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Bando is the martial art style that comes from Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), a small country that borders India and China. Although there have been many interpretations to what the word ‘Bando’ means – originally believed to translate to self-development – the world has now come to understand Bando Thiang as a fighting style that incorporates elements of Aikido, Judo, and Jujutsu to effectively defend yourself more than anything.

Origins of Bando

Bando

There isn’t an exact record of when Bando came to be, but it is believed that, much like the cuisine found in Burma, this fighting style was largely influenced by Indian and Chinese cultures. Bando’s roots can be closely associated to the teachings at the Buddhist temples, where many monks and individuals from India who preached Buddhism had spread their ideas, culture, and martial art teachings across the Himalayas and Southeast Asia.

Bando Training

A great defense serves as the best offense.” This idea is particularly true in the martial art style of Bando, as most techniques that students learn are meant to counter the assailant. Practitioners are taught to first withdraw before making a counter-strike. During their training, students initially learn the basic techniques before moving onto the Indian and Chinese influenced animal styles.

Many of these forms are named after the animal they appear to imitate. The boar form, for example, is characterized as a rushing attack, where the user uses their elbows and knees to strike. The bull form leads the practitioner to charge and tackle. The cobra, much like the snake, attacks the upper vital areas of the opponent, and the deer form teaches the student to take short leaps to jump away from the attacker. The python style teaches students on chokes and locks, while the heron form provides fast arm techniques and short jumps. It is believed that the black panther is the highest form in the animal styles, as it combines all previous forms to execute a well-balanced counter-attack.

While Bando does equip students with weapon training, for the most part most practitioners are taught bare-handed self-defense techniques. Due to its influence from Judo, students’ expertise in the field is evident through the color of one’s belt (white, green, brown, and black). Additionally, students in Bando may only test for a black belt after they have accomplished five years of training. Furthermore, to attain a black belt, they must exhibit proficiency in empty handed forms, sparring, and weapons.

Bando Yoga

Along with training in Bando, most practitioners are also taught Bando yoga – international training meant to help students maintain better health. Although it was originally created and used by the common man (even being referred to as slave yoga in the past), the ancient warriors of Burma eventually adapted this practice into their weapon training due to the realization that it served many health benefits as a worker warrior.

Implementing the behaviors of animals such cobra, python, tiger, monkey, bull, and few others, it is believed to improve health, help practitioners resist illnesses, and recover from injuries. The three systems of Bando yoga are as follows: dhanda (better flow of energy using a staff), lonji (develop greater flexibility using cloth) and letha (improve circulation through partner assisted stretches).

The Growth & Spread of Bando

During 1942, when the Japanese invaded Burma, rather than denying and outlawing the martial art, they helped to improve it by encouraging the exchange of techniques between Judo, Aikido and Bando. Due to this, Bando grew in popularity and awareness, where after World War II, it had gained quite a lot of traction in competitions.

Upon the end of the war, Ba Than (Gyi) – director of physical education of the Union of Burma – attempted to combine the various styles of Bando into a unified system. This attempt eventually led to the establishment of the International Bando Association, out of tribute to those who had died for the Allies in World War II.

Ba Than (Gyi)’s son, Maung Gyi, a college professor and Bando practitioner would carry on his father’s efforts to spread awareness in Bando by teaching it to people in the United States in the 1960’s. His popularized interpretations and teachings were what the modern Western world had come to known as Bando – with the American Bando Association establishing to. It wasn’t until the 1960’s, where a college professor named Dr. Maung Gyi introduced the US to Bando by teaching the art.

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