Muay Thai is the traditional Thai boxing sport that has unique techniques and traditions. If you follow their competitions and tournaments, you may realize that the fighters change their names frequently. But why do Muay Thai fighters change their names?
Muay Thai fighters change their last names and adopt their gym names to honor their trainers and gyms. They also do this to show people their fighting styles and promote the gym they fight for. If they change their gyms during their fighting career, they’ll change their names, too.
In the rest of the article, we’ll elaborate on different possible reasons that Muay Thai fighters change their names. We’ll also talk about other traditions in their culture.
What’s in a Fighter’s Name?
If you’re into Muay Thai, you must have heard of Buakaw Por. Pramuk, a famous Thai fighter who dominated the K-1 circuit. But you may be surprised to know that his real name isn’t Por. Pramuk. His birth name was Buakaw Banchamek, but he changed his name like many other Thai fighters.
When a Muay Thai fighter starts a fighting career, they don’t usually keep their birth names. They join a camp to shape their fighting career and fight under the camp’s sponsorship. So, the athletes keep their first name and adopt the camp’s name as their last name.
Here are some other reasons:
The most important reason behind this choice of names is loyalty. Fighters use these names to show their loyalty and affiliation with a particular gym. Even if they leave their gyms (on good terms) and continue their career in the Muay Thai industry, they continue using their gym name.
That’s why you may see coaches having last names belonging to their previous sponsors or gyms. They want to show their loyalty to the gym that helped them on their journey to fame. That’s an essential concept in fighting because it’s considered a virtue to remember the entity or the people who supported the fighter.
Another reason is the wide range of fighting styles practiced under the blanket name of Muay Thai. Different gyms in Thailand practice different fighting styles and move sets. So, by adopting the gym’s name, the fighters represent their lineage and their fighting styles.
The athlete’s name also gives them a sense of belonging that helps them through their fights. The gym turns into a family in which all members try to help each other achieve success. Fighters live in the camp they fight for, so it’s natural to see it as a home.
There’s also a whole gambling culture shaped around this martial art. And unlike many other countries, it’s legal to gamble on teammates in Thailand. So, trainers make gambling lines based on these last names.
Promoting the Gym
Sometimes, camp owners have fighters use the camp name as their last name to promote their camps. That’s especially useful for small camps since the more people fight and win under the camp name, the better known the gym will be in the industry.
Some fighters choose not to adopt the gym name because they have other sponsors to support them. Another reason is that some fighters don’t want to sully the gym’s reputation by losing fights under the gym name.
The fighters use their full birth names on their official identification papers, such as their id cards, driver’s license, or passports. They only use their adopted last names in fighting-related situations such as fighting cards or boards.
Do Muay Thai Fighters Change Their Names Frequently?
Muay Thai is a professional sport, which means fighters get paid for doing sports. Like any other professional athletes, Muay Thai fighters may choose to look for better financial opportunities. Throughout their fighting career, they may change their camps, gyms, or sponsors. So, they change their last names accordingly. So, it’s not surprising to see a single fighter have multiple names.
Do They Change Their First Names?
They may also choose to change their first names too. But that’s rare because it’s the name that differentiates the fighter from other teammates. If they decide to change their first names, they can use a nickname of their choice or one given to them by the gym.
Getting a nickname is more of a personal choice. So, they typically choose something that makes a statement about their personalities or fighting styles. They try to intimidate their opponents by choosing a nickname that suggests violence or power. For example, how would you feel if you were to fight a boxer called Kevin “Soul Assassin” Ross or Angela “Overkill” Hill?
Other Muay Thai Traditions
Muay Thai is a historic martial art dating back to the Siam kingdom in the 16th century. Throughout its history, Muay Thai has been both a spectator sport and fighting technique in wars. That’s why it’s an integral part of Thai culture, with ancient traditions and customs shaped around it.
Muay Thai fighters respect their seniors and trainers, who help students learn to fight, develop mental strength and believe in their abilities. Passion and dedication are essential things that trainers teach students.
In return, fighters show their respect to their trainers through the Wai Khru ritual before entering a fight. Meaning “greet teacher,” it’s a traditional greeting where the fighters put their hands together, similar to praying rituals.
It’s part of the more elaborate greeting ritual that involves the boxer circling the ring and kneeling and bowing to honor god and trainers. Some fighters also perform Ram Muay, a ritual dance with simple movements to display their style and control.
They also have to respect their opponents before and after the fight. This way, they show each other that they protect their opponent no matter who wins. After the fight, both opponents honor each other’s coaches.
Muay Thai culture has strong ties to religion and spirituality. The traditional wears, Mongkhon and Pra Jiad, are headbands and armbands that bring good luck and repel harmful spirits. In modern times, fighters wear these bands to show their tribute to their gyms.
The Pra Jiad (armband) is traditionally a piece of clothing from the fighter’s family members. Some traditions use a piece of cloth belonging to the fighter’s mother or loved one to bring health and good luck.
Mongkon (headband) carries a lot of power and has to be handled with respect. In the past, trainers acknowledged their proficient students by awarding them with these headbands. The special power comes from monks blessing them. So, nobody can touch them except for the fighter and the trainer. Plus, it shouldn’t touch the ground, so the fighters take them off before the bout begins.
These religious ties originate from the fact that temples have traditionally been Muay Thai training centers. Most Muay Thai masters were monks who passed on religious beliefs along with fighting techniques.
Another defining component of traditional Muay Thai is Sarama, a form of music played before and during the bouts. The ensemble consists of four musicians playing Thai drums, oboe, and finger cymbals. To many fans, the music may be off-putting and even annoying. It starts low at the beginning and then picks up into the fight.
It’s a dynamic type of music because it changes its tempo according to the fight’s intensity. It works similar to a movie soundtrack, signifying and boosting the atmosphere and mood.
Many professional Muay Thai fighters change their last names to the name of the gym they fight for. Sometimes they adopt their teacher’s name. This way, they pay tribute to the gym and their trainers.
They also show others what fighting styles they use because fighting methods vary across different gyms.
A single fighter may change their name several times because they may change their gyms and adopt the new gym’s name.
- Muay Thai Citizen: Sarama: Muay Thai Music
- Muay Thai Guy: What Is The Wai Kru in Muay Thai?
- Culture Trip: Muay Thai and its Place in Thailand’s Culture
- Combat Group: TRADITIONS AND RULES OF MUAY THAI
- Effective Muay Thai: Muay Thai Traditions
- Evolve: 6 Shocking Facts That You Never Knew About Muay Thai In Thailand
- Dynamics Striking: What’s in a Name?
- VT1: 4 things you didn’t – and should – know about the Art of Muay Thai
- Under the Ropes: GYM HOPPERS AND THE IMPORTANCE OF LOYALTY IN MUAY THAI
- Evolve: Why do Muay Thai Instructors at Evolve all have the same last name?