Muay Boran, literally meaning “ancient boxing”, the precursor to Muay Thai, was also practiced as a spectator sport in addition to its use in battle. In its infancy, fighters were bare-fisted, and bouts were fought until one opponent was either knocked out or unable to continue. Later, practitioners began wearing rope on their hands and forearms. Spirituality, always a part of Thai culture, was as much a part of Muay Boran as the fighting itself. Fighters would wear amulets on their arms for good luck and protection. Many amulets were woven from rope and sometimes interwoven with strands of hair belonging to the fighters mother or sister for good luck. These armbands known as prajoud are still used by professional Muay Thai fighters all over the world.
Wai khru ram muay is an action of respect in Thai culture that is performed by participants in Muay Thai competitions. Wai is an action of Thais to show respect to others by putting the hands together like in prayer. Khru means teacher. Ram means dance in the old Thai traditional style. Muay means boxing. Usually Thais prefer to call it short Ram Muay or Wai Khru. Ram Muay is the way to show respect to the teachers and the trainers. Also, in past muay Thai was usually fought in front of the king, so Ram Muay was also to apologize to the King for the brutality in fighting.
The fighter first performs the Wai Khru, circling the ring three times before kneeling and bowing three times as a sign of respect to god and man. He also bows to Buddha to ask for protection for himself and his opponent and for an honourable fight.
The fighter then performs the Ram Muay, whose simple movements demonstrate a fighter's control and style. Each fighter performs the Ram Muay on each side of the ring to demonstrate his prowess to the audience. The Ram Muay is a personal ritual, ranging from the very complex to the very simple, and often contains clues about who trained the fighter and where the fighter is from.
The practitioner may wear a headband called a Mong Kon and armbands known as Pra Jiad during the ceremony, and the Ram Muay may be accompanied by music.