Your judo gi is too small for you. Every technique in chop karate is at your command. In your Muay Thai classes, you think to yourself, “I’ve got ahead. I’ll get the job done. Can I headbutt you, please?” Whatever the case may be, you’re on a plane, thumbing through a Lonely Planet as it rumbles down the tarmac. Lethwei—bare-knuckle Myanmar’s boxing—is about to begin. Every aspiring Lethwei fighter should be aware of the following ten things before they arrive in the Golden Land:
Foam mats or the old school way?
Lethwei is an elderly man, in his 90s at the very least (over 2,000 years, some say). Muay Thai, on the other hand, has a worldwide brand and a sizable financial backing. Because of this, there are two types of gyms:
1. Lethwei’s no-frills gym has a concrete floor. Focusing on the body, not the comforts of life, is the goal. You end each workout by chasing the sweat from your skin under a tap that slowly flows into a storm drain.
A fighter is a given in your training sessions. Your jab-cross-elbow combo is perfect, but you’re drawn to land your fist on the mosquitoes that are hovering between you and the bag. In addition, the bag’s integrity is constantly threatened by a single hook.
2. As the country’s middle class grows, so does the number of gyms offering plush mats for exercise.
I doubt there will be air conditioning. Fans are running, the shower heads are spouting water, and the pads are stuffed to the brim. In a nutshell, if you’re used to working out on a mat, this is the best option for you.
Mistime a head kick, and you’ll be engulfed in a cloud of foam that will soothe your sweltering body.
Make sure you know who owns the gym: is the owner a professional fighter or just a businessman? Try out both types of gyms and see which one you prefer. Because of the starkness of concrete floors, you may discover that your inner pugilist emerges.
Invest in quality gear.
Purchase Thai to train in Myanmar until the country’s production begins. In other words, Muay Thai gear is used by Lethwei fighters.
Lethwei is a physically demanding sport with a high risk of injury. Investing in high-quality pads, gloves, and wraps early on will help reduce damage. Using gloves with a good balance of weight and flexibility in the hands and wrists will help you get the most out of your workouts. Twins, Top King, Fairtex, and Yokkao are my favorites.
Hand wraps of superior quality are the perfect complement to your new leather mittens. The wrist and knuckle support provided by wraps should be thick, strong, and long.
Begin shopping for souvenirs as soon as you arrive in Yangon. Hard to find and limited range of training gear. While she’s recovering from her injury, an injured fighter isn’t in the gym working on his or her skills.
It’s okay if you’re not in shape.
You may gasp for air and wheeze. You’ll be in pain for days. You could see God. And it’s fine.
Aim for what you want and make a plan to get there whether you’re trying to look good naked or just feel more confident on the street.
Training Lethwei will make you stronger, faster, and more interesting to Myanmar locals. However, it takes time. Do your best to stay in shape, but remember to take time off when you need it. Think about what you eat. Reduce your consumption of Rangoon Teahouse parathas. Reduce your beer consumption.
It’s not just for fighting that some people train.
More power to you if you want to follow in Dave Leduc’s footsteps. To de-stress from watching all of the Amazing Racing, Leduc needs to hit a punching bag. You have the option of serving as the punching bag in this situation.
But in reality, you train because you want to be a part of the Yangon community. You may need to take a break from the 9 to 5 routine.
Determine what keeps you going. You have the option to participate in an amateur fight if you so desire. If you’d like to keep a collection of stories for your future children, you can do so.
This goes beyond simple head-butts.
The brutality of Lethwei has made it famous. Lethwei promoters who value their brand’s exposure will play up their celebrity status as much as they possibly can. But there’s more to Lethwei than just a slew of Glasgow hugs.
Leg kicks, middle kicks, and head kicks are all common techniques in karate. Crunching and clinching are a lot of fun, as are jumping knees and doing elbow combinations. There is a weapon in every part of the body. The body as a whole must be protected.
Also, don’t panic if you don’t get to headbutt anyone within the first week. Don’t forget to use your elbows and knees as well.
Preparation is essential for the sweltering conditions
Try to picture yourself in a sauna. Isn’t it nice to unwind? Think about jumping wildly for an hour while wearing 14-ounce gloves. It’s less soothing.
Bring at least two liters of water with you. Make sure you have a sweat towel on hand and plan on taking frequent breaks. Rather than focusing on the short-term, focus on the long-term strategy.
It’s all right, then.
When you’re hammering away on the punch bag, your body heats up quickly. It sweats a lot to stay cool. There is no stopping the water that is shedding from your body after you’ve taken a shower.
Give your body time to adjust after a workout. Cooling down properly is worth the effort, even if it only entails wiping sweat beads from newly discovered muscles while sitting next to an open window for five minutes.
Do not turn your back on the one who has hurt you.
As a nine-legged artist, you will be shaped by the people you train with and your willingness to keep going when things get tough.
Make friends with the gym’s trainers. Find a trainer you enjoy working with and invest in a few private training sessions. Making friends in the gym and learning from people who have thrown (and taken) a few elbows helps you get better faster.
Don’t hold anything back.
Work is a drag when you have to go to the gym because you’re overweight. The relationship between your boyfriend and his PlayStation is a long-term one. You’ve got Baby Shark on repeat in your house, and it’s driving you to the brink of madness.
Nothing matters for a sweet hour. For 60 blissful minutes, the only opponent you have is yourself.
Emptying the mind It’s all about the body: Jab. Cross. Uppercut. The middle kick. A right-to-left elbow combination. Repeat.
This is about as close to enlightenment as most of us will ever experience. After putting in the effort on the mat, you’ll feel more confident when you step out into the real world.
The study of lethwei is a study of Myanmar.
Lethwei has been featured on Netflix’s Fightworld and profiled in Vice magazine. A place in combat sports has yet to be found for Myanmar’s ancient martial art, however. Several parallels can be drawn between Lethwei and Myanmar.
Get to a Lethwei gym if you want to learn about the Golden Land’s tumultuous history and seductive traditions. There is no better way to learn about Myanmar than by taking a class in Lethwei.