muay thai: The Art of the 8 Limbs
Muay Thai or Thai boxing is the martial art that Thai people used to defend Siam against neighboring countries. It’s referred to as the art of the 8 limbs because includes in its arsenal a variety of punches, elbows, knees, kicks,head butts, different throws, and neck wrestling techniques.
Kru Pedro Solana is a non-Thai teacher that has gained extensive Muay Thai knowledge through fighting, training, and teaching in Thailand for twenty years. His overall experience in Muay Thai training totals thirty-two years. He began his training during the ’80s in Spain under Ajarn Eugenio Fraile that was at that time also under Ajarn Surachai Sirisute.
In 1998, after almost a decade of Muay Thai training under ajarn Surachai Sirisute in America, Kru Pedro left the U.S. to embark upon a mission to train under Thailand’s best Muay Thai masters.
Over the course of his journey, he trained at 44 different Muay Thai camps. From these camps, each uniquely possessing valuable attributes and insights into Muay Thai practice, kru compiled the best training methods and fighting techniques distinctive to those camps.
The curriculum of the Muay Sangha school incorporates the knowledge from Kru’s travels together with his extensive experience in other martial arts including wing chun, silat, muay chaiya, grappling, etc .
In addition, the version of Muay Thai practiced at the Muay Thai Sangha school is related to krabi-krabong (an ancient Thai weapon-based martial arts system). That means that many of the Muay Thai Sangha empty hand techniques can be done with weapons as well.
Previously, kru Pedro’s approach to teaching involved conditioning fighters to effectively use devastating power and speed against opponents for Muay Thai competitions. Over the years, through experience, deep reflection and self-discovery, his vision developed into a unique style emphasizing balance, structural alignment, and good body mechanics in connection to the earth’s gravity through each motion via rotation, footwork, breathing and timing.
ANCIENT THAI BOXING OR MUAY THAI BORAN
Muay Thai boran is a generic term for many of the muay thai systems that existed in Thailand before the art became regulated by the state in the early part of the 20th century. Muay Thai boran is the fore runner of modern muay thai.
Krabi-krabong’s system of empty hand fighting is, therefore, and old muay thai boran. Krabi-krabong’s empty-hand systems (muay thai boran) employs the natural weapons of the human body in imitation of the ancient weapons of war. For example the arms are used like a sword, the shins are conditioned to strike like a staff, the elbow and knee are used like a war ax, the fist operates like the tip of a spear, the foot works like an arrow or pike, and the head hits like a war hammer. If a soldier lost his weapons on the battlefield, he would fight on using his natural body weapons.
The tradition of boxing competition is dated hundred of years old. It is written that in the 12th century A.D., in the period know as Sukhothai, and through the following Ayutthaya and Rattanakosin periods leading up to the early part of the 20th century, muay Thai boran prizefighting was already a favorite pastime of the Siamese people.. During these centuries muay thai fighters typically fought with bare knuckles. Sometimes they wrapped their hands in rope (muay kaad chueak), mostly to protect the knuckles against injuries. An old text says that some boxers a few hours before a contest, chew rice and water, spitting it in their hand wraps so when they dry they will become hard and sharp. According to Ajarn Ket Sriyaphai, grand master of muay Chaiya, boxers didn’t dip their hand wraps in glue and grounded glass…He said that those ideas came from Hollywood movies.
Every village had its local muay Thai champion. Oral history relates that young men of all walks of life sought out the muay Thai boran masters in hopes of training, fighting and gaining fame and recognition.
To become a truly Muay boran student was not easy. Only those who went through at least one year of practicing footwork and stance to prove their patience and determination were considered true students. It was extremely important that a student had fully understood the muay Thai footwork before moving on to further learning as it was believed that a practitioners expertise can be revealed by the way he can use his feet.
The muay boran contest were truly No-Holds-Barred events encompassing the full range of striking grappling, throwing and breaking techniques in which fighters were commonly maimed or killed. Head butts, groin strikes and eye gouges were completely legal in the old arenas.
