What's your opinion on Lethwei
Lethwei, the (martial) art of the nine limbs
Lethwei, or Burmese or Myanmar boxing, is undoubtedly one of the oldest, toughest and most brutal martial arts in the world. Because in addition to the usual punching techniques known from kickboxing, head butts are also allowed. It is all the more astonishing that women are also facing up to this challenge. We were able to win one of the currently most successful Lethwei fighters for an interview!
Briefly in advance: What is Lethwei and how do you fight at Lethwei?
Basically, the fighting style is very similar to Muay Thai, a kickboxing discipline from Thailand. Fighting is done with feet, knees, elbows and fists. In addition, you are allowed to trample, push, throw and blow down.
But as with the bare knuckle, it is beaten without gloves, i.e. only with bandages or tape. In addition, head butts, i.e. blows with the head, are allowed in traditional Lethwei. Hence the term “The Nine Limbs”. Unfortunately, serious injuries to the face and head are not uncommon due to the hits from the knuckles and the legal head butts.
In addition to punches, kicks and head butts, throwing techniques are also common methods in Lethwei.
Martial arts Lethwei, not just for men
It is all the more astonishing that this full contact sport is practiced not only by men but also by women! And it's not just Southeast Asians who have fallen for this ancient martial art. More and more Europeans, Americans, Australians or Canadians, like Dave Leduc, the current superstar of the scene, are fighting in the WLC, the World Lethwei Championship.
Interview with Lethwei Champion Souris Manfredi from France
The French Souris Manfredi is one of the most famous Lethwei fighters. She won the first ever WLC women's world championship title and successfully defended it on January 30th, 2020 in Myanmar. We were able to win the current number one in the world, Souris Manfredi, for an interview in Bangkok!
Souris Manfredi from France
Trainingsworld: Souris, you made your debut at Lethwei in August last year. Tell us how you got into martial arts?
I started as an MMA fighter seven years ago. At that time I practiced a lot of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai, and also fought a few fights. But I wanted to focus specifically on a martial arts in order to achieve the best possible result. Since I feel more comfortable in the ring than in the octagon (MMA), I decided to go for Muay Thai. Two years ago I moved to Thailand so that I could fully devote myself to my fighting career.
Trainingsworld: What happened next with Lethwei?
The largest martial arts association in Lethwei, the WLC, came up to me and asked me if I would be interested in starting the tour as a fighter. Since Lethwei has always fascinated me, I of course immediately took advantage of this opportunity.
Trainingsworld: Do you have role models or mentors?
No, not specifically. Sure there are people who inspect me, but in the end it's about me and my personality. I have a clear idea of the person and the athlete I want to be.
Trainingsworld: What does your training look like? How often do you train per week and how do you specifically prepare for a fight?
I train seven hours a day, six days a week. 3.5 hours in the morning, and then another 3.5 hours in the afternoon. I completely subordinate my life to martial arts. I train very hard. So I am prepared for every fight, no matter what the opponent's name is. Of course, I also adapt my training to the respective opponent while preparing for a fight.
Souris training near Bangkok
Trainingsworld: Lethwei is still largely unknown in Europe. Do you have sponsors, can you live from the prize money? Or how else do you make a living?
I have a partner who sponsors my equipment and, recently, a sponsor who supports me financially. Fortunately, because until a year ago I was still working as a kitchen helper. Unfortunately, the prize money in Thailand is not yet enough for female fighters to live on.
Trainingsworld: Do you think that Lethwei will become more popular outside of Southeast Asia as well?
The WLC is definitely working to make Lethwei better known outside of Southeast Asia as well. The first successes can already be seen in the USA and Japan, but other countries are already showing interest. In addition, more and more foreign fighters are allowed to take part in the tour. If you look at the MMA boom, the trend is currently more in the direction of "more brutal and violent" fights. I think we're on the right track with Lethwei; there are opponents in the ring who don't give up easily. So something will be offered.
Trainingsworld: About your role as a woman. As a woman, do you struggle with prejudice? How do men deal with it when they find out that you are a champion in what is admittedly a brutal martial art?
Of course I am confronted with prejudice! Martial arts is a male domain. But more and more doors are also opening for women. We still earn a lot less, and in the minds of many guys I'll never be as good as a man, but it's exactly this kind of “yesterday's” mentality that drives me. I am here to make the difference. The feedback is really good and people say they like my fighting style.
Trainingsworld: Aren't you afraid of injuries, especially on the face?
No, I'm not afraid. Injuries are part of the game! If I ever get scared, then it's time to change my sport. Getting hurt is part of the job. You accept it and work hard not to get hit, or you don't and you quit.
Trainingsworld: How do the men treat you during training? Do you get the respect you need?
There are no problems with my training partners during training. I train with male professional fighters most of the time. Everyone knows the path we had to take to reach our level. So we have a lot of respect for each other.
Trainingsworld: What would you advise other women who are thinking of practicing a martial art?
If that's what you want, then you should do it too!
Trainingsworld: Do you already have plans for the time after your career as an active fighter?
No, at the moment my career as a fighter is still too much in the foreground and I don't know what will happen after that. But I will worry when the time comes!
Trainingsworld: Would you like to get rid of something else?
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who follow me on my journey as a fighter, stand behind me and support me. And I would like to invite people who do not yet know me to take a look at one of my fights to get an idea of this fascinating martial art for themselves.
We thank Souris for this great interview and wish her continued success in her career!
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