Lethwei (Burmese: လက်ဝှေ့; IPA: [lɛʔ.ʍḛ]), or Burmese boxing, is a full contact combat sport from Myanmar that uses stand-up striking along with various clinching techniques. Lethwei is considered to be one of the most brutal martial arts in the world, because the fights are done bareknuckle, with only the use of tape and gauze and headbutts are permitted. The art uses takedowns, fists, elbows, knees, feet, and, unusually, the head. Although disallowed in most combat sports, headbutting is an important weapon in a Lethwei fighter's arsenal. This is the reason it is also known as "The Art of 9 Limbs".
Rules of Lethwei
All elbow strikes
All knee strikes
Sweeps, throws and takedowns
The use of the feet, hands, knees, elbows and head is permitted.
Each bout can be booked as a 3, 4 or 5 round fight with 3 minutes per round and a 2-minute break in between rounds.
Championship bouts are 5 round fights with 3 minutes per round and a 2-minute break between rounds.
The Burmese bareknuckle boxing rules prohibits the use of gloves.
The fighters must only wear tape, gauze and electrical tape on their hands and feet.
The fighters shall wear only shorts, without a shirt or shoes.
The fighters must wear a groin protector.
The fighters must wear a gum shield.
The fighters are required to apply the wrapping in front of the fight officials, who will endorse the wraps.
One referee oversees the fight. The referee has the power to:
End the fight if he considers one fighter to be significantly outclassed by his opponent.
Stop the fight and refer to the doctor if a fighter is heavily wounded.
Warn the fighters. He makes sure the fight proceeds fairly and in compliance with the rules.
The traditional rules, also known asyoe yar rules, come from the Burmese Myanma yoe yar Latway, which means Myanmar traditional boxing.
Traditional matches are still fought throughout Myanmar, especially during festivals or celebrations like Thingyan.
Traditional Lethwei is notorious for not having a scoring system and for its controversial rule of knockout only to win.
At the end of the match, in the eventually that there is no knockout or stoppage, if the two fighters are still standing, even if one fighter dominated the fight, the match is declared a draw. Fighters can win by incapacitating their rivals in a few different ways.
The knockout (KO) is when the opponent falls on the floors, leans unconscious or if the fighter is unable to stand up or defend himself within 20 seconds (10 counts with 1 count every 2 seconds).
When 3 counts are performed in a single round, the fight is terminated and scored as knockout (count limit)(KO).
When 4 counts are performed during the entire duration of the fight, the match is terminated and scored as knockout (count limit)(KO).
The technical knockout (TKO) is when the fighter forfeits, has an injury or is in a position that can damage or severely harm him if the fight continues. The ring doctor is consulted and is the one making that decision.
Promotions that use traditional rules
Most Lethwei promotions in Myanmar
Annual Myanmar Lethwei World Championship
Air KBZ Aung Lan Championship
Festivals & celebrations
For Lethwei fighters, the traditional Golden Belt is regarded as the highest and most prestigious award.
There is only one Golden Belt champion for each weight categories, with the Openweight class champion being considered the strongest fighter in Myanmar. The Openweight Champion is the equivalent of being pound-for-pound champion in the world of lethwei.
Win Zin Oo, Lethwei expert and gym owner explains:
If you win the golden belt you are the national champion, there is only one champion in each division, but there is also an openweight champion who is considered to be the best fighter in Myanmar.
If a knockout or injury occurs, the fighter can take a special 2 minute time-out to recover. After the time-out the fighter can choose whether he wishes to continue the bout or not. Each fighter may only do so once during the fight and cannot be used in the fifth round.
The time-out can't be used in the fifth round.
The use of the time-out is considered as 1 count.
In 1996, for the inaugural Golden Belt Championship, the two-minute injury timeout was removed and judges were added ringside. This modified ruleset helped prevented the outcome of a draw and helped choose a winner to advance in the tournament. Former fighter Win Tun was the most successful fighter in Golden Belt Championship history, having won four Golden Belts.
In recent years, the World Lethwei Championship, Myanmar's first international promotion, is the biggest proponent of the modern rules in order to follow the international safety and regulation for combat sports.
Promotions that use tournament rules
Annual Golden Belt Championship
The knockout is still highly desired under this ruleset, but in the event that a bout goes the distance, judges will present a decision. The 3 judges score the bout based on aggression, number of significant strikes per round, damage and blood drawn. Fighters have a maximum of 3 knockdowns per round and 4 knockdowns in the entire fight before the fight is ruled a knockout.
History and rules belong to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lethwei