|Also known as||Burmese Bare knuckle Boxing, Myanmar Traditional Boxing, Bando Kickboxing, The Art of 9 Limbs|
|Country of origin||Myanmar|
|Famous practitioners||Kyar Ba Nyein, Dave Leduc, Too Too, Tun Tun Min, Saw Nga Man, Nilar Win, Tun Lwin Moe, Win Tun, Tway Ma Shaung, Lone Chaw, Shwe Wah Tun, Saw Gaw Mu Doe, Soe Lin Oo, U Bo Sein, Phyan Thwe,|
Lethwei (Burmese: လက်ဝှေ့; IPA: [lɛʔ.ʍḛ]) or Burmese bareknuckle boxing is a full contact combat sport from Myanmar that uses stand-up striking along with various clinching techniques. Lethwei is considered to be one of the most aggressive and brutal martial arts in the world, because the fighters fight bareknuckle with only the use of tape and gauze on their hands. The use of fists, elbows, knees, and feet, but more surprisingly, the head makes it a very unusual martial art. Although disallowed in many combat sports, in Lethwei, the use of headbutt is encouraged. This is the reason it also known as "The Art of 9 Limbs".
It is similar to related styles in other parts of the Indian cultural sphere, namely Muay Thai from Thailand, Pradal Serey from Cambodia, Muay Lao from Laos, Tomoi from Malaysia and Musti-yuddha from India.
- 1 History
- 2 Techniques
- 3 Traditional gesture
- 4 Rules
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 Further reading
Records exists of Lethwei matches dating back to the Pyu Empire in Myanmar. Lethwei, along with Bando and its armed sibling Banshay were successfully used by ancient Myanmar armies in many wars against neighboring countries.
In ancient times, matches were held for entertainment and were popular with every strata of society. Participation was opened to any male, whether king or commoner. At that time, matches took place in sandpits instead of rings. Boxers fought without protective equipment, only wrapping their hands in hemp or gauze. There were no draws and no point system—the fight went on until one of the participants was knocked out or could no longer continue. Back then, Burmese boxing champions would enter the ring and call for open challenges.
Establishing rules and regulations
Kyar Ba Nyein, who participated in boxing at the 1952 Summer Olympics, pioneered modern Lethwei by setting in place modern rules and regulations. He travelled around Myanmar, especially the Mon and Karen states, where many of the villagers were still actively practicing Lethwei. Kyar Ba Nyein brought them back to Mandalay and Yangon and, after training with them, encouraged them to compete in matches.
In 2016, a new promotion called World Lethwei Championship launched using a modified rule-set. Unlike traditional lethwei events, judges determine a winner if the fight ends without a knockout. There are also no injury time outs.
Attracting foreign fighters
The first international Lethwei event was held in June 2001, when three kickboxers from the USA competed against lethwei practitioners. They were Shannon Ritch, Albert Ramirez and Doug Evans. All three Americans were knocked out in the first round. A revenge match with properly trained American and European fighters well prepared to fight bare-knuckle was cancelled the last minute by Lethwei promoters and the military in 2003. The first international challenge match in 2001 was used as a propaganda tool by the military and television stations and called a disgraceful sham by American and European promoters.
From 10 to 11 July 2004, the second event headlining foreigners took place with four Japanese fighters fighting against Burmese boxers. They were Akitoshi Tamura, Yoshitaro Niimi, Takeharu Yamamoto and Naruji Wakasugi. MMA fighter Tamura, knocked out Aya Bo Sein in the second round and became the first foreigner to beat a lethwei practitioner in an official match.
International matches continued from 2004 all the way until 2016 with the most exciting of them being the Cyrus Washington vs. Tun Tun Min trilogy.
On 16 December 2016, the rematch Dave Leduc and Tun Tun Min took place at the Air KBZ Aung Lan Championship in Yangon, Myanmar. The two previously fought in October to an explosive draw, but the rematch was sweetened by an added bonus: ownership of the Lethwei Open Weight World Championship Belt. Leduc became the first non-Burmese fighter to win the Lethwei Golden Belt after defeating Tun Tun Min in the second round.
Following his win, Leduc said in an interview ″I have so much vision for this sport. I see Lethwei doing the same for Myanmar as what Muay Thai has done for Thailand."
