Are you wondering what the Muay Thai dance before a fight is?
In this article, we’ll look at what the Muay Thai dance is, what it’s called, its purpose, how its performed, and whether fighters have to perform it before a fight.
What Is the Muay Thai Dance Before a Fight?
The Muay Thai dance before a fight is known as the Muay Thai Ram Muay. In Thailand, it’s the second part of a two-part cultural ritual performed by fighters before a Muay Thai fight to warm up, stretch, mentally prepare, show their skills, and pay respects to their team, the opponent, and the traditions of Muay Thai.
While the Ram Muay is the second part, the first of the pre-fight ritual is known as the Muay Thai Wai Kru.
What Is the Muay Thai Wai Kru?
The first part of the pre-fight ritual is known as the Wai Kru. In Thai, Wai is the name given to the Thai greeting, where they put their hands together and bow their head.
Thai people also use the Wai when praying, apologizing, thanking, showing gratitude, paying respect, and saying goodbye.
In Thai, Kruu means teacher. Combined, the Muay Thai Wai Kru is the first part of the ritual where fighters pay their respects to their coaches, parents, training partners, ancestors, and the traditions of Muay Thai which have been passed down since the 16th century.
Gratitude is a big part of Thai culture, and fighters can show more gratitude by bowing lower and having their hands higher in relation to their head.
Not only are fighters paying respects to their current coaches, but also to every coach they’ve ever had which has culminated in this moment before a fight.
During the 20th century, the Wai Kru was used by fighters to pay their respects to the Monarchy of Thailand when they were present.
How Do Muay Thai Fighters Perform the Wai Kru?
Fighters perform the Wai Kru once the traditional Thai music known as the Sarama starts. To perform the Wai Kru, fighters walk counterclockwise around the ring with their right glove on the top rope and perform the Wai at each corner.
They do this by placing their gloves on the rope and bowing their head on top of the gloves. Some fighters say a prayer in their head and many also touch the padding with their gloves at each corner.
Next, some fighters slowly circle the center of the ring three times, but many go directly to the center.
They then kneel in the center of the ring, place both hands on the canvas, bow their head to their hands/canvas, sit up, bring their hands to their head, and repeat this three times to complete the Wai Kru before the Muay Thai dance starts.
What Is the Muay Thai Ram Muay?
The Muay Thai Ram Muay translated to English means boxing dance.
The Ram Muay is the second part of the pre-fight ritual and is performed by fighters to pay respects, but mostly it’s to warm up, stretch, mentally prepare, and also show some of their skills, fighting style, and composure to the audience.
The fighters also aim to accustom themselves to the space they’ll be fighting in, and rarely the Ram Muay is used by fighters to intimidate their opponent and get the upper hand mentally.
For example, they may perform the shooting of a bow and arrow at their opponent, demonstrate digging a grave, or stomp on the canvas.
The Ram Muay starts in the middle of the ring on the ground, with fighters dancing and stretching facing all four sides of the ring. They then do the same while standing, finally making their way to the center of the ring and bowing to finish.
The Ram Muay doesn’t have to be elaborate and can be kept simple, as well as only last a few minutes, but if rushed and performed poorly it shows disrespect to the opponent and the coaches.
While the Ram Muay can differ between fighters, the most common goal of the Muay Thai dance is to stretch and open the hips fully. This is because Muay Thai’s kicking-based and stretching allows the fighters to kick higher and reduce their risk of injury.
Therefore, the most common part of the dance is a deep lunge and hip flexor stretch during the first part of the Ram Muay on the ground.
During the second part when standing, fighters often perform knees and rotate them outward to open their hips, and do the Muay Thai shuffle known as the Yaang Saam Kun.
The Yaang Saam Kun is used to warm up and demonstrate the footwork used in a fight and is referred to as the three-step movement. This shuffle is used as it allows fighters to be aggressive and move forward while also being ready to check leg kicks.
Each gym in Thailand has its own slightly different style of Ram Muay performed before a fight. This shows where the fighter has been developed and is another way fighters pay their respects to their roots and coaches.
Each fighter also has their own way of performing the Ram Muay, even those from the same gym.
Here’s a short three-minute video showing a fighter performing the Muay Thai Wai Kru Ram Muay before a fight.
Do Fighters Have To Perform the Wai Kru Ram Muay Before a Fight?
Fighters don’t have to perform the Wai Kru Ram Muay in order to fight in Thailand.
This is often the case with foreigners who don’t know the Wai Kru Ram Muay and Muslim Muay Thai fighters who perform their own variation of the Wai Kru Ram Muay because of religious beliefs.
Many Muay Thai fighters of the Muslim faith complete the Wai Kru by kneeling in the center, but now bowing.
While the Wai Kru Ram Muay is cultural rather than religious, Muslims don’t bow because bowing to anyone other than god isn’t allowed. This is common in the south of Thailand in places such as Phuket, which has a large Muslim community.
Fighters who don’t perform the Wai Kru Ram Muay can pay their respect by bowing on entry or simply acknowledging the four sides of the ring, and then waiting patiently while their opponent performs.
So while fighters don’t have to perform the Wai Kru Ram Muay, the overwhelming majority of Muay Thai fighters do it to pay their respects and prepare themselves for the upcoming fight.
What Is the Difference Between Wai Kru and Ram Muay?
The difference between the Wai Kru and the Ram Muay is the Wai Kru is the first part of the ritual where fighters walk around the ring with their right hand on the rope and bow at each corner, finishing by kneeling in the center of the ring and bowing three times.
This differs from the Ram Muay which is the second part of the ritual where fighters perform a dance for a few minutes to warm up, stretch, mentally prepare, show their skills, fighting style, and composure, as well as again pay their respects to their coaches.
The Bottom Line
So, ‘what is the Muay Thai dance?’
The Muay Thai dance performed before a fight is the second part of the pre-fight ritual fighters perform, known as the Ram Muay.
The first part is the Wai Kru (or Wai Khru), where fighters pay their respects to their coaches, while the second part is the Ram Muay, a Muay Thai dance fighters perform to warm up, stretch, mentally prepare, and show their fighting skills to the audience.