The Wai Kru / Ram Muay


 

Origins and Explanation of the Ritual

Music is an integral part of MUAY THAI and because of it, this art of self defense has become an extension of one of Thailand's dramatic arts.

The musical instruments orchestrated in the background of the Wai Kru rituals and in the competitions consist of the TA PONG or GLONG-KAG (Two face drum), toe PEE JAVA (Javanese flute) and the CHING (cymbals).

According to legendary chronicles and historical records of Thailand, MUAY THAI competitions were customarily organized on celebratory and festive occasions. It was also used as a means of selecting men with great fighting skills to serve in important positions in the military.

The most important question today is how are we to preserve this beautiful and gracious art from disappearing or from losing its authenticity? There are many ways to answer this question, but first of all we must fully understand the importance of the WAI KRU ceremony.

To train for MUAY THAI a fighter must have a mentor. Perhaps a fighter will be directly taught by other fighters, but all in all, every fighter is considered to have a mentor, and it is customary that all fighters must respect their mentors.

One of the most important virtues of the Thai people is the showing of true respect and sincere humbleness towards teachers, masters, mentors and instructors. They are considered to be second from their true parents. Instructors are full of knowledge, love and kindness, ready and willing to transfer their skill and knowledge to the students, so that the students in turn will be of value to society and to the country as a whole in the future.

All instructors should be respected and revered by their students. As the future inheritors of all the knowledge and skill, it is the duty of the students to swear allegiance to endure the hardship and to persevere to achieve the final aims. Those students who respect or revere their mentors will benefit from the following results:
  • The opportunity to be endowed with all their knowledge and skills.
  • The ability to use the knowledge learnt to benefit himself and others.
  • Life of prosperity, those students who truly respect their mentors, are consistent in behavior and humble will always be looked after and taught, giving the student less chance of doing wrong as the students will always think before actually doing anything.
  • The ability to adapt and advance the knowledge and skill that the student had been trained for to further heights.

Wai Kru for the training of Muay Thai

In every stage of the training of MUAY THAI, the Wai Kru is a vital part of the training, which can be explained in the following sequence:
  • Submission as a student, Keun Kru or Yok Kru.  Keun Kru or Yok Kru is when the instructor accepts the student and the student accepts the instructor to be the one to train him. In the past, the student must serve the instructor for a period of time before actual training begins. During this period the instructor will study the student to ensure that the student is trustworthy, honest and able. Once the instructor is satisfied with the student's performance permission is given by the instructor to conduct the Keun Kru ceremony, in some areas it is called the Yok Kru ceremony. This ceremony is where both the instructor and the student accept one another and the student must abide by the rules and regulations set forth by the instructor. The Keun Kru ceremony is conducted on Thursday because in ancient times, Thursdays are considered to be an auspicious day for such occasions. The student must bring along some personal items for the ceremony. As for money, it depends on each individual instructor. The ceremony is conducted in front of a Buddha image and the student will pledge his loyalty to the instructor.
  • Kronb Kru. Kronb Kru is a ceremony conducted for the student on the completion of his training. The student has now the ability to transfer his knowledge and skill to others and at the same time, be able to adapt and apply his skill to suit the situation. The student is ready to compete in any competition with pride. In this ceremony the student is given the Monsol according to the tradition of that training camp. Again, this ceremony is conducted on a Thursday before noon at the home of the instructor or at the temple.
  • Yearly Wai Kru. "Yearly Wai Kru" is a tradition that Thailand has carried forth since ancient time. We Wai Kru to respect our mentors because if it was not for them we would not have the knowledge and principles that we abide by. It is these two virtues that enable us to carry on fulfilling our tasks. In this ceremony we again pledge our respect and memories to our teachers past and present. Even though some of us have long finished our education or training we still give our teachers the greatest of respect. The day chosen for the Wai Kru is Thursday as it is believed to be 'the day of the teachers'.
  • The Wai Kru. The art of MUAY THAI from past to present has a tradition that every tighter must perform the Wai Kru before every competition. Wai Kru is performed as a means of paying respect to the chairperson of the competition or in the past as a way to pay homage to the King who would normally be a spectator on almost every occasion. It also symbolizes the gratefulness of the fighter towards his mentor who had trained him and as a means of concentrating himself mentally for the competition. If we further study the roots of the Thai culture we will discover that the Wai Kru is not just a way of paying respect to only our mentor but what this ritual is actually doing is paying homage to mentors before and long before him since the dawn of humanity. Hence, the Wai Kru is a way of worshipping past instructors and the way up to the holy spirits in heaven.

