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Myanmar Traditional Sport: Lethwei

There are many kinds of games, activities and sports in Myanmar, and some of them hold special positions in society, due variously to their beauty, history, or religious and cultural significance. Lethwei (traditional kickboxing) is one of the most popular and cherished sports in the country.

What is Letwhei?

Lethwei is a type of kickboxing unique to Myanmar, although it is stylistically close to Muay Thai. There are two major differences between the two: firstly, in Lethwei the fighters only use hand-wraps, not gloves, making it a far more damaging sport. Secondly, head-butts are allowed alongside the use of hands, feet, elbows and knees, leading Lethwei to be nicknamed the ‘science of nine limbs’. Both men and women compete in the sport.

Where does this happen?

There are many training centers where you can take courses. The competition is held whenever there are any special occasions. These events include famous temple and pagoda festivals throughout the country. People love it because this is the traditional sport that they have keep playing several years ago.

In the past, Lethwei was most commonly viewed during festivals in rural areas. With the increasing spread of technology in Myanmar and an increasing appetite for entertainment, the best fights are now held in Yangon or Mandalay and streamed live across the country. These televised matches are also not restricted to festival days; many smaller fights are held on weekends.

MYR_YGN_Lethwei-Training-(15)

Rules and Regulations

Of course, there are some rules and regulations for this sport. Nothing is required but a pair of the gloves. However, there are some tools and techniques. When the decision is made for the winner and the loser, the (watcher) usually looks the kicking power of hitting power, best high kick and round kick. The (watcher) also looks that who use new method and how beautifully they play and it is not to make so make hurt among the opponent but how beautiful they play with relevant techniques

Moreover, apart from punches, kicks, elbows and knee attacks there are some techniques that the boxers use; spinning elbow strike, roundhouse kick, knee and elbow strike, knee and punch etc.

Lethwei now exists in two forms – the original Lethwei and a modern 1996 offshoot called ‘Myanmar traditional boxing’, which is attempting to make Lethwei a more internationally recognized sport on par with Muay Thai. There are some differences in rules between the two forms, but the fighting style is roughly the same. As mentioned, fighters wear hand-wraps, not gloves, and are allowed use of all nine contact points. There are strong elements of showmanship to Lethwei; each fighter demonstrates his style to the audience before the match begins. Traditional Lethwei matches are usually fast and ferocious; hand-wraps limit the endurance of fighters, who seek to end bouts quickly. As a counterbalance to the speed of the matches, a boxer who is knocked out is also allowed two minutes to recover and continue. Heavily bloodied faces and torsos, brutal knock-outs and knees to sensitive areas are all legal and very common.

Special of this game

Burmese people are extremely passionate about Lethwei, and there is a very active rivalry between it and Muay Thai, its more well-known Thai cousin. The sport is difficult to master and fairly dangerous, yet this only makes the fans more passionate about something they consider an essential part of Burmese culture.

Lethwei is a big part of Burmese sporting culture, and if you have the opportunity to watch some when you visit Myanmar you should; not many tourists seize the opportunity. Watching a match is not for the squeamish, however!

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