Thai tattoos (also known as Sak Yant) are pretty popular among Muay Thai, MMA, and UFC fighters. So much so that they’ve become known as Muay Thai tattoos by many.
Sak Yant Thai tattoos can symbolize success, luck, health, and the path to enlightment. They are believed to grant spiritual powers and protection. Each different type of Sak Yant represents specific qualities that are heavily based in Buddhist tradition.
If you’re interested in a getting a Thai tattoo (Sak Yant), it should be noted that it must be done by a Buddhist monk and with a bamboo stick in order to receive the full blessing of the Sak Yant.
As somone who has quite a bit of tattoos myself and is very passionate about Muay Thai and martial arts, I am definitely open to getting a Sak Yant at some point (…in fact, writing this post is partly for my own selfish tattoo research.)
In this post, we break down
- examles of popular Thai tattoos (Sak Yant)
- meanings behind Muay Thai tattoos
- how to get a Sak Yant
- proper tattoo care
Hopefully, you can get a better understanding of Sak Yant Muay Thai tattoos from this post and gain some ideas for your own future Sak Yant.
Muay Thai Tattoos Sak Yant – Key Takeaways
- Sak Yant tattoos (also known as Yantra tattoos) hold deep spiritual and cultural significance within the Thai community. Many Muay Thai fighters often will get these tattoos that symbolize protection, strength, and guidance for fighters
- There are a wide variety of Sak Yant tattoo designs, each with its unique meaning and symbolism, including the Twin Tiger, Hanuman, Paed Tidt, and Hah Taew.
- Obtaining a Sak Yant tattoo involves a traditional ritual performed by a Buddhist monk or a specialized tattoo master, known as an Ajarn, who blesses the tattoo for its intended purpose.
Here is a Quick Breakdown of Common Sak Yant Tattoos and Their Meanings:
|Sak Yant Tattoo||Representation and Meaning|
|Ganesh||Wisdom, intelligence, success, and removal of obstacles|
|Seuu Khood (Twin Tiger)||Courage, strength, and protection from harm and evil|
|Hanuman (Monkey God)||Physical and mental strength, loyalty, agility, and protection in battles|
|Paed Tidt (Eight Directions)||Protection from all directions, good fortune, and safe travels|
|Sangwan Necklace||Protection, strength, and invoking the power of the sacred Sak Yant tattoos|
|Hah Taew (Five Line)||Blessings for love, charm, protection, fortune, and purification from negative influences|
|Gao Yord (Nine Peaks)||Protection, spiritual guidance, and blessings from the nine sacred peaks of Mount Meru|
|Phra Rahu||Protection, strength, transformation of bad luck into good fortune|
|Kerake (Crocodile)||Strength, patience, adaptability, resilience, and protection|
|Unalome||Spiritual journey, enlightenment, inner peace, and personal growth|
|Lord Buddha||Peace, compassion, spiritual enlightenment, mindfulness, and wisdom|
Different Types of Muay Thai Tattoos (Sak Yant)
Seuu Khood (Twin Tiger)
A Seuu Khood (Twin Tiger) Thai tattoo is know as a symbol of strength, courage, and fearlessness.
Twin tigers represent the warrior spirit and are believed to grant the wearer protection against physical harm and evil spirits. This tattoo is particularly popular among Muay Thai fighters, who draw upon the ferocity and fearlessness of the tigers to enhance their own fighting prowess and mental fortitude.
The Seuu Khood tattoo also embodies the duality of life, with the two tigers symbolizing balance and harmony between opposing forces.
Hanuman (Monkey God)
A Hanuman (Monkey God) Thai tattoo depicts the Hindu deity Hanuman which is a symbol of loyalty, courage, and devotion.
In Thai culture, Hanuman is a revered figure known for his agility, strength, and selfless service.
A Hanuman tattoo represents perseverance, resilience, and the ability to overcome obstacles in the pursuit of one’s goals. It is also particularly popular among martial artists and fighters, who see Hanuman as an emblem of mental and physical strength.
Paed Tidt (Eight Directions)
A Paed Tidt (Eight Directions) Thai tattoo features a geometric design representing the eight cardinal directions, each associated with a specific blessing or protection. This tattoo symbolizes balance, spiritual guidance, and protection from negative energies or harm coming from any direction.
