Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Pre-fight rituals

Even before entering the ring many fighters perform rituals. Some may kneel before the ring, others might pray with their coach or by themselves or perform a series of repetitive movements, such as touching the ring ropes 3 times. Thai boxers always climb over the top rope when entering the ring, because in Thai culture the head is considered to be more important than the feet, which are thought to be dirty. It is therefore important to always have the head above the feet while entering the ring. Once in the ring, a fighter might go to the center and bow to each side.

Now begins the Wai Kru ritual or (Wai khru ram muay). The Wai Kru usually starts with the fighter walking around the ring, counter-clockwise. This could be described as "sealing the ring", showing that the match is between only these two combatants. The ritual is both practical and spiritual. In a practical sense, it prepares the body for combat. During the Wai Kru there are many different movements and steps that a fighter might perform before the match, along with stretches. Some motions imitate, for example, a swallow, a hunter, a soldier or an executioner. Some fighters use this ritual to attempt to scare their opponents, commonly by stomping around them. But in a deeper sense, the fighter is expressing religious devotion, humility and gratitude. Transcending both physical and temporal limitations, he opens himself to the divine presence and allows it to infuse his heart and soul. In ancient times, the ritual was intended to show devotion to the King and the fighter's mentor. Today, that devotion is given to the organizer of the match and the fighter's trainer.[1] The ritual also gives the fighter some time alone before the fight to collect his thoughts and concentrate on the task ahead.

After this dance, the fighter walks over to his coach who removes the Mongkon and the Pong Malai. The match begins after a review of the rules by the judge and a glove shake.

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