Muay Thai fighters have for centuries used special tattoos, amulets and ceremonies to increase their good fortune and ward off bad luck and evil spirits that might follow them into the ring.
Pieces of bones from their ancestors wrapped within their headdress or in an armlet tied about the bicep are sometimes worn too. The bone is supposed to represent the good spirits of their ancestors and provide them protection from injury in the ring and evil spirits.
Some fighters, and regular Thai people, will often go the temple or a Maa Doo, a witchdoctor/medicine man, or high-ranking priest to have tattoo inscriptions in Thai language etched into their skin. The powerful inscriptions are supposed to provide special protection from certain influences like good fortune, bad luck, ghosts, spirits, etc. Other tattoos were told to grant strength, courage, long-life, or sexual prowess. Often before fights, fighters would rub special oils and mixtures or potions on their skin to make them oblivious to pain and invulnerable.
Special amulets worn around the neck were also told to carry special magical powers. Amulets could contain written inscriptions with wards and protections rolled up in a small cylinder. Other amulets came from important temples and bore the image of Buddha or highly-revered monks.
Every fighter must also wear the Mongkon, or rope head band, prior to the beginning of the fight during the Wai Kru Ram Muay and the Prajied which must be worn throughout the fight contest. An interesting thing about the Mongkon is one legend has it that you made it out of a live and poisonous snake as this would give it special, magical powers.
A Muay Thai boxer will almost always have a small Amulet or Buddha image called a Phra Kruang tucked away in his Mongkon before the fight and also may wear one stuffed in his gloves, shorts or other accouterments. Of course his opponent will have done the same and to some folks it’s not a matter of who has the greater skill but the more potent magic in his amulet mojo.
Other Amulets of different types are worn to produce certain results. The Prajied is a red and white band of cloth worn around the upper arm to induce toughness.
The Pirod, made of rattan can be a ring or arm band worn around the biceps but it is not normal to wear both a Prajied and Pirod together.
The Dhagrut is a small sheet of beaten bronze inscribed with mystical symbols and is worn about the waist. There is also the Pitsamorn which is similar to a Dhagrut and is worn around the waist.
Another is the Waahn or special herb which a fighter will carry in his Mongkon or chew before the fight.
The Suea-yan and Paa-yan have a more Chinese influence. Traditionally, women were banned from entering the Muay Thai boxing ring and there was no women’s boxing in Thailand. This fact originates from long-held superstitions that a female presence may destroy a Muay Thai boxer’s skill, making him vulnerable to injuries. The belief is that female boxers (Nak Muay Ying) will jinx any Muay Thai ring they fight in.
The Thai word Mongkon is used to describe a thing or situation that is good and represents prosperity. It is a circlet headdress worn on the head of the Nak Muay and was originally worn by soldiers when on the battlefield as a charm to bring prosperity and to protect the wearer from danger. Cconsisting of a narrow strip of cloth, with magic spells and Sanskrit symbols, rolled to form a string and tied up at one end with the sacred “Sai sin” This was then inserted into a blessed cloth, to form a cord and to be put around the fighter’s head like a bandana. Nowadays the Mongkon will be either made from cotton cord or a plastic tube covered in cotton.
The fighter will wear the Mongkon just before the fight, during the Wai Kru Ram Muay ritual dance and it is then removed ceremoniously when fight begins.
The Nak Muay should never be allowed to touch or handle the Mongkon, only his Kru or Ajarn may handle it. He will take care of the headgear and will present and remove it from the student when he competes within the ring.
The Prajied is a protective charm worn around one or both biceps of the Nak Muay. It is made of a thin string of cloth called paa salu. In ancient times, the Prajied was worn by warriors around head and arms. It contained magic spells written in Sanskrit or Pali and was blessed by monks or witch doctors. Nowadays Prajied consist of a plated string of polyester nicely treaded and sold in pairs in any combination of colours. Many protective charms, together with the magic (or religious) rituals that made them powerful and thus effective in protecting the warrior’s life, have long disappeared.
Like the Mongkon, the purpose of using the Prajied is pretty much the same, to bring good luck and to protect the Nak Muay, the only difference between Mongkon and Prajied is that the Nak Muay are allowed to wear the Prajied throughout the competition, but the Mongkon is required to be removed from the head before the fight begins a ceremony which is called Pitee Tod Mongkon.
Fighters will often wear orchids, Jasmine flowers, carnations and marigolds called Pong Malai. Friends and fans normally present their favorite boxers with these before the fight starts, and the pong Malai are displayed optimally, against bare chests.