Updated: Oct 10, 2019
Canadian-born, Dave Leduc is the current Lethwei Open Weight World Champion and the first foreigner outside of Myanmar to hold that title in a sport reaching back over 2,000 years. Lethwei is a bareknuckle striking art which allows headbutts, any variety of elbows, slams and takedowns. It is not for the feint of heart. Below I break down some of the many techniques I learned from my time training with Dave.
"Keep your essence, and write everything down! You only become the best by being obsessed."
Distance Management - Based on a "Green-Red-Green" principal. At the distance that we can't hit each other, we are in a green zone. At a distance that we can strike each other freely, we are in the red. At a very close distance where we cannot create enough force to damage with a shot, we are green again. Maintaining control of distance and position is always important. Closing the gap between you and your opponent is often the most dangerous part of a fight. You will always be vulnerable when throwing your own technique. Thus why most defense is built into offensive maneuvers.
Lead Low Push Kick - Kicking or stomping on the thigh of an opponent is a great way to throw them off balance and reset their timing. This technique is used mostly as a set up. Unless you really don't like the guy... then you can actually cause permanent damage with a fair amount of power.
Head Swaying Entry - Once committed to a rear side power shot, step through with the blow, and slip wide. This is great for countering a variety of shots, as well as closing the distance for the clinch.
Swimming - Fighting for inside hand control and position requires a lot of grinding, stance switching, and chest smashing. The human body has a quite a few large and heavy bones that can safely be bashed into another person's face. The shoulder is not typically thought of as a weapon, but that is exactly what makes it dangerous. Creating elastic recoil is a matter of available space, not just of the object being whipped. Slamming your shoulder into the chin, temple, or nose would be just as effective as a knee or elbow given a decent focus in training.
Clinch - Keeping a frame on either side of the neck, elbow points digging into collarbone, and palms gripped on the base of the skull is crucial. You are grabbing the skull, NOT THE NECK. Do this correctly and you will most often break your opponent's posture so they look at your knees o' death, or they will waste a ton of strength and lift you up. Either way is fine for the set up of your next strike or sweep. Stepping into range will require a heavy commitment, but the reward for securing this position grows with your knowledge. Anything from a 12 to 6 elbow on the back of the head, or a knee to the sternum with all of your body weight + gravity, or both. You do not want a good clincher to put you here and tire you out. It can easily end your night.
Gable Grip Pressure Points - Once inside the clinch you can manipulate your grip to grind the crown of your forehead into any soft facial area. The neck, ear, and temple are truly the creme de la creme. Bare knuckled, you can get a very deep gable grip and lift yourself up underneath these points on your opponent. You want to pull the neck and ram the nerves like you're trying to open a bottle...
BUT WITH A PERSON'S HEAD
Moreover, there are violent things that happen in a fight that are not quite as visually compelling as two savages throwing bony limbs at each other's faces.
Posture Cross Choke - A great counter to the posture control of a clinch is to overhook the arms and block your own forehead from going downward. It is only a transitional position, you are still susceptible to knees. Slide your blocking arm up to the opponents collar bone and grab the back of their head with your free hand. This will simulate somewhat of a standing Ezekiel choke. It is truly uncomfortable, and you will feel an immediate break in the clinch.
Headbutts - The headbutt should be used and avoided with EXTREME caution.
Using the crown of your skull as a weapon is even more effective than boxing in a bare knuckle fight. Your hands are fragile comparatively. With hundreds of small moving parts it's no surprise they break in fights even with wraps and gloves.
Of course, even with the large bone that is your skull, you'll want to be very specific with placing your strikes. Anywhere on the Frontal, Parietal, Zygomatic and Mandible bones can be smashed into a soft tissue with great effect, and little to no damage taken in collateral. For example...eye lids, noses, temples, throats, lips. You get the idea. If you're in a real fight, grinding sharp bones into a facial nerve can benefit you as much as any clean strike. Having total control in a clinch or catching an already hurt opponent off guard is the only way I would recommend using this technique. Otherwise, as a headbutt defense, keep the distance with posts and a high guard. Keeping a hand on the opponents head makes it extremely hard for them to generate power.
Step In Low Kick Counter - Instead of checking low kicks, Dave will mostly step in and throw a rear side power shot, taking away some of the force by knocking the opponent off balance. Landing a heavy shot upstairs in exchange for a low kick is always a good trade. Knees up the middle are also great for damage and clinch entry.
Weaving Hook - One of the most visceral of Dave's unorthodox and effective techniques. Stepping in to throw a winging rear elbow, whether it lands or not, your new goal is to then swing back up with a lead side weaving overhand hook. You need to land with the top of your two inside punching knuckles, not the typical Western boxing placement. You can back hand slap with this as well. The power generated is ferocious. The last fight Dave had he landed it against UFC veteran, Seth Baczynski. Linked below is that fight on Dave's Youtube channel. Make sure to subscribe to him for new Lethwei content.
Knee Tap Neck Pull - A beautiful way to break posture and set up a list of nasty options is to pull the neck one way or the other with one hand and knee tap the inside of the opposite leg. Both actions must be done at the same time while marching. It's a little hard to conceptualize. It will result in your opponent's posture breaking sideways, as opposed to a full sweep. You still maintain full control and their balance becomes compromised. Knees, elbows, hooks, headbutts, all these options and more open up from here.
Body Kick to Straight - This one is easy to understand and quite useful. You throw a body kick with the intent of just following up with that same side hand. If the kick misses, or gets caught, it's okay, you are just going punch them in the mouth until they let go or move. A great entry into clinch and skull work as well.
Double Spinning Back Elbow - Using straight punches as entry to step off the center line, slip, spin elbow and as you reset, spin back quickly with the opposite elbow out. This can be adapted to the spinning back fist. I would however caution anyone to what angle your fist is landing and the power used. Landing in a hammer fist style will be the safest bet. Less chance of breaking the rather slim bones in your lower arm.
Knee Catch Sweep - When in the clinch and trading knees with an opponent you will often go one for one. Timing the sweep with this knowledge and an overhook on their guard as feint, you knee the chosen side, expecting the same side return. Grab the knee overhook, outside grip, and sweep the post leg. Dave demonstrated this effectively on me...
Burmese Line Drills - Relay between two partners. 2 Knuckle Hop Push Ups, sprint to partner, 5 body shots from partner, 3 Sit Ups with 3 more body shots from partner between each. 2:00 x Round Count.
Knuckle Hop Push Ups - While on your knuckles do a push up and hop at the top, then move up to the tips of your fingers. Do these push ups starting from your knees, until you're comfortable enough go on your toes. Use a bare floor for the real animals out there.
Wrist Push Ups - Like a push up, but on the top of your wrist... Use your knees first and go slowly. A mat or blanket under you is also a great idea to begin, but ideally you should be on bare floor eventually.
Neck Strength and Conditioning - Using front and reverse bridge stretches while balancing on your head. A slow going pace is required on this one. Don't ever go so far it hurts. Stay within your own flexibility. Use your hands to balance yourself until you feel comfortable enough to go without.
Beyond all the stories, technique and fighting, he gave us all a pure sense of that old pioneer spirit I know many of our ancestors possessed. He went into a foreign place to go to war against their greatest champion and won. Rather than hate him, Myanmar for the most part love him! In true Buddhist fashion they have embraced him as family. Not forgetting Dave's amazing spirit in and out of the ring. Taking crown and all the responsibility that lies with being a King. It is immeasurably inspiring and I can't wait to make my way out to Myanmar to see that other world that lies just an ocean away. Many thanks and honors Dave Leduc and anyone reading this.