Weight classes did not exist and there was no specially constructed ring. Instead, matches took place in any open space surrounded by a rough circle of spectators. Rounds were timed by making a small hole into a coconut and placing it in water. When the coconut sank, a drum would be beaten to signal the end of a round.
Modern muay Thai has been described as a somewhat brutal way of fighting. In truth, modern muay Thai is downright civilized in contrast to it’s ancestor muay Thai boran fighting method.
Some of the wisdom of the muay Thai boran experience survives today. Lessons learned in combat by the ancient war masters have been passed from generation to generation. Very few teachers still teaching this ancient muay Thai boran and No-Holds-Barred competition skills to new generations.
ANCIENT MUAY THAI STYLES
Through time, in certain areas of the country and because many other different factors, some styles of muay Thai boran became famous because of their effective techniques in contest. According to different sources, they were many different styles of muay boran with completely different strategies and skills. Here we provide a list of the most popular styles of “Muay Kaad Chuak”.
Muay Chaiya (Southern or Pak Tai style)
It is believed that the style of Muay Chaiya is more than 250 years old. The Muay Chaiya stance is very low and compact, with the center of gravity between the legs. Both knees are bent and all the joints are facing forward, ready to be used as a shield against any incoming attack. In Muay Chaiya, the fists are placed one higher than the other, facing upwards. Proponents of the style usually lead with the right side of the body but can use both sides very well.
Muay Chaiya specializes in blocking with the elbows and knees following the concept of learning how to protect ourselves before harming others. Every leg or arm is bent, even when the boxer attacks. Limbs are never extended completely. Some people call it the “Durian Style”, named after a fruit covered in very sharp spikes.
Muay Chaiya practitioners in their training place a great emphasis on using minimal energy to end a confrontation in the quickest and most reliable way possible always, making sure that the opponent receives the less amount of damage as possible.
The fast and smooth footwork skills that are attained from training muay Chaiya allows one to deal with an opponent’s force in many different ways. Sometimes the body weight is placed entirely on one leg. The Muay Chaiya boxer often moves switching sides in a springing motion and looking for a way to enter or counter the opponent. The attacks are very quick and come as a series of machine-gun like blows coming from all angles. The Muay Chaiya boxers wrap only their hands as they want to make their primary weapon, the elbow, as effective as possible.
Muay Thai Chaiya was named after the soldier Por Tan Mar from Bangkok that started to teach the style in the city of Chaiya located in the province of Surathani, South of Thailand. Por Tan Mar eventually became a monk in the temple of Wat Tung Jab Chang in Chaiya city where he remained until his death.
It was during his monkhood that Ajarn Por Tan Mar taught Muay Thai Chaiya to the kids in the village. At one point he became very famous and the governor of the Chaiya city (“Praya Vajisata Ya Rat”) went to study with him. The governor was named “Kam Sriyaphai”. The governor had a son called “Kiet Sriyaphai” who learnt Muay Chaiya from his father. Kiet Sriyaphai also learnt other styles from 12 different Ajarn’s:
1. Praya Wachee Sriyapai, his father
2. Uncle Klad Sriyapai, the commander of the Rasmi ship.
3. Plong Chamnonthong, the winner of the competition held in the palace by King Rama V.
4. Kru Klab Indraklab, the father of a famous boxer during the 1920s.
5. Kru Song, from Ta Sae, Chumphorn province
6. Kru In Sakdech, from Chumphorn city.
7. Kru Dad Kanchanakorn, from Nong Thong Kam
8. Kru Suk Netprafai, from Sang Daed
9. Kru Wan Pholpreuksa
10. Prince Vibulsawasdiwong Sawasdikul
11. Kru Kimseng Tawisit, a renowned master in Bangkok and other major cities. He was the master of the Paak Klang style and boxing teacher for the Department of Physical Education.
12. Sir Visaldarunakorn (An Sarikbutr), the leading students of Grand Master Phra Jayachok Chokchana and Grand Master Khunyi Sarasabyakorn. He was the boxing teacher in Suan Gulab school during the 1920s and wrote a guide book for boxing for the Ministry of Education. His book was used as the standard to teach students.
