With shows like ONE Championship putting Muay Thai, a martial art with a long and storied history, at the centre of some seriously high profile events they’ve given Muay Thai a platform and reach that it’s never really achieved before. At FQ we love ONE Championship, and we’re incredibly pleased to see our favourite martial art reach so many new fans, and fighters get rewarded for the years of hard work they put into their training, but it’s easy to see that some of the traditions that go alongside it might get pushed to one side, or be seen but not understood. We want to do our part to help people new to Muay Thai to understand the significance of some of what they see in big shows like ONE, and what they might encounter if they branch out and watch Muay Thai from different promotions!
Possibly the most noticeable difference between watching Muay Thai on a show like ONE and more traditional Muay Thai shows is the opportunity for fighters to complete a Wai Kru (or in full the Wai Kru Ram Muay) before they compete. The Wai Kru is a traditional dance completed by Thai boxers after entering the ring, which gives honour and thanks to their coaches, training partners and family for their support and the knowledge they’ve passed down. It also, not necessarily intentionally, serves as a warm up for fighters to get them ready to compete.
There’s a lot of variation between fighter’s Wai Krus; some people’s are simple and just include the basic steps, while others complete elaborate and complex rituals. If you’re familiar enough you can even recognise what gym a fighter competes out of from their Wai Kru, as many gyms learn the basics together. The Wai Kru is such a significant part of Muay Thai that fighters can even win awards for their performance.
The Mongkol (often spelt Mongkhon) is the traditional headband worn by Thai boxers as they enter the ring. It’s not uncommon to see the mongkol worn during ONE Championship walkouts, but the significance is not really explained to viewers. The tradition is meant to have emerged from Thai warriors wearing bandanas around their heads and chanting prayers when they went into battle, which developed into headbands that got carried forward into Muay Thai competitions – fighters wear the headbands as they head to their battlefields. They’re often handmade by the trainers in a camp, and are believed to give protection and luck to fighters who wear them. They also must be cared for following specific rules (such as not letting them touch or be near the ground) otherwise the powers they provide will be lost.
The Mongkol is worn during a fighters walkout and Wai Kru, and is removed by the trainer (whilst saying a prayer) before the fight begins, and gets hung on one of the pillars supporting the ropes.
The prajioud (sometimes referred to as prajet or pra jiad) are a pair of arm bands, worn around the upper arm, that are also a traditional part of Muay Thai. Unlike the monkol the prajioud are worn throughout the fight, though the referee may remove them if they begin falling down the fighters arms. Again this comes from a tradition of Thai warriors tying strips of cloth, often torn from their mothers’ dresses, around their arms before battle to represent a blessing for safety from their mothers. Modern prajioud are made from cloth or rope, and in some less traditional muay thai gyms get used as the equivalent to other martial arts belt systems with different colours showing different rankings (though this is in no way standardised or comparable across gyms).
Do you have a Mongkol or Prajiouts? Have you learned the Wai Kru? Let us know in the comments!