Muay Thai is one of the martial arts where tradition and respect of ancestors come to the fore. Before the traditional Thai bout, a fighter performs the Wai Kru dance with a headband wrapped around his forehead.
Fighters wear headbands for Muay Thai due to numerous reasons, from traditional to spiritual. The story origins from ancient times, when Thai boxing was a very violent sport with different rule sets. Would you believe that Mongkols are regarded as being sacred? Oh yeah, I bet you will when you read this article.
Unfortunately, some people believe this lovely distinct, and colorful item serves to keep the sweat out of the ring warrior’s nose and forehead. But the story behind Mongol (the proper name for Muay Thai headband) is way different, and I am here to explain it to you.
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What Does Mongkol Symbolize?
Mongkol means you are granted to proudly represent your coach’s training camp or dojo in the competition. It also means that you show a lot of respect to your trainer, school, and the sport of Muay Thai.
It is believed that Mongkol gives special powers to the person wearing it because it is a symbol of loyalty and respect.
The third meaning relates to the gratitude and solidarity to everybody who followed you en your route to the battle. For example, the Muay Thai warrior (you) trained with sparring partners and coaches. You slept at your family home, spending time with friends and family members… Mongkol shows that you haven’t forgotten those who helped you before the battle.
The fourth meaning of the headbands for Muay Thai refers to protection from potential dangers and evil entities. Mongkol is a spiritual object because it brings luck to the fighter inside the ring. The belief origins from the ancient era, when ancient Siamese martial art was practiced by the warriors in the battle.
And finally, we can discuss the fifth (not much important) meaning. This is a visible aspect of headbands for Muay Thai, as this lovely piece of equipment serves to remove sweat from the fighter’s forehead after the warm-up. I mean, you should perform a high-intense warm-up before a Muay Thai bout if you intend to leave the ring injury-free.
It leads to sweating, and mongkols prevent your eyes from sweat drops in the minutes before the fight. You are tensed and your hurt pumps more blood to your muscles, but too much sweat could lead to blurred vision and eating unnecessary shots.
Who Gives You The Right To Wear Mongkol?
When your coach gives you the lovely colorful Muay Thai headband, it means you have proven your skills and values.
But if you think every successful fighter or knockout artist deserves such an honor, you are wrong! The coach (nobody else) permits you to wear a Mongkol, because he believes you deserved to represent him and his school in the competition.
Modern Muay Thai brought a lot of changes. Money was slowly becoming more and more important. You can’t live of honor, can you? Especially when you’ve got family to support. Imagine two or three hungry kids. You can be the most famous fighter in the world, but it can’t feed your kids.
Nowadays, sponsors are allowed to put Mongkol around your forehead due to “technical and financial reasons”. You’ll mostly see this when a Thai boxer competes in competitions like K1 or Glory, where he defends the honor of ancient Siamese martial art, his dojo, and the sponsor who paid all the expenses.
In rare cases, Mongkols are borrowed. It might happen when you lose the crown of your head, but it is believed that borrowing items don’t mean the magic will work inside the ring. Let me clarify.
Your Muay Thai headband is the reflection of your relationship with your dojo and your coach. So I assume you understand the difference between borrowed and non-borrowed items, don’t you?
Wearing Mongkol – Is Everything Black And White?
Well, you will start with dojo’s Mongkol in the early stages of your career, but if and only if your coach believes that you deserve the opportunity to wear headbands for Muay Thai around your head and represent your school. It is usually a part of the gym’s lineage, and nearly all non-experienced fighters from the school or camp wear community headband wrapped around the forehead.
But as the fighter progresses, he gets more and more respect. So at some stages of the career, a coach might say that you are good enough to purchase your Mongkol. Technically, you will have two choices – buy it in the equipment shop or order a custom-made model.
Headbands for Muay Thai are not mandatory by any means necessary. I know the question. What the hell are you trying to say? Well, poor fighters don’t have money to purchase their own Muay Thai headband, so if a coach says no, they’ll enter a battle without a lovely item on their head. Yet, you will mostly see fighters without Muay Thai headbands in non-stadium battles that take place in rural areas of the country.
The second exception is the Muslim fighters. Thailand is mostly a Buddhist country, but this is the 21st century and freedom of speech and religion are allowed in many states. So if you see a Keffiyeh on the head of the fighters, please don’t stare at him/her. It just means that the Thai warrior belongs to a different religion, but he/she still shows a lot of respect towards Thai boxing.
Mongkol And Women
A long time ago, women were not allowed to wear Mongkol around their heads because it was thought that it brings bad luck to the opposite gender.
But we live in the 21st century, so some dojos allow female competitors to enter the Muay Thai ring with the Mongkol wrapped around their foreheads.
Are you a woman? No worries, ladies, your forehead can be nice-looking before the battle too!
Pre-Fight Ritual – When Do Fighters Wear Headbands for Muay Thai?
Let me warn you, the ritual before the fight might be an unpleasant experience for an outsider. So if you come from Europe, North America, or any other non-Thai part of the world, the scent of aromatic Thai oil might affect your focus and performance throughout the battle.
You will go through the whole body Thai oil massage in the first place. Sorry guys, you cannot skip this part when the battle takes place in Thailand. Then you’ll wrap your hands and put the gloves on backstage, and then the big moment comes – the Mongkol is put around your head by a coach or a sponsor. Congratulations, you are the chosen one, you’ll represent your dojo in the competition.