The Paed Tidt tattoo is believed to bring good fortune, success, and safe travels, making it an appealing choice for those seeking a powerful amulet to safeguard them on their journey through life.
A Ganesh Thai tattoo, also known as Ganesha Sak Yant, features the image of Lord Ganesha, one of the most revered deities in Hinduism, who has also been adopted into Thai Buddhism.
Ganesha, the elephant-headed god, is the symbol of wisdom, knowledge, and the remover of obstacles. As a result, a Ganesh Thai tattoo represents the overcoming of life’s challenges and the pursuit of personal growth and success.
For those who choose to get a Ganesha Sak Yant, it serves as a powerful reminder of the inner strength and wisdom needed to navigate through difficult situations and achieve their goals. The tattoo also signifies protection and blessings, as Ganesha is believed to help clear the path of any obstacles, allowing the wearer to progress smoothly in their personal and spiritual journey.
A Sangwan Necklace Thai tattoo is a unique Sak Yant design that features a chain or rope pattern encircling the neck or wrist. This tattoo symbolizes protection, strength, and unity.
The Sangwan Necklace is believed to act as a powerful talisman, shielding the wearer from physical harm and malevolent spirits. The continuous loop of the necklace represents the interconnectedness of all things and the unbreakable bonds of loyalty and love that connect individuals to one another.
Hah Taew (Five Line)
A Hah Taew (Five Line) Thai tattoo consists of five sacred lines, each inscribed with ancient Khmer script and representing specific blessings and protections.
The Hah Taew tattoo is one of the most popular Sak Yant designs, known for its versatility and the wide range of blessings it bestows upon the wearer. The blessings can include protection from harm, increased charisma, good fortune, and even the attraction of love and success.
Each line carries a unique meaning, and the tattoo’s overall significance is tailored to the individual wearer’s needs and desires.
Gao Yord (Nine Peaks)
A Gao Yord (Nine Peaks) Thai tattoo features a series of nine spires or peaks, symbolizing the nine sacred mountains in Buddhist cosmology. This Sak Yant design represents spiritual growth, protection, and the attainment of enlightenment.
The Gao Yord tattoo is believed to bestow upon the wearer a range of blessings, including increased mental and physical strength, protection from evil spirits, and the ability to overcome obstacles. The nine peaks serve as a reminder of the wearer’s commitment to the path of spiritual growth and personal development.
A Phra Rahu Thai tattoo depicts the mythical demon Rahu, who is known for swallowing the sun and the moon, causing eclipses.
In Thai mythology, Phra Rahu is a powerful figure believed to ward off negative influences and transform bad luck into good fortune. The Phra Rahu tattoo symbolizes protection, strength, and the ability to overcome adversity. By wearing this Sak Yant design, the bearer seeks to harness the transformative power of Rahu to turn life’s challenges into opportunities for growth and success.
A Kerake (Crocodile) Thai tattoo features the image of a crocodile, an animal revered for its strength, patience, and adaptability. In Thai culture, the crocodile is associated with power, protection, and resilience.
A Kerake tattoo represents the ability to endure hardships and overcome obstacles through determination and persistence. The crocodile’s natural aptitude for survival in both water and land symbolizes the wearer’s adaptability and resourcefulness in navigating life’s challenges. This powerful tattoo is an emblem of strength and a reminder to remain steadfast in the face of adversity.
An Unalome Thai tattoo showcases a spiritual symbol that resembles a stylized, spiraling path. There are also slight variations of this design out there but all representing the same Unalome tattoo and path to enlightenment.
The Unalome represents the journey to enlightenment, with the spiral symbolizing the twists and turns of life, and the straight line at the top symbolizing the attainment of inner peace and spiritual awakening. The Unalome tattoo is a reminder of the wearer’s commitment to personal growth and the pursuit of enlightenment. By bearing this symbol, the wearer seeks to remain focused on their spiritual path, despite the obstacles and distractions that life may present.
A Buddha Thai tattoo features an image of Siddhartha Gautama, also known as the Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. This tattoo embodies peace, compassion, and spiritual enlightenment.
A Buddha tattoo is a powerful reminder of the teachings of Buddhism, encouraging the wearer to cultivate mindfulness, compassion, and wisdom in their daily lives. By wearing a Lord Buddha tattoo, the bearer seeks to connect with the profound wisdom of the Buddha and embrace the path to inner peace and spiritual awakening.