Among the best students of Ajarn Kiet Sriyaphai are Kru Tonglor Yalee and Kru Lek (Kridakorn Sodprasert).
Kru Pedro has learned the basics of Muay Thai Chaiya with Kru Lek.
Muay Maa Yang (Southern or Pak Tai style)
Muay Maa Yang is another less well known southern style of Muay Thai. The name “Maa Yang” translated from Thai means “The Horse’s Walk”. The master of this style was called Kruu Tankee.
The classic stance of this style has the boxer with one leg raised up in a guard position, with the same hand held close to the hip, the other hand in front of the face also in a guard position.
Kru Tankee was well known for his cruelty whilst fighting, so was not a well liked teacher. One story has Kru Tankee removing the eye of his opponent Kru Noree (Muay Chaiya Style) who broke Kru Tankee’s forehead with a jumping kick. Kru Noree continued to fight after losing his eye, but later died of a hemorrhage related to his injuries.
Muay Korat (Eastern or Eesaan style)
Muay Korat is named after the place where the style originated; Nakhon Ratchasima which is located in the center of Thailand towards the east. The style of Muay Korat appears to the public around the time of King Rama IV, but perhaps the Korat people have had this style for more than a thousand years.
Muay Korat is named after the place where the style originated; Nakhon Ratchasima which is located in the center of Thailand towards the east. The style of Muay Korat appears to the public around the time of King Rama IV, but perhaps the Korat people have had this style for more than a thousand years.
The governor of the city of Nakhon Ratchasima, Phra Hemsamahan was since we know the transmitter of Muay Korat. Phra Hensamahan teach the style to Deng Thaiprasert who became the first fighter to represent the Korat style fighting in front of the King, and winning the competition acquiring the title of “Muan Changwat Cherng Chok”, meaning “The King’s Champion”.
Another student of the art, taught by Phra Hemsamahan, was Kruu Bua Wathim. This is considered the real master of the Muay Korat system. Kru Bua became a soldier and taught cadets in the Army all his life. His name was Kru Bua Ninarcha, and his nick name “The Black Horse”.
Muay Korat is considered to be the Muay Thai of the East.
The stance in Muay Korat is quite different from other styles. The stance is quite long and very narrow with both feet almost in one line, both pointing forward. The hands are placed one in front of the other, lined up together in front of the nose. The front, or lead leg is straight and the knee is locked. The back leg is also straight, tensed and ready to kick upwards, or to use footwork to change the angle against the opponent. The back leg heel is also up off the floor. The body’s center of gravity is close to the front leg with the head positioned over the front foot, body leaning forward.
Muay Korat kicks are completely straight. The kick travels in an upwards arc, twisting a little bit to reach your opponents head or neck.
This style of Muay Thai prefers to attack or intercept an attack by simultaneous block and strike, or sometimes choose to lock or throw the opponent to the floor. Rarely does the Korat style teach students to block and then attack. The kind of footwork used is “Suua Yang”, which means “Tiger Walk”. These techniques are closely guarded. One of the most powerful weapon in Muay Korat is called “Viang Kwai”, means “Swing of the Buffalo”. This technique is executed after a kick and uses the knuckles in a circular way to strike the opponent behind the ear. Another famous attack is called “Taa Krut” which is used as a counter-attack, launching two strikes simultaneously.
Muay Korat boxers wrap their hands all the way to the elbows. The style is well know for his powerful vertical punches and his double attacks executed in a very efficient way.
In ancient times, the boxers of Muay Korat followed a Buddhist Code known as “Sin Haa”, the five precepts. Meditation was a very important part of their training, followed by a strong respect for seniors and the golden rule of not to fight in the ring with other Muay Korat boxers.
Muay Pak Klang (Central or Pak Klang style)
Muay Pak Klang is the Bangkok or central style. Perhaps Muay Lopburi was part of Muay Pak Klang.
The master of this famous style was “Ajarn Kimsaing” who was from Ayuthaya. Ajarn Kimsaing learned Muay Ayuthaya from Kruu Kiao. He then moved to Bangkok to study international boxing and Muay Paak Klang with “Luang Vitsam Darunkon”.
The stance in Muay Paak Klang is wide. The arms are held low and the fists are clenched facing upwards. Both arms are placed at the same height, parallel to each other pointing forward, with the left hand held forward slightly.
Sometimes the front foot is held off the ground, extended outwards, but pointing down towards the opponent. The footwork in this style is very interesting; when the Muay Paak Klang boxer steps, his feet come together with his hands held in front of his face in a high guard position, then the boxer steps outward again, feet separating and the guard lowering again.
The style is sometimes known as the “Ghost steps” as Muay Paak Klang boxers move so quickly and smoothly with little effort, seemingly covering ground in many places at the same time.
The master of this style, Ajarn Kimsaing was the last Ajarn of the very famous teacher of the Muay Chaiya style; Ajarn Kiet Sriyaphai.
Muay Pak Klang boxers wrap their hands down to the middle of the forearm.
Muay Lopburi (Central or Pak Klang style)
This style was born in the Ayutthaya Period when King Narai was on the throne. At this time a lot of foreigners were working with the King, so it is believed that Ajarn Muun Men Mat learned deadly skills from them.
The typical stance of Muay Lopburi looks almost identical to that of a western boxer around the 1900s, the classic upright stance with both arms extended outwards, both forearms pointing forwards. This style is based in very accurate and deadly punches. The most dangerous weapons of Muay Lopburi were the uppercuts to the opponent’s adam’s apple and the thumb strikes to the eyes. This style was nominated as one of the most clever and tricky styles of the era. Sometimes the boxers would fake an injury waiting for an opportunity to attack. Some say that this style was part of another style called “Muay Paak Klang” or the central style.
Muay Lopburi wrapped the arm only halfway in cotton twine, and sometimes no wraps were used.
Sadly, this style has been lost completely. The premier Ajarn (teacher) of this dangerous style was called “Muun Men Mat”, meaning “Ten Thousand Accurate Punches”. Legend has it that Ajarn Muun Men Mat didn’t teach Thai people his art because in one of his last fights he killed a man with a fatal blow. After this, he decided to stop teaching and lived in a Buddhist Temple helping Monks. This was in the Ayutthaya Period.
Muay Ayutthaya (Central or Pak Klang style)
The master of the Muay Ayutthaya style is called “Kruu Kiao”, which means “the green teacher”. He was from Ayuthaya and was the teacher of Ajarn Kinsaing who later became the master of Muay Paak Klang.
One of the characteristics of this style is the stance of the boxer, who has the left shoulder raised up, close to the chin, protecting the face. Muay Ayuthaya used to attack with two weapons at the same time in order to counter other styles effectively. One of the most common counters against Muay Chaiya was a left-round kick and a short chopping downward right-cross.
This style was not very famous but became well known because the master of Muay Paak Klang learned Muay Ayutthaya before going to Bangkok.
Muay Jerng Lanna (Northern or Pak Nuua style)
In the era of King Rama V when the Lanna Kingdom (northern provinces) were united and became part of the Kingdom of Siam (later to become Thailand), legislation prohibited the practice of martial arts in the north. While people in Bangkok were permitted to train with weapons, people in the north (Lanna) could not, and so with time, many of these skills disappeared from the area. Even against the law, the local Lanna people, still love “muay” (boxing) and “daab” (sword), so their practice became transformed into dances with gracious movements to camouflage the great martial arts skills of the sword and the empty hand techniques so the skills can be passed on to future generations.
Muay Paak Nuua boxers were famous for having extensive knowledge about vital points in the body. Muay Lampang boxers would often strike using the hands in a pincer-like action, grabbing and exerting pressure on vulnerable parts of the body.
Muay Thasao/Uttaradit (Northern or Pak Nuua style)
Muay Thasao is a style of Muay with which Phraya Pichai Daab Haak defeats many opponents.
