Principles and Techniques

Fighters can use all limbs, knees, elbows, and headbutts are allowed, which makes it entirely different from Muay Thai. Participants use no gloves nor other protection, wrapping only their hands in hemp or gauze cloth. No gloves nor other protection are used. As compared to Muay Thai, Myanmar Lethwei is considered a more extreme, bolder and more uncompromised style of kickboxing. The techniques are a bit slower and stronger than in the other Southeast Asian kickboxing forms. Popular techniques in Lethwei include leg kicks, knees, elbows, head butts, raking knuckle strikes, and take downs.

Lethwei roundhouse kick
History and Origin

Records exist of Lethwei style matches dating back to the Pyu Empire in Myanmar. Lethwei, Bando and its armed sibling Banshay were successfully used by the ancient Myanmar armies in winning many wars against neighboring countries.

Originally fighters could only win or lose by knockout or when the other fighter abandonned. There were no such results as draws and no point system existed. Fights were traditionally held outdoors in sandpits instead of rings. The goal was not so much the winning and losing, but fighting hard and learning lessons about survival. However, in its modern form (since 1996) Lethwei more and more ressembles Muay Thai.

Modern Competition

In modern competition, if a knockout occurs, the boxer is revived and has the option of continuing. As a result, defense, conditioning, and learning to absorb impact are an essential part of the training.

Today's matches are carried out in both the traditional manner and a more modern offshoot started in 1996, the Myanma Traditional boxing, in which matches are regulated in similar rules to Muay Thai and other kickboxing matches. Myanmar traditional music is playing live during the matches (similar to Muay Thai matches), and the music plays in tune with the moves and tempo of the fight in the ring. The modern style has changed to make the contests more of an organized sport under the government's organization. The modern style of Myanma Traditional Boxing greatly resembles Muay Thai in its sporting outlook, and not quite the rougher and tumble fighting of its rural roots. However, Lethwei boxers have difficulties competing in international competitions staging various full contact styles, as their extreme style and techniques are often banned from the ring.

Video of Lethwei Myanmar Boxing Techniques
(Burmese Kickboxing, Myanmar Boxing, Bare-knuckle Boxing)

Mixed Martial Arts:
The Book of Knowledge

by BJ Penn, Glen Cordoz,
Erich Krauss
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Lethwei is a Burmese fighting style which is slightly similar to Muay Boran (a banned and brutal type of Muay Thai) also known as Burmese kickboxing or Myanmar traditional boxing. It originated in Burma (Myanmar) and is many ways similar to its cousins from neighboring Southeast Asian countries such as Tomoi from Malaysia, Pradal Serey from Cambodia, Lao boxing from Laos and Muay Thai from Thailand.

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