Everything posted by Pop
Recently, Sak Yant has been referred to as “Muay Thai Tattoo.” Actually, because of its protective and blessed meanings, it was often associated with warriors, combatants, and anyone looking for its protective powers. But why are so few Thai fighters getting Sak Yant in comparison to their Western Nak Muay counterparts? Is it not derived from the ancient practice as depicted in movies involving ancient Thai warriors? In order to understand this in the context of modern Thai culture, you have to separate the “Sak" from the “Yant." Sak means tattoo. Yant is the actual blessed protective scripture. Yant could actually be inscribed on surfaces other than skin. In Theravada Buddhism, which in Thai culture is actually mixed with older indigenous beliefs, the Yant is often placed on amulets and cloth. It has always been in existence, and Thai fighters are often wearing amulets with Yant inscribed somewhere on them. Its connection with the ancient warriors was transferred from skin to another media, not abandoned. Yant can even be on Buddha amulets. In contrast, Sak is very intertwined with societal norms and to a large extent fashion. In the modern era, Sak or tattoo only became mainstream recently. Prior to this it was associated with gangsters and the less desirable elements of society. Even in the United States, establishments like West Point only recently allowed its cadets to have tattoos because military officers could not have tattoos while lower-ranked enlisted soldiers were allowed to. I myself have a lot of tattoos (including Sak Yant) and my Thai mom, when she was alive, never did like them. She often told me that since I have an advanced degree, I should not get tattoos. This was the society that she grew up in. So it’s easy to understand why even when Golden Era fighters got Sak Yant on rare occasions, it was minimal in contrast to the full upper torso. Many Muay Thai boxers like others in society did not promote deviation from social norms. Fast forward to now, and tattoos are ubiquitous and no longer tantamount to stigma. Yet, the other variable influencing choice of Sak is fashion. Unless you’re a complete follower of the practice as can be observed at the annual Sak Yant Tattoo Festival, many Thais (fighters or not) are often influenced by foreign fashion. So once tattoos were more accepted, the choice was still primarily other foreign styles as opposed to traditional Thai. Then a global Western star, Angelina Jolie, made huge headlines with her Sak Yant in Thailand. Suddenly Thai celebrities were in line getting the Thai traditional tattoo in the same “Ha-Taew” fashion as the Western star. Ajarn Noo Kanpai who tattooed Angelina became highly sought "overnight." In contrast, it was increasingly more fashionable, exotic and/or a spiritual connection for foreign Nak Muays to adopt the traditional protective tattoos likes the ancient Thai warriors. Many have said it gave them more connection to Muay Thai. As it becomes more and more common among Western Nak Muays, perhaps the Thai fighters will come back around and have the Yant back on their skin, as can be seen on Sudsakorn and Saiyok. In short, the Yant never left the lineage (being on cloth, amulet, etc.), but the Sak did… until maybe now. If you're not interested in the Yant portion of it, just get a Sak of something meaningful to you.