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Vincent Giordano

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Saya Win Zin Oo is the founder and senior coach of Thut Ti Lethwei Club in Yangon. He is prominently featured in the Born Warriors documentary trilogy, as well as many other television specials and documentaries focused on the art of Lethwei. Saya Win’s deep understanding of Lethwei, alongside his ability to work across cultural borders, has made him a highly respected global ambassador for the sport.

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U Sai Zaw Zaw has been Lethwei’s top promoter since he entered the sporting arena close to three decades ago. He has organized and promoted well over 100 international and national fights, beginning with the historic 1993 challenge match between Shwe War Tun and Aung Aung Tun in Aung San Stadium. His innovation and success continued with the creation of the first Golden Belt Tournament in 1996. His vast international reach includes over 15 Myanmar vs. Thailand fight cards, two Myanmar vs. Japan fight cards, and one Myanmar vs. Philippines fight card. His other tournaments have included fighters from as far away as Russia, France, Iran, Switzerland, Mexico, Japan, England, New Zealand, and the United States.

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Saya Win Zin Oo is the Founder and Senior Coach of the Thut Ti Lethwei Club in Yangon. He is a familiar face to our audience, having appeared throughout the Born Warriors trilogy. In this interview, he brings us up to date on his newest projects, and the current state of Lethwei.

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U Sai Zaw Zaw has been Lethwei’s top promoter since he entered the sporting arena close to three decades ago. He gives us an inside look at the business of promoting in a changing Myanmar landscape, his toughest challenges, and his hopes and plans for the future.

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Our newest interview features Soe Than Win, who has been one of the leading Lethwei promoters since the 1990s and is now Vice President of the World Lethwei Championship organization. He discusses the many challenges he faced while promoting Lethwei matches in the past, and what the future holds for the sport.

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Since the opening of the country, Lethwei has grown internationally on the back of newly formatted competitions aimed at a global audience. Its development of the sport has followed a very different trajectory than Thailand with Muay Thai, and Cambodia with Pradal Serey — sports that slowly built up over time to develop into what they are today.

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U Soe Than Win is one of the pioneering forces in the promotion of Lethwei, and his unbridled love of the sport has been unwavering for the last three decades. He was born in Myaungmya, a town in the Irrawaddy region, in 1975. His Lethwei training began in Yangon under Saya U Win Zin Oo and Lethwei Champion Maung Maung Gyi at the famed KLN Lethwei Club in 1995.

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by Vincent Giordano

Each country in Southeast Asia has developed and promoted their indigenous sports in their own unique way. For example, one can learn from Muay Thai what has worked and what has not throughout its long history. Lethwei has been kept alive and is still heavily supported by rural communities. I focused primarily on the rural festivals and tournaments because they were an important link to how Lethwei competitions were fought in the distant past. Some seem unchanged by time, while others are fought in a more modern way that we are all accustomed to. It is clear the casual fighter who competes in these rural tournaments is not the professional fighter he needs to be to fight in the bigger events against more seasoned opponents.

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We hope our new Interviews section will introduce readers to a wide variety of people involved in Lethwei throughout the years. The first two interviews feature martial artist and author Zoran Rebac, whose travels to Myanmar began in the early ‘80s, and educator/humanitarian and Japan and Myanmar Lethwei coordinator Takamori Tatsuya, who began his involvement with Lethwei and Myanmar in 1997.

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Zoran Rebac was born in Zagreb, Croatia on March 24, 1954. He began his training in Tae Kwon Do as a teenager, eventually achieving the rank of 2nd Dan. Zoran was a member of the national team and won the National Championship twice before turning his attention to the art of Muay Thai.

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Takamori Takuya was born in Hyogo, Japan in 1960. His passion for teaching led him to start his own private school in Tokyo when he was 25 years old. 10 years later, he established his Futokuro Children’s NGO.

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The master index of Vincent Giordano’s extensive training and research journeys through Southeast Asia and India, of which the Born Warriors project is a part. The website is forthcoming.

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Martial Couderette’s beautifully crafted 240-page, black and white photo book is totally devoted to the art of Lethwei. His deep, eight-year immersion into the sport is clearly displayed on each page as he covers not only the fight tournaments but also the trainers, training camps, and fighters.

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Those wishing for a deeper and richer exploration of Myanmar should visit the webpage of Saya Thant Myint-U. His writing on the subject through his books and articles is rich with unique cultural perspective and critical historical understanding.

Visit The Saya Thant Myint-U Site
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LW Mark's Lethwei Schedule site is an indispensable resource for anyone interested in the sport of Lethwei.

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The Fight Site offers complete combat sports coverage including a burgeoning page dedicated to Lethwei.

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by Vincent Giordano

The origin of this important early film footage begins with the career of Jean Alexandre Louis Promio, who later became known as Alexandre Promio. He was a pioneering French cinematographer, who filmed the footage in July 1896. Promio was an assistant to a French optician when he witnessed the first presentation of the Lumiere brothers cinematographe, a motion-picture apparatus used as both a camera and projector in June 1895. The Lumiere brothers were among the first filmmakers in history, and the burgeoning technology greatly excited and impressed Promio. In March 1896, he left his job to start working with the Lumiere brothers, who were looking to expand their business worldwide. After a short time, Promio — along with M. Perrigot, who taught Promio and others how to use the cinematographe — became responsible for training the first generation of cinematographe operators, who exhibited and showcased this new invention worldwide.

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So much has changed since Born Warriors was released, both in Myanmar and the sport of Lethwei.

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We did a poll on our Born Warriors Facebook page on May 27, 2018 to determine if this old footage from 1896 was Lethwei or Naban.

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