If you have ever watched a Muay Thai fight, you must have seen the fighters (Nak Muay) wear an armband or often two just above their biceps and a specific rope or cloth on their head.
The armbands they wear are called Pra Jiad (sometimes Prajet or Prajioud), and they are of cultural significance to the fighter and the tradition of Muay Thai. They are said to give the fighter confidence, strength, and luck during combat.
The headband is called Mongkhon, and it is said to possess special powers and give the fighter protection during the fight, but in today’s article, we will just talk about the Pra Jiad, its origins, meaning, and more.
How Did The Pra Jiad Come Into Existence?
Muay Thai, maybe more than any other sport, is connected to the traditions and rituals of the country it comes from. Muay Thai has come to be a necessity for the soldiers to be able to keep on fighting if they lost their weapons in the heat of battle. As with Muay Thai, Mongkhon, and Wai Kru, the Pra Jiad is no exception to the rule; it is deeply connected to the culture and tradition of Thailand.
Pra Jiad traces its origins to the 18th century when Thailand was at constant war. The Pra Jiad came to be on the battlefield when the soldiers were given by their mothers a piece of her clothing as a good luck charm that would keep the soldiers safe and return them home. It was both seen as a promise to the mother that they would return home and as a good luck charm and a confidence booster for the fighter to remind them what they are fighting for.
Why Do The Muay Thai Fighters Still Wear The Pra Jiad?
As we said earlier, the art of Muay Thai is deeply rooted in tradition; for that reason, the Nak Muay still wear the Pra Jiad to this day, and they will continue to do so in the future. All fighters wear them because it is tradition, while some also believe it brings them luck in combat. These days the armbands are given to the fighters by either their close family or coach.
Unfortunately, like many things, the Pra Jiad, with the development of Muay Thai in the west, has also become westernized. Some non-authentic schools have started using the Pra Jiad as a ranking tool similar to Karate, BJJ, and Judo do it. The goal of using it as a ranking tool is to keep the students, especially the younger ones, interested in the sport. It is meant to give them a sense of achievement.
However, using the Pra Jiad as a ranking tool defeats its purpose since a fighter’s skills cannot be measured other than through fighting. The only object that is supposed to prove how good of a fighter you are is a championship belt or a trophy.
How Is The Pra Jiad Worn?
The Pra Jiad is worn directly on or slightly above the biceps. It is supposed to be a little bit tighter, so it doesn’t slip off, especially since some of the fighters wear it during the fights, if not most of them. The end of the rope or the tassels on the Pra Jiad are supposed to be facing backward, the triceps of the fighter.
You can see examples of some Muay Thai gyms in the west putting the Pra Jiad on their students during training which isn’t necessary and has no actual purpose. The Pra Jiad, along with the Mongkhon, is supposed to be worn only during battle (or a fight) and not in any other instance.
And it is worth mentioning that there is no difference between a fighter who wears one armband or two. The fighter wearing two armbands is not more skilled than the fighter wearing one armband or vice versa.
Special Handling Of The Pra Jiad
The Pra Jiad is of great importance to the fighter, the coach, and the tradition and culture of Muay Thai. For that reason, the Pra Jiad and the Mongkhon are thought of as sacred objects. They must never touch the floor or be stepped over because there is a belief that will make them unlucky, which will transfer to the fighter. If they get stepped over or dropped to the floor, it is believed they will lose the special powers and will not grand the fighter with luck, protection, strength, and confidence, which are all essential during a Muay Thai fight.
It depends on the practices of the gym, but usually, both the Mongkhon and the Pra Jiad are made from a piece of cloth or rope and then blessed by the monks before they are given to the Muay Thai fighters in the camp. The fighter, the coach, and the camp must take special care of these sacred objects.
The armband that the Muay Thai fighters wear during Wai Kru and the fight (also called Pra Jiad) are sacred objects in the tradition and culture of Muay Thai as well as Thailand. The Pra Jiad, along with the Mongkhon, need to be taken care of with particular attention as not to lose the powers and protection they grant to the wearer. They can be bought in special Muay Thai shops, but there is nothing quite as special as receiving a hand-down one from a close family member or a coach. There is nothing quite like it in any other sport that shows you how unique of a martial art Muay Thai really is.