It's a knock out

Burmese boxing has been a national sport in Burma for a thousand years, but it will not be part of the Southeast Asian Games in December.

Unlike the Thai sport, Muay Thai, which is popular worldwide, traditional Burmese boxing is only well known in Burma.

But traditional boxers want the government to do more to promote the sport internationally.

Saw Ohn Myint is a former Gold Belt national champion in Burmese boxing.

“I have always been a keen boxer and I have sacrificed a lot,” he said.

Burmese boxing is nearly three times as old as Thai boxing. Both sports are unarmed martial arts akin to kickboxing, but the Burmese style is fast and more violent, ending only when one fighter gets knocked out.

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Traditionally there were no rules and the winner was the first to draw a significant amount of blood.

Rules and a scoring system were introduced as part of an earlier attempt to promote the sport internationally.

Hla Soe Oo trains Burmese boxers and campaigned to have the sport included in this year’s SEA Games.

“When we told the Myanmar Boxing Federation about our boxing, they said other countries didn’t know the style and so they couldn’t compete against us,” said Hla Soe Oo.

The sport gets little in the way of support from the government and minimum sponsorship.

Hla Soe Oo would like to see traditional boxing promoted in neighbouring Thailand.

“Let’s say we can open a training school in Thailand,” he said. “We can hold competitions and people can come to learn to fight in our style.”

He went on to say that the sport needs better marketing to appeal to other countries.

There are 12 Burmese boxers who will compete in the SEA Games this year, but they will fight in the Muay Thai style.

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