The late XIXth century match in Myanmar
Records exists of Lethwei matches dating back to the Pyu Empire in Myanmar. Lethwei, along with Bando and its armed sibling Banshay were successfully used by ancient Myanmar armies in many wars against neighboring countries.
In ancient times, matches were held for entertainment and were popular with every strata of society. Participation was opened to any male, whether king or commoner. At that time, matches took place in sandpits instead of rings. Boxers fought without protective equipment, only wrapping their hands in hemp or gauze. There were no draws, the fight went on until one of the participants was knocked out or could no longer continue. Back then, Burmese boxing champions would enter the ring and call for open challenges.
Traditional matches include Flagship Tournament, which are still fought throughout Myanmar, especially during holidays or celebration festivals like Thingy an.
Lethwei is probably the one of the bloodiest martial art of the Indian cultural sphere and related to styles such Muay Thai from Thailand, Pradal Serey from Cambodia, Muay Lao from Laos, Tomoi from Malaysia and Musti-yuddha from India.
Establishing rules and regulations
Kyar Ba Nyein, who participated in boxing at the 1952 Summer Olympics, pioneered modern Lethwei by setting in place modern rules and regulations. He travelled around Myanmar, especially the Mon and Karen states, where Lethwei is more actively practiced. After training with some of the fighters, Kyar Ba Nyein brought some to Mandalay and Yangon to compete in matches.
The Myanmar Traditional Boxing Federation or MTBF is a branch of the Myanmar's Ministry of Health and Sports and is the highest governing body for Lethwei worldwide.
In 1996, for the occasion of the Golden Belt Championship in Yangon, the MTBF implemented the modern Lethwei rules. The bouts, along with the undercard fights, were organised by the Ministry of Sport, Myanmar Traditional Boxing Federation and KSM group. This marked a big addition to the art of Lethwei and potentially would make Burmese boxing more marketable internationally.
In 2016, Myanmar's first international promotion called World Lethwei Championship or WLC launched its events using the modern Lethwei rules.In 2019, the WLC marked history by broadcasting the first Lethwei event internationally. WLC 7: Mighty Warriors was transmitted live on UFC Fight Pass.
Attracting foreign fighters
From 7 to 12 July 2001, twelve years after Burma changed its name to Myanmar, the first international event took place in Yangon with professional fighters from the United States facing Burmese fighters under full traditional Lethwei rules.
The three American kickboxers brought by the IKF were Shannon Ritch, Albert Ramirez and Doug Evans. Ritch faced Ei Htee Kaw, Ramirez faced Saw Thei Myo, and Evans faced openweight Lethwei champion Wan Chai. A revenge match with American and European fighters was cancelled the last minute by Lethwei promoters and the military in 2003.
From 10 to 11 July 2004, the second event headlining foreigners took place with four Japanese fighters fighting against Burmese fighters. They were mixed martial arts fighters Akitoshi Tamura, Yoshitaro Niimi, Takeharu Yamamoto and Naruji Wakasugi. Tamura knocked out Aya Bo Sein in the second round and became the first foreigner to beat a Myanmar Lethwei practitioner in an official match. International matches continued with the exciting Cyrus Washington vs. Tun Tun Min trilogy.
In 2016, after having previously fought to an explosive draw, Dave Leduc and Tun Tun Min rematched at the Air KBZ Aung Lan Championship in Yangon, Myanmar. The rematch was sweetened by an added bonus: ownership of the Lethwei Openweight World Championship Belt. Leduc became the first non-Burmese fighter to win the Lethwei Golden Belt and become Lethwei world champion after defeating Tun Tun Min in the second round.
Following his win, Leduc said in an interview, ″I have so much vision for this sport. I see Lethwei doing the same for Myanmar as what Muay Thai has done for Thailand."
On April 18, 2017, for his second title defense under traditional rules, Dave Leduc faced Turkish Australian challenger Adem Yilmaz at Lethwei in Japan 3: Grit in Tokyo, Japan. This marked the first Lethwei World title fight headlining two non-Burmese in the sport's history and for the occasion, the Ambassador of Myanmar to Japan was present at the event held in the Korakuen Hall.
- Lekkha moun -
The lekkha moun is the traditional gesture performed by Lethwei fighters to challenge their opponents with courage and respect. The lekkha moun is done by clapping 3 times with right palm to the triangle shaped hole formed while bending the left arm. The clapping hand must be in form of a cup, while the left hand must be placed under the right armpit. The lekkha moun is done at the beginning of the lethwei yay and can also be done while fighting.
This invitation to fight is inspired from the birds of prey, like the eagle, as they flap their wings when flying and hunting.
- Lethwei yay -
The Lethwei yay could be described as a fight dance. It is done before the fight and as a victory dance after the fight. The lekkha moun is usually confused with the lethwei yay, but the lekkha moun is performed along with Lethwei yay.
History and rules belong to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lethwei