The importance of the Wai Kru and the Mongkon in Muay Thai
You have probably heard it a million times over, but again for all the non-believers, those just getting started or those who “fight, not dance”… no Wai Kru, no Muay Thai!
In Thailand, the homeland of Muay Thai, no Thai fighter ever climbs over the ropes and into a boxing ring to fight Muay Thai without respecting traditions and many of the oldest and most important rituals of the sport. These include for example, wearing flower garlands, a Mongkon and a gym or stadium robe when entering the arena and the performance of a traditional and beautiful pre-fight Wai Kru and Ram Muay.
Most if not all Thai fighters make this ritual a central part of their pre-fight preparation too, using the flow of movements and positions and the accompanying music to help them relax their nerves, warm up their bodies, mentally focus, check out the boxing ring and get a better feeling for the stadiums energy.
So what exactly is Wai Kru and what does it mean?
Wai Kru is a ritual ceremony performed by Muay Thai fighters directly before engaging in battle. It is composed of two distinct parts, both specific to the sport of Muay Thai only, performed to live “sarama” music.
“Wai” is the name for the traditional Thai greeting, where Thais put their hands together and lower their heads as if in short prayer. “Kru” is Thai for teacher. So the meaning is simply a thank you and blessing to show deep respect to ones coaches, gym, training partners and family.
The Wai Kru is the first part of the ritual where the fighter circles the ring three times before kneeling and bowing. The second part of the ritual, known as the Ram Muay, means “boxing dance” and can have many styles. These can be gym or fighter specific, regional or historical. There are often many individual elements included, or elements that help identify the gym of a particular fighter. Experts can almost immediately recognise a fighter and his gym by their Wai Kru style.
Part of the beauty of the Wai Kru and Ram Muay is that fighters often also display prowess, skill and maybe even elements of their fighting styles during their performance, giving insight to spectators as to what is coming in the fight itself. The complexity, beauty or simplicity of the Wai Kru and Ram Muay is ultimately up to the fighter himself.
Whilst performing these traditional pre fight rituals, Muay Thai fighters wear handmade sacred headbands, known as Mongkon, and braided armbands known as Prajerds. These are treated as holy by the gyms and their fighters that wear them, they are individually designed and handmade, blessed by a monk and each have their own unique meanings, history and mystical powers associated with them. In general, all these factors relate to protecting the fighter in battle, willing him on to win and helping him come out unscathed. In the western world, we would call them lucky charms or a talisman.
There are many separate rituals connected to the Mongkon, a few of which we would like to mention here. Most gyms in Thailand have their own gym Mongkon, using it again and again for all their fighters. Acclaimed fighters and Champions though, often have their own. Fighters themselves should never touch the Mongkon before a fight, also it must never touch the ground. These are all age old Thai superstitions that bring bad luck to the fighter.
As with most things specifically associated with Muay Thai, the Wai Kru, Ram Muay and the Mongkon are embedded in historical and cultural traditions that have been protected and passed on from masters to students for generations.
When you visit Thailand and come to our camp to train and learn more about Muay Thai, our Thai trainers, who have great in-depth knowledge and years of hands on experience with these and many more unique Muay Thai traditions, will gladly answer all your questions in more detail. If you want to learn to perform a real Wai Kru, we run a regular weekly class just for non-Thai students and guests, you are welcome to join us for a truly memorable experience.
Also, if your interest in Muay Thai runs even deeper, you can have a personal Mongkon and Prajerds individually made for you whilst you are here, and get them blessed by a Buddhist monk at a local temple here too of course.