Before any Muay Thai contest can commence, a series of traditional rituals have to be undertaken:
- Approaching the Ring Rites (Kuen Suu Weitee)
- Ritual Dance of Homage (Wai Khru Ram Muay)
- Removal of the Head Circlet (Pitee Tod Mongkon)
These are all described in this chapter, along with “do-
Approaching the Ring Rites (Kuen Suu Weitee)
In ancient times, as has already been indicated, Siamese people believed in the power of incantations and protective amulets. They thought that everywhere was ruled or inhabited by unseen spirits, and that places were either cursed or blessed. Because of these beliefs, it was necessary to perform special rites before a fighter entered the ring, asking the spirits’ permission to do so, propitiating them, and destroying any evil which may be. Lurking there. The rituals were also thought to protect the fighter and lead him to victory. Even today, the rites involve a strong element of psychology as the fighters psyche themselves in readiness for the imminent bout.
In the days when bouts were staged on the bare ground, fighters used to pay homage to the goddess of the earth, Mae Torrannee, by picking up some soil when they were kneeling down and raising it to their forehead. Even in these days of concrete stadiums, some fighters can still be observed pressing their thumb on the floor and then on their forehead. This, like everything else in this particular ritual, is very much a matter of Individual preference these days, with no prescribed rules.
Ritual Dance of Homage (Wai Khru Ram Muay)
Before a fight, Muay Thai fighters again show respect for their teacher through performing a ritualised dance, a tradition which goes back to ancient times and which has been preserved from generation to generation. This is not an optional ritual or one reserved for special occasions only: the official Muay Thai regulations specify that both fighters must perform the Wai Khru Ram Muay before each and every bout. As has already been seen in Chapter 3, Wai Khru is a tradition in which fighters pay respect to their teachers, parents and things they hold sacred, contemplating upon everything with which they have been blessed. In this pre-
It is believed that, in the past, it was the practice for soldiers to perform a ritual ceremony before they went to war, incorporating one of their weapons, such as a sword. During times of peace, those soldiers incorporated these rites, minus the weapons, into their military and physical training and this gradually evolved in stylised form into the Wail Khru Ram Muay. The ritual developed in different ways, not only in different regions but even under different teachers. It is theoretically impossible for two fighters performing identical Wai Khru Ram Muay rituals to continue to actually fight each other, because, having realized they belong to the same school of Muay, they would be reluctant to be matched against each other.
Removal of the Head Circlet (Pitee Tod Mongkon)
After the Wal Khru Ram Muay ritual is completed, the fighters return to their own corners. Then, they go back to the center of the ring to be briefed by the referee on the rules of the coming bout and so on. Then, they return to their own corners once more for the Removal of the Head Circlet Ritual –
Step by Step
- Stand in your own corner, facing outwards, while your teacher (or an official representative personally appointed by him) stands outside the ropes. In a gesture of profound respect, lower your head and raise your hands to your chest in the panom mue wai pose. In response, the teacher then raises his own hands to chest-
level to return the wai.
- While you maintain the panom mue wai posture, the teacher utters an incantation and blows three times on the top of your head before removing the mongkon with both hands. Alternatively he caresses the top of your head with one hand while holding the mongkon in the other, before removing the mongkon as before. If you deeply respect your teacher, you may then prostrate yourself three times on the floor: this is entirely at your own discretion.
- On the completion of this ritual, the contest can commence.