Wai Kru – the traditional teacher’s greeting

Knowledge is precious. Knowledge that helps to preserve physical integrity and enables survival is invaluable to those who need it.

It is easy to thank a living teacher for imparting martial arts knowledge. You simply go to him or her and just say, “Thank you”.

Much more difficult, however, is to thank those knowledge mediators who are already deceased, unreachable, or not personally known.

The ancient Pahuyuth teachers have developed a non-religious ritual or gesture called “Wai Kru” or “teacher greeting” or “teacher greeting” for this purpose. This ritual is still taught and practiced today within the traditional martial arts teaching of Pahuyuth.

The ability to perform the teacher greeting, to explain its origin and its meaning is one of the prerequisites to receive the Pahuyuth student status (green belt). The teacher’s greeting is usually done after each training and during the Teacher Memorial Day. Some traditional dances (Ram Muai, Ram Dab, etc.) also include elements from the teacher greeting.

Wai Gruß

A greeting and thanks to the teachers – more than just a tradition.

The traditional teacher’s greeting is usually done in a sitting position. The student’s gratitude is usually expressed with four movements:

Hands on the ground

The first movement is for the Creator. This can be any form of deity but also any other instance like e.g. laws of nature.

1st greeting

The first greeting is to your own parents who gave you life, because without them you would not be alive.

2nd greeting

The second greeting goes to the teachers of the past. To all those who have passed this knowledge on.

3rd greeting

The third greeting is to the warriors of the past who died for this knowledge.

Differences to Thai Culture

In Thai culture teachers have a special status. In ancient Siam, education for all people outside the royal family could almost only be acquired in the monastery. There, monks were both teachers and people of respect. This resulted in a hierarchical culture and form of society in which the one who has knowledge is regarded as higher and is therefore worshipped.

The culture of the Pahuyuth free warriors, on the other hand, arose from the rebellion against oppression and slavery. Therefore in the understanding of Pahuyuth all people are equal and nobody has the right to place himself above others.

A teacher in the understanding of Pahuyuth is therefore never a “master” or “ruler” over his disciples, but always only a simple but experienced warrior and human being who shares his knowledge willingly and solely with a recommending character. For this reason, the traditional Wai Kru (teacher’s greeting) is never performed to worship a living teacher.

Since Pahuyuth already existed before Thailand and Siam, it can be assumed that the traditional teacher greeting was borrowed from Pahuyuth and Saiyasart – and not the other way round.

Pahuyuth Wai Kru / Waih Khru

“”Pahuyuth is free. Pahuyuth does not kneel before the living””

– unknown

Knees together or apart?

As you can see in the video linked above, the Pahuyuth teacher’s greeting is always done sitting with spread legs. This position is based on the one hand on the subliminal mediation of fighting knowledge (see below) and on the other hand on the V-position of the feet, which stands for equality and is already taught in the Warriors Creed.

The shoulder-width position with the hands on the back (at the end of the ritual) is again a symbol for the freedom, independence and self-determination of every Pahuyuth free warrior.

To carry out a Wai Kru in this form was and is considered an affront if not even an insult in the hierarchical culture of Thailand, because this represents a lack of docility, humility and submissiveness.

With the Thai Wai Khru and especially at the royal court this ritual is therefore always performed with closed legs and the greatest possible humility – but not by Pahuyuth free warriors.

The continued refusal of the Pahuyuth warriors to execute the Wai Kru with closed legs has – more than once in the past –  been the reason to make them the target of social, political and religious persecution.

From the Warriors Creed: “We put our feet to a V as a sign that we are all equal…” – the sitting position during the Pahuyuth Wai Kru was, is and will always be an act of disobedience.

Why we preserve this tradition

“Whoever pays gratitude to his or her teachers shall receive something in return.” – this or a similar way the ancient Pahuyuth teachers might have thought when they developed the teacher greeting.

In fact, they have hidden various fighting techniques and concepts in the individual movements of the teacher’s greeting, which are automatically practiced with each individual performance of this ritual. For members of Pahuyuth who are able to decipher these hints, the teacher greeting is therefore much more than a tradition that is only preserved for the sake of tradition.

Here are three simple examples of hidden clues from the old teachers:

Martial Arts secrets Pahuyuth wai kru khru teacher greet circles

The traditional teacher greeting holds many secrets

The triangular principle

The teacher’s greeting is usually performed kneeling, with the two knees and the assembled feet forming an isosceles triangle. At least three points are necessary to create a geometric surface and thus create a stable stance. How safe you can sit in this position can easily be tested by tilting forwards, to the sides or backwards.

This principle is used, for example, in knee techniques while clinching. The two feet of the opponent and ones own standing leg result in a stable supporting surface.

martial arts stance Pahuyuth wai kru khru teacher greet three points

Three points are necessary to form a stable stance.

Knees on the floor

The contact surface of the two knees during the teacher’s greeting reveals exactly where the hardest part of the human knee is.

A defence with this area (for example against shin kicks) is usually particularly safe for the user.

Knee attacks with this area are particularly devastating.

Pahuyuth wai kru khru teacher greet knee defense technique

Hard knee blocks can be devastating for the attacker.

Pahuyuth wai kru khru teacher greet knee attack technique

The same applies to attacks with this area

4/5 Elbow flexion

If correctly executed, the two elbow joints are not be bent to more than 4/5 of their maximum flexion (usually somewhere at 180°).

This position provides the maximum effective range for punches. Blows in which the arm is stretched further transfer considerably less force (F) to the target object.

In Pahuyuth a complete extension of the arm is usually avoided in order not to damage the elbow joint by the forces resulting from the attack.

Pahuyuth wai kru khru teacher greet punch angle

The optimal striking position is achieved with a 4/5 extension.

Further principles

The examples above are only the tip of the iceberg and by no means a conclusive list. There are many more such hidden hints and principles that the ancient teachers have left us. Pahuyuth students learn and discover these clues during their training. They enrich themselves with them and thank their teachers for the transmitted knowledge with the traditional teacher greeting.

PAHUYUTH | Traditional Martial Arts and Self Defense | www.Pahuyuth.com | #Pahuyuth

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