Muay Thai is an ancient sport which is deeply rooted in the culture of its motherland- Thailand. One of the most beautiful customs of the sport which is still kept alive today is the Wai Kru Ram Muay. In one of my previous articles I had briefly discussed its function and meaning but due to its sheer beauty and inspiration-igniting power I have decided it is only fair to dedicate an entire article to it.
In Thai culture it is customary to complete a “wai” when greeting, thanking or saying goodbye to someone. To wai, a person will press their palms together in a prayer-like fashion and bow their heads. There are also ceremonies called the “Wai kru” held at schools in Thailand where the students will pay their thanks and respect to their teachers. The culture of Thailand is very much built on showing respect and reverence to those around you.
So by this stage you may be asking why all of this information is relevant to Muay Thai? The fact is that Muay Thai is a sport in which showing respect is of paramount importance and it is deeply influenced by and threaded into Thai culture. You must respect your kru, your opponents, your peers and your gym. As a fighter the main way you can express your respect to the abovementioned parties is by completing the “Wai Kru Ram Muay”.
Upon entering the ring and just before the battle commences the fighters will seal the ring, pausing at each corner to say a prayer or briefly reflect. Traditionally, the sealing of the ring was done to rid the space of any bad spirits and to receive protection from harm. After the Nak Muay has sealed the ring, they will then perform the dance component of the wai kru ram muay. The dance is accompanied by traditional Thai music which adds rhythm to the movements. The actions of the wai kru are usually specific to the fighters and their gyms as it is traditionally passed down from kru to student. These actions are mostly heavily inspired by Buddhism and display the grace and control in the movements of the Nak Muay.
To some, the wai kru ram muay may appear to be a pointless waste of time during a fight show but we must always remember that Muay Thai is a sport which holds a vast amount of cultural and spiritual significance which, as practitioners, we must always endeavour to uphold out of respect to the sport and to the many great fighters that have come before us. The more we honour the important traditions attached to the sport, the more chance it has of continuing to retain its raw authenticity. In the words of Gustav Mahler- “tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire”