by Panya Kraitus and Dr. Pitisuk Kraitus
At the time of the fall of the ancient Thai capital of Ayuthya in 1767, when the city was destablized and heading for destruction because it rulers were weak, the invading Burmese troops rounded up a group of Thai residents and took them as prisoners. Among them were a large number of Thai boxers, who were held by the Burmese potentate Suki Phra Nai Kong of Kai Pho Sam Ton at the city of Ungwa.
Wai Khru / Ram Muay is a ceremony performed by Muay Thai fighters before each and every competition in the ring. It is a dance ritual used to show respect to their teachers, parents and everything they hold sacred as well as a method of praying for victory and safety.
Wai Khru Ram Muay is an ancient ritual passed down from generation to generation. During ancient times, Siamese soldiers would perform this ceremony before going to war using their weapon of choice as a way to gather courage and healthy spirit.
Nowadays, it is performed in the ring of traditional Muay Thai bouts. Each individual camp possesses their own Wai Khru / Ram Muay.
The Mongkhon is an essential possession of every true Nak Muay (Thai Boxer). The Mongkhon is basically a round band worn around the head of the boxer to bring good luck, success and prosperity to him/her. Another tradition descended from ancient times; the Mongkhon originates from Siamese soldiers tying lucky bandanas around their heads before going into battle.
Long Ago, legend has it, some Khru (teachers) would use a live snake- preferably a poisonous one- to enhance the miraculous power of this custom. Supposedly, the snake would be forced to open it’s mouth and it’s tail would be rammed down it’s own throat, killing it and forming it into a circle. It would then be left to dry in the sun for seven days. Hemp-like material was woven around the dried-out snake to complete the Mongkhon.
The Khanomtom Muay Thai camp embraces and holds sacred the tradition of the Mongkhon. Never can it be purchased or borrowed. It can only be earned through dedicated practice, kinship and respect. Any Mongkhon brought in by any outside parties has absolutely no significance to a Khanomtom student or fighter. Every fighter from the camp uses only the provided Mongkhon for the camp. Once a Khanomtom Instructor is promoted and induced, he/she is awarded their own Mongkhon to serve as an heirloom to pass down to the next generation of Nak Muay.
The Mongkhon is placed on the head of the fighter by the teacher before each fight in the ring. It is removed after the Wai Khru / Ram Muay by the teacher as a small prayer is shared between fighter and teacher before the fight.
The Prajiat, much like the Mongkhon, is another essential element in Muay Thai culture. The Prajiat is a small band worn around the biceps of the fighter to increase confidence, avoid danger, injury or fatality. The Prajiat is kept on the fighter throughout the fight.
Traditionally, the Prajiat was composed of fabric from a dress and/or strands of hair belonging to the mother of the boxer.
These traditional customs of Muay Thai are taken into serious account by all authentic camps. Where some camps may see them as cultural byproducts of the art, others believe that spirits have blessed these items and by wearing the Mongkhon, the Prajiat and performing the Wai Khru / Ram Muay, it empowers them almost to the point of invicibility. Although these beliefs may seem untrue to most, embracing this optimism before each fight would certainly be beneficial.