Wai Khru Ram Muay, often shortened to just “Wai Khru” or “Ram Muay”, is a ritual performed by Muay Thai fighters in the ring before the actual fight commences. Traditions and rituals surround the Thai cultural sport. For outsiders to the sport, the ceremony can feel tedious but for many fans of Muay Thai, the Wai Khru is an authentic and entertaining aspect that adds to its charm.
The ritual consists of 2 parts, namely “Wai Khru” and “Ram Muay” made up of 4 different Thai words. “Wai” is the Thai customary way of greeting with the palms put together, showing a form of respect. “Khru” comes from the sanskrit word “guru” which translates to “teacher”, so “Wai Khru” literally means “paying respect to the teacher”. “Ram” means “dance” in the old traditional sense and “Muay” is the Thai word for boxing so the term refers to the “dance of boxers/fighters”.
Each pre-fight ceremony begins with the fighter(s) circling within the ring in an anti-clockwise direction with one hand on the top rope, pausing at each corner briefly for a prayer. This action is an act of superstition that “seals” the ring and prevents negative energy or forces from entering, thus seeking protection during the fight. Following which, the fighters proceed to perform the “Wai Khru” that involves a kneel, bow and the “Wai”, done three times to show respect towards their parents, teachers, and Buddha. This simple act is meant to bring about auspiciousness and keeps the mind clear and mindful.
The “Ram Muay” dance follows suit. This elaborate dance expresses stories from the Indian Vedic origins from which the country’s religion is heavily influenced. In the olden days, the Ram Muay varies from camp to camp and region to region. Nowadays, there is very little variation, if at all. The dance consists of a series of movements that are very graceful and the whole segment can take several minutes to complete. The “Ram Muay” helps to warm up the fighter’s body while also relaxes the mind. Spectators often use the dance as an indication of the fighter’s balance and calmness, both being key characteristics of a skilled Muay Thai exponent.
The entire Wai Khru Ram Muay ceremony is performed to the soundtrack of Sarama, an unique rhythmic traditional Thai music that also accompanies the fights. The hypnotic otherworldly sounds of the Sarama starkly juxtaposes with swift brutal movements to characterize the sport of Muay Thai, that is like no other.
Today, the Wai Khru is taught in Muay Thai gyms all around the world, even to students who do not compete in the ring. Every year, thousands of Muay Thai practitioners from all over the world gather in the ancient Thai city of Ayutthaya for the annual World Wai Kru Ceremony and show their appreciation for the traditions of Muay Thai.