Lethwei in Kayin State

On “Tournament Tour” in the Rural Areas of Kayin State with the Local Champions from

Cement Factory Boxing Gym, Hpa An

From 12th to 17th April 2013, while the Kayin New Year Water Festival - called "Thingyan" in Central Myanmar or "Songkran" in Thailand - was on its peak of celebrations, AndreRene from www.SouthEastAsianBoxing.com had the rare opportunity to accompany boxers of the legendary "Cement Factory Gym Hpa An" visiting several tournaments in the rural areas of the Kayin State, situated in the south-east of Myanmar. Cement Factory Gym is run by multiple former Myanmar Lethwei Champion Moe Pai Le, widely known and highly esteemed as a National Hero of Lethwei in the Kayin State. Here are some pictures and videos of the gym and the tournaments.

Lethwei Fightnight and Thingyan Funfair 
in Thaton, Kayin State (12. April 2013) 
Lethwei Kid’s Tournament near Taw Gyi Done Village, Kayin State (14. April 2013) 
3-Day Thingyan Lethwei Tournament near Eindu, Kayin State (14.-16. April 2013) 


It is not the intention of www.burmese-boxing.com and its operators to glorify or endorse violence among human beings, especially among children and adolescents. Myanmar is a developing country. A majority of the population, especially in rural areas, is still little educated and lives in financial poverty. It is common there that children and adolescents have to contribute to the family income with manual work from an early age.

In Myanmar, it is established that already the participation in a Lethwei tournament is rewarded with comparatively good money, and competitors are additionally honored with various amounts for bravery and commitment during the fight. So, even for the youngest participants Lethwei is a way not only to gain respect and self-confidence, but also to earn money for their family's livelihood that is well needed.

In the rural areas of Myanmar, there are no opportunities for common people to practice Western sports that need specialized equipment or training facilities. Soccer and “Chinlone”, also known as Caneball - both played out on the streets and on simple dirt grounds - are almost the only widespread sports activities besides Lethwei, the Burmese National Martial Art. Therefore, it might be advisable not to impose Western standards to what is seen as a sporting activity suitable for children in Myanmar, and what minimum protection gear is needed for combat sport competitions.

However - Lethwei, the Burmese Boxing, is a competitive combat sport. And like in any other full-contact martial art, there are pre-agreements between the contenders to allow each other to try to strike the opponent - within the framework of the competition rules and under the supervision of the referee and the considerate attendants in the corners, of course. What looks quite brutal as a snapshot in the image series, is not at all that violent in real life as it looks like at a first glance - especially in the children's and beginner's bouts.

As you can see in the video clips, the children’s, adolescent’s and beginner’s matches are interrupted every few seconds by the referee, who jumps in before one of the contenders can get seriously hurt or even injured. And as soon as it becomes obvious that one of the opponents is clearly inferior to the other, the bout is immediately stopped completely by the referee.