Throughout this blog’s history, I’ve featured several athletes who have thrived in rudimentary environments. We have seen fighters in countries such as Thailand, Ghana, Brazil, Cuba, and Uganda. Many of these athletes have excelled at the highest level despite training amidst poverty.
In the documentary below, we can add to the list by looking at a group of fighters from Myanmar (Burma). These fighters compete in the Burmese martial art known as Lethwei. Lethwei is a full contact sport where there are no gloves and head butts are permissible.
Myanmar is one of the poorest nations in Southeast Asia. It has been estimated that 70 percent of the population doesn’t even have access to electricity. Fortunately for the fighters, lavish conditions are not necessary to achieve peak fitness. As you can see in the brief clips below, lethwei fighters thrive on the basics.
Much of the training seen above is similar to the approach that was recommended by Jack Dempsey in his 1950 text (see here). There is clearly an emphasis on sport training through sparring, mitt work, and bag work. Such training is also supplemented with rope skipping, running, and calisthenics. You won’t find any extravagant equipment or complex routines. The work is simple yet intense.
And while the non-fighters in the crowd may miss the relevance of this entry, there is actually plenty that can be learned. If these Myanmar fighters can condition themselves in such an environment, the rest of the world can as well. I don’t say this to suggest that you immerse yourself in poverty or bare knuckle fighting, but instead to remind you that fitness does not require high-end equipment or complex programming. Most people need nothing more than consistency and effort. How these attributes are applied is often irrelevant. As long as you consistently apply yourself through some form of physical exertion, you can expect to be well ahead of the average person. It is entirely possible to be healthy and fit without ever stepping foot in a commercial gym.
If you are interested in additional examples, look no further than the links below.
Boxing Their Own Worst Enemy (Brazil)
The Kampala Boxing Club (Uganda)
Buakaw Banchamek Training Footage (Thailand)
The Zama Boxing Club (South Africa)
“Necessity is not an established fact, but an interpretation.” – Friedrich Nietzsche