Muay Thai, also known as Thai Boxing, is Thailand’s national sport and cultural martial art. It refers to the science of eight limbs, which incorporates strikes to eight contact points, including the fists, elbows, knees, and shins.
Several professional Muay Thai fighters today still come from the impoverished areas of Thailand. Hence, they often practice Muay Thai to earn money for a living.
But one question often comes to mind Muay Thai fans outside Thailand is: “Does Muay Thai have belts?”. But worry not. This article will unearth the favorable answer and some surprising facts. So, don’t miss out!
Does Muay Thai Have Belts?
Generally, traditional Muay Thai does not have a ranking system, which means it does not have belts or diplomas as Karate, Taekwondo, or Judo.
Hence, Muay Thai fighters do not perceive ranking and belts associated with their reputation and art form. Instead, they are likely to allow their fight records, quality of the fights, experience, and achievements to determine their ranking.
However, since the emergence of Muay Thai in the western world around the 1970s, some Muay Thai schools have made efforts to implement belts and ranking systems.
Today, the World Thai Boxing Association (WTBA) in the USA has adopted a ranking system combining the traditional armbands with the colored belt system. The vision of WTBA is to “advance, promote and preserve the traditional martial arts of Thailand” throughout the world.
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What Do The Armbands Represent In WTBA’s System?
The armbands are split into three groups, with the colors varying depending on the rank. Each color represents the level of Muay Thai fighters, just like the belt colors in other martial arts such as Kung Fu. WTBA also provides a specific curriculum and proper learning structure for students to achieve a higher rank.
Beginner ranks consist of 3 colors, while advanced levels involve 6 colors. There’re also 4 instructor ranks for an instructor or master’s level.
- Beginner ranks: white (1st rank), yellow (2nd rank), and orange (3rd rank).
- Advanced ranks: green (4th rank), blue (5th rank), purple (6th rank), red (7th rank), brown (8th rank), black (9th rank).
- Instructor ranks: black/white (1st instructor), black/red (2nd instructor), black/silver (3rd instructor), black/gold (4th instructor).
Want to find out more about Muay Thai’s armbands? Watch this video!
However, it is noteworthy that the WTBA’s system is not universally accepted in the West, and not all schools provide a similar ranking system. For example, other schools may use colored shorts or shirts to signify ranks.
Why Does Muay Thai Use Armbands and Not Belts?
Some of you might ponder why Muay Thai utilizes armbands, not colored belts, like other forms of martial arts. But there is a story behind the armbands that fosters and honors the traditions and spiritual beliefs of Muay Thai.
Traditionally, the armband is often known as a praciat or prajead. In ancient times, armbands were usually pieces of fabric from a mother’s clothing. They had a close connection with warriors who fought on the battlefield.
When warriors left home for the war, they were given armbands tied around their arms with prayers or spells written on them. This symbolic act was believed to grant protection and blessing for the wearers.
Now, armbands are made with fabric, rope, or a combination of both materials. Fighters wear armbands in Muay Thai since it is an indispensable part of Thai traditions and they believe armbands would give them the courage to fight in the battle. Hence, they are allowed to get the armbands only when the instructor permits them to enter the ring.
How Long Does It Take To Get A Black Belt In Muay Thai?
As mentioned, the traditional Muay Thai did not implement belts, so fighters could never reach a black belt. But that is not the case when they decide to enroll in a school that uses ranks.
So, how long does it take to get a black belt in Muay Thai? In fact, it depends on the school and the fighter’s efforts to level up their skill. Thus, if they advance per year, they should be able to obtain the black belt in about ten years.
The Future Of Muay Thai And The Ranking System
As time passes by, so does the martial arts world. But traditional Muay Thai is considered unaffected by the evolution of combat sports and martial arts worldwide. Therefore, fighters and teachers still respect this art’s spiritual or traditional beliefs. They believe that Muay Thai should be preserved because it is associated with the country’s history and honor of their families and themselves.
But today, Muay Thai has gained popularity across the world. As a result, many schools outside of Thailand, especially in the US, have taken on Muay Thai. In addition, Americans regularly travel to Thailand in order to participate in a proper learning structure, annual training camps, or instructor courses to leverage their skills.
Meanwhile, MMA and Muay Thai fans around the world have started to acknowledge the significance of Muay Thai’s tradition and its essence links to humility, perseverance, and respect.
After reading this article, hopefully, you have a satisfying answer to the question: “Does Muay Thai have belts?”. The nature of this sport represents the country’s traditions, so that’s why the traditional sport did not have any belts or rankings. Although some Western organizations adapt rankings into Muay Thai, fighters will always respect the traditional sport and let the fight records speak for themselves.