This tattoo is believed to provide the wearer with spiritual guidance, enlightenment, and inner peace. It is often chosen by devout Buddhists and those who wish to cultivate a deeper understanding of the Buddhist path.
Meanings of Muay Thai Tattoos
What do Muay Thai tattoos mean?
Thai tattoos, or Sak Yant, carry deep spiritual meanings related to protection, strength, luck, and other positive attributes.
Each design is imbued with sacred blessings and symbolism, making the tattoo a powerful talisman for the wearer and especially popular for Muay Thai fighters or other martial artists.
What does Sak Yant mean?
Sak Yant is a combination of two words in the Thai language: “Sak,” meaning tattoo, and “Yant,” derived from the Sanskrit word “Yantra,” which refers to sacred geometric designs often used in spiritual practices.
Together, Sak Yant represents the spiritual tattoos often adorned by Muay Thai fighters and others seeking protection, power, and blessings.
Muay Thai symbols and meanings
Muay Thai tattoos feature various symbols, each with its unique meaning and significance.
*Common symbols include animals like tigers, monkeys, and crocodiles, representing strength, agility, and resilience.
*Other symbols, such as geometric patterns, represent sacred blessings and protection from harm or the path to enlightment.
Thai Tattoos Explained
Origins and Traditions of Sak Yant (Thai Tattoos)
The origin and tradition of Sak Yant, also known as Thai tattoos or Muay Thai tattoos, can be traced back over 2,000 years to ancient Cambodia, where they were first practiced by Khmer warriors.
The tradition then spread to Thailand, where it became an integral part of Thai culture and spirituality.
Rooted in Buddhist and animist beliefs, Sak Yant tattoos are a unique blend of religious symbolism, ancient scripts, and geometric designs that are believed to provide the wearer with spiritual powers, protection, and blessings.
Sak Yant tattoos are traditionally hand-tapped onto the skin by Buddhist monks or Ajarns (specially trained tattoo masters) using a long bamboo stick or a metal rod with a needle attached to the end.
The process is considered sacred, and the tattooing ritual often involves prayers, blessings, and offerings to ensure that the spiritual energy and protection are transferred to the wearer.
The importance of Sak Yant tattoos for those who get them lies in their profound spiritual significance. Again, each tattoo design represents specific qualities, such as strength, courage, protection, or success, which are believed to empower and protect the wearer.
Muay Thai fighters, in particular, value these tattoos for their protective powers, and the tattoos are thought to give them a competitive edge in the ring.
For those who choose to get a Sak Yant tattoo, it’s essential to understand and respect the tradition, meaning, and care of these tattoos. It is believe that the process of getting a Sak Yant is more than just a physical experience; it is a spiritual journey that connects the wearer to the ancient wisdom and energy embodied in the designs.
This deep connection and understanding of the tradition ensure that the wearer honors and respects the cultural and spiritual significance of their Sak Yant tattoo.
There are numerous examples of Muay Thai tattoos, each with its unique design and meaning. Some of the most popular Sak Yant designs include
- Twin Tigers
- Paed Tidt
- Hah Taew
Each design carries specific symbolism and significance, making the choice of a Sak Yant tattoo a deeply personal and spiritual decision.
Getting a Sak Yant Tattoo
Getting a Sak Yant tattoo in Thailand is a unique and authentic experience, often done by monks or arjan, who have studied the art for a long time and are often long-time ex-monks.
Monks, as part of their code, are not allowed to make a profit off the tattoos, so getting a Sak Yant at a temple is always donation-based.
One of the most popular temples for Sak Yant is Wat Bang Phra.
When visiting a temple, ensure you dress appropriately, covering your legs and shoulders, and never touch the monk, especially if you are a woman. It’s also important to kneel before the monk, as they hold a higher social status.
Arjan, on the other hand, are allowed to profit from doing the tattoos. Some famed Sak Yant artists are well-known worldwide, and people travel from all over to get their Sak Yant done. Prices can vary, and as a foreigner, you might be quoted high prices.
We recommend always doing your research beforehand and inquire about pricing before getting tattooed. Look through photos or drawings at the tattoo studio to choose the design you want.
