The Naga of Thailand and Lotus Self-Defense




 Naga or Naka:  is pronounced "naah" in the official Thai dialect but pronounced "Nah Kah or Nah Gah" in Ubonratchathani (the Thai city where Lotus was born) and also in the martial art Lotus Self-Defense.  In Thai pronunciation, the "G" and "K" are frequently interchanged when translated into English.

In Lotus, this is the creature that is on the wall on either side of the green "Body, Mind, Spirit" shield found on the front wall of many of the schools.  I had always thought they were dragons (Mongk Gone in Thai) but they have no wings.

 Notice the Naga on the wall in both pictures. (Thailand dojo on the left; Spokane dojo on the right)

In Thai mythology, the Naga, a race of supernatural beings usually depicted with both snake and human attributes and sometimes referred to as the king of snakes, is a serpent-like creature with a beard and pointed crown.  In old text, Naga is the half-brother of the Garuda.  Base on mythology, the two had the same father and their mothers were sisters.  Nagas are sworn enemies of Garuda due to their mother's conflict.

In Sanskrit (the classical literary language of India) and many languages derived from it, such as Thai, Naga means snake.  In Malay, Indonesian and Javanese, Naga means dragon.

The Naga is often found in Thai architecture and also frequently portrayed giving comfort and shade to the meditating Buddha.  The coils of the great snake are often seen acting as a cushion to Buddha while its head or heads function as an umbrella, as you can see from this statue located in Myanmar just North of the Thailand border.


While I was in Chiang Mai in 2006, a Thai lady told me that Naga means "serpent demon with large spirit" and that the Naga was defeated by Garuda and forced as a penance to guard all of the temples (called wats in Thailand) for all of eternity. You will find Naga on both sides of the steps leading up to many of the wats.  And as you can see in the accompanying photos, they come in many varieties.

We find Naga in the Thai names of the below listed Lotus Self-Defense techniques:

19. Naka sabat sean (translated: Naka shakes its tail)

58. Naka sabat hahng (translated: Naka shakes its head)

61. Nakee payabaht (translated: Naka will get revenge)

The giant Mekong catfish, which grows to lengths of 10 meters long, is also called Naga.  Some of you may have seen a picture of a fish caught by servicemen in Vietnam. It has been called a Naka or Mekong catfish but it is in reality an oar fish.

Submitted by Tim Hollembaek