Phraya Phichai is a Muay Thai legend. This Thai figure was a warrior of the Siam army who battled against the Burmese using Muay Boran. This figure has statues dedicated to his story in his honor.
In the turbulent era of the 1700s, when Siam (Thailand) and Burma were constantly at war, a legendary hero would emerge: Phraya Phichai. He would etch his name into the story of Thailand. This warrior changed the course of Thai history through the use of Muay Boran, the ancient form of Muay Thai.
During this time, Siam found itself under the oppressive rule of neighboring Burma. This was following the fall of Ayutthaya in 1767. During this time, the Burmese force shifted its attention towards repelling Qing Dynasty China’s invasion. Burma was forced to move the bulk of its army to the east, pulling away from the Siam region. Phraya Phichai seized the opportunity to lead a daring rebellion.
During the battle he helped orchestrate, fate dealt Phraya Phichai a cruel blow. His daab song mue, a two-handed sword, shattered during the fight. He was unarmed in battle. The only tools he had left were his fists and legs. He used his knowledge of Muay Boran to continue attacking the Burmese forces. With precision strikes, devastating elbows, and bone-crushing knee strikes, Phraya Phichai carved a path to victory. Thus, he earned his nickname: ‘The Broken Sword’ or ‘Dap Hak’
This victory paved the way for Thailand to regain its sovereignty. It could not have happened without Phraya Phichai’s deadly knowledge of Muay Boran. For his efforts in this battle, he was promoted to a king’s guard position, a very prestigious title.
In the book “Muay Thai: The Most Distinguished Art of Fighting” Panya Kraitus wrote:
“He was the commander in chief of the army who led the common people in bravely resisting the enemy without giving thought to the possibility of his own death. For the love of his country, he pushed fiercely forward in battle until his sword broke. Throwing it down he continued the fight with his fists, knees, and elbows. Because of his knowledge of Thai boxing, he came out of the battle alive and victorious.”
With statues in his honor all across Thailand, Phraya Phichai The Broken Sword is a Muay Thai legend and national hero.
To understand Phraya Phichai The Broken Sword, one must understand Muay Boran. Today, Muay Thai is a regulated sport with rules, rings, and gloves. But it was not always this way. In ancient times, Muay Thai was a combat sport focused on deadly attacks used on the battlefield.
Before the era Muay Thai was legitimatized as a sport, the 1930s, anything before that was known as Muay Boran. This martial art was taught to the Siam military for unarmed combat, with some martial forms focusing on armed combat.
In Muay Thai history, several primary Muay Boran styles emerged, each carrying its unique techniques and heritage. These included Muay Lopburi, Muay Korat, Muay Chaiya, the weapon system known as Krabi Krabong, and the royal guard system Muay Luang. Most of these earn their name from the region they emerged. Each one has a unique style focusing on different techniques.
King Naresuan, a monarch, introduced Muay Thai to the Siamese military in 1560, marking a significant milestone in Muay Thai history. From then on, all military personnel in Thailand would be taught Muay Boran, even to this day.
Muay Boran is similar and dissimilar in many ways to modern Muay Thai. It was more focused on deadly techniques and incapacitating enemies. It was also used outside of the military as a sport. The sport style was often bare-knuckle or with hemp rope for knuckle protection, it could even include submissions in some forms. It was often fought during festivals at Buddhist temples. But, primarily, it was a form of combat used by the national military.
Phraya Phichai The Broken Sword stands as a huge figure, a true Muay Thai legend and national hero. His dedication to his country, coupled with his mastery of Muay Boran, the precursor to modern Muay Thai, reshaped the course of Thai history. His triumph not only earned him the name ‘The Broken Sword’ but also paved the way for Thailand to regain its sovereignty.
With statues commemorating his heroism adorning the Thai nation, Phraya Phichai’s legacy remains a testament to the power of Muay Boran and the Art of Eight Limbs. While today’s Muay Thai may be a regulated sport, Muay Boran harks back to a time when martial arts were utilized on the battlefield. Phraya Phichai’s legacy, and the story of Muay Boran, serve as a testament to the power of martial arts.