<bt>Charles Gildon of Fairfax Station coaches and trains a Burmese kick boxing team in Burke. Although the sport originated as a martial art and form of defense, it now holds a deep history and tradition that Gildon and his team value greatly.
“Burmese kick boxing is a form of bando fighting [pronounced bun dho]," Gildon said. "It’s a combative system of fighting designed around the matrix to allow the student to engage the opponent at different angles, to provide safety for the individual, and to develop effective methods of retaliation.”
The Burke team traveled to Cleveland, Ohio, to compete in Middle Style Nationals over Memorial Day weekend.
Gildon’s team excelled in the bando tournament, showing skill and promise for future competitions. Matthew Gildon, brown belt competitor and 13-year-old son of Charles, was awarded silver and bronze medals at Nationals. Nabil Ofogh, a white belt competitor, received gold and silver medals, and Angel Ruano, also a white belt, received gold and bronze medals. Coach Gildon also competed and received a bronze medal. He is still recovering from a pulled hamstring from the competition.
Student Winston Harris, who considers bando more as an art than a sport, describes bando fighting as “a labor of love.” Because the art was originally practiced by American soldiers during World War II, it is appropriate that the competition honored war veterans.
Burmese kick boxing received its name from the ancient martial arts bando system of Burma. Bando was originally military-based and formulated by military men as a form of training for combative warfare. Bando fighting is currently practiced to pay tribute to American soldiers who fought during World War II. The bando discipline made its way to the Northern Virginia area when grand master Dr. U. Muang Gyi, Joe Manley and Lloyd Davis brought the art in 1960 to Washington, D.C., consequently revolutionizing fighting of the early ‘60s. With the help of Errol Younger, Northern Virginia bando was born in 1980. Awarded competitors received official certificates signed by Dr. Gyi at the tournament.
Gildon makes it a point to impart Burmese kick boxing’s deep history and tradition to his students.
Ray Jones, Leesburg bando instructor, has been a student of bando since 1994 and teaching partner and friend to Gildon for nine years.
“We complement each other because we have different body styles and tendencies," Jones said. "It varies our teaching styles as well. Our main focus is to teach for the street. We want students that want to learn. We’re not about money. We want to pass the bando tradition to students with passion.”
The original teachers of bando and members of the American Bando Association were responsible for training America’s third-generation black belts, including Gildon and Jones.
The Burke team of five ranges from age 13 to 30. Members practice twice a week and rent gym facilities from the Burke Racquet and Swim Club. Gildon said that students not only take interest in learning the art but come out fit and disciplined. He teaches Burmese kick boxing on three progressive levels: kick boxing, middle style (similar to karate), and India Naban grappling, bando form of wrestling. According to Coach Gildon, one word can describe the training: “vigorous.”
ALTHOUGH THE training seems tough, the students enjoy it very much. Nancy Jehlen, staff member of Burke Racquet and Swim Club, commented on the team’s performance during weekly practices.
“They’re very well-organized," she said. "They train hard and are well-disciplined. And they have fun. It’s fascinating to watch them train. I’ve seen people come in and lose 30-35 pounds in a matter of six months. It’s very healthy. One man who trained for six months lost weight and stopped taking his diabetes medication because he didn’t need it anymore. I highly recommend it for someone who is committed and in it for the long run. It takes a lot of time, patience and discipline.”
Gildon has been training and teaching nonprofit bando fighting to anyone willing to learn for about eight years. While Gildon charges nothing for the Burmese kick boxing lessons, he has other reasons for teaching.
“I try to give back what my teachers gave to me," Gildon said. "They dedicated countless hours of time and made many sacrifices to teach and coach me. I just feel that it’s my path. The lessons you learn and the rewards you receive from teaching are priceless. I get satisfaction from my students when they train hard, and honor our school and Northern Virginia. That is by far more important than winning. I just want to honor the system by giving back.”