Ever wonder how rank or training level is rated in Muay Thai? Many people often wonder if there really is such a thing as a Muay Thai belt system. Though known to be as powerful and as popular as karate, judo, taekwondo, and other disciplines in Martial Arts, traditional Muay Thai does not really have a standard belt system. So, how are students, trainees, and fighters are ranked? How are achievements in training rated? If there is no belt system in Muay Thai, what distinguishing items are being used?
Unlike other man-to-man combat sports, Muay Thai is uniquely structured and organized. Traditionally, a Kru (master or coach in Muay Thai) bestows a prajeat or kuang ran (armband) and a mongkol (headband) to a newly passed trainee to bestow his or her trust in the capability of the recipient to finally go into the ring to fight bearing the center’s name at heart. It must be remembered that many traditional fighters see Muay Thai as a professional sport, with many using it as a way to earn a living.
Training can be rigorous and often, one may only have 1 to 2 full rest days. One has to train for 5 to 6 days, for at least 8 hours a day, to gain professional fighter status– which is not rated with any colored belt. While Karate, Taekwondo, Judo, and other Martial Arts disciplines make use of the belt system in rating an athlete’s skills, traditional centers and old-school Krus do not carry the same system. Once, a kru sees a fighter to be ready, then off he or she goes to the ring, bearing the center’s armband and head gear.
Often, these items come in white or green depending on the house. Blue is reserved for advanced trainees, while purple and red for instructors. If you are considered a kru, you will most likely be handed gold-colored prajeat and mongkol. Those will be enough to boot one’s confidence in annihilating another off the ring as well as serve as protection from unseen elements.
Western Muay Thai Belt
The only “belt” recognized in Muay Thai is the champion’s belt. Much like traditional boxing, belts are used to give recognition and to uphold one’s credibility in winning the game. These, however, are not regarded as an absolute representation of a fighter’s mastery of skills, and details of the art. Though the Thai government and various Muay Thai agencies have tried to agree on a curriculum regarding “khan” or levels and colors in belt system, a standard system is still not widely established.
Some Western training facilities and institutions have followed belt system standards used in other areas of discipline. This means using white as a beginner status and black as master status. In many traditional houses, however, this system does not use a “belt” per se, but more on the mongkol and prajeat combination.
Ranking in Muay Thai
So, with the Muay Thai belt system not clearly established, how are these fighters ranked? To put it simply, ranking in this sport is often determined by a fighter’s number of matches in the ring, along with the outcome of the match. It can also be surmised based on the other fighter you face. Bottom line is– there is no such thing as a belt system in traditional Muay Thai. Training institutions and centers, however, may feel free to follow other discipline’s design, and still be recognized for their efforts and support.