. The pattern of swords dancing will not be very beautiful. The dance of Mae Pood is the most important thing in my view.

When I saw Ajarn Nutputpong Kanthasen perform the dance, I became entranced and finally became his student.

JY.  Please tell me about yourself.

KS. I graduated with a bachelor's degree from the Mechanical Engineering from King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Ladkrabang. Currently, I am an engineer in the design department of the  Government Pharmaceutical Organization in Bangkok Thailand.

For martial arts, I usually practice after work hours  and during holidays.

Many activities I am interested in: I was quite proud of my ethnic group. Lanna Thai. The former Kingdom of Lanna was located in what is now the area of eight northern provinces of Thailand: Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Lampang, Lampoon, Mae Hong Sorn, Nan, Payao, and Prae. Each town or Meuang used to be called by another name before being incorporated into the Kingdom of Thailand in the early part of the 20th Century.


Lanna has unique art, culture, and language, much different from that of the Siamese of Central Thailand. Lanna once had close relationships with the Tais in Chiang Rung (the Tai Lue of Sipsongpanna Prefecture in Yunnan, China), Chiang Tung (the Tai Kheun of Chiang Tung, Shan State, Burma), as well as Lan Xang (Chang in Thai), which is now in the Lao P.D.R. Lanna's language is called "Kam-Muang."

JY. What inspiration made you choose to practice this art form?

KS. Inspiration? Maybe because during my childhood. I saw a picture of my great-grandfather showing the sword dance. I was inspired by the Lanna men of the past and the sword from my great-grandfather. They absorbed the culture of the Lanna tattoos of the past with the belief that tattooing a leg is a testament to patience and masculinity. Tattooing on the legs can cause quite a lot of pain. Part of the principle of tattooing a man's leg is a reminder of the pain of a woman who gives birth to a child, pain that men never felt before.


Tattoos have a belief in the perceived pain of a woman aside from being a test of patience for men.

Nowadays, access to ancient fighting techniques is quite easy. This is different from the period in which I was studying. Due to the advent of social media, finding a place to teach or a teacher is much easier than before.


JY. Tell us about your perspective

KS. If looking from my point of view, how do we try to preserve the swords dances? If it is a traditional martial art, if it is still following the same old pattern it may not be able to catch the era. For the present, sports science comes into play a lot. In these sciences, the development and conservation path should be done concurrently. If you ask, could it be used to make money and create jobs? As you can see, many people came from swords dance schools. Many of these subjects come to make a living, even myself. I have had a little extra income from teaching actors in the movie industry.

Lastly, if you ask what do you get from what you currently do? I would like to answer that it responds to the spirit within oneself. We may ask ourselves every morning when we wake up: What do our souls recall to us? The answers are within.

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Scene4 Magazine: Janine Yasovant

Janine Yasovant is a writer and art collector in Chiang Mai, Thailand and a Senior Writer for Scene4. For more of her commentary and articles, check the Archives.

©2020 Janine Yasovant
©2020 Publication Scene4 Magazine




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