The role of the art of the Wai Kru ritual

For those who have studied or have trained in the art of MUAY THAI, many are quite confused and many have asked why do we have to do the Wai Kru ritual? Is it for beauty, entertainment, commemoration or exercise? Not all these answers are wrong, but to go deeper into the reasons why we do the Wai Kru ritual is due to 3 beneficial reasons as follows:
  • To merit and worship God. If we consider the roots of all different types of art, it can be seen that religion plays a vital and influential role in its direction. Therefore, all different form of art attempts to bring man closer to God (if you do not believe in God then it is quite difficult for you to understand art, especially the art of MUAY THAI and the Wai Kru ritual). Hence, the Wai Kru and its music is to worship all the gods, especially the god Pra Isuan, the creator and the ruler of the universe. It is then appropriate for MUAY THAI Boxers to invite and accept the holy spirits into their bodies and minds.
  • Heart and Soul. Other than the invitation of the holy spirits, the art of the Wai Kru is to prepare the boxer's heart and soul to another level - the level of divine and supernatural conditions. Physical body and time must be forgotten so as the MUAY THAI Boxers can take on this divine force. The problem that often occurs is whether the boxer can reach this spiritual being or not. It can be achieved, but only if the boxer concentrates during the Wai Kru with true sincerity and respect. But what will happen if we do not perform the Wai Kru? One of two things could occur, firstly the art of MUAY THAI would not exist and secondly the boxers would not fully understand the art of MUAY THAI . Therefore the Wai Kru ceremony is very important. We may not be able to see this auspicious force but the boxer himself can feel the existence of his mentor by his side.
  • Entertainment and Strength. The God, Pra l-Suan presented humans with the gift of music and dancing so that people can enjoy true happiness. True happiness without greed and selfishness will induce us to forget our own body and time, Therefore, during the Wai Kru the boxers should let their soul leave the body and let the holy spirit take over. Boxers who practice the kah-tah (religions verse) during the Wai Kru believe that these verses will give them supernatural power. In ancient times, Thai warriors believed in amulets, charms and the occult to possess them in battle as a means of increasing morale. To use these supernatural powers, concentration is the main factor in controlling the fighter's will. The majority of the ancient warriors would put their faith in the god of wars, such as Hua Jai Hanuman, Hua Jai Kun Pan, Hua Jai Kong-Kah Derd, Hua Jai Oran Pet, Hua Jai Pra-Lai Penk and many others, depending on what strength and faith they have in each of the different gods.
For an example, below is one verse of the Hua Jai Hanuman Kah-lah to practice:

HA NU MA NA
ND MA NA HA
MA NA HA ND
NA HA ND MA

It is used for meditation training as you must memorize the verse correctly and repeat the verse over and over again as quickly as possible which requires much concentration. It is a method of measuring your faith and will power. Simultaneously, during the chanting of the verses in your mind you must think of the Hanuman god, his bravery, his strength and his power until you can see him in your mind. In return you will feel and have the power and strength of the Hanuman god. From this inspiration of thoughts we can compare it to the Buddhist teaching as follows:

     

  • Pabomyarn (Primary instincts) - concentrate on the Hanuman god:
    • Wi-tok (thoughts) - think of the Hanuman god.
    • Wi-Jahn (Considerations) - think of his power and bravery.
    • Pi-ti (happiness) - pleased and satisfied to have faith.
    • Ek-atarom (loyalty) - think only of the Hanuman god.
  • Too-li-ya-yarn (Transcendent insight) - start to think that he is the Hanuman god:
    • Pi-ti (happiness) - pleased that the Hanuman god has power.
    • Sook (Content) - content with the Hanuman god.
    • Ek-ataro (loyalty) - think only of the Hanuman god.
  • Too-ti-ya-yarn (Meditative trance) - Hanuman god starts to posses:
    • Soak (Pleased) - Pleased with the power of the Hanuman god.
    • Ek-atarom (loyalty) - Hanuman god possesses the body.
    • Ja-too-ta yarn (Absorption) - Hanuman god possesses the body.
    • Oo-bek-kah (Impartiality).
    • Ek-atarom (loyalty) - Has the same strength and power of the Hanuman god.
Ancient Thai warriors had always held fast to these principles, which in turn brought them renown for their bravery throughout the peninsula. It is an example that we the younger generation should follow and help preserve this Thai legacy.

Today, the "Wai Kru ritual" is known as the "Wai Kru" for short.

In MUAY THAI competition, the art of the Wai Kru ritual is of a basic one. It is conducted to pay respect to the instructors, the opponent and the spectators. In reality the effectiveness of the ceremony is to demonstrate the gentleness and graciousness in the controlling of the body and the mind.

In Buddhism, the true quality of being gentle and gracious hides the true power of authority. And if we can use this power together with the strength of our body and the wisdom of our mind, then this is the origin of all the magical power.

Boxers should "Wai Kru" in the way it has been done by our ancestors in the past. It is a way to help preserve the art of MUAY THAI from disappearing or from losing its authenticity.

The first thing a boxer learns in MUAY THAI is the Wai Kru. The Wai Kru is not designed to insult or show off to the opponent. It is a ritual in memory and in respect of the mentor who have given the boxer his knowledge and skill. Other than that, the Wai Kru makes the boxer concentrate on his MUAY THAI skill while practicing his balance.


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