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Getting a Sak Yant or Protection Tattoo in Thailand.

July 10, 2015
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If you have been training in Muay Thai its a pretty good assumption that you either have or have seen someone with a sak yant. Sak yants are “sacred tattoos” or sometimes called “protection tattoos” by many people. Just like anyone who has tattoos, some people have one while others have much of their body covered in ink. Just like regular tattoos many people get sak yant tattoos for various reason. Many people like having an old school style like this because well, not many other people have them. just the fact that they put it on your body without using a machine is cool in its own way. The majority of people who gravitate toward sak yants are those seeking protection and good fortune. But one thing is for certain… sak yant is not just for fighters. Everyone from police and military personnel to basic housewives have them. this is a cultural thing amongst many of the Thai people. For me personally I believe in the karma that goes with the tattoos as well as a reminder to myself when i see them that I should always try to follow “the path.” Also it goes without saying… they are pretty cool to have.

Jeab Yant 5

There are many people in Thailand who do sak yant tattoos but if you are actually looking for the spiritual aspects that go along with them you want to find an Arjahn who is a master of doing them. I myself goto Arjahn Thoy Dabos for all of my sak yants. Arjahn Thoy is very famous in the muay thai community having tattooed fighters like John Wayne Parr, Chaz Mulkey, and most recently Liam HItman Harrison. There are several other masters who do them in Thailand, but just be sure you have a master do them not some guy with the “bamboo tattoo” sign on his shop.

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When you find a master to do the sak yant you will choose your design and most likely make an offering to the temple they represent.  Usually they have an assistant that sets you up with an offering bowl. The offering bowl is usually a gold or silver bowl with various things like cigarettes, incense, lotus flowers, and candles. Another option is to ask the master to “read” you and decide for himself what sak yant you should get.

Sak Yant 7 This is the beginning. Placing the tiger yant on my ribs. 

Then we get down to it. you will sit in front of the master and he will begin apply the tattoo. traditionally the masters used bamboo but many have gravitated to steel needles. Then he will dip the needle in ink and begin to poke you with the needle. I am not going to lie… this hurts. I have received many tattoos in my time but this one was the most painful. Many people who have been tattooed by a machine know the feeling that when you first start it is a bit painful but as it goes on, the area gets numb and becomes less intense. I found the old school style to be just as painful from the first stab to the last stab. The good news is that the process is pretty fast. the majority of the tattoo is line work so there is not the time-consuming work of all the fill in you get with most western styled tattoos.

Sak Yant 11 Arjahn Thoy Dabos adding his chant to the sak yant

After the tattoo is done the master will then take out a thinner needle and begin the next part which is inscribing the magical chant or spell that goes with your design. typically the chant is different for each person based on what the master feels is best for you.  The final part is the blessing. Without the blessing all you have is ink on your skin. It is the master’s blessing that “activates” the spell on your sak yant. Some people have been known to hallucinate or go into a type of trance saying that they are being empowered by their sak yant.

This is a video of my friend Gaz getting his sak yant blessed.
Sak Yant 14 Arjahn Thoy blessing my sak yant 

Jeab Yant 11

Arjahn Meng Khunpaen giving a blessing after one of his disciples placed the sak yant on this girl

Now that the sak yant is complete here is something you need to know. If you just got the tattoo to be cool or just for the experience then you are pretty much done. However, if you are following the path of “protection tattoos” there are rules of conduct that follow. Different masters have different rules but my Arjahn simply says “be kind to others and follow the 5 precepts of buddhism.” Arjahn thoy’s rule system has been written out something like this though:

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Do Not speak poorly to or disrespect your; Mother , Father or master (Kru).
• Do not commit evil deeds.
• Devotees of the same master are forbidden to fight or compete with each other – they should consider each other members of the same family and cherish each other.
• Do not drink alcohol or take drugs.
• Do not make special claims of having protective powers because of your yant or amulets.
• Do not think that the power of the yant will protect you if you intend to use those powers for bad deeds.
• try to keep the five precepts: constitute the basic code of ethics undertaken by upāsaka and upāsikā (“lay followers”) of Buddhism. The precepts in all the traditions are essentially identical and are commitments to abstain from harming living beings, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and intoxication.

It is believed that if you do not follow “the path” or use your sak yant for evil purposes that you will lose all the power that they possess.

Here are some examples of Sak Yant Tattoos and their various meanings

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Ha Thaeo (Five Row Yant):Very common yant and the one i encounter the most. Made famous to the west by Angelina Jolie. Offers many levels of luck and fortune.

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Hanuman: the monkey god: and general of the Varanas (a monkey like race in hindu religion) Very popular amongst fighters because of the promises of Bravery and courage.

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Tigers: Yant Sua: are associated with strength, fearlessness and power. very popular with fighters, soldiers, and policeman. Tiger yants vary widely in style and might be found anywhere on the body. Leaping tigers, twin tigers, even tigers with the head or tail cut off.

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The Hermit or Reuesi: Pho Kae: was a solitary sage who once lived deep in india’s forests where he meditated, studied traditional medicine and the arts. Today many thai tattoo masters worship the Ruesi and claim to get their powers from a long line of hermit sages. Wearers of the various reusi tattoos believe that the power of the ruesi yant will convey knowledge, kindness and a clam state of mind.

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Ganesh: A popular hindu god that is a remover of obstacles making it a symbol of success. also known by the Thais as Phra Pi Kaned.

There really are too many Yants and styles to choose from or talk about.  It really is a vast culture and everyone seems to have a different opinion or idea of what their sak yant means.  The most important thing is what it means to you and that you always try to be a good person.

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2 Comments
  1. i want to get the tattoos from the person that you recommended on this post, is there any way I would be able to contact the person or get the address please?

    • Hello Linda. The main guy I goto is Arjahn Thoy. Search that name on Facebook and he will pop up for sure. He is located in Bangkok Thailand. Was Thong Nai. which is a bit of an adventure to find as well. Goto “Un Nut” on the BTS skytrain. ask any taxi to take you to “Un Nut 25.” Walk down the alley (soi) and take the second left. this will lead you to a large temple area. keep walking with the temple on your left and in the back corner you will see a small house. that is where he does his Sak Yant. The best thing to do is contact him on Facebook and make an appointment. (Keep the convo simple. he is using google translate for english and it doesn’t convert to thai that well… something like I would like a tattoo this saturday please. he will usually reply with “Okay come.” or he may be out of town as he travels a lot for sak yant. China, malyasia, singapore, etc.) he usually does work from 2pm-???? get there early.. its kind of first come first serve lol. (thats how it works in thailand lol)

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