Muay Thai Tattoo Guide
A traditional Muay Thai tattoo is also known as Sak Yant, and is traditionally used to protect fighters from injury. The tattoos come with ancient blessings of good fortune in battle and in life. The tattoos are drawn using a needle attached to a bamboo rod, and as such take considerably longer to draw than standard needle drawn tattoos. Using a modern needle is said to lessen the powers of the tattoo, and so the majority of fighters opt for the original drawing form. The Muay Thai tattoo artist is traditionally a monk or appointed holy man, and historically the drawing was done in a temple, which all adds to the mysticism of the design and its purported powers.
The tattoos associated with Muay Thai aren’t solely used by fighters. They are fairly general in nature and used by everyday Thai people to promote prosperity in all areas of life. Entwined in Thai Buddhism is Hinduism, Brahmanism and Animism, and as you will see form the popular Muay Thai tattoos below, these ancient beliefs are reflected in the tradition.
1. Hah Taew
Known as the “5 sacred lines”, and made popular by Angelina Jolie, the Hah Taew is probably the most common Sak Yant tattoo. Each of the different lines is assigned a different meaning and blessing, making it the most versatile of all the Muay Thai tattoos. The Hah Taew blesses it’s receiver with success, loving kindness, good luck and protection from evil spirits.
2. Gao Yord
Known as “9 Spires”, Gao Yord brings good luck and protection. You will usually see this tatoo on the back of the neck, however in modern times many foreigners are having this design put on the lower back. It’s geometric design represents the 9 Sacred Peaks of Mount Meru and contains 9 symbolic images associated with Lord Buddha. In Thailand the number 9 is considered lucky, and as things like number plates and wedding dates containing the numeral 9 are well sought after.
Tiger tattoos are often chosen by businessmen to drive away the competition, and in the case of the Muay Thai fighter the tiger provides its owner with strength, fearlessness and protection from evil spirits. The tiger is respected in Thai culture for its prowess in the forest, and it symbolizes the same for the fighter in the ring.
Hanuman is the “Hindu Monkey God”, and bestows its owner with the blessing of bravery and courage, making it a popular choice for fighters. This Muay Thai Tattoo is often found on the arm or shoulder.
Ganesh is the Hindu god easily recognizable by its elephant head. Ganesh represents beginnings and as such it is often chosen by people wanting to start a new chapter in their life. Thai people regularly pay respect to Ganesh and make offerings at shrines to promote prosperity in their lives. Ganesh is also known as the “Remover of Obstacles”, and this translates to getting past a hard point in one’s life, very important for a fighter following a tough training routine and preparing for battle in the ring.