I wish I could start this post raving about how confident and proudly we became a Khan 2 but that would be a complete lie. The slightly embarrassing performance was clumsy to say the least and hysterical to an outside observer, I'm almost certain. So, here is my story of becoming a Level 2 in Muay Thai and receiving our yellow mongkol.
We were on our way to Ayutthaya for the the 14th Annual World Wai Kru Ceremony to celebrate all things Muay Thai amongst the ancient temple ruins that once made up the beautiful city. Already on the road north bound for Bangkok, our Kru (teacher) Chanchai asks Andrew if we want to test the following morning. As usual, Andrew eagerly accepts with little knowledge on what the test entails while I grin and nod in agreement. (Let's do this). For the remainder of our ten hour drive the subject never resurfaced again.
We arrive the next morning at the hotel where the conference is being held, slightly groggy from the long drive and few hours of sleep, clueless to today's activities. Andrew and I are under the impression Chanchai is testing to become a Level 17 Grand Master. We follow our Kru around like lost puppies for most the morning, meeting other Grand Masters and his long time friends. Eventually, we find ourselves back at the car searching for the appropriate Muay Thai testing apparel of navy fisherman shorts and a red tank-top. Our buddy Nick conveniently had his along while Andrew and I borrowed Chanchai's Grand Master wear. My gold trimmed maroon shorts were several sizes too large (is this supposed to be a skirt?) and paired perfectly with my black Rawai Muay Thai tank-top. After our quick parking ramp outfit change we were back indoors filling out our application to test infront of world renowned Grand Masters without the slightest clue of what will be expect of us.
"Do you think we can go over some things?" Nick asking my thoughts exactly.
We shuffle to the hallway where we proceed to stand in silence while Chanchai continued tinkering on his facebook. At last, we receive some insight...He tells us they will ask us the moves in Thai (I haven't learned the moves in Thai) followed by a few words of encouragement and we are back facing the double wooden doors to the exam room.
(At least the us three can endure this together).
And so it begins...
Phase 1. Identifying the Moves
Section one more closely resembled a Thai lesson on anatomy rather than a demonstration of Muay Thai knowledge. One of Grand Masters began teaching us the Thai pronunciation for moves we have been executing for last several months now. Once capable of making it thru without failure it shifted back into exam mode. Now, he stated the move (left elbow) and we'd point to our left elbow...piece of cake. We wrapped up phase one counting to ten which we flew thru no problem. That has to count for something, right?
Phase 2. Shadowboxing
Ok. Now, show us what you can do.
The three of us take a few steps apart giving us adequate room to show off our skills and we went into a total shadowboxing frenzy. This was a few notches above our routine warmups before class. We were throwing our best combos and demonstrating what almost three months of Muay Thai had taught us. In reality it looked more like flailing around a room beating the shit out of the air with the utmost determination of defeating it. And that is when the cameras appeared.
Phase 3. Wai Kru
"Do you know wai kru?"
(No one said anything about a wai kru?)
Well, here we go...
I take the largest stride backward possible, which was just far enough so Nick was in my peripherals. Lucky for me, Nick had taken lessons with Chanchai in the past and I could use that to my advantage. The music starts, I nail the first three wai's and after that it was a steep slope to failure. I do my best to keep up with Nick's motions paired with the little knowledge I already had but watching from behind has little benefit. All hope was lost when we executed the 180 degree turn...I was done for. Thankfully, Chanchai offers me the helpful tip to slow down while shaking his head in disappointment. Eventually, they had seen enough of my failure and finalized the exam with our stamp of approval to be a Khan 2!
I'm deeply embarrassed to admit without Chanchai as our Kru there would have been no hope for becoming a Khan 2. Have we been given the opportunity to immediately retest we would have succeeded, no problem, now that we know what the requirements would be. After much laughter and discussion we've concluded that Phase 1 (Identifying the Moves) should have probably been us demonstrating what a left elbow was (Shadowboxing) not just pointing to our elbows. But lucky for them they got the finale of watching three foreigners flailing around the hotel conference room terribly out of sync and in mismatched clothes. As embarrassing as it may have been, it gave me determination to return to training and prove that I am worthy of my yellow mongkol.
Helpful Things to Know
The Mongkol is given from a Kru to an athlete after the student has proven their knowledge of Muay Thai and has become a serious fighter. Each new level has its own color (Khan 2, Yellow Mongkol). View the Levels of Proficiency here.
Wai Kru (Ram Wai)...
Literal translation: War dance saluting the teacher
A ritual performed before a muay thai fight showing respect to the teacher and has several variations that can be unique to the fighter. Watch Lemsing's 506th wai kru here.