The guard in the Muay Thasao is long and the weight goes in the back, so the front foot is barely touching the floor. It is a fast and quick style were the long-range is preferred when fighting. The front hand is far from the face and the front shoulder is elevated, the rear hand is lower resting on the side of the mandible or lower. The stance is almost sideways and the feet are positioned one in front of the other. On many occasions, the rear foot in he Muay Thasao footwork moves inside behind the front foot creating a trick to deliver surprising fast kicks.
The main philosophy in the Muay Thasao style is to finished the opponent as soon as possible; His attacks are extremely explosive and effective.
In the city of Uttaradit this style is still alive today. Some low profile schools are hidden in the outskirts but practice goes everyday. They don’t teach foreigners except under special circumstances. And it is almost impossible to find them. Don’t try without invitation. They are very strict about their knowledge.
YANG SAM KHUM FOOTWORK
The Three Golden Steps of Vishnu
There are many Muay Thai techniques which are inspired by Indian myths and legends. The yang sam khum footwork (three step movement) is no exception. The story is said to come from the Ramayana epic based on a story of the great Lord Rama who used his wit to outsmart the devil giant Tatawan.
As a faithful guard of the heavens, Lord Shiva granted Tatawan a blessing. The once devoted guard became conceited in requesting for three hundred miles of land in which he would have the power to devour any man, god or animal that would stray into his land. The evil giant Tatawan became increasingly greedy and over indulgent of blood, even using meditation to brew magic as to lure more and more victims. Those that managed to escape pleaded with Lord Shiva to intervene but it was rather unfortunate that the kind hearted Lord Shiva, who always granted a blessing if asked, had no power to undo any blessing or spell which went foul. Lord Shiva then ordered for Lord Rama (Vishnu) to get rid of the evil giant Tatawan.
The Lord Rama then approached Tatawan in a transformed body of a little boy requesting for a piece of land that cover three strides so that he could perform a ritual according to the brahma books .The little boy assured Tatawan that he could devour him as soon as he was done. The giant then agreed to give the disguised Lord Rama a piece of land and gave his vow that he would not take back the land once the ritual was performed. As soon as Tatawan made his vow, Lord Rama returned to his normal form, back to his almighty self the whole land shook when lord Rama took the tree strides covering the giants land, taking the 300 square miles. Tatawan was so afraid as he knew only one person who could perform such an act, (Lord Rama) and was aware that he struck with doom and thus killed the evil giant Tatawan.
Yang sam khum is one of the great footwork treasures that muay Thai holds. Yang sam khum is the way to evade an opponent and to counter him while moving forwards or backwards in the most simple and efficient way.
It is three points of a triangle in which two of them are occupied by each one of our foot, the third point is where we will step. The yang sam kum footwork teaches us how to step in a triangular zig-zag manner forwards or backwards without being exposed for an oncoming attack from our opponent. When the yang sam khum is fully comprehended, the boxer can move around an opponent, counter an opponent and lock or throw an opponent in a very intelligent way.
The yang sam khum stepping method uses the knee and elbow to occupy or block the imaginary center line while walking at all times. On many occasions we have heard about yang sam khum and even practiced the movement that our ancestor masters have left us but the truth is that only a very few can use this great footwork with efficiency, softness and precision.
Another beneficial aspect of employing this triangular footwork when the practitioner is properly trained, is that he will be able to use his knees and elbows to intercept kicks and knees by piercing the soft internal meridians of the legs so stronger or larger opponents are submitted with minimal amount of power . This maneuver is a winning tactic and secret for survival in muay Thai. No matter how skillful or well built may an opponent be, the use of the lethal style of yang sam khum should finish him in a swift effective manner.
MODERN MUAY THAI
For years, Thai boxing has been the national sport of Thailand and training camps are found all over the country. Bangkok is where all the best boxers from around the country come to compete in the major boxing stadiums of Lumpini and Rajadamnern.
Muay Thai matches are conducting in five rounds of three minutes each with a two minute break in between rounds. A referee is present to make sure that the boxers fight within the rules and regulations or to stop the fight if one of the boxers become injured.