On April 18, 2017, for his second title defense, Dave Leduc faced Turkish Australian fighter Adem Yilmaz in Tokyo, Japan in traditional Lethwei rules. The first Lethwei World Title fight headlining two non-burmese in the sport's history. For the occasion, the Ambassador of Myanmar to Japan was present at the event held in the Korakuen Hall.
Aside from punches, kicks, elbows and knee attacks, Burmese fighters also make use of head-butts, raking knuckle strikes and take downs.
Headbutt (Gowl Tite)
|Thrusting Head Butt||ထိုးခေါင်းတိုက်||Htoe Gowl Tite|
|Upward Head butt||ခေါင်းပင့်တိုက်||Gowl Pint Tite|
|Side Head Butt||ခေါင်းရိုက်||Gowl yite|
|Head Butt from the clinch||ချုပ်ခေါင်းရိုက်||Choke Gowl Yite|
|Flying Head Butt||ခုန်ခေါင်းတိုက်||Khnoe Gowl Tite|
|Shooting / Rushing Head Butt||ခေါင်းဆောင့်တိုက်||Gowl Sount Tite|
|Downward Head Butt||ခေါင်းစိုက်တိုက်||Gowl Site Tite|
Punching (Let Thee)
|Jab||ထောက်လက်သီး||Htouk Let Thee|
|Cross||ဖြောင့်လက်သီး||Fyount Let Thee|
|Uppercut||ပင့်လက်သီး||Pint Let Thee|
|Hook||ဝိုက်လက်သီး||Wide Let Thee|
|Overhand (boxing)||စိုက်လက်သီး||Site Let Thee|
|Backfist||တွက်လက်သီး||Twet Let Thee|
|Spinning Backfist||လက်ပြန်ရိုက်||Let Pyan Yite|
|Hammer fist||ပင့်လက်သီး||Pint Let Thee|
|Superman punch||လက်သီးပျံ / ခုန်ထိုး လက်သီး||Let Thee Pyan / Khone Htoe Let Thee|
Elbow (Tel Daung)
The elbow can be used in several ways as a striking weapon: horizontal, diagonal-upwards, diagonal-downwards, uppercut, downward, backward-spinning and flying. They can be used as either a finishing move or as a way to cut the opponent's eyebrow to draw blood.
|Horizontal Elbow||ဝိုက်တံတောင်||Wide Tel Daung|
|Upward Elbow||ပင့်တံတောင်||Pint Tel Daung|
|Downward Elbow||ထောင်းတံတောင်||Htoung Tel Daung|
|Jumping Downward Elbow||တံတောင် ခုန်ထောင်း||Tel Daung Khone Htoung|
|Elbow Thrust||ထိုးတံတောင်||Htoe Tel Daung|
|Reverse Horizontal Elbow||တွက်တံတောင်||Twet Tel Daung|
|Flying Elbow||တံတောင်ပျံ||Tel Daung Pyan|
|Spinning Elbow||ပတ်တံတောင် / ခါးလှည့်တံတောင်||Pat Tel Daung / Khar Hlet Tel Daung|
Elbows can be used to great effect as blocks or defenses against, for example, spring knees, side body knees, body kicks or punches. When well connected, an elbow strike can cause serious damage to the opponent, including cuts or even a knockout.
|Roundhouse Kick||ခြေဝိုက်ကန် / ဝိုက်ခတ်||Chay Wide Kan / Wide Khat|
|Spinning back Kick||နောက်ပေါက်ကန်||Nout Pouk Kan|
|Outside low kick||အပြင်ခတ်||Al Pyin Khat|
|Inside low kick||အတွင်းခတ်||Al Twin Khat|
|Hook kick||ချိတ်ကန်||Chate Kan|
|Side kick||ခြေစောင်းကန်||Chay zoung Kan|
|Axe Kick||ခုတ်ကန် / ပုဆိန်ပေါက်ကန်||Khote Kan / Pal Sain Pouk Kan|
|Jump round Kick||ခုန်ဝိုက်ခတ်||Khone Wide Kan|
|Step-Up Kick||ပေါင်နင်းကန်||Pound Nin Kan|
|Straight Knee Strike||တဲ့ထိုးဒူး||Delt Htoe Doo|
|Spear Knee||လှံစိုက်ဒူ||Hlan Site Doo|
|Side Knee Strike||ဝိုက်ဒူး||Wide Doo|
|Upward Knee||ပင့်ဒူး||Pint Doo|
|Downward Knee||ခုတ်ဒူး||Khote Doo|
|Knee Slap||ရိုက်ဒူး||Yite Doo|
|Double Flying Knee / Elephant Tusks flying Knee||စုံဒူးပျံ / ဆင်စွယ်ဒူးပျံ||Sone Doo Pyan / Sin Swal Doo Pyan|
|Jumping Knee||ခုန်ဒူး||Khone Doo|
|Step-Up Knee Strike||ပေါင်နင်းဒူး||Pound Nin Doo|
The foot-thrust is one of the techniques in Lethwei. It is used as a defensive technique to control distance or block attacks and as a way to set up attack. Foot-thrusts should be thrown quickly but with enough force to knock an opponent off balance.
