Lethwei Rules

Lethwei Rules: Explained

Lethwei is rising in popularity, and more fight fans than ever are searching out everything about the sport. They want to know everything from how to watch events and the official Lethwei rules.

Here’s a full breakdown of Lethwei rules and everything you need to know. Learn everything about one of the fastest-growing combat sports in the world.


Are There Really Letwei Rules? 

While it may not look like there are any rules within the sport of Lethwei, there are a few guidelines. There are a few Lethwei rules that the fighters must follow during a match.

Lethwei is the most lenient combat sport regarding rules, but fighters will honor them.

Lethwei Rules: Fighting Attire 

Under Lethwei rules, the fighters must wear the appropriate fighting attire. There are only a few pieces of fighting attire that a fighter must be wearing in a Lethwei match.

  • Muay Thai/Lethwei Shorts
  • Hand Wraps
  • Mouthguard
  • Groin Protector

Fighters are also permitted to tape their feet and ankles, but it is voluntary and not one of the mandatory rules.

Permitted Strikes 

Under Lethwei Rules, a fighter can hit their opponent with just about anything from standing. Here’s a complete list of permitted strikes within Lethwei.

  • Punches
  • Elbows
  • Kicks
  • Knees
  • Headbutts
  • Sweeps
  • Clinching

The addition of headbutts under Lethwei’s rules brings a new violent element to a kickboxing bout. It’s also one of the reasons why it took more time for Lethwei to find a global audience.

Illegal Lethwei Techniques

Believe it or not, under Lethwei rules, there are illegal techniques. There aren’t many illegal techniques, but ones that could get a fighter disqualified or suspended for using them. 

In Lethwei, the list of illegal techniques includes:

  • Eye Gouges
  • Biting
  • Low Blows
  • Hitting a Downed Opponent
  • Scratching
  • Fish Hooking
  • Ear Pulling

While these techniques are deemed illegal, dirty fighters still manage to sneak in some illegal shots. There’s no point system in Lethwei, and the moves must be blatant and repeated for an official to DQ a fighter.

Burmese Boxing

Match Time Limits 

With the original Lethwei rules, the official time limits were the same as in Muay Thai. Lethwei bouts consisted of 5 rounds at 3 minutes each, with a 2-minute break in between each round.

Some of the different Lethwei promotions are now put on 3 round Lethwei bouts. However, all championship fights remain in the original 5 round format.

Ways to Win 

Within Lethwei rules, there is no scoring system, which means there are no decision victories. That leaves only 4 ways to with a Lethwei bout.

  • Knockout
  • TKO
  • Opponent Quits
  • Doctor Stoppage

If none of these four outcomes happens within the time limit of the fight, it is declared a draw.

Lethwei Rules: Knockouts Don’t Always End Fights

One of the crazy things about Lethwei rules is that a knockout doesn’t end a fight. Instead, the knocked-out fighter is given 2 minutes to recover and show they’re good to fight. If they choose to continue the bout, they won’t be given another KO timeout.

Another detail of the Lethwei knockout rule is that it cannot be used in the fifth round. The fight ends when a fighter gets knocked out in the fifth round.

Lethwei Rules on Knockdowns

Like in boxing and Muay Thai, Lethwei has similar rules regarding knockdowns. Under Lethwei rules, there is a 4 knockdown limit.

If a fighter gets knocked down 4 times in their bout, it is ruled a TKO victory for their opponent. They will also lose by TKO if they are knocked down 3 times in the same round.

The Referee

Just like in all combat sports, a Lethwei referee is burdened with the responsibility of protecting fighters. These fights could easily end in death, which is why the ref must protect the fighters.

It is their job to decide when to stop a fight or call in a doctor to check a fighter. Generally, Lethwei referees are rather lenient and will let the boxers fight it out.

What are the Lethwei Promotions/Governing Bodies?

Today, the top Lethwei promotion in the world is the World Lethwei Championship (WLC). They run all of their shows within Southern Asia and, on occasion, in Japan.

Since the Myanmar military took over their government, Lethwei promotions in the country have not been operating.

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