Welcome back to my online diary documenting my very amateur experience training in Muay Thai. If you missed the previous entries on Bloody Elbow, read them here.
It's one of the things that first drew me into Muay Thai. As I watched grainy Muay Thai fights, I was fascinated by the ritual of it all - the headpieces, the armbands, the music, the bowing... You could see this rich culture just dripping from the pores of every Muay Thai fighter, and that idea of heritage, culture, ritual really spoke to me. It's one of the things that made me watch more, and eventually take it up myself.
Now, as I train more Muay Thai, I am curious - how much value should we put on the old traditions in Muay Thai (or any martial art for that matter)? And how much value do gyms put on it?
I ask because, in the more MMA-centric world of martial arts training here in the US, I don't always see that same level of tradition. From the outside, I still see it in some martial arts (jiu jitsu especially), but in Muay Thai in the US? Not so much. On a professional level, how many MMA fighters trained heavily in Muay Thai come out to the ring wearing a mong kon? How many do a wai khru? It's not many. And I guess I wonder - does this matter? And are using these rituals and traditions even appropriate? After all, in an MMA fight, you're not, strictly speaking, practicing Muay Thai. Yet I like the tradition, and I miss seeing it sometimes.
Personally, I value this tradition, and I try to bring just a bit of it to my own training. Before each session, we all say a prayer with our instructor, and I also add just a small sort of psedo-wai khru myself, more to get my mind focused on the training than anything else. But I am alone in that, and, admittedly, sometimes I worry that my doing so is out of line or inappropriate. I try to step over the top rope to enter the ring (though a recent tightening of the ropes had made that much more difficult). And there are other Muay Thai traditions our gym keeps.
But as Muay Thai has evolved into the MMA striking art of choice, and it has become more widespread in the US (which is, undeniably, a great thing), are we losing some of those traditions? And even if we are, is that just the inevitable forward march of progress? Every time I sit down to use these traditions to focus myself before class, these questions come into my head.
Then I fall into the ritual, the questions roll away, and I am ready.