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CatherineS

Muay Thai tattoos that aren’t Sak Yant?

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I want to get a Muay Thai tattoo because it changed who I am as a person, my world perspective, yadda, yadda. The thing is, I’m not “legit” enough for a Sak Yant. I haven’t trained in Thailand, am not closely tied to Thai culture outside of Muay Thai, don’t consider myself a Buddhist, and would definitely feel like a bit of a fraud getting one. I *do not* look at other people in a similar position the same way so this isn’t a criticism of anyone in a similar situation who has gotten one.

The question is, are there any Muay Thai tattoos that aren’t Sak Yant that are not completely hokey or ridiculous? Or is this just best left alone and the idea scrapped entirely? Is it disrespectful to the tradition of the sport and would only serve to Westernize something not really meant for westerners outside of training?

I’m not looking for an answer I want to hear on some of the cultural questions. Seriously seeking some thoughtful considerations. 

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Hi 🙂 

SakYants Aren’t just for Muay Thai fighters, lots of people who aren’t fighters have Sak yants.

It’s a tradition too that is based on animalism and Magic so it not just Buddhism:) 
 

But if Sak Yants don’t resonate how about  finding a symbol that represents what Muay Thai means.... 

Like does training MT bring freedom? Maybe freedom written in Thai? Or something like that. 

I hope I’ve helped lol 

 

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On 6/22/2020 at 1:04 AM, Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu said:

Tattoos are quite personal, so whatever brings you association to your experiences with Muay Thai is appropriate. You could chose a word written in Thai, or an image (the things to consider here are if you get a mongkol, for example, placement has to be high on your body).

Thank you! That is good starting point for picking a design. 

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On 6/16/2020 at 2:06 AM, SHELL28 said:

Hi 🙂 

SakYants Aren’t just for Muay Thai fighters, lots of people who aren’t fighters have Sak yants.

It’s a tradition too that is based on animalism and Magic so it not just Buddhism:) 
 

But if Sak Yants don’t resonate how about  finding a symbol that represents what Muay Thai means.... 

Like does training MT bring freedom? Maybe freedom written in Thai? Or something like that. 

I hope I’ve helped lol 

 

Thank you! More good info. I thought about the word in Thai thing but soooo much could go wrong there. Kinda like the Chinese symbols that people got in the 90s and 2000s that are supposed to say freedom but actually translate to chicken diarrhea or some such ridiculousness. I sure don’t want to be that asshole. 🤣

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On 6/15/2020 at 11:21 PM, CatherineS said:

Seriously seeking some thoughtful considerations. 

As others have mentioned, sak yant aren't really "for" Muay Thai. In fact they are seldom prominent in most prominent Thai Muay Thai fighters. They are kind of from the under-class of Thailand, much as perhaps tattoos in general were in western countries for a very long time. And, some of that under class become fighters. But...mostly they are just symbolic representations of protection, or power, believed in an an animistic level. A sak yant of a tiger may just be summoning up "tiger energy", the ability to command, stalking forcefulness, etc. It could apply to anything in life.

So...sak yant could just tap into or express the underfeelings of what Muay Thai has brought to you, without being some sort of "bro" appropriation. Your own attempt to get in touch with that thing, that meaningfulness. Or, maybe not.

In either case, I would say to just get in touch with that thing that Muay Thai has done for you, brought to you, and then find some representation that speaks to that for you. Maybe its nothing that looks like its related to Muay Thai at all...but YOU know it's about Muay Thai. Or, perhaps, if there is a particular heroic fighter who inspires you, then perhaps something related to their image.

As for words, Sylvie's discussed a series of Thai words that embody the spirit of Muay Thai, I'm sure she would double check the graphic for you before you got it tattoo'd. This was one: Ning:

1115080572_NingMuayThai.jpg.23667ef72aea964685b08d1af42d5eac.jpg

 

https://web.facebook.com/sylviemuaythai/photos/a.134623809905091/2636651226368991

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On 6/25/2020 at 11:34 PM, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

As others have mentioned, sak yant aren't really "for" Muay Thai. In fact they are seldom prominent in most prominent Thai Muay Thai fighters. They are kind of from the under-class of Thailand, much as perhaps tattoos in general were in western countries for a very long time. And, some of that under class become fighters. But...mostly they are just symbolic representations of protection, or power, believed in an an animistic level. A sak yant of a tiger may just be summoning up "tiger energy", the ability to command, stalking forcefulness, etc. It could apply to anything in life.

So...sak yant could just tap into or express the underfeelings of what Muay Thai has brought to you, without being some sort of "bro" appropriation. Your own attempt to get in touch with that thing, that meaningfulness. Or, maybe not.

In either case, I would say to just get in touch with that thing that Muay Thai has done for you, brought to you, and then find some representation that speaks to that for you. Maybe its nothing that looks like its related to Muay Thai at all...but YOU know it's about Muay Thai. Or, perhaps, if there is a particular heroic fighter who inspires you, then perhaps something related to their image.

As for words, Sylvie's discussed a series of Thai words that embody the spirit of Muay Thai, I'm sure she would double check the graphic for you before you got it tattoo'd. This was one: Ning:

1115080572_NingMuayThai.jpg.23667ef72aea964685b08d1af42d5eac.jpg

 

https://web.facebook.com/sylviemuaythai/photos/a.134623809905091/2636651226368991

Thank you! This is quite helpful for finding a place to start. Tattoos are permanent and I’m old enough to know that you do NOT want something permanently on your body if you aren’t 100% sure about it and of course I don’t want to be a disrespectful appropriating asshole. 
 

I appreciate you spending the time to clarify these things and providing some great insight. 

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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.

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