Kickboxing – a form of Myanmar martial arts – has been preserved over the centuries land still remains a favourite traditional game of the people. Although somewhat similar to Thai, French, American and other types of kickboxing, it has maintained a more traditional down-to-earth directness.
Myanmar kickboxing is closer to street fighting than the Queensberry rules of professional Western boxing and makes no pretenses of being anything else. Though Myanmar kickboxing has its own set of rules, fundamentally the target is any part of the opponent’s head or body, and the weapon is any part of the body especially the head, fists, knees and elbows. The result is a fight not for the squeamish. The best blows include high kicks to the neck, elbows jabbed into the face and head, knees thrust into the ribs, and low kicks to the calves. It is an art in the truest sense of the word in that skill, technique and other attributes come into play.
While mere punching with the fists may seem tame, it certainly is not when there are no gloves and hands are only wrapped in strips of cloth. However, to protect the boxers from accidents, there are rules against scratching, biting, hair pulling and hitting or kicking an opponent in the groin. A boxer who is down may not be kicked or hit in any way.
Rules & Regulations
Anything goes in the ring. All surfaces of the body are considered fair targets and any part of the body except the head may be used to strike an opponent. Common blows include high kicks to the neck, elbow thrusts to the face and head, knee hooks to the ribs and low crescent kicks to the calf. A contestant may even grasp an opponent’s head between his hands and pull it down to meet an upward knee thrust. Punching is considered the weakest of all blows and kicking merely a way to ‘soften up’ one’s opponent; knee and elbow strikes are decisive in most matches.
The structure and limitations of each match varies with its context and with the calibre of the participants. Unlike Thai boxing, which has borrowed a great deal from the Queensbury rules in international or Western boxing, Myanmar boxing represents a more traditional form once shared by the two countries. Rules tend to follow situational norms; fighters, managers and judges get together before each match and work out time limits and scoring criteria.
In the simplest rural matches, fought in a dirt circle, there’s no time limit and a fighter loses once he has wiped blood from his face or body three times. In more organised amateur matches, boxers fight in square rings (5.8 by 5.5 metres), for three to five rounds of three minutes each, usually with two minutes rest between. Professional matches in larger towns and cities begin with five rounds but may increase round by round to 12 rounds when the scoring is tight – even longer if no clear winner emerges earlier in.