The Traditional Muay Thai Headbands Meaning & History
The Muay Thai headband known as the mongkon (or mongkol) has been an important part of the martial art since it’s beginnings.
As an outsider who has never seen the sport it might look silly or unnecessary for fighters to wear these headdresses before entering the ring. But the real fans and students of the martial art understand how important and sacred the mongkol is because of the meanings behind it:
What Is A Mongkon/Mongkol?
The mongkon (or mongkol) is a type of sacred headpiece worn by most Muay Thai boxers before fighting. They’ll wear it to the ring and while they do their ceremonial wai kru ram muay before having their trainer take it off and place it on the top of their corner for good luck.
Traditionally a trainer (otherwise known as a kru) will present the mongkon to a fighter once he feels that the fighter has trained hard and is ready to represent the gyms name in the ring. As a foreigner who wears a mongkon, it’s important to know the significance of why you are wearing it out of loyalty, respect to your gym, kru, and the martial art as a whole.
Most commonly mongkon’s are made up of rope, thread, and silk material that are woven and braided together. It’s very common for most fighters, whether Buddhist or not, to bring the headdress to a Buddhist monk who blesses the mongkon with good luck prior to stepping in the ring.
It is believed that traditional pieces such as the mongkon and prajioud (muay thai armbands) originate back in the time where Thailand was in constant state of war. During these times, Thai soldiers would wear scraps of cloth that were sometimes cut from their mothers Pakima, or scraps of cloth that a loved one would wrap around locks of their hair. Sometimes religious amulets were also wrapped into these cloths. They served as talismans to ward off harmful spirits and also provides good luck.
Mongkol Meaning and Superstitions
Literally speaking, mongkon means holy spirit, luck and protection.
As I was taught by my trainer in Thailand, the mongkon is a symbol that represents your loyalty and respect of your gym, your trainers and your family. You wear it when you enter the ring to show that when you fight its not all about you, it’s about the people around you who have helped you along your journey.
After you seal the ring and/or perform the ceremonial wai kru ram muay, your trainer will say a short prayer while taking the mongkon off your head and then placing it on top of the ring. The mongkon should never be close to, or held near the ground since it is bad luck to do so. Also, based on tradition, there are gyms that won’t allow women to wear one since it’s deemed bad luck by Thai culture. However, most gyms have adopted a more open-minded approach and will allow women to enter the ring with one on.
Don’t make the mistake of climbing between the ropes or not sealing the corners of the ring while wearing a Mongkol since it’s considered bad luck and disrespectful. If you are a man, make sure to climb over the top ropes – if you’re a woman, you should enter the ring underneath the ropes.
Traditionally, the student is never allowed to touch or handle the mongkon, only his kru or ajahn (teacher) may handle it. He will take care of the mongkon and present it at the right time prior to the fight.
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