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Wai Kru in Muay Thai (Explained with FAQ)

What Is the Dance Before a Muay Thai Fight?

The Wai Kru is a ceremonial dance performed before Muay Thai fights. It is meant to be a display of respect, honor, and gratitude toward a fighter’s coaches, training partners, family members, and ancestors.

Maybe you’ve seen the Wai Kru performed before a Muay Thai fight and weren’t sure what it was or how it relates to a Muay Thai fight.

Muay Thai has many traditional and cultural elements that are still a part of the modern martial art today – the Wai Kru and Ram Muay are some of them.

Wai Kru in Muay Thai – Key Takeaways

  • The Wai Kru is a ceremonial dance performed before Muay Thai fights. It is meant to be a display of respect, honor, and gratitude toward a fighter’s coaches, training partners, family members, and ancestors.
  • The ritual consists of two parts: Wai Kru, which involves circling the ring and bowing, and Ram Muay, the “boxing dance” that showcases the fighter’s style.
  • Fighters wear sacred headbands called Mongkons and braided armbands known as Prajerds during the Wai Kru.
  • Music, specifically the traditional Thai music called Sarama, is played during the Wai Kru and Ram Muay and is also present during fights.

What is Wai Kru in Muay Thai?

Again, Wai Kru in Muay Thai refers to an important cultural and spiritual prefight ritual that’s been practiced since the ancient days of this martial art.

The Wai Kru is a ceremonial dance performed before Muay Thai fights. It is meant to be a display of respect, honor, and gratitude toward a fighter’s coaches, training partners, family members, and ancestors.

The term “Wai” in Thai signifies a greeting gesture that involves bowing the head with palms pressed together, while “Kru” translates to “teacher.”

  • During the course of this ceremony, fighters perform the Wai Kru, which entails circling the ring three times and kneeling down to bow.
    • The purpose behind this gesture is to symbolize reverence for their teachers, parents, and the divine.
  • Following that, fighters move on to the Ram Muay, a unique boxing dance that showcases their skills, discipline, and the teachings of their gym or school.
    • The Ram Muay is not just a display of artistry, but also serves as mental and physical preparation for the upcoming fight.

The Wai Kru is also performed to traditional Thai music. This rhythmic soundtrack helps set the mood and tempo for a Muay Thai bout, amplifying the experience for fighters and spectators alike.

Wai Khru Ram Muay Meaning

Wai Khru Ram Muay is a term used to describe the complete traditional prefight ritual in Muay Thai, which combines the Wai Kru ceremony with the Ram Muay dance.

Again, the Wai Khru is performed as a gesture of respect and gratitude for the fighter’s teachers, gym, family, and the sport’s rich history, while the Ram Muay highlights the fighter’s personal style and skills, which often indicate the camp they come from or the lineage of their training.

For both fighters and audiences, the Wai Khru Ram Muay holds deep symbolic significance. It embodies the core values of Muay Thai, which include

  • respect
  • discipline
  • humility

The Ram Muay, as a visual display, offers insights into the fighter’s unique style, background, and techniques, and often serves as a preview of their performance.

As mentioned earlier, the Wai Khru Ram Muay is accompanied by traditional Thai music known as Sarama. This musical element, comprising unique instruments such as the Ta Pong (two-faced drum), Toe Pee Java (Javanese flute), and Ching (cymbals), adds an atmospheric layer to the ritual.

Religious Worship in the Wai Kru

One primary purpose of the The Wai Kru in Muay Thai is to merit and worship God, as well as pay homage to other deities and sacred forces present in the arena.

Conducting the Wai Kru allows fighters to express their gratitude and seek divine blessings, protection, and guidance for both themselves and their opponents throughout the match. When performing the Wai Kru Ram Muay, athletes also engage in prayers and offerings aimed at purifying the ring and creating a spiritually conducive environment.

Note: While religious devotion to deities may vary among fighters, the core principles of respect, gratitude, and honor remain central to the Wai Kru ceremony.

Focusing of the Mind and Body

The Wai Kru tradition encapsulates this holistic approach by fostering a strong emotional and mental connection between fighters, their trainers, and their heritage. T

Embracing the Wai Kru allows practitioners to channel their emotions and energy productively and effectively while warming up for the fight. In doing so, the fighter creates a deep sense of focus, determination, and respect for both themselves and their adversaries.

By respecting and participating in the Wai Kru Ram Muay, practitioners from all walks of life solidify their commitment and connection to the diverse world of Muay Thai.

Wai Kru Pronunciation (How to Pronounce Wai Kru)

In Thai, the word ‘Wai Kru’ (ไหว้ครู) is pronounced like ‘Why,’ and its meaning is a traditional gesture that signifies respect for others. This gesture usually involves pressing the palms together in a prayer-like posture.

Meanwhile, the word ‘Kru’ is the Thai term for ‘Teacher’ and is pronounced as ‘Croo‘ with a rounded ‘r’ and long ‘o’ sounds.

