Origins and Explanation of the Ritual – Wai Kru Ram Muay
Excerpts taken from the World Muay Thai Council
Wai is an action of Thais to show respect to others by putting the hands together like in prayer. Kru means teacher. Ram means dance in the old Thai traditional style. Muay means boxing.
The fighter performs the Wai Kru by circling the ring three times before kneeling and bowing three times as a sign of respect to God and man. He also bows to Buddha (traditionally) to ask for protection for himself and his opponent and for an honourable fight.
The fighter then performs the Ram Muay, whose simple movements demonstrate a fighter’s control and style. Each fighter performs the Ram Muay on each side of the ring to demonstrate his prowess to the audience. The Ram Muay is a personal ritual, ranging from the very complex to the very simple, and often contains clues about who trained the fighter and where the fighter is from.
The practitioner may wear a headband called a Mongkhon and armbands known as Pra Jiad during the ceremony, and the Ram Muay may be accompanied by music. The Mongkhon is unique to Thai boxing and not worn in Cambodia or Burma.
Music is an integral part of Muaythai and because of it, this art of self defence has become an extension of one of Thailand’s dramatic arts.
The musical instruments orchestrated in the background of the Wai Kru rituals and in the competitions consist of the Ta Pong or Glong-Kag (Two face drum), Toe Pee Java (Javanese flute) and the Ching (cymbals).
According to legendary chronicles and historical records of Thailand, Muaythai competitions were customarily organized on celebratory and festive occasions. It was also used as a means of selecting men with great fighting skills to serve in important positions in the military.
The most important question today is how are we to preserve this beautiful and gracious art from disappearing or from losing its authenticity?
There are many ways to answer this question, but first of all we must fully understand the importance of the Wai Kru ceremony.
To train for Muaythai a fighter must have a mentor, this is the tradition of the art. Perhaps a fighter will be directly taught by other fighters, but all in all, every fighter is considered to have a mentor, and it is customary that all fighters must respect their mentors.
One of the most important virtues of the Thai people is the showing of respect and sincere humbleness towards teachers, masters, mentors and instructors. They are considered to be a close second to their true parents.
Wai Kru for the training of Muaythai
In every stage of the training of Muaythai, the Wai Kru is a vital part of the training, which can be explained in the following sequence:
- Submission as a student, Keun Kru or Yok Kru:
Keun Kru or Yok Kru is when the instructor accepts the student and the student accepts the instructor to be the one to train him. In the past, the student must serve the instructor for a period of time before actual training begins.
During this period the instructor will study the student to ensure that the student is trustworthy, honest and able. Once the instructor is satisfied with the student’s performance permission is given by the instructor to conduct the Keun Kru ceremony, in some areas it is called the Yok Kru ceremony.
This ceremony is where both the instructor and the student accept one another and the student must abide by the rules and regulations set forth by the instructor.
The Keun Kru ceremony is conducted on Thursday because in ancient times, Thursdays are considered to be an auspicious day for such occasions. The student must bring along some personal items for the ceremony. As for money, it depends on each individual instructor. The ceremony is conducted in front of a Buddha image and the student will pledge his loyalty to the instructor.
- Kronb Kru
Kronb Kru is a ceremony conducted for the student on the completion of his training. The student has now the ability to transfer his knowledge and skill to others and at the same time, be able to adapt and apply his skill to suit the situation, The student is ready to compete in any competition with pride.
In this ceremony the student is given the Monsol according to the tradition of that training camp. Again, this ceremony is conducted on a Thursday before noon at the home of the instructor or at the temple.
- Yearly Wai Kru
“Yearly Wai Kru” is a tradition that Thailand has carried forth since ancient time. We Wai Kru to respect our mentors because if it was not for them we would not have the knowledge and principles that we abide by. It is these two virtues that enable us to carry on fulfilling our tasks.
In this ceremony we again pledge our respect and memories to our teachers past and present. Even though some of us have long finished our education or training we still give our teachers the greatest of respect. The day chosen for the Wai Kru is Thursday as it is believed to be “the day of the teachers”.
- The Wai Kru
The art of Muaythai from past to present has a tradition that every fighter must perform the Wai Kru before every competition. Wai Kru is performed as a means of paying respect to the chairperson of the competition or in the past as a way to pay homage to the King who would normally be a spectator on almost every occasion. It also symbolizes the gratefulness of the fighter towards his mentor who had trained him and as a means of concentrating himself mentally for the competition.
If we further study the roots of the Thai culture we will discover that the Wai Kru is not just a way of paying respect to only our mentor but what this ritual is actually doing is paying homage to mentors before and long before him since the dawn of humanity. Hence, the Wai Kru is a way of worshipping past instructors and the way up to the holy spirits in heaven.
Boxers should ‘Wai Kru’ in the way it has been done by our ancestors in the past. It is a way to help preserve the art of Muaythai from disappearing or from losing its authenticity.
The first thing a boxer learns in Muaythai is the Wai Kru. The Wai Kru is not designed to insult or show off to the opponent. It is a ritual in memory and in respect of the mentor who has given the boxer his knowledge and skill.