Southeast Asian Martial Arts History

Martial Arts Books by Antonio Graceffo Bring the Martial History of Cambodia and Other Countries Into Focus

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, longtime martial artist and New York native Antonio Graceffo quit his job as a banker and traveled to Asia to pursue his dream of studying kung fu at China’s legendary Shaolin Temple. That was the start of a much larger adventure — one that would take him on a journey throughout Asia to learn from that region’s greatest masters in a wide variety of martial arts styles.

The result of Antonio Graceffo’s journey has been an ongoing series of online videos documenting his travels and martial arts training — many of which have been featured here at BlackBeltMag.com — and a series of books, including his two latest: Warrior Odyssey: The Travels of a Martial Artist Through Asia and a history of Cambodia: Khun Khmer: Cambodian Martial Art Diary.

In this exclusive video regarding those two martial arts books — both of which explore the martial history of Cambodia and other countries such as Thailand, the Philippines and Laos — Antonio Graceffo talks about his world travels and what he goes through to bring readers and viewers his up-close-and-personal perspective.

MARTIAL ARTS BOOKS VIDEO
Author Antonio Graceffo on Exploring the History of Cambodia and Other Southeast Asian Countries



Travel back in time for Black Belt’s first in-depth look at the
Indonesian martial arts with this FREE download!
Pencak Silat: Techniques and History of the Indonesian Martial Arts


The (Shady?) Martial History of Cambodia

In the second most recent of his martial arts books, Warrior Odyssey: The Travels of a Martial Artist Through Asia, Antonio Graceffo writes:

The deeper I got into the world of professional kickboxing in Cambodia, the more it made professional wrestling back in the States look honest. In fact, Don King had nothing on the slave contracts and shenanigans going on in Phnom Penh’s fight community.

In Cambodia, boxers turn pro at about 14 years old. In the provinces, they can start fighting as early as 7 or 8 years old. In Cambodia, age is arbitrary because of unsubstantiated birth and death records. Even the youngsters get paid for their fights, but they are called amateurs, which means they fight under slightly different rules.

Youngsters fight four rounds that last two minutes each with two minutes rest in between. Adults fight fives rounds that last three minutes each with two minutes rest in between. All fights are scored by five judges. The judges look at such aspects of the fight as dominance and the damage done by effective striking. Knee strikes, elbow strikes, kicks and punches are allowed. Head-butting used to be allowed but is no longer used.

In the old days, fighters fought with their hands wrapped in gauze, and matches also went on as long as they had to, until one fighter could no longer stand. These matches often resulted in death. During the colonial days, the French introduced the Khmer to boxing gloves, as well as the concept of rounds. Today, regulation Western boxing gloves are worn in official fights.

Although the national Khmer boxing commission does a fairly good job at keeping an eye on the sport, many of the Western safeguards are missing. For example, a fighter’s hand wrappings are weighed in the West. You are only allowed so much gauze. After wrapping, the hands are checked and signed by a commissioner. In Cambodia, fighters wrap their hands with as much gauze as they want, heaping up the extra over the first two knuckles to make their punches harder.

Learn more about the martial history of Cambodia and nine other countries in Warrior Odyssey: The Travels of a Martial Artist Through Asia by Antonio Graceffo, author of several martial arts books. For more information about the adventures, martial arts books and travels of Antonio Graceffo, visit his website at speakingadventure.com.

Download digital issues of recent Black Belt magazines to read our exclusive 11-part series detailing Antonio Graceffo’s journey to train for the Mayhem II MMA event in Malaysia!…

Martial Arts Video Columnist Antonio Graceffo Studies Silat Techniques and Learns Silat History in Malaysia

Travel to Malaysia with Antonio Graceffo, author of the book Warrior Odyssey: The Travels of a Martial Artist Through Asia, in this installment of his ongoing series of international martial arts training videos. As he learns muay Thai moves and discovers silat history, Graceffo meets and trains with two Malay martial arts masters: Kru Jak Othman and Mazlan Man. These martial artists teach him silat techniques from two of the styles found in Malaysia: silat kalam and silat tomoi.

SOUTHEAST ASIAN MARTIAL ARTS TRAINING VIDEO
Antonio Graceffo Studies Silat Techniques and Muay Thai Moves in Malaysia!


“Malaysia is one of the coolest countries in Southeast Asia,” Antonio Graceffo says. “It’s down below Thailand, and it’s a place where all the various kinds of martial arts meet because you’ve got Chinese, Indians [and] Malay all living together, bordering on Thailand with a sea border on Indonesia. You’ve got silat, you’ve got muay Thai, you’ve got tomoi, you’ve got silambam. In Malaysia, there are 430 registered types of silat. So even if you just study silat techniques, you could be busy for years upon years upon years.”