The daily training is divided into two training sessions, six days a week which consist of shadow boxing, heavy bag and pad work, lots of skipping and running and clinch sparring. The methodology of muay Thai places great emphasis in delivering full power behind every strike.
Stages and Strategy in Muay Thai
If we want to learn modern muay Thai, the boxer must pass through different stages of training until he reached the desired level of skill.
This is the first stage in which the boxer learns how to use the different parts of the body, punches, kicks, knees, elbows and the different variations or combinations within the art.
It means the defensive or counter attack movements used in Muay Thai Fighting. The kon muay is divided in four different parts:
If kon muay is used for the defense is called “Kon Muay Lab”.
If kon muay is used for the defense or counter is called “Kon Muay Tobto”.
If kon muay is used for the counter is called “Kon Muay Kae”.
If kon muay is used for the attack is called “Kon Muay ChuChom”.
“Mae Mai Strategic Fighting”
When the boxer has learned all the cherng muay and kon muay, the boxer is ready to start learning a higher stage of training. In this new stage called Mae Mai or master tricks stage, the boxer learns about certain ways of movement to open up tricky attacks or set up counters.
“Luk Mai Refined Tricks Fighting”
Look Mai Muay Thai means the complementary trick movements that are used in Muay Thai, which stem from Mae Mai. Before practicing them, the boxer must have the experience of Mae Mai Muay Thai.
There is an old “fighting method” to describe how to deal with the different weapons in muay Thai. Ancient masters believe that the kick can loose against the punch (because the power and speed of the punch)-the punch can loose against the knee (if we clinch the opponent’s punch become ineffective)-the knee can loose against the elbow (when the elbow strikes the leg during a knee attack)-elbow can loose against the kick (because the elbow lack of distance). The method is very accurate but of course there are always exceptions…
After the boxer was trained in the art of muay Thai and depending on his mental and physical capacity, the result of his boxing skills were classified as muay Lak (defensive and counter) or Muay Kiew (agile and tricky) style.
MUAY THAI RITUALS
Yok Kru or Accepting Ceremony
In the past, to be accepted into a training camp, the student must do a trial period under the teacher’s supervision before he can join the school. Only after that, the student will be allowed to do the Kan kru or Yok kru acceptance ceremony which is done on Thursdays.The Kan kru ceremony is especially important because it symbolizes the bond between mentor and disciple and sets the stage for further training.
Due to the limited time that students have to train in Thailand, rather than having a period of trial, the Muay Sangha school has decided to hold just an interview to make sure that the student’s and the school direction are alike.
When the future student joins the school, he must bring on the second day of training 3 white lotus or 3 garlands of jasmine flowers, one white candle (for the full moon meditation) and an envelop with the training fees.
Krub Kru Ceremony
The Krub Kru ceremony happens upon the completion of a fighter’s training and at a point when the fighter is able to compete at a high level and also competent to instruct others in the art.
The Muay Sangha school in order to assure the quality of it’s teachings, once a year holds an instructor course to pass on the skills and knowledge. Completion of the course will grant the necessary ability to instruct the art to others.
We Wai Kru or Annual Wai Kru Ceremony
The We Wai Kru is the annual ceremony dedicated to teachers in which students perform their skills as a way to show gratitude, respect and loyalty to the teachers.
Because most of our students live overseas, the time of the year that the Muay Sangha school has choosen to be reunited is on the Buddha’s birthday on the full moon of May every year. On this evening all the students walk during the night to reach the top of Doi Suthep mountain in a way to celebrate the importance of being together and show respect to teachers. Doi Suthep is considered to be an important mountain in the Thai Buddhist tradition.
Wai Kru or Ram Muay Dance before Fight
Another unique aspect of this powerful art is the important ritual of the Ram Muay and the wai kru ceremony that the boxer performs in the ring before each match.The ritual performed before each fight is actually part of a larger set designed to demonstrate respect and gratitude towards teachers. The wai kru also serves to focus the fighters concentration and loosen muscles before fighting. The music of muay Thai is called “sarama”and at many big stadiums in Thailand live bands play the music. The instruments used in the sarama are the kong-keeg (two face drum), pee java (Javanese flute), and the ching (cymbals). Music is important to the wai kru ritual and a tangible part of the fight itself.