|Push Kick||နင်းခြေ / တားခြေ||Nin Chay / Tar Chay|
|Toe Push Kick||ခြေဦးထိုးကန်||Chay Oo Htoe Kan|
|Jumping Push Kick||ခုန်ဆောင့်ကန်||Khone Sount Kan|
Note - The Myanglish spelling and phonetics based spelling are two different things. The words used are phonetics based words which are more friendly and easy to pronounce for non-Myanmar speaking people. The phonetics wording is provided by Liger Paing from United Myanmar Bando Nation.
The lekkha moun is the traditional gesture performed by Lethwei fighters to challenge their opponent with courage and respect. The lekkha moun is done by clapping 3 times with right palm to the triangle shaped hole formed while bending the left arm. The clapping hand must be in form of a cup, while the left hand must be placed under the right armpit. The lekkha moun is done at the beginning of the lethwei yay and can also be done while fighting.
This invitation to fight is inspired from the birds of prey, like the eagle, as they flap their wings when flying and hunting.
The Lethwei yay could be described as a fight dance. It is done before the fight and as a victory dance after the fight. The lekkha moun is usually confused with the lethwei yay, but the lekkha moun is performed alongside with Lethwei yay.
- 5 rounds of 3 minutes
- 2 minutes rest
- Head butts
- All punches
- All elbow strikes
- All knee strikes
- All kicks
- Extensive clinching
- Sweeps and throws
The use of the feet, hands, knees, elbows and head is permitted.
The Burmese bareknuckle boxing rules prohibits the use of gloves.
- The fighters must only wear tape, gauze and electrical tape on their hands and feet.
- The fighters shall wear only shorts, without a shirt or shoes.
- The fighters must wear a groin protector.
- The fighters must wear a gum shield.
The fighters are required to apply the wrapping in front of the fight officials, who will endorse the wraps.
There is no point system in Lethwei: The only way to win is by knockout or because of an injury and the inability to fight any more. At the end of the match if the two fighters are still standing, the fight is declare a draw. This ensures that the fighters always give their 100% and tries to finish the fight.
- The knock-out (KO) is when the opponent falls on the floors, leans unconscious on the ropes or if the fighter is unable to stand up or defend himself within 20 seconds (10 counts with 1 count every 2 seconds).
- If there is a count, it must count at least up to 8.
- When 3 counts are performed in a single round, the fight is terminated and scored as knock-out (count limit).
- When 4 counts are performed during the entire duration of the fight, the match is terminated and scored as knock-out (count limit).
- The technical knock-out (TKO) is when the fighter is in a position that can damage or severely harm him if the fight continues. The ring doctor is consulted and he is the one making that decision.
- If there is no KO or TKO until the end of the last round, the fight is declared a draw.
The "injury" time-out
- If a knockout happens, the fighter can take a special two minute time-out to recover and choose whether he wishes to continue the bout. He may do so only once in a fight. The only win is by knockout; there is no point system. If neither fighter wins by knockout then the fight is declared a draw.
- The time-out can't be used in the final fifth round.
- The use of the time-out is considered as 1 count.
There is one referee that oversees the fight. The referee has the power to:
- End the fight if he considers one fighter to be significantly outclassed by his opponent.
- Stop the fight and refer to the doctor if a fighter is heavily wounded.
- Warn the fighters. He makes sure the fight proceeds fairly and in compliance with the rules.
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At a Burmese boxing match a champion will jump into the ring and dance about, smacking his breast and arms and cracking his fingers, challenging all comers.
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