When getting a Sak Yant tattoo, keep in mind:
- Basic etiquette and tattoo hygiene
- Always request a new needle and new batch of ink to avoid infections or diseases
- Show respect by performing the wai (hands together, higher up on your face)
- Never point the bottom of your feet towards the monk, arjan, or religious statues
- Cross your legs when sitting on the floor and be mindful of feet position during the tattoo process
- Monks may choose a tattoo and its placement for you, but sometimes you can choose both
- Some places will not tattoo below the hip, especially depictions of deities, so always ask first
Some other places to get a Sak Yant tattoo in Thailand are:
- Arjan Mai Sakyan (Pattaya): For an authentic Sak Yant experience, Arjan Mai Sakyan is highly recommended. With an extensive knowledge of various Sak Yant designs and a talent for creating tattoos that flow beautifully on the body, he is an excellent choice. However, it’s worth noting that he may not speak English or frequently work with foreigners.
- Wat Bang Phra: Wat Bang Phra is another very popular place to get a Sak Yant. The temple is located just outside of Bangkok and is located in Nakhon Chai Si. You may find several english speakers here as well.
- Panumart Tattoo (Chiang Mai): At Panumart Tattoo, you’ll find an impressive collection of Sak Yant designs. Their team of skilled artists, offering both machine and bamboo tattoos, will provide you with stunning, long-lasting Sak Yants. With multiple English speakers on staff and a strong focus on hygiene, Panumart Tattoo is a top choice.
- Bangkok Ink Tattoo (Bangkok): Bangkok Ink Tattoo is another great option for getting a Sak Yant in Thailand. The artists here produce high-quality work, ensuring that you’ll leave with a beautiful and meaningful tattoo.
Outside of Thailand (e.g., the US)
Getting a Sak Yant tattoo outside of Thailand, such as in the US, is possible, but it’s essential to keep a few things in mind to maintain the authenticity and respect for the cultural and spiritual significance of these tattoos.
- Research and find a reputable tattoo artist: Look for a skilled tattoo artist who specializes in Sak Yant tattoos or has experience with Thai-style tattoos. Check their portfolio, reviews, and ensure they have a good understanding of the cultural and spiritual aspects of Sak Yant.
- Choose a design with respect and understanding: Learn about the meanings and symbolism behind various Sak Yant designs, and choose one that resonates with you personally. Be respectful of the cultural and spiritual significance of the designs you’re interested in.
- Communicate with the artist: Discuss the design, its meaning, and placement with the tattoo artist to ensure that they understand the cultural context and can accurately replicate the design. You may also want to discuss any additional elements, such as blessing the tattoo, to incorporate the spiritual aspects of Sak Yant.
- Prepare for the tattoo session: Follow any pre-tattoo care instructions provided by the tattoo artist, and be mindful of the cultural etiquette associated with Sak Yant tattoos during the session.
- Post-tattoo care and respect: Follow the tattoo artist’s aftercare instructions to ensure proper healing. Continue to respect the cultural and spiritual significance of your Sak Yant tattoo by honoring its meaning and treating it as a sacred piece of art.
Please note that getting a Sak Yant tattoo outside of Thailand may not have the same spiritual significance as receiving one from a monk or an arjan in Thailand. However, if you approach the process with respect and understanding, you can still appreciate and honor the tradition.
The Ritual Behind Sak Yant
The ritual behind Sak Yant tattoos is an essential part of the experience and holds great significance in Thai culture.
Before the tattooing process begins, the practitioner, either a monk or an arjan, performs a ceremony to invoke the protection and blessings of the spirits. The practitioner may use sacred objects, such as amulets or talismans, and recite mantras to prepare the space and the individual receiving the tattoo.
The recipient is often asked to offer a tribute, which may include flowers, incense, and other symbolic items, to show respect and gratitude for the blessings received.
Key points of the ritual include:
- Invocation of spirits for protection and blessings
- Use of sacred objects and mantras
- Offering of tributes by the recipient
- Blessing and empowerment of the tattoo
After the tattoo is completed, the practitioner will perform another ceremony to empower the Sak Yant tattoo with its intended purpose, such as protection, strength, or good fortune.
