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Wai Kru Muay Thai Boxing Ritual: Why It Matters

Wai Kru is much more than a ceremonial kick boxing ritual, performance art or just paying respect to one’s teacher.

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One of the more hotly debated topics about Muay Thai in the modern Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) era is how to preserve Thai boxing’s beautiful and gracious performance art ritual, the Wai Kru ceremony.

While practitioners and teachers alike feel confident that it will not be disappearing anytime soon, maintaining authenticity and accurately that showcase its fascinating historical evolution is extremely important.

The memorable scene at the 12th World Wai Kru Muay Thai Ceremony in 2016 as Muay Thai boxers from around the world show deep gratitude and paying homage to their mentors (TAT Newsroom’s photo file)

Historical & Cultural Significance

Wai Kru is much more than a ceremonial kick boxing ritual, performance art or just paying respect to one’s teacher.

It is an important part of Thailand’s cultural and martial history, with origins that are traced back to ancient battlefield where Thai soldiers fought to keep their country from being colonised centuries before it developed into a sport.

In its earliest incarnations, Wai Kru reportedly dates to the first independent Thai Kingdom of Sukhothai (1240–1438).

In Thailand, martial arts (in addition to dance, theatre and performance arts) are regarded as a kind of spiritual activity. Fighters training for competition are expected to show deep gratitude and paying homage to their mentors or gurus, who through successive generations give them an opportunity to learn the art of Muay Thai.

Hence, the Wai Kru is a way of worshipping past instructors and their animist spirit entities that remain on earth.

This devotional reverence that pupils show their teachers manifests itself even today in modern 21st century Thailand via the Wai Kru ceremony.

Wai Kru Muay Thai Ritual Why It Matters-pix from event in 2016 (3)

International Muay Thai boxers performed the wai kru ritual at the 12th World Wai Kru Muay Thai Ceremony in 2016 (TAT Newsroom’s photo file)

 

Ritualistic Performance Art

A Muay Thai fighter performs the Wai Kru by circling the ring three times before kneeling and prostrating himself as a sign of respect to religious deities (traditionally Buddhist) earth and mankind, asking for an honourable fight and protection for both himself and his opponent.

Fighters and gyms from each of Thailand’s 77 provinces include individual movements into personal Wai Kru Ram Muay performances, with their choreography providing important clues as to which gym or region they represent.

For example, boxers from Northern Thailand’s Chiang Mai province would have a specific routine depending on which gym he is currently fighting out for. To start the Wai Kru he might touch his head to the canvas to pay respect to the Earth first and foremost, then his instructor, then movements to ward away ghosts before finally finishing with a salute to the musicians playing that night.

After completing Wai Kru a fighter then performs the Ram Muay, which can be either simple or complex combination or movements based upon images of the monkey god Hanuman, who appears in the Thai epic the Ramakien, to demonstrate a fighter’s control and style. It is a separate ritual from Wai Kru, however as Muay Thai evolved from combat into a sport the two acts have become inseparable. The boxer repeats Ram Muay on each side of the ring to demonstrate his prowess for all the audience to see. This personal ritual is much like an improvisational dance performance that can vary from night to night depending on individual mood or conditions.

Music is an integral part of Muay Thai as this martial art evolved and has become an extension of Thailand’s traditional performance arts.

During Wai Kru Ram Muay presentations (and all fights) a musical orchestrate performs in the background playing Ta Pong or Glong-Kag (two-sided drum), Toe Pee Java (Javanese flute) and the Ching (cymbals) among other instruments.

Wai Kru Muay Thai Ritual Why It Matters-pix from event in 2016 (4)

The statue of Nai Khanom Tom – a local hero, famous for his victory over ten Burmese fighters in a boxing bout that took place in 1774. He is regarded as the Father of Muay Thai, and is one of the essential elements of the annual Wai Kru Muay Thai Ceremony in Ayutthaya

Etymology

Most visitors to Thailand and Muay Thai aficionados know the Wai as a traditional Thai greeting with the palms pressed together as a sign of respect. Kru is the Thai form of the Sanskrit word guru meaning teacher. Ram is the Thai word for dancing in classical style, and Muay means boxing. In English one possible yet militaristic sounding translation could be ‘War Dance Salute to Teacher’. However, ‘Ritual Salute to Teachers Present and Past’ might be a better, abet slightly less colourful English translation.

