Muay Thai, commonly known as Thai boxing is one of the most-renowned combat sports that originated in Thailand. It is Thailand’s national sport and has been around for several hundreds of years now.
Initially developed as a form of close-combat, this martial art has gradually paved a huge name for itself as a competitive sport that enjoys a global fan-base. If you watched Ong Bak, you know what we are hinting at.
Did you know Muay Thai is also referred to as ‘The Art of Eight Limbs’ in the indigenous culture? That’s because, in this art form, fighters use eight primary contact points as weapons and shields. It all started in 1238 (Buddhist years), but we’ll keep that story for some other time. In today’s blog, we will be telling you some awesome things (we bet you didn’t know) about the Muay Thai armbands.
Contrary to many westernized folklores, Muay Thai armbands don’t necessarily signify a rank. But, they do mean something…in a more spiritual way.
Why do Muay Thai Fighters Wear Armbands?
Traditionally, fighters used to wear these armbands (also called Prajied) for luck and protection. Muay Thai is a competitive sport just like boxing or MMA where winning bouts matter more than anything else. And, every one of us has our own faiths, beliefs, and superstitions.
Thailand is a highly spiritual country, and it reflects through everything, even Muay Thai. Fighters get their desired armbands and headbands blessed by a monk (Ruesi). Though these armbands don’t depict any rank, they have huge symbolic importance.
However, in the western countries, these bands signify ranks or categories during training.
Do The Bands Represent Any Form of Ranking or Experience in Muay Thai?
To set things clear – Muay Thai doesn’t have a ranking system unlike other martial art forms (taekwondo, karate, etc.). During the early days of Muay Thai, these bands were actually a teared-off piece from the dress worn (surong) by the fighter’s mother. It was believed that this armband protected their child on the battlefield.
The tradition can be dated back to the days when Thailand was constantly at war with its neighbors, and mothers used to wish their kids going to fight the war luck (and goodbye).
As movies and the Internet spread this art, it got westernized. Though tradition and spirituality are deep-rooted, some training schools (dojos) have built and implemented their ways of grading systems using different colored armbands.
For instance, the World Thai Boxing Association (WTBA) in the USA have an armband ranking system ranging from white to black & gold. White, yellow, and orange are for Beginners; Green, Blue, Purple, Red, Brown, and Black represent Advanced-level, while Black/White, Black/Red, Black/Silver, and Black/Gold denote Instructor-level.
In some parts the belt-based system of ranking is also followed. There are mixed reactions to these rankings as some consider it to be motivation for students, and some consider it to be another money-making gimmick. It takes years to get to black belt.
Does the Color of the Band Represent Anything?
The colors are decided and awarded based on the student’s dedication, experience, and skill. Since there is no universal code, this fabricated system of ranking varies.
Honestly, the ranking-based armband idea is just to make this traditional sport attractive to consumers. In western countries, the colors signify levels (similar to belts in karate or kung-fu), but there is no specific code of ranking.
Traditionally, the fighters use to wear armbands in white or red, but these days there is a wide variety of colored-armbands up for grabs. In western dojos, green/blue armbands are for beginner levels, red/brown are for advanced level, and so on.
Relationship Between Armbands and Headbands
One of the common traditions is that fighters do not normally wear the armband and headbands outside the ring or fights. The headband (also known as Monkong) is ideally worn before entering the arena.
Similar to the armband, the headband is donned to provide good luck and protection as the head is considered to be the most sacred part of the human body according to Thai culture.
Although these items are mass-produced today, the traditional aspect seems missing. A perfect headband and armband is one that is blessed by the monks. Nonetheless, you should handle both with great respect and care.
How to Tie a Muay Thai Armband?
It is quite simple to tie a Muay Thai armband. Just wrap it around the arm (biceps) and make a double-knot, then adjust accordingly. Make sure that you don’t tighten it too much as it might restrict blood flow.
Muay Thai Arm Band Traditions
If you are a believer, you should never wear an armband while training. Traditionally, it is to be worn before and after the fight. You won’t see any fighter wearing it during the match. The armband should be handled with utmost care and shouldn’t be dropped and stepped on or over.