Muay Thai is a striking martial art deeply ingrained in Thai culture. The ‘art of eight limbs‘ has several traditions that fighters follow, including the wai kru ram muay and the pra jiad.
This article discusses the traditional headwear that muay thai fighters wear, the mongkhon. We will look at the mongkhons history and its role in the customary pre-fight ritual, the wai kru ram muay.
Let’s dive in.
What Is The Muay Thai Headband Called?
The traditional muay thai headband is known in Thailand as a “mongkhon” (mongkon or mongkol).
The mongkhon is a headpiece worn by muay thai fighters when they enter the ring and is an integral part of muay thai culture. Traditionally, mongkhons are blessed by a monk and are believed to possess special powers, bringing its wearer protection and good luck.
The mongkhon is a symbol of honor earned by a fighter when their coach deems them worthy and ready to represent the gym.
The History Of The Mongkhon
The Thai tradition of wearing mongkhons can be traced back to the ancient kingdom of Siam, when warriors would tie a cloth around their heads while chanting Buddhist prayers before battles.
This tradition was passed down through generations, eventually making its way into the sport of muay thai. In modern thai boxing fights, the kru places the mongkhon on a fighter’s head before entering the ring. The teacher removes it after the wai khu ram muay while a prayer is shared between the fighter and teacher before the fight.
Muay thai mongkhons are traditionally handmade by the trainers of a gym for their fighters and then taken to a temple to be blessed by a Buddhist monk. Each muay thai fighter may have their own mongkhon, but some camps share one between the entire stable of fighters.
Mongkhons are regarded as being sacred and must be handled with care. The mongkhons should not be allowed to touch the floor as a sign of respect.
What Is The Mongkhon Made Of?
Traditionally, mongkhons are handmade with rope and cloth by muay thai trainers in the camp. Monks then bless them to bring fighters courage and protection in the ring. Mongkhons are often passed down through generations within the gym from one fighter to the next.
Mongkhons are commonly adorned with sacred amulets but sometimes contain the hair of a loved one or the bones of a fighter’s ancestor. Some religious thai boxers also place pieces of scripture inside the mongkhon, believing it will bring them good luck.
Legend has it that some muay thai teachers used a live snake to enhance the power of the mongkhon. Allegedly, the snake was forced to swallow its tail, killing it and forming a perfect circle. The dead snake was then left to dry in the sun for seven days. Rope and cloth were then woven around the dried-out snake to complete the mongkhon.
While some mongkhons are still handmade the traditional way using rope and cloth, western muay thai fighters will often wear cheaper synthetic alternatives.
Since the mongkhon is a sacred object, it’s blessed by a Buddhist monk.
The ceremonial blessing involves prayers with the placement of Buddhist prayer scrolls in the tail of the headband.
It’s also worth noting that monks and women can’t touch each other, so when a monk blesses a females mongkhon, they will return it using a folded cloth that is used to transport things between women and monks.
How To Get A Mongkhon Blessed In Thailand?
In Thailand, you can visit a temple to get your mongkhon blessed for a small donation.
Below is a first-hand account of a mongkhon blessing from one of our writers. He lived in Thailand for five years and got his mongkhon blessed in a temple near Pattaya.
“I placed the mongkol and an envelope containing 200THB on a tray.
At this point, I was instructed to sit with some incense facing a buddha statue.
I then did three wais to the buddha before I was told to repeat the prayer the monk was saying. After repeating the prayer three times, I handed the monk the tray holding the mongkol. He then retrieved a small bag with gold leaves and a small jar with white paste. The monk then dotted the mongkol with the paste and added a gold leaf to it.
Finally, the monk places the mongkol onto my head. I wai to him as he recites a chant and sprinkles water over me. He then removed the mongkol and asked me to place it back on the tray as I did the final three wais to the monk.”
Mongkhon Pre-Fight Ritual
The mongkhon is worn during the traditional pre-fight ritual, the wai kru ram muay. The wai kru is a ritual ceremony performed by muay thai fighters directly before engaging in battle. Thai boxers perform the wai kru to pay respect to their teachers and family and to bless themselves to ensure they will be victorious in the ring.
After the wai kru, the teacher removes the mongkhon whilst reciting a prayer with the fighter.
Summary: The Muay Thai Headbank Explained
The mongkhon is a traditional headpiece worn by thai boxers while performing the wai kru ram muay and is an integral part of the muay thai culture.
Traditionally, mongkhons are blessed by a monk and are believed to possess special powers to protect and bring good luck to their wearer.
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