Wai Kru – Muay Thai Dance Explained

The wai kru ram muay is the name given to the dance performed by muay Thai fighters right before a fight. The Wai kru is actually a Thai tradition that pays respect to ones teacher and formalises the relationship between the two, but the dance performed by boxers is often just referred to as “wai kru” rather than “wai kru ram muay”.

Wai is the name given to the act of greeting somebody by placing the palms together and bowing the head slightly – it’s a Thai tradition which shows respect. Kru or Khru translates to teacher, while ram means dance and muay means boxing.

The wai kru is performed to show respect to the boxer’s trainer, gym and family.

Wai Kru Routine

When the fighter enters the ring and the robe has been removed by his/her trainer, the Piphat ensemble begin to play classical Thai music and the wai kru ram muay commences.

The dance begins by sealing off the four corners of the ring – the fighter bows and prays at each corner before touching it with one hand and moving onto the next in an anti-clockwise direction. The sealing of the ring may be preceded by the fighter getting down on all-fours and bowing and praying to his corner, but this is individual to each fighter.

The mongkol is worn throughout the ceremony.

Buakaw Banchamek Wai Kru

Next, the fighter circles the ring three times before choosing a spot in the ring to begin the dance.

There are many different elements to the wai kru, and they are not all used in one dance. Some moves may be unique to a particular fighter or camp and some are universal. Throughout history, it was evident that a fighter originated from a particular camp due to the style of his wai kru and the moves used, but I think this has largely died out due to the fact that fighters and trainers are constantly switching gyms and the ram muays have merged. It is very uncommon for a Thai fighter to remain in one muay Thai camp for their entire career in modern times.

The fighter performing the wai kru in the featured video is Buakaw Banchamek – probably the most well-known muay Thai fighter on the planet. Buakaw commonly simulates the shooting of a bow and arrow into the corner of his opponents – this is a show of confidence and an attempt to intimidate the opposition, as well as looking extremely cool!

This was back when Buakaw was fighting on the Thai Fight promotion – it’s a beautiful sight.

All promoters, gyms and trainers in Thailand expect you to at least seal off the ring at the beginning of the fight, but most will encourage you to dance, too.

About Aaron Jahn

Aaron is an active muay Thai fighter and coach from the UK. He holds a BSc (hons) degree in Strength & Conditioning and is currently studying a Sports Therapy Master's degree in Leeds, UK. Aaron has fought over 20 times in Thailand and has spent years training at different muay Thai camps all over the country.
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