Preservation

The 13th World Wai Kru Muay Thai Ceremony in Ayutthaya will be organised on 17 March, 2017. Last year it attracted over 1,200 Muay Thai followers from 57 countries around the world. This is a very positive sign the art form is being preserved for future generations as many consider the ritual as the ‘heart and soul’ of Muay Thai.

Wai Kru Muay Thai Ritual Why It Matters-pix from event in 2016 (1)

Every year, some of Thailand’s best-known Muay Thai fighters such as Samart Payakaroon (in this picture) will lead international Muay Thai boxers in the ritual that pays respect to their teachers at the World Wai Kru Muay Thai Ceremony, which has been held annually in Ayutthaya since 2004 (TAT Newsroom’s photo file)

The post Wai Kru Muay Thai Ritual: Why It Matters appeared first on TAT Newsroom.
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Thailand to lift quarantine for vaccinated visitors from low-risk countries from November

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Thailand to lift quarantine for vaccinated visitors from low-risk countries from November

Bangkok, 12 October, 2021

Thai Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha in a nationally televised broadcast last night announced that Thailand planned to allow fully vaccinated foreign visitors to enter Thailand by air with no quarantine requirements from 1 November.

In the initial phase, Thailand will allow fully vaccinated travellers from at least 10 low-risk countries, including China, Germany, Singapore, the UK and USA. The list will be expanded from 1 December, and further enhanced to a very extensive list from 1 January.

Under the plan, fully vaccinated foreign visitors from the approved countries will need to show that they are COVID-free at their time of travel with an RT-PCR test undertaken before they leave their home country, and do a test in Thailand, after which they will be free to move around Thailand in the same way that any Thai citizen can do, the Prime Minister said.

Visitors from countries not on the list, will, of course, still be much welcomed, but with quarantine and other requirements.

In addition, the Prime Minister said consumption of alcoholic beverages in restaurants as well as the operation of entertainment venues under appropriate health precautions would be allowed from 1 December.

Below is the full speech by the Prime Minister.

National Address of the Prime Minister of Thailand

“THAILAND WILL WELCOME QUARANTINE-FREE VISITORS”

Monday 11 October, 2021

My fellow citizens, brothers and sisters:

In the last one-and-half years, we have lived with some of the greatest peacetime challenges our country has ever faced in its history, brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, and one that has left nobody untouched and no country in the world undamaged.

It has been one of the most painful experiences in my life, too: to make decisions that balance the saving of lives with the saving of livelihoods – a choice that is not always clearly separate, and where we may save lives, but commit those lives to the unbearable pain of trying to survive with little or no income; or where we may save livelihoods but commit one’s family, friends and neighbours to loss of life and the loss of their breadwinner.

In facing this terrible choice, it was my decision that we could not allow a slow, wait-and-see approach to confronting the pandemic and let it claim the lives of so many of our countrymen and women, as we, ultimately, saw happen in so many other countries.

As a result, I acted decisively on the advice of many of our outstanding public health experts to make our country one of the first in the world to move quickly with lockdowns and tight regulations.

With the collaboration of all sectors of society, and with everyone joining hands to face this crisis together, we have been among the most successful countries in the world in saving lives. 

But it has come at very great sacrifices of lost livelihoods, lost savings, and destroyed businesses – what we have all given up so that our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children, friends and neighbours may live for today.

The threat of a large scale, lethal spread of the virus in Thailand is now diminishing, even though the risk of resurgence is always there, and even though there are still serious constraints on our hospital and medical staff capacities. 

The time has come for us to ready ourselves to face the coronavirus and live with it as with other endemic infections and diseases, much as we have learnt to live with other diseases with treatments and vaccinations.

Today, I would like to announce the first small but important step in decisively beginning the process of trying to restore our livelihoods.

