Kick Boxing

Kick Boxing
Kickboxing - a form of Myanmar martial arts - has been preserved over the centuries land still remains a favourite traditional game of the people. Although somewhat similar to Thai, French, American and other types of kickboxing, it has maintained a more traditional down-to-earth directness. Myanmar kickboxing is closer to street fighting than the Queensberry rules of professional Western boxing and makes no pretenses of being anything else. Though Myanmar kickboxing has its own set of rules, fundamentally the target is any part of the opponent's head or body, and the weapon is any part of the body especially the head, fists, knees and elbows. The result is a fight not for the squeamish. The best blows include high kicks to the neck, elbows jabbed into the face and head, knees thrust into the ribs, and low kicks to the calves. It is an art in the truest sense of the word in that skill, technique and other attributes come into play.

While mere punching with the fists may seem tame, it certainly is not when there are no gloves and hands are only wrapped in strips of cloth. However, to protect the boxers from accidents, there are rules against scratching, biting, hair pulling and hitting or kicking an opponent in the groin. A boxer who is down may not be kicked or hit in any way.

Before major bouts or any other matches begin at the National Stadium in Yangon, the contestants perform a ritual of boxing-type movements to pay respect to their instructors and the audience.

Previously, kickboxing matches could be enjoyed only by country folk at seasonal pagoda festivals in smaller towns or cities. They have, however, come in the limelight recently thanks to the promotion by the government and recognition by the public. Now the best matches can be staged in Yangon and broadcast throughout Myanmar via TV.

The competitions at the National Stadium are in weight divisions ranging from Light Flyweight to Light Middleweight. Novice boxers fight three rounds while others fight four or five rounds depending on the class. Points are allocated for the number of good kicks. A KO occurs if the contestant cannot rise after the count of eight, or goes down three times. The match is also decided on the sight of blood. Each boxer is allowed to wipe away the blood three times before he is declared a loser.

A unique feature of Myanmar kickboxing is the small musical ensemble that performs during the ritual and the match. It follows and leads in tempo, volume and pitch in relation to what is occurring in the ring, growing more frantic in the closing rounds. It adds an air of unreality to the entire event.