Why You Should Know Pre-Fight Rituals And Traditions of Muay Thai
In my opinion, being respectful should be one of your top priorities as a fighter and as a person. There are plenty of douche bags who fight for the wrong reasons and act arrogantly whether it’s in the gym or in the ring. Don’t be that douche bag.
You know the type of person I’m talking about, right? The one who takes sparring way too seriously in the gym and makes excuses, or states that he wasn’t trying when he gets tagged. He also loves to brag about his accomplishments (usually which are over-exaggerated or non-existent) and talk about himself whenever the opportunity presents itself.
This same douche will enter the ring with zero background knowledge of the traditions of Muay Thai and show zero respect to his trainers, his opponent, and the sport as a whole. He will neglect all of the Muay Thai pre-fight rituals, showboat during a fight, and show little class after the fight regardless if he wins or loses. To help you avoid becoming this person that everyone secretly wants to get knocked out, make sure you follow these tips and consider doing these pre-fight rituals before your next Muay Thai Fight:
Pre Fight Rituals and Other Muay Thai Traditions
The Mongkon (or mongkol) is a type of sacred headpiece worn by most Muay Thai boxers before fighting. Traditionally, a trainer will present it to you once he feels that you have trained hard, have prepared to fight, and have learned some of the culture behind certain Muay Thai traditions.
Most commonly you will see Mongkons which are made up of rope, thread, and silk material that are woven together. It is very common for most practitioners (whether Buddhist or not) to bring the headdress to a Buddhist monk who blesses the Mongkon with good luck.
As I was taught by my trainer in Thailand, the Mongkon is a symbol of your gym, your trainers, and your family. You wear it when you enter the ring to show that when you fight it’s not all about you, it is about the people around you who have helped you along your journey.
After you seal the ring and/or perform the ceremonial wai kru ram muay, your trainer will say a short prayer while taking the Mongkon off your head and then placing it on top of the ring. The Mongkon should never be close to or held near the ground since it is bad luck to do so. Also if you happen to be a lady, you might not be allowed to wear one since it’s deemed bad luck to be touched by a woman. However, most gyms have adopted a more open-minded approach and will allow women to enter the ring with one on.
The Prajioud (arm bands) were traditionally made from a torn piece of a mother’s surong (dress, skirt, cloth) and then given to be tied on the arm before Muay Thai fights for good luck and protection. This tradition was originated during times of war where mother’s would see their sons go off to combat and offer them their blessings as they left.
You will see a handful of fighters wear them today, but by no means are they mandatory to wear. They can often become a distraction or annoyance if they aren’t tied properly.
Climbing Over The Ropes
As a man, it’s customary to enter the ring by climbing over the top ropes. Since in the Thai culture the head is considered sacred and the feet are considered dirty, it’s important to keep your head above your feet when entering the ring. On the other side of the coin, women are supposed to enter the ring by going underneath the ropes. There are a lot of sexist traditions that go along with Muay Thai, but if you are in their country participating in their sport, you are best off respecting their traditions.
Wai Kru Ram Muay
The wai kru is a way of paying your respects to your teacher and to those who have helped you along your journey. It can also help to calm pre-fight jitters, clear the ring of bad luck/evil spirits, and show your skill and ability to do the wai kru itself. Some wai krus are customized depending on the gym or religion the fighters practice. You will see plenty of fighters like John Wayne Parr or Buakaw put unique spins on the wai kru to add a little spice to the show (see video below).
You don’t necessarily have to do the wai kru if you decide to fight, but it would be a good idea to show respect to your trainers and gym by at least sealing the four corners of the ring. If you do decide to perform the whole wai kru, it will show that you are dedicated to the sport and actually care about helping preserve some of the traditions that make this sport so unique and great.
Sak Yant Tattoos
The meanings and spiritual powers of sak yant tattoos like the 5 lines, the tiger and hanuman are meant to give fighters protection, good luck, success, and other desirable attributes. All sak yant tattoos are traditionally done by practicing Buddhist monks with bamboo needles. Using single bamboo needles takes much longer and is more painful than newer tattoo guns they use in most shops. It is supposedly bad luck if you get a sak yant thai tattoo done by someone who is not a Buddhist monk and doesn’t use a bamboo stick. This means the bearer of the fake sak yant will not be blessed with the supernatural or sacred powers it supposedly possesses. If you believe in these superstitions, you must get it done the right way to get the full spiritual effect of any of sak yant.
Plan on Traveling, Training, and Fighting in Thailand?
If you are planning on heading to the mecca of Muay Thai to improve your skills and train in the art you love, then you are going to want to know everything there is to know about living, training, and fighting in Thailand. This epic guide is loaded with information, tools, and resources to make your trip to Thailand a reality and to make sure you have an amazing time when you are there!
Learn the ins and outs for what it’s like to travel and train in Thailand:
- Plan out a detailed itinerary to get the most out of your trip.
- Find the best area to live and train.
- Pick the best Muay Thai training camp that fits your needs.
- Understand the customs, traditions, and culture so you don’t embarrass myself or offend anyone else.
- Avoid common scams that foreigners usually fall for
- Learn how to save money on food, housing, training and touristy things.
- Know what to expect if you decide to fight in Thailand.
- And much, much more!
Needless to say, if you plan on traveling to Thailand to train Muay Thai, I would highly suggest investing in the Thailand Training Guide eBook and reading it from cover to cove! Click here to learn more about “Travel, Train, Fight: Muay Thai in Thailand.”
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- Sean "Muay Thai Guy" Fagan owns & operates the largest online Muay Thai community and the #1 training resource for nak muay of all levels.