When Is the Wai Kru Performed?

Ayutthay, Thailand

The Wai Kru in Muay Thai is performed before every competition as a part of the prefight ritual comprising Wai Kru and Ram Muay.

  • Before engaging in the actual dance moves, fighters circle the ring counter-clockwise, offering prayers at each corner.
    • This ritual is believed to symbolically “seal” the ring and ward off negative energies, ensuring a clean and fair match.
  • Once this initial step is completed, the fighters proceed with the Wai Kru, paying their respects through a series of gestures such as kneeling, bowing, and the traditional “Wai” hand movement.

Beyond the competition environment, the Wai Kru also plays an essential role in the yearly Wai Kru ceremony, a grand event in which Muay Thai practitioners from across the globe come together to honor their teachers and the age-old traditions of the martial art.

Held in the ancient Thai city of Ayutthaya (see image above*), this ceremony allows fighters to demonstrate their gratitude and respect, further solidifying their connection to the rich history and vibrant community of Muay Thai.

Different Elements of the Wai Kru Ram Muay Explained

Again, the Wai Kru Ram Muay is a traditional prefight ritual in Muay Thai, carrying deep cultural and historical significance.

It’s comprised of two main components: the Wai Kru and the Ram Muay. Both elements serve distinct purposes, but ultimately work towards fostering respect, gratitude, and mental preparedness in fighters.

The Wai

Derived from the first part of the Wai Kru Ram Muay, the Wai is a customary act of respect and humility, incorporating the pressing of one’s palms together in a prayer-like gesture.

  • In Thai culture, it serves as a medium through which gratitude, admiration, and honor can be conveyed to other individuals and the divine alike.
  • In the context of Muay Thai, the Wai signifies a fighter’s appreciation for their teachers, coaches, training partners, and family members who contributed to their development and success.


The Kru, also known as the teacher or instructor in Muay Thai, plays a crucial role in a fighter’s journey. For example, I refer to my Muay Thai instructor as “Kru Tom”.

The Kru is responsible for imparting the vast knowledge of Muay Thai techniques, guiding the fighters through their unique set of skills, and supporting their mental and physical growth.

A great Kru combines expertise, experience, and dedication to the art of Muay Thai, ensuring they provide the best possible training and guidance for their students.

Ram Muay

Ram Muay is the elaborate boxing dance that forms the second component of the Wai Kru Ram Muay prefight ceremonial ritual.

The primary purpose of the Ram Muay is to highlight a fighter’s style, control, and overall prowess. Every Muay Thai fighter has their own unique Ram Muay, which varies in complexity, making this ritual highly personalized and symbolic.

This dance is composed of graceful and fluid movements that demonstrate a fighter’s agility, balance, and skill in the ring.

The Ram Muay:

  • let’s fighters physically warm up
  • mentally prepare
  • showcase their fluid movements, agility, and balance

The prefight dance also demonstrates a fighter’s gratitude toward their Kru, gym, and lineage, showcasing the result of their extensive training and dedication.

The History and Significance of Wai Kru in Muay Thai

Mongkhon: The Sacred Headband

The Mongkhon is a traditional headband worn by Muay Thai fighters during the Wai Kru ceremony. This sacred item is handmade and blessed by a Buddhist monk to imbue it with protective powers.

Each Mongkhon is designed uniquely, reflecting the wearer’s beliefs and individuality. The headband is believed to bring luck and safety to the fighter while warding off negative energies.

Before entering the ring, fighters are expected to adhere to specific customs related to the Mongkhon headband.

  • They must never touch the headband before the fight or allow it to touch the ground.
    • Disrespecting the Mongkhon in these ways could bring misfortune and harm to the wearer.
  • After completing the Wai Kru ritual, the fighter’s coach carefully removes the Mongkhon from the fighter’s head, signifying the end of the prefight ceremony and the beginning of the match.

Prajioud: The Emblematic Armband

This Prajioud is a braided armband, traditionally woven from a fighter’s mother’s fabric, holds deep personal significance. Different fighters and gyms may have their own unique Prajioud designs.

While not customary, my gym uses Prajioud to denote rank and experience in Muay Thai (similar to a jiu jitsu belt)

As the Prajioud is also blessed by a monk, it carries its own set of mystical powers, believed to protect fighters and grant them strength during matches.

Sarama: Traditional Thai Music

Sarama is traditional Thai music playing during the Wai Kru and often during the fights as well.

It features unique instruments like the Ta Pong or Glong-Kag (two-faced drum), Toe Pee Java (Javanese flute), and Ching (cymbals).

Side note: The presence of Sarama extends beyond the competition environment, as it can also be played during training sessions.

Kronb Khru

Another traditionaly elemen of Muay Thai (though not directly related to the Wai Kru or Ram Muay) is the Kronb Khru. It marks a student’s completion of their training and readiness to teach others.

