Firstly, crossing the ropes. There are a few differences between fighting in Australia and Thailand, and this is one of them. Here, women are allowed to enter the ring over the ropes (if you go under or through the ropes, it’s considered bad luck) but in Thailand women have to go under the ropes.
You might have seen fighters wearing what looks like a headband. The mongkon is worn on your head, and has been blessed by a Buddhist monk (regardless of your religion). It’s a sacred headpiece, and if you’re from a traditional Muay Thai gym, everyone from your gym wears one before their fight: you wear it into the ring while performing ceremonial elements, and then when you return to your corner your trainer takes it off and places on the top of the corner for good luck.
Sometimes people have their own, but our gym shares one: we all wear it. Made up of rope, thread, or silk material the Mongkon can be any colour. Sometimes people have religious amulets and such hanging off them. Ours has a portion of each umbilical cord from our trainer’s children’s births strapped into the back of it. The Mongkon is not allowed to touch the ground – ever.
Muay Thai fighters wear the Mongkon while performing Wai Khru Ram Muay, a show of respect to your trainer, and each gym has its own variation (which means it contains clues about who trained the fighter). Sealing the ring is also important, but that part of the pre-fight tradition is often cut out when fights are televised. Before you fight, you walk to the left, keeping one hand touching the ropes at all times, touching each corner, till you reach your own again, and the ring is “sealed”.
In terms of prefight practices of my own, I always walk out to Marilyn Manson’s Beautiful People. Whenever I’ve changed it, I’ve lost. The four times I lost were the four times I changed my song, so I’m never changing my song again!
I always get my hair braided into cornrows. When you clinch or grapple, your opponent’s hands are rubbing over your head, either forwards or backwards, so it pulls a hair elastic out, or even a normal plait. You really need to have hair strapped down to your head basically, because it hurts when your hair gets pulled, and the guys in your corner can’t retie your ponytail. So not only does your hair look terrible, it gets in your way – there’s nothing worse than having it smeared across your face, and with liniment, it’s just gross.
The tighter it is stuck to your head, the better. A lot of the girls that fight actually do braid their hair, but I try to get mine with a different colour or design, to be different. So it’s in cornrows, but I get zigzags, or instead of braiding backward, it’s braided upward, and then I have one big one down the middle, like a mohawk. If I wear black shorts, I get black extensions braided through. With red shorts I had red in my hair, but that wasn’t good because I got cut, and they couldn’t tell where the cut was, because of the red braided through.
I always get a French polish for each fight as well. I get my toes done too, because the level of the ring is eye level for the VIP seats! And I always try and get cool shorts. At least if you get bashed, people say, oh well you had sick shorts – on tv they looked nice! I like my ankle straps to match my shorts, and I never fight in the same pair of shorts twice. If I win, the shorts hang in the cupboard; they’re never worn to training. (Yes, I have a designated shorts cupboard.) And if I lose in the shorts I wear them to training, to make me train harder, because putting shorts on that I’ve lost in reminds me that I never want to feel like that again.