Each Thai camp has its own version of the wai kru and ram muay. A thai camp’s wai kru is its signature. The dances of various camps are recognizable to the people in the stands. Just by watching the ritual, fans know exactly where the fighters come from. The motions from the wai kru and ram muay are highly stylized and beautiful to behold. Actions in the dances are symbolic of the epic Indian story of the Ramayana. In general, there are two parts of the ram muay: the first part is from the ground and the second part is done standing up. This mirrors the way that ancient teachers taught students, first kneeling in the ground to learn the hands or weapons and make the legs and the patience strong. Only after, the different footwork patterns were learned.
Sprinkling dust on the head of the Thai boxer
The ritual of sprinkling water, dust or talcum powder among Thai boxers was done before jumping in the ropes. It was said to be a way of casting a spell known as hanuman crawls in the dust. This spell was said to soften up and make even the most aggressive adversary weak. Usually this ritual among the boxers was accompanied by a prayer about lord Budha, Dhamma and the monks (sangha). It was believed that the more dust the more effective. However a more real and probable reason for this ritual is that in the past boxers would fight on bare ground and to better acclimatize to the terrain in which they were fighting they disguised it by reciting the spell and touching the ground in question. Grounds that where made of clay where harder for fluent with boxing and elbows, while in hard solid ground the boxers could flow more easily with rapid footwork but when fighting in sand the boxers had to be more cautious with every movement to avoid slipping.
Before a boxer enters the ring he would cast a spell. When that is done he then enters the ring usually over the top ropes.
The four faced Thep Phranom Promma is a well know wai kru style and consists of the following four movements.
1. Thep Phranom movement: in this movement the boxer puts both knees on the ground shoulder width apart and with his weight over the heels, the hands are closed together at chest level.
2. Royal salute movement: from the Thep Phranom the hands are pushed forward while inclining the body down wards in unison then bringing them back above the eye browns when returning to the Thep Phranom position. The movement is repeated three times.
3. Four directions movement: the boxer performs different skills while kneeling in the ground facing the four cardinal points and emulating specific wai kru movements in relation to the boxer style
4. Standing up movement: this movement is done from the Thep Phranom position by first lifting the left knee then standing up with right knee in an upward thrust.
5. Dance movement: this motion is accomplished by dancing to the rhythm with agile movements of the body until unable to go any further then change to the three step movement “yang sam khum”. This style of wai kru is the most popular at the moment.
The wai kru is presented in numerous styles and variations depending on which school the boxer comes from. Thai boxing master from different parts of the country teach their style. Each camp creates its own version of a well -known movement.
The following are some of the other styles of the wai kru that exist.
Wai kru in Sao Nao Pa Pang movement (Young Maiden Applies The Talcum Powder) this is seen as one of the most graceful and stylish movements of the wai kru and when performed by an experienced boxer it really is breathtaking.
Wai kru in The Royal Salute Movement (Tawai Bangkom)
Wai kru in Hong Hern Movement (Swan’s Flight)
Wai kru in Pra Ram Tam Gwang Movement (Rama Follows The Deer) this is a slow movement to make the body tuned to high risk. The movement stands out as it is an entertaining dance to undermine the opponent while boosting moral of the performing boxer.
Once both boxers have completed their wai kru the referee will call them into the center of the ring and explain the rules. They then return to their corners and before fighting the boxers will place a finger over the nostrils so as to check on the balance of breath. The boxer will step forward with the nostril that provides better breath.
SUPERNATURAL FORCES IN MUAY THAI
Ancient warriors lived in a culture with strong spiritual belief. The supernatural powers were consider to play a big part in a warrior’s success in battle. Prayer before battle included a call to the supernatural forces to enter the warrior’s body and fill him with invincibility and power.
Different powers were thought to emanate from connection to and favor with specific spiritual beings of war, including Hanuman, Kun Pan, Rama Thep and many others. It is from this tradition that the wai kru of today evolved.