During the last weeks some of Thailand’s most important tourist source countries have begun to ease their travel restrictions on their citizens – countries like the UK, that now allow convenient travel to our country, as well as countries like Singapore and Australia that have started to ease travel restrictions on their citizens visiting other countries.

With these developments, we must act quickly but still cautiously, and not miss the opportunity to entice some of the year-end and New Year holiday season travellers during the next few months to support the many millions of people who earn a living from our tourism, travel and entertainment sectors as well as the many other related sectors.

I have, therefore, instructed the CCSA and the Ministry of Public Health to urgently consider within this week to allow, as of 1 November, international visitors to enter Thailand without any requirement for quarantine if they are fully vaccinated and arrive by air from low-risk countries.

All that visitors will need do is to show that they are COVID-free at their time of travel with an RT-PCR test undertaken before they leave their home country, and do a test in Thailand, after which they will be free to move around Thailand in the same way that any Thai citizen can do.

Initially, we will begin with at least 10 countries on our low-risk, no-quarantine list, including the United Kingdom, Singapore, Germany, China, and the United States of America, and enlarge that list by 1 December, and, by 1 January move to a very extensive list.

Visitors from countries not on the list, will, of course, still be much welcomed, but with quarantine and other requirements.

By 1 December, we will also consider allowing the consumption of alcoholic beverages in restaurants as well as the operation of entertainment venues under appropriate health precautions to support the revitalisation of the tourism and leisure sectors, especially as we approach the New Year period.

I know this decision comes with some risk.  It is almost certain that we will see a temporary rise in serious cases as we relax these restrictions.  We will have to track the situation very carefully, and see how to contain and live with that situation because I do not think that the many millions who depend on the income generated by the travel, leisure, and entertainment sector can possibly afford the devastating blow of a second lost new year holiday period. 

But if, in the months ahead, we see an unexpected emergence of a highly dangerous new variant of the virus, then, of course, we must also act accordingly and proportionately when we see the threat.  We know that this virus has surprised the world several times, and we must be ready for it to do so again. 

In mid-June of this year, I had set a 120-day goal for quarantine-free entry into Thailand and to accelerate our vaccinations.

I would like to take this opportunity to recognise the extraordinary achievements of our public health workers, other officials and all citizens for their response to my appeal in June.

After we adopted the 120-day goal, extraordinary efforts were made to increase our supply of vaccines and compete with many other countries to get deliveries.  And they were very successful.  Our vaccine deliveries jumped threefold, from around 4 million doses in May to almost 12 million in July… then to almost 14 million in August, and will now run at over 20 million a month until the end of the year, totalling over 170 million doses, far ahead of the goals I had set.

Similarly, our public health staff worked tirelessly to accelerate vaccinations to support our 120-day goal, and the public gave great cooperation to register for vaccinations despite the inconveniences that may have been caused in scheduling.  As a result, our daily vaccinations, which were running at around 80,000 doses a day in May, shot up immediately.  One month after our goal-setting, our public health team tripled the number of shots being administering a day, and they kept increasing that number until Thailand rose to be among the fastest ten countries in the world for administering shots!  Currently, they have frequently been administering more than 700,000 shots a day, and sometimes even exceeding one million shots a day.

Shortly after my address to the nation in mid-June setting our goal for quarantine-free entry into Thailand in 120 days, the world was struck by the highly infectious Delta variant.  Worldwide cases spiked up and peaked in August, just as they did in Thailand, and few thought that it would be possible to achieve any quarantine-free entry into Thailand this year.

The fact that we can begin quarantine-free entry in November, and despite many countries still trying to contain Delta variant infections with restrictions on the travel of their citizens is a great tribute to the unity of purpose and determined response to my appeal by the public health services, by many other government departments, by the private sector, and by the cooperation given by citizens in all matters.

Our nation has performed an extraordinary feat in the last months that we can all be very proud about everyone’s enormous contributions to those achievements.  These achievements, coupled with the gradual relaxation of other countries’ travel restrictions, now enables us to begin the process of quarantine-free entry into Thailand.

Thank you.

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