Thaing | Fighting Styles


Just like Thailand, its neighbor Burma has developed unarmed fighting systems that have been around for centuries. Since China and India are its neighbors, it should not come as a surprise that the overall evolution of these unarmed fighting tactics owe a lot to those countries.

Since Myanmar borders all of these countries, it possesses a very rich heritage in martial arts. Like the fabled Chinese Shaolin Temple, Indian Buddhist monks introduced these martial arts to Myanmar around 2000 years back. Later on, styles from China made their way to the South, mixing into earlier influences in order to form a collective knowledge of martial arts called thaing.

Thaing happens to be a Burmese term that is used to classify indigenous systems of martial arts in ancient Burma or Myanmar. Loosely translated, "thaing" means "complete combat". Thaing forms include Lethwei, Bando, Naban and Banshay. Numerous sport offshoots and internal arts happen to stem from thaing. One tactic called byaungbyan is the reversed form of thaing and became famous among the general public.

As with China, several Buddhist monks greatly took part in developing Burmese fighting arts. A lot of legends exist out there regarding Buddhist monks who secretly taught martial arts to their students. Back in the day, it was not smart to make these fighting tactics public knowledge. After tactics turned into properties of the general public, it tended to become less effective since counters could be thought up in order to neutralize such tactics. So, it became much safer for monks to teach martial arts in secret within the monastery.

Writings of ancient times show that way back in times of King Anawrahta, they were already around. Buddhist monks secretly taught lessons of mediation and breath control, as well as principles of yielding forces – principles that could be found within arts such as aikido, judo, and tai chi.

Such tactics spread through to monks of the 11th century and got handed down through generations until today, where they are now part of the system of bando within the martial arts of Burma.

Among all of the unarmed combat arts that are listed under thaing are bando, the free hands or animal system; banshay, the arts of spears, swords and staffs; lethwei, boxing in Burma; and naban, wrestling in Burma.

Originally, there were nine thaing forms that corresponded to the primary ethnic groups of Myanmar’s: the Indian, Burmese, Chin, Chinese, Karen, Kachin, Mon, Shan and Talaing. Even though this multitude is greatly eroded nowadays, slight differences still exist in the practices of thaing within various regions. Within areas of Northern Shan, for instance, it is called Shan thaing. Traditional royal styles of Myanmar called nantwin have been kept as secrets among practitioners that carefully choose their own students.

One method called Thaing Byaing Byan refers to a one-of-a-kind fighting art with mysterious origins. In general, this name is associated closely to U Maung Lay, whose master was said to arrive from the states of Northern Shan to teach just three students. The youngest of these students happened to be U Maung Lay, who then became the ultimate founder of the Myanmar group of Thaing Byaing Byan. It comes with a one-of-a-kind philosophy that is different in a lot of ways compared to other Myanmar fighting arts. Its training patterns and moves are significantly different compared to their methods that can be found within Myanmar, as well.

Also called Khu-Kar-Chant, Thaing Byong Byan means "Counter Thaing" and would be the Burmese version of jujitsu. Teachers and students alike wear traditional dresses of Shan and its tactics are highly effective when it comes to combats of close quarters. This tactic’s history is known to come from the Kanbawza martial art palace tactic, though it isn’t sure where this tactic of martial arts exactly came from.

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