The Traditions of Muay Thai

Muay Thai instructional, Muay thai movesMuay Thai is a form of martial arts that originates from Thailand. It is also called the  “Science(Art) of Eight Limbs”.  A form of kickboxing, the art is surrounded in traditions and ceremonies, some stemming back to the 13th century A.D. The beginning of Thai  Muay may go back as far as 200 B.C., especially the Kaad Chuek, or the binding of the fists with hemp ropes as a weapon.

Here are brief descriptions of four major traditions found in Muay Thai boxing – Whai Khru, Ram Muay, Mong Kon and Pra Jiad.


Whai means action and Khru means teacher. The ceremony is to call attention to the teacher, i.e. to give the teacher recognition for his action in teaching the student the Muay Thai skills. This ceremony is often performed before a match. In a dance like movement, each fighter pays tribute to his master and others for whom he owes gratitude. That may be family members, a religious figure, the king, other fighters, etc. It is a way of identifying the fighter, where he comes from and where his trusts lie. In many ways, it is a consecration of the bout that is to take place in the ring.

Muay Thai probably has its closest ties in Hinduism, though fighters come from all sorts of religious backgrounds today, including Christian, Shinto and Buddhism. The Whai Khru is often performed in training camps and gyms as well and is very solemn and religious in nature.

Traditionally, the student who is to fight presents a candle, or some other small token such as a flower, incense or a card, to his teacher . This signals his acceptance of whatever the teacher will instruct. It is a symbol of honor and obedience. In return, the teacher blesses the student, agrees to teach him and gives him a cotton laurel. Then holy water is sprinkled and sometimes a meal is offered. Often times a statue of Buddha is displayed. Then, the student performs the ceremonial dance that honors his teacher, his country and his god(s).

With the spread of Muay Thai’s popularity throughout the world, the Whai Khru ceremony varies greatly. There are no strict guidelines. In some Western gyms, it is not practiced at all. But originally, Muay Thai was taught to Thai soldiers chosen to defend their kingdom, and each student was hand selected. Whai Khru honors that origin.


Ram means dance and muay means boxing. In this phase before a match, the fighter displays his skill and balance. He performs to each corner of the ring to show the spectators his prowess and talent. In a way, it is a warming up of the muscles and limbering up the body wrapped up in ceremony and tradition. 


This is a headband that is worn during the Whai Khru and Ram Muay ceremonies. It is mostly worn by Thais because of the traditions that surround this national sport. Similar to a laurel crown given to Greek Olympiads, this head band symbolizes the teacher’s acceptance of excellence in his student. The Mon Kon is often not worn elsewhere, such as in Cambodia or Burma. 


These are wrist bands that are worn during the pre-match ceremonies. These bring luck and confidence to the participants. Sometimes just one is worn, other times two. Many training gyms and schools have various colors of Pra Jiads, that signify either the school colors or the rank of skill achieved, similar to Karate belts.

Every sport has its traditions, ceremonies and rules. Muay Thai is no different. When a student and teacher decide carry on these traditions, they are connecting to the history and origins of this martial art. Carrying on tradition honors the many who have excelled over the centuries and ties the present to the past. That brings deeper meaning and respect to the sport itself.

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