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Martial Arts in Focus: Burmese Bando

(Photo via www.jevarics.com)

Bando is a defensive martial art from Myanmar (formerly Burma). According to Black Belt Magazine, Chinese and Indian people influenced many Burmese martial arts systems, stemming from the emigration of Thai people from Southern China into Burma. Early Burmese descriptions defined the word “Bando” as self improvement and self-discipline. As it exists today, the martial art system of Bando focuses on self-protection and self defense.

Historical Origin

According to the American Bando Association, around 1000 BC, Burma was inhabited by hundreds of tribes and clans migrating from the Himalayan regions down to Northern India, Tibet, and China. The animal-based systems and techniques of Bando trace their origins to Shamanism, which included worship and tribute to animals through ritualized dances imitating their respective movements. Tribal warriors began to add the dance techniques of strikes, blocks, traps, jumps and rolls to the animal-imitation rituals.

Many of these systems and teachers were lost during the British colonial rule of the region in the 19th century and following World War 2. In the 1940’s, the National Bando Association under the direction of U Ba Than brought together the masters of the various animal systems to reorganize and systematize the ancient fighting arts of Burma. Though there are as many as 30 animal systems and subsystems practiced by various tribes and clans throughout the region today, the American Bando Association focuses on only 9 animal systems as illustrated below.

(Bando Eagle technique, photo via wikipedia commons)
(Bando Eagle technique, photo via wikipedia commons)

Boar– rushing attacks, particularly with the elbow and knees.

Bull– charging strikes and takling

Cobra– attacks to the upper vital points

Eagle– striking and blocking with both hands

Python– chokes and locks

Scorpion– pinching and seizing nerve centers

Tiger– clawing and leaping attacks

Viper– attacks to the lower vital points

The highest form of Bando is called “black panther,” which combines all of the previous animal forms in mastery. Visit American Bando Association’s website to learn more about the animal systems, the history of the martial art and how it exists in modern day.