Updated: Apr 19, 2018
The Wai Kru is a ritual performed by participants before fighting Muay Thai competitions. The wai is a traditional Thai greeting with the palms 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. The full term can therefore be translated as "war-dance saluting the teacher", but Thai-speakers generally shorten it either to Wai Kru or ram Muay. The ram Muay shows respect and gratitude to the boxer's teacher, their parents, and to their ancestors. In the days when boxers fought in front of the royalty, the Ram Muay also paid respect to the king.
Upon entering the ring, fighters circle the ring in a counterclockwise direction and pray at each corner. They bow their head at every corner three times in salutation to Buddha, Rama, and the sangha of monks. They then commence the Ram Muay, the movements of which are said to be based on Hanuman. The Ram Muay is a personal ritual, ranging from the very complex to the very simple, and often contains clues about who trained the fighter and where the fighter is from. The Ram Muay is accompanied by music, providing a rhythm to the boxer's movements.