Bando a self-defense martial art from Burma. The earliest meanings of Bando were “self-discipline, self-development, and self-improvement”. Later, it came to mean, “self-protection, or self-defense”. Bando includes the empty-hands methods and animal forms: eagle, bull, cobra, panther, monkey, etc. Various bando arts are still very popular in Burma, especially among scholars. There are great number of schools and styles. The main branches are:
- Nan twin thaing (Royal Palace style)
- Pyompya thaing (School of the ”hard-soft way”)
- Neganadai thaing (Snake style)
- Shan thaing, a martial art influenced by Chinese styles (Shan province is close to the Chinese border).
Bando’s origins are closely linked to Buddhist temples and their teachings, the temples also traditionally functioned as educational centres. People from India, such as those who preached Buddhism, brought their culture and martial arts to the Himalayas and Southeast Asia. The Chinese whom the Burmese once regarded as kin also influenced Burmese culture. The mix of Chinese and Indian martial arts, particularly the animal styles were what originally gave birth to bando.
The International Bando Association
After WWII, Ba Than (Gyi), then director of physical education and athletics for the Union of Burma, tried to unite the techniques from the different bando styles and modernize them by founding a new Hanthawaddy bando system.
The International Bando Association was officially formed on March 9, 1946, in honor of those servicemen who fought and died in the China-Burma-India theater of World War II.
According to Donn Draeger’s Asian Fighting Arts first copyrighted in 1969: “In 1933 the Military Athletic Club was formed at Maymyo [sic?] in northern Burma by Gurkha Officers. By the end of the decade the club included Chin, Burmese, Kachin and Karen army officers. G. Bahadur, a Gurkha, was elected the first chairman of the club. Another luminary was Ba Than (Gyi) who was to serve twenty five years as Director of Physical Education of Burma before retiring.”
“…the International Bando Association, was established recently by Ba Than (Gyi) in memory of those who died in the China-Burma-India area for the allied cause in World War II. As such, it continues the work of the Military Athletic Club, which lapsed in 1948. It has of course a more international character, and Maung Gyi, its teacher accredited to the United States, is the son of Ba Than (Gyi). Maung Gyi a versatile fighter in his own right, having studied Chinese, Indian, Japanese and Western methods.”
Bando in the U.S.
Ba Than (Gyi)’s son was Maung Gyi. In the early 1960’s, formally began teaching Burmese bando at American University in Washington, D.C. In occident, of all there styles, the most popular and familiar is Hanthawaddy bando system.
The Bando System as taught within the American Bando Association today includes empty hand forms or kata as well as self defense, weapon forms or kata (Banshay), sparring, kickboxing (Lethwei), and grappling (Naban).
The American Bando Association incorporates 9 animal systems including: Bull, Boar, Cobra, Viper, Python, Panther, Tiger, Scorpion & Eagle. A student first learns the Bando basics, and begins to learn the animal systems at higher ranks. The basis for the Bando System is a 9X9 matrix of techniques and principals. The student is encouraged to grasp the underlying principals of the system, as a single technique may only be useful in a specific situation, but the principal the technique is built on, will be useful in many situations.
The American Bando Association Belt Ranking System includes the White, Green, Brown, and Black colored belts. Some schools also include a Yellow belt which is considered as an advanced White belt. A student may not test for his Black Belt until he/she has 5 years in the system. In order to progress to Black Belt, a student must exhibit proficiency in Empty Hand Forms, Stick Weapons, Edge Weapons, Sparring or Kickboxing, and they must pass a physical fitness test.
All bando schools start off by teaching the basic stances and the footholds. This preliminary stage of training lasts for several months and in some cases the first stage may continue for years, depending on the instructor or the style of bando being taught.
In the second stage of training, the bando student has to go through a series of blocking and parrying techniques. At the end of this stage, the student is fairly well equipped for defending himself against unarmed attackers, but he cannot be regarded as a full-fledged fighter.
The final stage involves the learning of offensive techniques. Before the student learns these techniques, the master makes sure that he will not abuse his knowledge. This cautious attitude towards the learning of the martial arts was probably derived from the Chinese tradition of martial arts instruction. There have been many cases of students abusing their acquired skills to the extent that sometimes the masters are threatened.
Animal names are used to denote some of the forms that can be found in Bando. This is probably from the influence of animal styles from China and India. There are forms called Boar, Bull, Cobra, Deer, Eagle, Monkey, Paddle Bird, Panther, Python, Scorpion, Tiger and Viper.
The names indicate the characteristics of the forms. Thus the Python form includes crushing, strangling and gripping moves while the Tiger form applies to maneuvers which involve clawing and ripping. The Viper form stresses flexibility while the Deer form has been given that name because it is meant to develop alertness in the bandoist.
Bando fighting generally leaves the initiative to the opponent. It is a style of combat that relies heavily on countering moves. Thus when attacked, the bandoist would first withdraw and then begin the counter-attack.
Bando attacks include much handwork directed at the body. But the bandoist does not neglect using the head, shoulder, elbow, knee, and foot for offensive purposes. Attacking the private parts is also a favorite technique with bandoists.
The techniques of bando fighting are learned mainly through the practice of forms and with partners. The final stage of mastery includes participation in contests, which sometimes end in deaths.