Graceffo’s encounter with Kru Jak Othman revealed a friendly but feisty man teaching silat techniques from a style called silat tomoi, which “comes from Kelan Tan, which is a border state between Malaysia and Thailand,” he says. “[Silat tomoi has] elements of muay Thai boran, but then it’s got elements of silat in it, as well. It’s a very, very cool martial art.”


Travel back in time for Black Belt’s first in-depth look at the
Indonesian martial arts with this FREE download!
Pencak Silat: Techniques and History of the Indonesian Martial Arts


As Graceffo’s journey in Malaysia continued, he encountered another guru for his martial arts training who opened his eyes about silat history. “The second guru that I met was Mazlan Man,” Graceffo says. “Guru Mazlan Man teaches silat kalam. When I first landed in Malaysia, what I didn’t understand was that a lot of these arts are only for Muslims. It’s the predominant religion in the country, and if you want to learn the Malay martial arts — the Islamic martial arts — a lot of times they only accept Muslim students. And what I didn’t understand at the time was that kalam is actually the short form of the word kalamat, which means ‘to profess one’s faith.'”

Graceffo explains that Man’s style of silat was a strictly Muslim form of the martial art. However, the two men met and the guru agreed to teach Graceffo and to be filmed for the Warrior Odyssey author’s ongoing series of martial arts training videos — a double win, as Graceffo would reportedly be the first non-Muslim student of silat kalam.

“Most people believe that [silat kalam] comes from Persia,” Graceffo explains in the video’s section about silat history. “This is an ancient Persian martial art, a grappling art. The original art [has] all but disappeared in modern Iran, but in Malaysia, it lives on as silat kalam.”


About Antonio Graceffo:
Antonio Graceffo is a freelance writer currently based in Asia. In his book Warrior Odyssey: The Travels of a Martial Artist Through Asia, Graceffo details the cultures, languages, people and martial arts he has encountered during his decade-long travels through nine countries, including Taiwan, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and the Philippines.

Join Antonio Graceffo for a trip around the world in these exciting martial arts training videos:

Southeast Asian Martial Arts in the Philippines With Antonio Graceffo!

Antonio Graceffo takes you to the Philippines in this martial arts travel-video supplement for his Destinations column, appearing in Black Belt magazine. Graceffo explores a variety of martial arts styles and gives an overview of the fighting and training scene in this island nation. Included are his experiences training in arnis, kuntaw, yaw yan and hybrid yaw yan.

“There’s probably like 300 different [martial] arts in the Philippines,” Antonio Graceffo says in the video below. “On top of that, you’ve got 7,000 islands to explore and everyone of has their own masters, their own styles.”


Your Filipino martial arts training starts with this FREE download!
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Antonio Graceffo’s adventure in the Philippines “on an island called Palawan,” he says, “where I was training with Dennis Santos. He was teaching me arnis, which is probably the most common martial art in the Philippines and the one that most people associate with the Philippines. At the same time I was also boxing with the amateur boxing team on the island. So between the gym and the boxing and [the] arnis I was able to train three times a day and it was costing me almost nothing.”

Eventually, Graceffo moved on to other arts such as kuntaw, taught to him by Frank Ayocho in Manila. “Kuntaw is a martial arts you may or may not be familiar with,” Graceffo says, “but what I like about kuntaw is that it’s got everything. It’s got sticks, it’s got knives–which you expect in Filipino arts–but it’s also got grappling, it’s got striking, it’s got kicking and it’s just an all-encompassing martial art, which is what I tend to like.”

SOUTHEAST ASIAN MARTIAL ARTS VIDEO | Antonio Graceffo’s Southeast Asian Martial Arts “Warrior Odyssey” Continues in the Philippines


Antonio Graceffo is a freelance writer currently based in Asia. His book, Warrior Odyssey: The Travels of a Martial Artist Through Asia, is Graceffo’s record of where culture, communication and martial arts meet during his decade-long travels through nine countries including Taiwan, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and the Philippines.

Join Antonio Graceffo for a trip around the world in these exciting martial arts travelogue videos:

Muay Boran Technique and Accessories Demonstration

Col. Nattapong Buayam, a former Thai spec-ops hand-to-hand and weapons instructor, trained elite troops in Southeast Asia on the combative essence of krabi krabong (Thai traditional weaponry) and muay Boran (the forefather to muay Thai) for decades. The aggressive footwork and rapid-fire weapon attacks make it a nightmare to defend against. Black Belt contributing editor Dr. Mark Cheng traveled to Thailand to train intensively with the colonel. In this exclusive video, Cheng and Buayam demonstrate techniques and accessories from the art of muay boran.


Antonio Graceffo Travels to Thailand (Part 1)

Antonio Graceffo takes you to the other side of the world in this video supplement for his Destinations column, appearing monthly in Black Belt magazine. In Part 1 of his trip to Thailand, he discusses martial arts training and the variety of styles available to partake in, including muay Thai, French savate, Shaolin kung fu and even Western boxing. Graceffo is a freelance writer based in Asia.


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