This process may involve chanting more mantras, blowing onto the tattoo, or tapping it gently with a sacred object. The recipient is then given specific instructions or rules, known as “Kata,” which they must follow to maintain the tattoo’s power and effectiveness.
These rules can range from dietary restrictions to specific behavioral guidelines.
Key points of the post-tattoo ritual include:
- Empowerment of the Sak Yant tattoo
- Chanting mantras and additional blessings
- Providing the recipient with instructions or rules (Kata)
- Maintaining the tattoo’s power through adherence to Kata
Languages and Powers of Sak Yant
Sak Yant tattoos are an ancient form of body art that originated in Southeast Asia, particularly in Thailand. The intricate designs often carry deep spiritual and symbolic meanings, and many believe that they possess magical powers. In this blog post, we’ll explore the languages used in Sak Yants, the supposed benefits, and some cultural considerations for those considering getting a Sak Yant tattoo.
Languages Used in Sak Yants:
- Khmer Sanskrit: Pali, the sacred language of Theravada Buddhism, was transcribed into an alphabet called “Khom Agkhara” by the Khmers. This script is used in the mantras found within Sak Yant designs, adding an element of Khmer sorcery to the tattoos. Khmer Sanskrit is exclusively used for Buddhist prayers, mantras, sacred texts, and magic.
- Lanna: In Northern Thailand, some Sak Yants are written in the Lanna language, which belongs to a distinct ethnic group with its own separate Thai language. The Lanna alphabet, though no longer commonly used, can still be found in some Sak Yant designs.
The Magical Powers of Sak Yants: Believers in the magic of Sak Yants attribute various benefits to these tattoos, including:
- Animal Powers: The powers and characteristics of the animal or mythological creature depicted in the Yant are said to be passed on to the wearer.
- Good Luck and Fortune: This form of magic is believed to bring higher social standing and wealth.
- Warrior’s or Gangster’s Protection: Physical protection against weapons and harm.
- Warrior’s Paralysis: A stunning spell that supposedly paralyzes an enemy, preventing them from reacting in time to the wearer’s strike.
- Popularity and Earned Compassion: People will notice, take interest in, and desire to help the wearer.
- Power and Influence: The tattoo is said to command respect and obedience.
- Black Magic: Known as “tam kwaam,” this sorcerer’s spell can be used for various purposes to achieve specific outcomes.
- Protection from Danger and Fatal Accidents
- Charm and Sexual Attraction
Cultural Appropriation and Respect
It is vital to approach Sak Yant tattoos with respect for the cultural and spiritual significance they hold.
Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Traditional sak yants and Buddhist tattoos should not be placed below the waist, with some exceptions for men.
- Both men and women should avoid getting tattoos on their feet.
- Women may face certain restrictions when seeking an authentic Sak Yant experience, particularly from monks. However, most Ajarns are willing to tattoo women.
- Monks and Ajarns typically avoid placing Buddhist tattoos near women’s breasts.
- While modern Thais may not object to a tattoo of the Buddha, more conservative Buddhists may consider it disrespectful, especially if it features the Buddha’s head.
When considering a Sak Yant tattoo, it’s essential to research the meanings behind the designs, the traditions involved in the tattooing process, and any cultural sensitivities or taboos surrounding these tattoos.
Sak Yant Tattoo Process
How are Sak Yant Tattoos done?
Sak Yant tattoos are traditionally done using a bamboo or steel needle, which is tapped into the skin by hand. This method, known as hand-poking, can be more time-consuming and painful than modern tattooing techniques but is believed to create a deeper spiritual connection between the wearer and the tattoo.
For a full breakdown of what you can expect when getting a Sak Yant tattoo in Thailand see the steps below:
- Selecting a practitioner: The first step in getting a Sak Yant tattoo is to find a reputable practitioner, either a monk or an arjan, who is experienced in the art of Sak Yant and who follows good tattoo hygeine standards
- Choosing a design: The practitioner may help you choose a design that best suits your needs and intentions or select one for you based on their assessment.
- Preparing for the ritual: Offerings such as flowers, incense, and other symbolic items are typically brought by the recipient to show respect and gratitude.
- The ritual: The practitioner performs a ceremony to invoke protection and blessings, using sacred objects, amulets, or talismans, and reciting mantras.
- Tattooing process: The Sak Yant tattoo is applied using a traditional bamboo or metal rod with a needle tip, which is dipped in ink and tapped into the skin.
