Lethwei is a brutal Burmese martial art which is renowned as one of the chief martial arts propagating self-defence. It is popular in the region of Myanmar and is often used by MMA practitioners. Lethwei is also known as ‘The Art of the Nine Limbs’ because of the various techniques it uses, including the use of headbutts.
The unique and fast techniques involved in this martial art are often thought of as free-flowing and effective in turning the tide of a match or a fight. The use of the headbutt means that this martial art essentially incorporates the use of all body parts which are capable of damaging an opponent.
One of the rules of Lethwei is to use gauze tape or wrap to cover the knuckles while fighting. Gloves are not allowed, making this martial art tough to practice for those who are not able to keep up with some of the harsh rules of the sport.
Why Lethwei in Specific?
Lethwei is a prime example of ancient martial arts accustomed to modern times and fighting styles. It has been meticulously developed throughout the years, erasing one weakness after the other until this fighting style gained the world’s acknowledgement and respect. Furthermore, there is a reason why MMA fighters prefer certain techniques from this martial art.
It is traditional at its essence and imbibes many culture-infused techniques such as kicking techniques, a variety of which are similar to Muay Thai. To practice this art is to strengthen your psyche because it is strenuous to perform some of the techniques.
To elucidate further on the matter, read the following list of reasons why people prefer this martial art:
1. Lethal Moves Essential for Self-Defense
To call this martial art sufficient for self-defense would be an insult to the integrity of the art. It is a fighting style developed to deliver unique brutal attacks whose direction and flow is rarely avoidable.
Boxers and street thugs could have a disadvantage against a Lethwei fighter. The fact that this Burmese style of fighting expects fighters to fight with bare knuckles, save for a tiny layer like gauze. Therefore, the name, Burmese bare-knuckle boxing.
This as a result of which, makes Lethwei users more accustomed to situations where they would use their bare knuckles. Additionally, this martial art strengthens the knuckles due to the relatively harsher style of practice and sparring lessons that is involved in learning the martial art.
2. Modernisation of Lethwei
Lethwei is modernized to fit into today’s society as a martial art that respects its roots and the culture from where it originated. Keeping that in mind, many rules like the obvious one – fighting with bare-knuckles, have been reformed to fit into today’s MMA fighting rules. Otherwise, Lethwei is said to be the bloodiest form of fighting within the Indian cultural sphere.
Lethwei fighters, who used to follow the traditional rules of the sport, now have wear gloves prescribed for MMA fighters. The gloves themselves are thinner than boxing gloves, making it easier for Lethwei fighters to adjust to because of how they are used to fighting without gloves.
Modernization of Lethwei was a transition which restricted the martial art considerably. However, the techniques themselves have not changed. Just because the restrictions have made Lethwei’s methods undergo transitions of sorts, the deadliness of the attacks themselves has not decreased.
In fact, to counter modern-day fighting styles, Burmese bare-knuckle boxing has become even more flexible in terms of attacking an opponent. However, the various head-butting techniques are no longer allowed because headbutts are considered a foul in accordance with MMA rules and regulations.
The modernization of Lethwei has everything but slowed down the development of the martial art. Taking into account how most martial arts keep changing over time, Lethwei is still undergoing radical changes in terms of techniques and execution of certain foot and punching techniques.
3. Burmese Bare-Knuckle Boxing Techniques
Taking into consideration headbutting not being allowed in matches, let us gain a deeper insight into why Lethwei techniques are thought of as so deadly:
Techniques like the roundhouse kick, spinning back kick, and jump round kick are thought of as the deadliest types of kicks a Lethwei user has up his sleeves. Many practitioners also favor these same kicks. Meanwhile, punching revolves around basic attacks like hooks, uppercuts, jabs, straight punches, etc.
The roundhouse kick, put quite simply, is a kick aimed at the upper body of an opponent, while using the torque generated with the movement. Most martial artists use it in general because of effectiveness. If this type of kick slips an opponent’s guard, then it knocks the wind out of them or leaves them unconscious.
Similarly, the spinning back kick and the jump around kick utilize the body’s movement to create a stronger impact. They both vary in the amount of damage made upon impact. While the spinning back kick is much faster to execute, the jump around kick has more power.
4. Self-Control: Mastery Over The Body
One thing Lethwei practitioners learn very quickly is how to listen and use their bodies to advantages. The martial art is not called the Art of 9 Limbs for nothing. Usage of different body parts generally means that the practitioner gets used to using various parts of their body to attack.
Training in the art of Lethwei hardens your body while making your joints and cartilage more flexible, allowing you to perform chains and combos of punches and roundhouse kicks. A martial arts student must first learn how to calm down in situations and logically plan out the next step in the course of a battle – a skill capitalized by people who listen to their bodies.
5. Great Work-Out
Like any other martial art, Lethwei trains its practitioners to make them perform complex techniques. A body unused to the training sessions and sparring matches will not be able to bear the brunt of the damage incurred, alongside the strain involved in performing certain techniques.
Lethwei, unlike Muay Thai, does not prioritize the use of the legs; instead, students learn punching and kicking techniques which are to be used simultaneously during a match. Training sessions include cardio and minimum weight training. Weight training is not as essential as the training you will receive once you start practicing moves and learning the ropes of sparring.
Additionally, the extensive training is a period spent preparing your body for techniques, during which muscles will get stronger, and you might lose some weight. Furthermore, the practice will release dopamine and endorphins into your blood.
6. Assurance and Confidence
Since Lethwei is a dangerous self-defence tool, it contributes significantly to the confidence of an individual. A person can only be self-assured if they know they can handle situations, even ones where actual fights take place.
One must keep in mind that these techniques are not made for harming people with the intention of revenge. Instead, the exhaustive and lengthy training is aimed at calming the mind and achieving a ‘zen’ state while practicing the craft. Myanmar greatly emphasizes on the cultural relevance of spirit – something which this martial art portrays.
7. Humility and Responsibility
While Lethwei is a dangerous sport, it is at the same time it is a humble martial art. The art itself propagates the responsible use of the fighting style. It is aimed at protection and inner peace, harming those who are undeserving of such treatment is seriously advocated against in this martial art.
Additionally, it teaches individuals humility. Taking into account the rigorous training regime and the fast-paced sparring sessions, individuals soon realize the extent of their abilities while learning the “Art of the Nine Limbs”. At its essence, its training is meant for self-development purposes and self-nurturing purposes.
Your body is like a temple, and this form of martial arts is aimed at helping you know that and work towards going beyond the scope of your ordinary bodily functions.
Lethwei is an art form for self-healing and protection, not mindless destruction or injury infliction. It is meant to give solace to those who feel they are weak and strength to those who are willing to uphold its cultural beliefs and fighting techniques. Learning it will enrich your life while at the same time giving you the ability to defend yourself against aggressors perfectly.