I first watched a Burmese Boxing fight after someone posted a link from the old United Goju Forum. These fights are frantic impressive affairs, with few rules; no gloves, takedowns and head butts allowed! There is a three knockout rule, not three knockdowns, three knockouts. If you are knocked out they wake you up and you have a minute to decide whether you want to carry on. After the third knockout you are deemed beaten, there is no points system, if both fighters are standing by the end of the fight time allocation, it is a draw. These rules have been adapted over time, but the underlying violent exchange is intact.
A little controversial in the safety conscious world we live in, but they make for exciting fights, while serving a specific martial purpose. It seems that the Martial Arts in Burma have always been related to war, with the sport side of training used to develop distancing, timing and contact conditioning rather than being a means in itself. These events are traditionally held at festivals throughout Burma, being fought in sandpits originally, but now in regular boxing rings.
I discovered a short documentary concerning a specific strand of Brumese Boxing known as Kachin Thiang – ‘total combat’ from the Kachin region of Burma. As the translation of the name implies it incorporates different ranges of fighting; boxing, grappling/groundwork and weapons. Illegal techniques such as gouging and biting are included making the system a kind of warlike MMA with self-defence and weapons. These are divided into the following categories; bladed, impact, flexible and projectile. Kachin Thiang has 16 animal sets which represent styles of fighting suitable for individual body types, so a person does not have to adapt to the system, a style of fighting can be matched to the person. Each animal set has specific fighting attributes incorporating stand-up and grappling techniques.
Phil Dunlap of Advance Fighting Systems in the US has a great site with a lot of information on Burmese Boxing and is well worth a read. There are clips from fights too and an insight into how he inherited the system from his grandfather. I like how the martial aspects of the system are emphasised, retained and used in the training to ensure the student gets a full system to learn from. There is no wandering off topic it’s all directed to producing good fighters with solid all round skills. Great stuff.