When we think of Muay Thai, most of us instantly remember the movie, Kickboxer, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. The Muay Thai fighters all wore protective ropes in the movie, seemingly to protect their hands. The main antagonist, Tong Po, even dipped his ropes into shards of glass at the end of the movie, wanting to inflict as much damage as possible.
Muay Thai was originally known as Muay Baron. The practitioners of this martial art used to wrap their hands with hemp ropes to protect their hands and inflict damage on their opponents. This method is known as Kard Cheuk and was banned in 1928. Safer methods of use have seen it being reinstated.
Did you know that there are 27 small bones in your hand? Each time you strike and connect with someone or something, your hand is put under extreme pressure and could lead to broken or fractured bones. Wrapping your hands with rope/ hand wraps helps stabilize and support every part of your hand, keeping everything in its place.
Do Muay Thai Fighters Still Wear Ropes Today?
The art of Kart Chuek is traditionally significant to Muay Thai fighters. They honor those that came before them by wearing it, and they kept this tradition alive throughout the years after the Thai Ministry of Interior banned its use. Some fighters displayed this art form during matches at festivals and in smaller fight tournaments.
Kart Chuek is still being practiced today in the southeast regions of Asia, especially in Burmese boxing. In some tournaments and competitions, the fighters will fight with sanctioned boxing or MMA-style gloves only. After the introduction of modern-day Muay Thai rules, glove fights dominated the fighting scene.
Even though the new rules were all for gloved fights, the passion for Kard Chuek was kept alive by fighters fighting in smaller fight shows. Fighters who practice Kard Chuek today do so using a padded under glove under their ropes (basically a hand wrap with a cushion over the knuckles). They also use much thinner and smoother hemp rope than the unrefined hemp ropes used by their ancestors in Muay Baron.
In 2010 former movie director Nopporn Wartin founded a company called Thai Fight Co. Ltd. He aimed to promote Thai culture and Thai traditions on a global scale. Muay Thai is Thailand’s national sport, so he decided to create a new fighting platform called “Thai Fight.” Working closely with Thailand’s Tourism Authority, he introduced the world to his first event in 2010.
Some of the best Muay Thai fighters in the world participated in the event, which was a great success. It became so successful that they started hosting events in other countries (France, Spain, Russia, England, Vietnam and Japan).
The company decided to create a reality show in 2013 called “Thai Fight: Kard Chuek,” where the fighters discarded the gloves and donned the hemp ropes again, paying homage to their ancestors who fought like this during the Muay Baron era.
Since this show ended, most “Thai Fight” fights are without gloves and fought under Kard Chuek rules. To protect the fighters from cuts and serious injury, the fighters will use an under glove and not employ some more dangerous ancient wrapping techniques.
Why Did Muay Thai Fighters Wear Ropes?
Before there was Muay Thai as we know it today, it was preceded by an ancient art called Muay Boran. Some refer to it as the Father of Muay Thai. Like many ancient martial arts, it was a self-defense-orientated fighting style that included many deadly techniques that you won’t find in today’s modern Muay Thai rings.
Somewhere along with Muay Boran’s history, the fighters started to wrap their hands and forearms with unrefined hemp rope. While wrapping their hands, they would strategically place knots on certain knuckles to inflict more damage to their opponents.
Another method that magnified the ropes’ effect was to dip it in water after applying it to their hands. When the ropes dried, it would be harder and more likely to cut into their opponent’s skin.
This practice was called Kard Chuek and literally means “boxing with ropes.” Muay Thai ropes are used for two reasons:
- To protect the fighter’s hands.
- To inflict more damage to their opponent.
Muay Thai ropes allowed fighters to deliver more force with their punches due to the smaller area of impact-compared to boxing gloves.
Why Did Muay Thai Fighters Stop Wearing Ropes?
The Thai Ministry of Interior banned the use of Muay Thai ropes in the year 1928. The story behind this event is recorded as the following. Thai boxer, Phae Lieng Prasert, fought a boxer from Battambang, and as was the custom in those days, both used ropes on their hands.
The fight was stopped in round three when Prasert hit his opponent with a deadly combination of punches. The fighter of Battanbong was badly injured and died on the way to the hospital. This incident forced the Thai Ministry of Interior to place a ban on Muay Thai ropes. They mandated the use of boxing gloves, which is still in effect as of today.
Through making some changes to the wrapping techniques and using smoother hemp ropes, together with an under glove, fighters are using ropes again. The art of Kard Chuek is alive and well once more. The safety precautions have played a huge role with regards to this being allowed again.
Why Do Muay Thai Fighter’s Wear Headbands?
Theheadband is known as a Mongol. A trainer gives this sacred headband to a worthy fighter. It is a symbol of loyalty, respect and seen as a great honor should you earn one.
What Do Muay Thai Bands Symbolize?
The bands that Muay Thai fighters wear around their upper arms symbolizes good luck and are seen as a sign of courage. Contrary to popular belief in some Western countries, it does not indicate rank whatsoever. Fighters never wear the bands while training, only before and after a fight.
Muay Thai is Thailand’s greatest export. The people of Thailand are very proud of this martial art and its traditions, and the heritage. The ancient style of Muay Baron had fighters fight with hemp ropes tied around their hands; this was seen as the correct way to practice the art. When Kard Chuek was banned in 1928 and gloves were incorporated into the rules, many thought this would be the end of rope boxing.
Luckily for the traditionalists, the art was kept alive through the years by people who were unwilling to let this tradition fade from memory. Fighters who fought in small fighting shows employed the use of these ropes. The art of Kard Chuck was also allowed at temple festivals to honor the ancient art.
Today, there has been a return to this fighting method as it is much safer due to modifications made. The use of padded under gloves and smoother hemp rope, and safer wrapping techniques has allowed it to become normal again. The role that “Thai Fight” and “Thai Fight: Kard Cheuk” have played in fighters fighting with ropes again should not be underestimated.
Thai fighters still use the ropes to protect their hands and damage their opponent; the difference is that employing Kard Chuek today will not lead to somebody dying in the ring like it did in 1928.