Mongkol is worn during the Wai Kru ceremony before the upcoming Muay Thai battle. It is not mandatory, but many fighters wear it until the bout kicks off (not during the fight). As soon as the dance is over, the fighter walks towards his corner. His coach speaks a prayer, which is believed to bring more protection and luck during the battle. Then a Mongkol is removed from the fighter’s (yours) head and put on the ring pole of the corner.
Mongkol – Proper Behavior And Actions
There are some unique rules every fighter should follow while wearing a Mongkol. Please read carefully:
- You are not allowed to take Mongkol on or off from your head. Your coach has the permission to do it, nobody else!
- Climb above the ropes, not between them while wearing a Muay Thai headband (it is a very disrespectful act).
- Don’t let your headband touch the floor or it will lose its magical features. It must remain above the line of your belt all the time during the Wai Kru ceremony.
- Your coach storages the lovely Muay Thai headband between the fights, not you! He will give you the Mongkol on the day of the battle.
There Are So Many Custom-Made Models, But Why?
Let me first discover the truth behind so many custom-made models, and I will guide you through the rest of the article later. In Thailand, you’ll see many people wearing unusual headbands for Muay Thai, probably home-made models, unavailable in the market. Why is this happening?
People have to do various jobs to support their families. When you’re a father/mother, children are dependent on you. You’ll face numerous financial issues in your life. For example, poor families cannot afford expensive colleges or elite wardrobe, but luckily for us, humans have a brain and the ability to think and come up with creative solutions.
A Mongkol is usually expensive (I am talking about poor families), and bills and food are usually the most important items on the list of your priorities, right? But the child trains hard and you must be a good dad/mom, so it’s time to improvise and create a product on your own. Does this make sense? My answer is yes, and I hope you back that up all day long.
In Thailand, the majority of custom-made headbands for Muay Thai are made of the piece of clothing, preferably skirts. For example, look at this custom-made beauty in the video below.
You’ll also see models made of the traditional Thai birth clothes or silk. The item from your ancestor or family member means a special level of respect to your roots for the support. It is usually seen in Thai warriors who have great relationships with their family members, especially if they were supported throughout the career.
Yet, some fighters want to show an extra level of respect, so they go one step further. These elite Thai warriors put the hair from their loved ones on their Mongkols! If you stick to this choice, it symbolizes that the spirit of your ancestors continues to exist inside of you throughout the Muay Thai battle, giving you strength and support. For me, it is the highest level of respect a fighter can show!
But unfortunately, some families don’t like to watch their kids trading barbs inside the ring. There are also conservative parts of the world where people think females are insane due to their fighting career (I bet you heard stories like females are for the kitchen, kids, and nothing else numerous times).
Luckily, strong and persistent people are ready to sacrifice everything for glory. The warrior who battled his battles and didn’t get support rather chooses to stay away from custom-shaped models or sticks to a model that has nothing to do with his family/ancestors.
Types Of Mongkols
Mongkol is made of braided cloth or ropes. But can we divide headbands for Muay Thai into some special groups? Well, it is technically possible.
There are three basic types:
- Rope-made Muay Thai headbands are the most often group. The product is made of special ropes that cover the head of a Thai warrior before the combat. It is usually easy to make them, you just need a basic knowledge of knots and sewing.
- Braided cloth Mongkols is a special method used in the textile industry, where you interlace three or more bias-cut cloth strips or yarns.
- Custom-made Mongkols are the last group. But it is usually the trademark of experienced fighters or very famous dojos. You can use many materials for custom products – silk, wool, cotton… Silk is usually a little softer and you can find it in schools and dojos that prefer artistic design and lots of details, while wool and silk are a bit harder to process so you can’t pay too much attention to details.
Master tailors will not share their secrets with you, aren’t they? Well, it’s so true. But I am a lucky guy. An expert tailor lives next to me, and I talked to her. It is never easy to make a Muay Thai Mongkol, but I believe that a fighter should read this. After all, you wear the lovely trophy on the top of your head!
If you intend to make a basic version of Mongkol, you’ll need a needle, a rope, a thread, and scissors. Firstly, the main question is whether your goal is a multi-color or single-color Muay Thai headband. Answer the question, please, and continue reading.
Excellent, the next step is picking the appropriate hand-stitching technique. We could discuss this all day long, but this link is very helpful. Everybody can do this, even with a little experience. Read this carefully to discover the secrets of needle moves, knots, and stitching directions.
Of course, you can always pay a tailor, but if you’re poor, try making your product, you’ll save some money for sure.
The same rule applies when it comes to multi-colored Mongkols, but you’ll need two ropes, threads, and needles of course. And good stitching skills. My advice – unless you previously worked in a tailor shop, let the professionals make multi-colored beauty for you.
This tutorial explains how to measure and saw your Thai boxing headband.
Again, when you plan to make it from the pieces of clothes, I kindly recommend you to cut it into strips or something. I mean, think logically. You need a world-class level of tailoring to make a Mongkol from a sweater or skirt, but strip by strip stitching is easy. From 1 to 10, I’d say 3 or 4. Try it out!
Special Meaning And Symbols
You can call this parameter “individual needs” too. Maybe the fighter wants to add something from his private life or to show more respect towards his grandpa. After all, humans are very creative and many fighters will choose a trademark. They will be remembered by that.
For example, you can add the symbol of your dojo, something from your private life, anything that means a lot to you… Just be creative and explore the depths of your brain. You’ll come up with something for sure.
Last Updated on May 21, 2022 by Deni