The Traditions, Culture, and History of Muay Thai

Learn The Pre-Fight Rituals, Scoring System, and Ceremonies That Make Thai Boxing Such a Unique and Beautiful Martial Art

As a Nak Muay (student of Muay Thai), learning the background of the Thai boxing culture is important to truly understand what the martial art is all about. Besides understanding the ceremonial dance known as the wai kru ram muay, it’s also important to know about the rules, scoring system, history, pre-fight rituals, and traditions that make this sport so unique.

There are many principles that go along Muay Thai and understanding that showing respect inside and outside the ring is one of the most important principles to consider when you being your training.

Taking part in any of the Muay Thai traditions can be accessible to anyone with an open mind, but keep in mind that certain traditions and ceremonies have minor differences and can hold different meanings with each individual Muay Thai training camp, trainer or gym. Regardless of the teacher or gym, these traditions are designed to make a permanent impression on the minds of anyone willing to truly commit to the art of eight limbs! 

This page is here to help you learn more in-depth about the culture and traditions behind this beautiful martial art we call Muay Thai.

Muay Thai History

Want to know how Muay Thai originated? Are there other Thai martial arts related to Thai boxing? Learn more about krabi krabong and muay boran to see where Muay Thai originated. There is a long history behind the muay thai martial art that has helped protect the thai people over hundreds of years! Check out the history of Muay Thai on Wikipedia to learn more about how it became what it is today.

Muay Thai Scoring System and Rules

Knowing and understand the rules and scoring systems used during Muay Thai fights is important for all fans and especially fighters to know. Although the rules and scoring systems change depending on the sanctioning body and location of the fights, it’s important to know the essentials.

The scoring system explained here is what is used in Thailand and is what most people consider the true way to judge a Muay Thai fight. Although the scoring in western countries might vary depending on a number of factors, if you understand the basics of how a Muay Thai fight should be scored, it will help you when you watch a fight as a fan or step in the ring.

When it comes to the rules, it will also depend on where you fight and what the rules are of the sanctioning body running the fights.  For the most part, you can get an idea for the rules of Muay Thai by checking out the WBC rules and regulations here.

Wai Kru Ram Muay – (Traditional Muay Thai Dance)

wai kru ram muay thai danceThe traditional dance that you see a majority of Muay thai fighters perform before the fight is known as the wai kru ram muay. Although there are some western promotions that skip over this unique and beautiful aspect of the sport, many fighters still decide to seal the ring and wear the traditional garments that are commonly worn in Thailand.

I remember learning the whole wai kru ram muay ritual when I trained in Thailand and it was more challenging to learn than I thought! Honestly I was more anxious/worried about messing up the dance than I was the fight itself.

If you want to watch a horrible version of this beautiful dance, check out my version from my 3rd fight here. Want to represent Muay Thai seriously? Then make sure you take the time to learn more about the wai kru ram muay and why it is such a big part of Muay Thai tradition and culture!

Sarama (Muay Thai Music)

muay thai music saramaWhen you first go to a Thai boxing fight and hear the Muay Thai music (known as the sarama), you probably get freaked out a little bit… I know I did.  

Although it sounded annoying at first, the music has grown on me and helped me be more focused and at ease when I’m in the ring competing. Now whenever I hear the music, my blood starts flowing and I get the feeling like I’m about to fight. Some western promotions neglect to play the Thai music in the background of their fights, but it will always be a tradition that is upheld in Thailand.  

Mongkol / Mongkon  (Muay Thai Headband)

mongkol muay thai headbandThais are very superstitious people, so naturally the sport that they created will have plenty of superstitions surrounding it. Another one of these Thai boxing traditions come in the form of a mongkol (or mongkon) which is a Muay Thai headdress that every fighter wears. The mongkol gives the good luck, protection and holds a special place at most gyms. There is much more to it than just that though, so click here to find out more about the mongkon.

Speaking of mongkon’s, make sure you check out the epic Muay Thai documentary series, Warriors of the Mongkon.

muay thai armbandsPrajioud / Prajed (Muay Thai armbands)

The prajioud / prajed are worn along with the Muay Thai headdress is for ultimate protection from evil spirts and ghosts. Some gyms use a Muay Thai armband ranking system to separate the beginners from the advanced fighters, but traditionally there is no such thing.

If you want to learn more about the prajioud/Muay Thai armbands then click here!

Sak Yant (Muay Thai tattoos)

sak tant muay thai tattoosTraditionally, sak yant tattoos are done by buddhist monks with bamboo needles and supposedly to give you good luck, protection from evil spirits, success in the ring and numerous other spiritual powers.

With a rise in tourism in Thailand (and Muay Thai tourism in general) more and more farang are getting sak yant tattoos. Some people get them done by a traditional bamboo tattoo stick and others decide to go the modern route of the tattoo gun. It is said that the sak yant only hold the spiritual powers and meaning if they are done the traditional way by a buddhist monk, however that doesn’t stop others from getting these types of tattoos with regular tattoo guns.

Other Pre Fight Rituals

muay thai pre fightThere is a whole variety of pre fight rituals that Muay Thai fighters perform before their fights. Traditions and rituals like climbing over the top rope, sealing the corners of the ring, and praying before their mongkol is lifted are just a few of the many superstitious rituals Thai fighters believe in.

If you want some tips on how to prepare in the locker room before a fight, click here.

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