Wai Kru – The honor we can give to our instructors.
Today 10/10/2019 was a special day. It was an emotional day. It was a fantastic day. I felt it deserves its own blog post. From my understanding the Wai Kru is celebrated throughout Thailand.
Wai Kru – (Thai: พิธีไหว้ครู, pronounced [wâːj kʰrūː])
This is ceremony performed by students to their teachers. Teachers of school children and teachers of Muay Thai. It is an honor for the student to honor their teacher and often times both student and teacher get emotional because it shows how much each of the individuals care and respect each other.
I am a Japanese American. I am second generation or nisei. Meaning my mother came from Japan. I was brought up to honor and respect your, service people, elders, your teachers, and those that are in positions of power. You respect and honor everyone. Where the western culture tends to have a different view of honor and respect. Western culture respect is earned and honor is reserved for those who are worthy. I tend to straddle Asian culture and Western culture having learned both. So naturally when I learned of this honor and how I could, and I personally think should give to your teachers/instructors/Kru, I was all over it.
Lets get back to the Wai Kru in Thailand. Kids often get dressed in their best clothing, or smartest uniforms. They present their Kru or teacher with a fruit, some rice, incense, and flowers. This is the traditional gifts. Some children can’t give all of that so they give what they can.
For us westerners it is similar to giving an apple to a teacher. This tradition of apple given to teacher has had several theories as to why it happened/s and two of the prominent ones are: a residual act from Europe people used to give a basket of apples to the teacher for payment. During the time when people were striking out going west late 1800’s to early 1920, people paid the teacher with what they had. For pioneers it was food, wheat, etc. However, while that is payment, for me it does not seem to have the same weight. It is similar, but the Wai Kru is on another level. Let me see if I can explain it better.
Wai Kru for Muay Thai
For Muay Thai, the art of Muay Thai, there is very spiritual and physical bonds that go with it. Most people see the violence, and the efficacy of the fighting style, however. there is so much more to it. Most of the time in the western world the nuance is lost on us.
Reasons I believe we don’t see the Wai Kru, minutia and history more:
- The traditions are lost in translation.
- A lot of people don’t want to fuss with that spiritual stuff, the honor, and or the history. They want the flashy, go out and take on every opponent.
- Wanting to cater to the western group of people some teachers just forego the history and try to meet their clients needs.
- Some of the teachers that are teaching today, were never taught, so they can’t and don’t know to pass it down to their students.
- Some teachers know about it, but don’t want to seem like they are forcing their students to give a gift to them. (I see this argument, I see why they may feel this way, I can relate. However, this is why we as students should do our own research and learn as much as we can, so we can honor them.)
I could be wrong about the reasons above. There also could be more I am not thinking of. However, for what ever reason, this is not taught. We need to as a Muay Thai family educate each other. The onus is not only on the teacher. It is up to us as students to research, and learn as much as we can.
Wai Kru ceremony for Muay Thai has other levels to it. When a student wants to learn from a specific instructor, because his or her, knees are the best, they will go and present the instructor with this honor and gift and ask for the honor to be taught. This has been going on for centuries. This is still the practice as far as I understand from my instructor Tony. The instructor then takes the offering and then takes the student under their wing. When that student has learned all that instructor could teach that instructor and student will give the same honor in offering, to the next instructor in essence asking for the next instructor to take over and teach. The instructor may not accept the Wai Kru offering but that is personal decision. So the giving of the gift/honor is not a guarantee of acceptance.
The accepted offering acknowledges the student teacher bond. The student becomes part of that family that legacy that has gone back thousands of years and been passed down from teacher to student. You learn your new families way of fighting, you learn the families Wai Kru Ram Muay that is individual to each family/gym.
Wai Kru Honor Today
Today I and 3 of my fellow class mates honored our instructors/Kru with the Wai Kru offering. It was a momentous day. We had an instructor that was stepping back and handing over the lead of our program to the other two instructors. So we were all a little sad about that change to begin with. But I learned that October is the month when the students honor their instructors. So I figured this day was the day to give to our teachers.
I told my husband this is what we are doing, he agreed with it and encouraged me to do so. I told a good friend and Thai brother about it and he wanted to help out. We also asked one of our other brothers if he wanted to get in on this action as well. You see we are the only blue bands in the class right now and we decided to honor all of our teachers.
At the end of class, I asked for a moment before we bowed out and everyone left. I gathered the H, JD, A, and we presented the trays to them. I explained to our fellow students that this month is Wai Kru month and we are honoring our teachers, thanking them for teaching us, and want them to know how much we love them.
The offering was really touching for all of us. We handed it over and bowed three times. You could tell how much it meant to all of them. I spoke with each of my instructors and I know for certain, because she told me, in the 9 years that she has been teaching, none of her students have ever presented her with a Wai Kru gift.
We all were fighting some tears. I am sure there was some one cutting up an onion in the gym some where. Yeah that must be the reason we looked a little watery. Its hard to be tough when yo are so touched. It was my honor to give back to my instructors. We are a family and we are there for each other.
Then we bowed out for the night, and took a Family photo or two. =)
So today was a great day. It was an emotional day. There are transitions and changes happening, but we were able to tell our instructors how much they are loved and honored. We created a stronger bond with them, through the Wai Kru ceremony. I am so honored to have them teach me. I am so honored to be able to learn, grow, and delve deeper into the customs and history of the art I love… Muay Thai.
Thank you for reading. If you are reading this and did not know about the Wai Kru now you know more. I am not an expert this is just what I have learned from my instructors and through research. Spread this honor, share the love and appreciation for your teacher. The gift does not have to be super fancy. Just some rice, a flower or two, incense, and a candle. Do what you can if you are moved to do so. Have a great day, and continue to be the best you that you can be.