Following my recent entry about lethwei fighters in Myanmar (see here), I was contacted by filmmaker Vincent Giordano. The timing could not have been better as he was recently in Myanmar capturing footage for a new documentary. If you are not familiar with Vincent Giordano, you may wish to visit the link below which includes outtakes from one of his previous documentaries.
Fortunately, he is also releasing outtakes from the more recent lethwei documentary. Below you can see one example that highlights the training of the fighters.
Additional footage will eventually be posted to the following page:
As you will see, the training footage takes place outdoors in a makeshift gym that was created in an alleyway between two living quarters. Such a gym reminds me of a previous entry where I featured boxers from Kampala, Uganda (see here). The Rhino Boxing Club in Kampala consists of nothing but a space between two buildings in a crowded neighborhood.
Ironically, although the lethwei fighters in Myanmar and the boxers in Uganda know nothing about each other, they both train in a similar fashion. These are fighters who make the most of the hand they have been dealt. You will not find athletes who complain about inadequate facilities. Instead, you will find hard working, humble fighters who have never known any other way.
And as I’ve said before, I do not share these entries to suggest that you must train in poverty to excel. I share these stories to eliminate all excuses that exist regarding training facilities and equipment. The fitness industry is notorious for complicating the training process. Training recommendations are rarely based solely on effectiveness. On the contrary, what is popular is often what carries the greatest revenue potential for those involved. You will be hard pressed to find any fitness guru who markets the potential of training in an alleyway between buildings.
Fortunately, filmmakers such as Vincent Giordano have provided a sneak peek into the real life and training of these high level fighters. Watching an athlete who is literally fighting for his life and well being is naturally free of the marketing nonsense that is more commonly found online. These fighters aren’t training to sell you anything or impress you. They are training solely to prepare for the brutality of their challenging sport.
In summary, when watching these fighters train, it is wise to heed the advice of Bruce Lee. Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, and add what is uniquely your own. Plenty can be learned by watching fighters who thrive physically despite living and training amidst poverty. There’s no fancy equipment, designer supplements, or complex programming. All that you will find is hard work, consistency, effort, and eventual success. Fortunately, you don’t need to live in Myanmar to uncover and use these freely available attributes. It is solely up to the individual.
How bad do you want it?
Life is not always a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes, playing a poor hand well. – Jack London2 comments
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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 Nietzsche3 comments
It’s rare that a week passes without someone asking how to recover from an injury or setback. Just last night I heard from a young man who was upset about missing 4 days of training after a recent bout of nausea. A day before I heard from a woman who sprained her ankle during an obstacle course race. I could go on and on with similar examples. In each case, an individual suffers a short term setback and panics under the assumption that their hard work will wasted. They fear that a few days of inactivity will cause them to lose all previous gains.
The reality however is that a few days is a blink of an eye when you consider the big picture. And please note, I say this not to minimize any particular injury or illness. I too dislike missing even a single day of training. I enjoy the work so a day without exercise is a day I prefer to avoid. With that said, we often need to be reminded that missing a few days is insignificant. It takes much more than a few days of inactivity to lose what took years to develop. In addition, whatever is lost during a period of downtime typically comes back much faster than it did to initially acquire.
Furthermore, many injuries and setbacks are not nearly as bad as we believe. The old saying that it could always be worse is usually true. I was recently reminded of this simple concept by a reader of the site. Below you can see an image of cancer survivor Joshua DiMezza.
It was a few years ago when Joshua emailed me while undergoing chemotherapy. When all was said and done, he endured 25 rounds of chemo. Yet despite what was obviously an extended period of suffering, Joshua refused to stay down. Instead, he fought back by battling one day at a time. The results of his hard work can be seen below.
In summary, while no one wishes to be plagued by injury or illness, there is usually a chance to fight back. What Joshua has accomplished is nothing short of amazing. Hopefully the rest of us will never experience the struggles that he endured, but we can at least use his example to put our own bumps and bruises into perspective. Joshua hit rock bottom yet fought back to display a rare mix of strength, power, endurance, and athleticism.
It is actually somewhat ironic that Joshua first wrote to me after being inspired by my videos, yet I am now the one who is inspired by his example. His story will certainly be on my mind if and when I suffer my own injuries or setbacks.
Thanks to Joshua for the inspiration and best of luck with your future endeavors.
Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents which, in prosperous circumstances, would have lain dormant. – Horace11 comments
Last month, I created a video entitled The World Is Your Gym (see here) to highlight the exercise potential that exists in the world around us. Since creating that video, I’ve had several readers of the site pass along similar videos from different parts of the world. One recent example can be seen below.
Within the video, you will see two athletes work through a strenuous session in an open field. Once again, we are reminded of the fact that successful training does not depend on a specific piece of equipment or facility. These individuals, run, jump, work through a series of calisthenics, and make the most of their surroundings. They are clearly hard working and creative. For instance, I have never seen any fitness books that highlight the potential of bales in an open field. In other words, no one told these individuals that rolled bales could double as calisthenic aids. They went outside and figured it out.
Once you are determined to get up and move, you will find a way to get up and move. Regardless of your location, you will make the most of your surroundings. These individuals have demonstrated the potential of an empty field in Germany. I am thousands of miles away and often head outside to train in the woods. Therefore, while our environments are entirely unique, we are similar in our quest to make the world a fully functional gym.
Fortunately, you can do the same. The exercise potential of the world around us remains largely untapped. The fitness industry will never profit from you walking outside to exercise in open field. As a result, you will never see such environments garnering widespread attention. Profit potential will always dictate exercise trends. Hopefully, videos such as that above can at least counter some of the nonsense the industry continues to deliver. Just because the industry isn’t profiting from your outdoor workout doesn’t make it any less effective. Make the world your gym and you’ll never need anything but your own creativity and effort.
The world is but a canvas to the imagination. – Henry David Thoreau3 comments
In previous videos, I have demonstrated how a ramp can be used to increase or decrease the difficulty of a standing rollout. For example, rolling up a ramp is one of the fastest ways to progress from kneeling to standing. Conversely, rolling down a ramp is ideal to increase the difficulty for those who are already proficient with standing rollouts. Not everyone has access to a ramp however. If you find yourself in that position, try to find a moderately sloped hill and you can accomplish the same thing.
Below is a brief example.
In summary, if you can find a hill, you have an ideal place to either increase or decrease the difficulty of an excellent core exercise.
Also see: Standing Rollout Variations
The imagination is man’s power over nature. – Wallace Stevens2 comments