Maybe you’ve seen season 3 of Daredevil and were thinking, “why is Matt Murdock wearing those ropes on his hands?”. They’re really just hemp ropes that protect your hands and wrists while increasing damage when punching. The ropes were originally used in muay boran, the precursor to muay thai.
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Muay Boran Hand Ropes
Muay boran is an ancient martial art from Thailand. It is a self-defense oriented art that preceded muay thai and also included many grappling, ground, and deadly techniques that you don’t see in the modern ring.
At some point in muay boran’s history, fighters began to wrap their fists and forearms in unrefined hemp rope. Ancient fighters used knots strategically placed at the knuckles to improve their chances and cutting their opponents and inflicting the most damage. They wrapped the rest of the hands, wrists, and even forearms to protect themselves.
After binding their fists, they would immerse their wraps in water. When dried, the hemp would become harder and more likely to do serious damage.
The practice of wrapping your hands with ropes and boxing is called muay kard chuek or muay kaad chuek. It literally means bound-fist boxing and was practiced for many years.
In the 1930s the fighting sport aspect of muay boran become more modernized. Official rules were codified and gloves were introduced, and muay thai was born. Even after the introduction of gloves, the tradition of muay kard chuek is kept alive and practiced to this day.
Modern Day Muay Kard Chuek
Bound-fist boxing is still practiced in southeast Asia. In Myanmar, rope wraps are used in Lethwei or Burmese bare-knuckle boxing.
In Thailand, muay kard chuek is celebrated and used during matches at festivals. Keeping the tradition alive is kind of a big deal for them.
The promotion Thai Fight also does some matches in kard chuek. However, they don’t use the same wrapping methods that emphasize cutting your opponents. Instead, fighters use something like an MMA glove under the ropes. In the video below, you’ll also notice that the ropes are a bit smoother and not as unrefined as traditional ropes.
How to Wrap Your Hands for Kard Chuek
In the above image, you’ll see the fighter first make a series of knots that are wrapped around the knuckles. More rope is used to protect the thumb and hand. The rope is weaved in between the fingers and hand. The wrist and forearm are then wrapped.
Muay thai ropes are really like modern boxing hand wraps. They exist to protect your hands, but also inflict more damage. I personally think using the ropes in the ancient way is pretty badass. Just don’t expect to be dipping your ropes in resin and glass like in the movies.