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by Vincent Giordano

Each country in Southeast Asia has developed and promoted their indigenous sports in their own unique way. For example, one can learn from Muay Thai what has worked and what has not throughout its long history. Lethwei has been kept alive and is still heavily supported by rural communities. I focused primarily on the rural festivals and tournaments because they were an important link to how Lethwei competitions were fought in the distant past. Some seem unchanged by time, while others are fought in a more modern way that we are all accustomed to. It is clear the casual fighter who competes in these rural tournaments is not the professional fighter he needs to be to fight in the bigger events against more seasoned opponents.

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by Vincent Giordano

The origin of this important early film footage begins with the career of Jean Alexandre Louis Promio, who later became known as Alexandre Promio. He was a pioneering French cinematographer, who filmed the footage in July 1896. Promio was an assistant to a French optician when he witnessed the first presentation of the Lumiere brothers cinematographe, a motion-picture apparatus used as both a camera and projector in June 1895. The Lumiere brothers were among the first filmmakers in history, and the burgeoning technology greatly excited and impressed Promio. In March 1896, he left his job to start working with the Lumiere brothers, who were looking to expand their business worldwide. After a short time, Promio — along with M. Perrigot, who taught Promio and others how to use the cinematographe — became responsible for training the first generation of cinematographe operators, who exhibited and showcased this new invention worldwide.

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by Vincent Giordano

The bitter history between Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) and Thailand (formerly known as Siam) began on ancient battlefields. This included 24 wars between Ayutthaya (the ancient capital of Thailand that flourished from the 14th-18th centuries) and Myanmar that were fought by the nation’s most powerful armies.

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by Vincent Giordano

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by Vincent Giordano

The ancient bare-knuckle/bound-fists tournaments and fights that were held throughout Southeast Asia was a popular pastime and sport of the people, military and royalty. Every fight became a betting contest, as well as a contest of local pride. The general view is that this type of fighting was nothing more than a brutal blood sport fought to the death. This notion has largely been propagated by various forms of media from popular movies and books as well as all through the internet. Martial artists are often heard calling what they do “the older, deadly form” of a specific fighting art all the time to elevate them above the norm and attach themselves to these ancient traditions.

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Burmese Odyssey: An Interview with Vincent Giordano

by Guillermo Xegarra

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by Vincent Giordano

Burmese Lethwei, or Myanmar traditional boxing, is an ancient bare-knuckle fighting art that has survived in Myanmar despite decades of endless violence and governmental control. At times, this control threatened to wipe out Lethwei’s very existence, but the sport survived partly because rural communities throughout the country continually staged Lethwei tournaments during the celebrations and holidays that fill Myanmar’s calendar year. Including bare-knuckle matches as part of each celebration is a firmly embedded and accepted tradition within Myanmar. Central to these celebratory tournaments is the idea that, long ago, young boys engaged in Lethwei matches to display their fighting skill, courage and bravery. It was part of a rite of passage into adulthood.

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by Vincent Giordano

Burmese Lethwei, also known as Burmese Boxing in the West and Myanmar traditional boxing in Myanmar, is a bare-knuckle fighting sport well known for its traditional fighting technique and durability of its competitors. Fighters wrap their hands with only a thin gauze wrap and tape. There are no gloves used, and head-butts and throws are allowed. No judges oversee the matches to determine a points victor. The only way to win is to stop your opponent by a knockout, technical knockout or by a doctor stoppage. If there is no definitive winner then the match is declared a draw.

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by Vincent Giordano

Burmese Lethwei, also known as Burmese boxing in the West and Myanmar traditional boxing in Myanmar, is a bare-knuckle fighting sport well known for its traditional fighting technique and the durability of its competitors. Fighters wrap their hands with only a thin gauze wrap and tape. There are no gloves used, and head-butts and throws are allowed. No judges oversee the matches to determine a points victor. The only way to win is to stop your opponent by a knockout, technical knockout or by a doctor stoppage. If there is no definitive winner then the match is declared a draw.

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The intensity in Yangon’s Thein Pyu Stadium is palpable. Two Lethwei fighters characteristically charge one another with hard fast volleys of stinging attacks. The arena, originally custom built to promote Lethwei, is comfortable, with tiered seating providing excellent views from all angles. The one startling difference today is that there are cameras everywhere covering the event. No more shoddy coverage or mismatched cameras and bad edits. The audience members join in the reverie enthusiastically, lifting high into the air their iPhones, Samsung Galaxys, iPads, or anything they can record the fights with. Within minutes, personal Facebook and YouTube pages are loaded with images and videos of the fights. Welcome to the new world of Lethwei. Once doomed for decades by a military dictatorship that forcibly cut off any contact to the outside world, Myanmar now revels in the freedom to share any element of society with all those within Myanmar and the world at large.

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Burma is now officially known as Myanmar. It was one of the countries least influenced by the West, virtually sealed off from the outside world, when a brutal military dictatorship took control of the government and economy in 1962 and never let go. Five decades later, the epic and often bloody struggle for democracy remains a constant uphill battle. Burma itself remains one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world. While Burmese constitute the largest ethnic group in the country, comprising 68% of the population of 42 million, 8 other major ethnic groups and 135 subgroups form much of the rest.

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