The modern day wai kru is a tribute to the gods, the king, the country, the family and the teachers. Through the music and the ritual, fighters open themselves to the presence of the spiritual entities and the powers that may emanate from the divine. Through the ritual, boxers seek to tap their spiritual self and the powers of the supernatural. If successful, they enter a realm of existence without time or physical limitations, becoming what can be described as channels for supernatural forces. The result is a fighter whose entire mind, body and spirit are altered to achieve the highest potential in combat.
Muay Thai Magical Pillars
Mongkon (head band)
The mongkon is the head band that boxers wear during the Ram Muay or prefight ritual when they enter the ring. It’s is believed that the mongkon can protect the boxer against injuries or dangers when it is blessed by a mo pii or witch doctor. It’s made of twisting strands of sacred protective thread rolled into a soft cord. Sometimes the mongkon carries small amulets or magical objects inside, between the strings. When a boxer enters the ring while wearing the mongkon, he must past over the top rope of the ring because the mongkon and the head of the boxer should not pass under any object that has been used before or in contact with the genital organs, legs or feet. The mongkon represents the school or teacher and should be kept in a high place away from the ground and from woman.
When the back end of the mongkon points up, it means that the boxer comes from south Thailand. If the back end is straight, the boxer comes from central Thailand or East and if the back end is loose or facing downwards the boxer comes from the north.
Prajiat (arm band)
The prajiat is a piece of cloth that is worn around a boxers bicept during a muay Thai fight, it is a protective charm that is believed to ward off any type of bad spirit or jinxes. The cloth is made from a thin material red or white according to the kind of magic and has different magical symbols, sutras and numbers written on it in ancient khom or lanna language by a black magician master or a monk that has learned the sayasart or dark magic arts.
It is also said that in the past, ancient warriors would wear a piece of cloth blessed by their mother to give them more strength and courage during battle.
Kah-Tah (magical words)
Kah-Tah is a term related to a phrase or group of words based in an ancient language descending from Sanskrit or Pali which allows one to communicate with the spiritual world. The Kah-Tah or magical enchantment is a very protected tradition and is passed on from master to student in a very secretive way on a certain day of the week, the month and the year. Some Kah-Tah are used only when it’s extremely necessary for example in moments of real danger. Other types of Kah-Tahs are used to protect a place or a third party.
It is believed that when a boxer enters the ring he will silently recite a Kah-Tah given to him by his master so he can evoke supernatural powers to be protected and victorious in the fight.The fighter repeats the words in his mind and he thinks of holy powers and may seek to visualize God. Thai boxers try to allow their soul to leave their body to be replaced by a spiritual entity. In the past Kah-Tah was a very serious subject of study and people would invest the rest of their lives to the study of these secretive arts. Kah-tahs were written on a thin sheet of metal and rolled to be worn close to the body, this was called takrut.
Kaad Chueak (hand wraps)
The Hand wraps were made of raw cotton or from a piece of a long string. The wrapping of the hands were a very difficult task and it took at least one hour to wrap each hand. The different styles of muay Thai have their own techniques and secrets of wrapping. Some styles would bind their whole forearm up to the elbows, others to the middle of the forearm and just a few would do it to the wrist. Everything was depending on which strategy of fighting they were using. The knuckles and the side of the hand and forearm were separately wrapped. A lot of attention was put on twisting small pieces of rope and placing them over each knuckle to cut the opponent more easily, as well the edge of the hand or forearm were covered by knots so when the arm pushes the face it could inflict a cut.
The hand wraps were kept on two balls of rope in a high located altar with the mongkon and the prajiats. It’s well know that few hours before a match some boxers bring the hand wraps to witch doctor or a monk so he can bless the ropes, write a Kah-Tah on them and sprinkle magical water on the wraps and on the head of the boxer. There is a golden rule that applies when you use this kind of black magic. The boxer cannot use the bathroom until he finishes the fight, only after when he releases his lower body fluids the magic will fade away. These were the four main pillars, together with the ram muay (which already is described above) that represented muay boran.