Sak Yants, The Traditional Tattoos of Thailand

Gao Yord Sak Yant by Thai Sacred Tattoos

Around 10 years before I got my first tattoo, I wasn’t at a point of even considering or looking for potential tattoo artists. To be honest, I pretty much forgot about the early ink I saw on people around me and the designs which appealed to me. Then I came across a recently released Thai movie (Yamada: The Samurai Of Ayothaya), and it featured what was to become my introduction to traditional Thai tattooing, otherwise known as Sak Yant (Sak meaning “to jab”, Yant meaning “contraption”). These tattoos are hand poked using a metal rod with a sharpened point, called a Khem Sak. These tattoos are meant to bestow the bearer with protection, wealth, charisma, and other powers, and consist of intricate scripts, deities and animal symbolism.

At the time I was working a job which did not allow for me to afford the cost of the trip or the tattoo itself but my interest in receiving tattoos was freshly sparked by this discovery. There was one apprehension I had though, what if I made the trip out there and discovered that my pain threshold was low and that I would not be able to go through the entire process? I had no idea what to expect in terms of the level of pain or discomfort, but my mind had been made up. I wanted this style of traditional tattoo and in 2016 I was on a plane to Bangkok to make it a reality. It was also around this time that I started discovering the traditional tattoo styles from many cultures around the world, I had no idea that tattooing had such a primitive history and I spent many hours researching the designs and methods of these cultures and what tattooing meant to each of them. An excellent resource for historical tattoos is the book Ancient Ink by Lars Krutak as well as the documentary series he produced.