Myanmar Traditional Boxing is a form of kickboxing which originated in Myanmar. Lethwei is in many ways similar to its siblings from neighboring South-East Asian countries such as Tomoi from Malaysia, Pradal Serey from Cambodia and Muay Thai from Thailand.
If Thai Boxing is the science of 8 limbs, then Lethwei can be called the science of 9 limbs, due to the allowance of head butts. In comparison, Lethwei can be interpreted as being bolder and more extreme. Myanmar boxers are said to be slightly bigger and taller than their Thai counterparts. The techniques are a bit slower and stronger than in the other Southeast Asian kickboxing forms. There are records recording Lethwei style matches dating back to the Pyu Empire in Myanmar. Ancient Myanmar armies successfully used Lethwei, Bando and its armed sibling Banshay in winning many wars against neighboring countries.
Participants fight without gloves or protection, wrapping only their hands in hemp or gauze cloth. Fights are traditionally held outdoors in sandpits instead of rings, but in modern times they are now held in rings. Popular techniques in Lethwei include leg kicks, knees, elbows, head butts, raking knuckle strikes, and take downs.
Matches traditionally and ultimately would go until a fighter could no longer continue. In earlier times, there no draws, only a win or loss by knockout. No point system existed. Extreme bloodshed was very common and death in the ring was no surprise. Nowadays in the match, if a knockout occurs, the boxer is revived and has the option of continuing; as a result, defense, conditioning, and learning to absorb punishment are very important. Myanmar boxers spend a great deal of time preparing the body to absorb impact and conditioning their weapons to dish it out. Matches today are carried out in both the traditional manner and a more modern offshoot started in 1996, the Myanma Traditional boxing. The modern style has changed to make the contests more of an organized sport under the government’s organization. It should be noted that 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.