This event represents the culmination of dedication, hard work, and mastery of Muay Thai techniques. Upon successful completion, the student receives a Monsol, or ceremonial headwear, based on their gym’s tradition, signifying their newfound status and respect within the sport.

The Kronb Khru ceremony occurs on Thursdays before noon, either at the instructor’s home or a temple. It involves several rituals, including paying homage to the student’s trainers, presenting offerings, and reciting prayers.

For aspiring Muay Thai fighters, participating in the Kronb Khru ceremony demonstrates their dedication to the sport and their readiness to compete at higher levels.

Yearly Wai Khru

As mentioned earlier the Yearly Wai Khru is an annual tradition in Muay Thai, where competitors express their gratitude and respect to their teachers and lineage.

This annual event is a testament to the strong bonds between students and instructors, and it serves as a reminder of the invaluable knowledge and expertise that have been passed down through generations.

As a side note, many foreign practitioners also attend these events, showcasing the global reach and appeal of this ancient martial art. Participating in the Yearly Wai Khru offers vital opportunities for individuals in the Muay Thai community to interact, exchange ideas, and learn from one another, further enhancing their skills and perspectives. The event stimulates growth and development within the Muay Thai world, both on a personal level and for the sport as a whole.

One advantage of attending the Yearly Wai Khru is the opportunity for self-reflection and re-evaluation of one’s progress in the sport. It is during this time that practitioners can acknowledge their achievements, set new goals, and recommit themselves to the values and ethics that underpin Muay Thai.

How To Perform The Wai Kru In Muay Thai

  • The first step in performing the Wai Kru is entering the ring with the appropriate attire, which includes a Mongkon (sacred headband), flower garlands, and other traditional garments.
  • Once properly dressed, the fighter circles the ring three times counterclockwise, sealing the ring from negative energies and spirits.
  • The fighter then kneels down at the center of the ring and bows their head towards the ground three times (offering respect and gratitude to their teachers, parents, and spiritual beliefs)
  • This act is followed by the Ram Muay which can differ from one fighter to another, often reflecting their training gym and personal background.

Wai Kru Muay Thai Movements

The Wai Kru movements in Muay Thai are specific and personal to each fighter, and are a way for them to communicate their individual style and training background.

In general, the Wai Kru consists of three main parts:

  1. the initial circling around the ring
  2. kneeling and bowing
  3. Ram Muay dance

1. The initial circling involves the fighter walking counterclockwise around the ring, with one hand on the top of their head or resting on the top rope, and the other on their hip or waist. This movement is believed to protect and seal the ring, keeping negative energies at bay.

2. The second part of the Wai Kru involves the fighter kneeling and bowing three times in the center of the ring. This act symbolizes the fighter’s deep respect and gratitude towards their parents, teachers, and religion. The kneeling and bowing are to be performed with grace, demonstrating the composure and stoicism so highly revered in Muay Thai culture.

3. Finally, the Ram Muay dance, the third part of the Wai Kru, varies greatly between fighters. It can range from simple and basic to highly elaborate and intricate, showcasing movements that communicate the fighter’s history, background, and training lineage.

What Are Some Other Common Thai Words That You May Come Across in Muay Thai?

Here are a few common Thai words that you may come across while learning or following the sport.

  • Nak Muay: This term refers to a Muay Thai fighter or practitioner. “Nak” means “expert” or “professional,” while “Muay” signifies boxing.
  • Gai: This Thai word translates to “chicken” and symbolizes the “teep” (push kick) technique. The name originates from the similarity between the motion of a chicken’s leg when kicking and the fighter’s leg movement during a push kick.
  • Gym: In Muay Thai, a gym is often referred to as a “camp” or “sit” in Thai language.
  • Kru: As previously mentioned, “Kru” implies “teacher” or “mentor.” In the context of Muay Thai, it denotes a coach or master who imparts knowledge, skills, and techniques to fighters.
  • Sabai Sabai: This phrase is used colloquially in Thailand to denote relaxation or comfort. In the context of training, it might be used by an instructor to remind students to remain calm and maintain a clear head.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the meaning of the Wai Kru dance?

The Wai Kru is a ceremonial dance performed before Muay Thai fights. It is meant to be a display of respect, honor, and gratitude toward a fighter’s coaches, training partners, family members, and ancestors.

What Does Wai Kru Mean?

Wai Kru literally translates to: Wai (greeting) Kru (teacher)
While there isn’t a direct translation, it is understood as respect, honor, and gratitude toward your coaches, mentors, training partners, and gym.

How Do You Pronounce Wai Kru?

Wai Kru is pronounce as Wai (why) Kru (croo).

Can You Perform Wai Kru and Ram Muay if You’re a Foreigner

Yes, you can and should preform the Wai Kru and Ram Muay even if you are not Thai or from Thailand.

If you are competing in a Thai match in Thailand, you should perform these rituals. Also it’s very common to see foreigners performing these rituals at some of the biggest Muay Thai stadiums in Thailand such as the Rajadamnern Stadium and Lumpinee Stadium.