- Post-tattoo ritual: After the tattoo is completed, the practitioner empowers the Sak Yant with its intended purpose through additional blessings and mantras.
- Receiving instructions: The recipient is given specific rules, known as “Kata,” to follow in order to maintain the tattoo’s power and effectiveness.
Are they permanent?
Sak Yant tattoos are permanent, just like any other tattoo.
However, due to the traditional hand-poking method, they may fade slightly over time, requiring touch-ups to maintain their appearance. Also proper care and sun protection can help prolong the vibrancy of a Sak Yant tattoo.
How much do they usually cost?
The cost of a Sak Yant tattoo can vary greatly depending on factors such as location, the tattoo artist’s expertise, and the size and complexity of the design.
In Thailand, it is customary to offer a donation to the Ajarn or temple in exchange for a Sak Yant tattoo, which can range from $50 to several hundred dollars.
Outside of Thailand, the cost can be similar to that of a traditional tattoo, with prices starting around $100 and increasing based on the artist’s experience, time it takes to complete tattoo, and the tattoo’s intricacy.
Do Sak Yant Tattoos hurt?
As with any tattoo, the pain associated with receiving a Sak Yant tattoo can vary depending on the individual’s pain tolerance, the tattoo’s size and location, and the artist’s technique. The traditional hand-poking method can be more painful than modern tattooing techniques, but many people find the pain manageable and even embrace it as part of the spiritual experience.
From personal experience, my friend who got a Sak Yant while in Thailand and who has modern tattoos done with a tattoo good said that:
“A tattoo with a tattoo gun is more of a scraping pain that you can more easily ignore, but a Sak Yant tattoo is done in slower jabs and takes more time. So it’s a different type of pain which for me was more painful than modern tattoos.”
Tattoo Care and Training
How to care for your tattoo
Proper care for a Sak Yant tattoo is essential in ensuring its longevity and maintaining its vibrant appearance.
Some general tips (like other tattoos) are:
- Keep the tattoo clean and moisturized
- avoid direct sunlight
- refrain from submerging it in water until it has healed
How soon can you go back to training
Returning to training after getting a Sak Yant tattoo depends on the individual’s healing process and the tattoo’s location.
Generally, it is advisable to wait at least one week before resuming strenuous physical activities, such as Muay Thai training, to avoid damaging the tattoo or causing an infection.
Consult with your tattoo artist and listen to your body to determine the best timeline for returning to training.
Eligibility and Cultural Sensitivity
Can anyone get a Sak Yant Tattoo?
In theory, anyone can get a Sak Yant tattoo.
However, it’s essential to approach this decision with respect for the cultural and spiritual significance of the tattoos.
Research the meanings and traditions behind the designs and consider whether you genuinely connect with and honor the symbolism and spirituality of the Sak Yant tradition.
Is it okay for me to get a Sak Yant Tattoo? (Is it disrespectful?)
Again, as long as you approach the decision to get a Sak Yant tattoo with respect and understanding, it is generally considered acceptable.
It is crucial to research the designs, their meanings, and the cultural sensitivities surrounding Sak Yant tattoos to ensure that your choice is informed and respectful.
Why do Muay Thai fighters all have the same type of tattoos?
While many Muay Thai fighters have similar Sak Yant tattoos, the designs and meanings can vary based on design, beliefs, and the guidance of the tattoo master.
The prevalence of Sak Yant tattoos among Muay Thai fighters stems from the tradition’s deep connection to the sport, as these tattoos are believed to provide the wearer with protection, strength, and other desirable attributes in the ring.
Muay Thai Tattoos / Sak Yant – Final Word
A Sak Yant tattoo is heavily tied to Thai culture and religion so it should be approached more carefully than an average tattoo.
Many people believe the tattoo symbolizes and brings with it certain power or qualities such as success and protection which is why they are so common in Muay Thai and on Muay Thai fighters.
If you are looking to get a Sak Yant at some point, I strongly recommend doing some long research on locations, the monk or arjan who is doing the Sak Yant, and make sure that hygience is one of the main focuses.
Hopefully this post gave you some info and inspiration on common Sak Yant tattoos and designs and can better prepare you for your own Thai tattoo one day.
Thanks for reading – Zack