A grizzled, straight-talking man in his late thirties, Daung Thel Ni comes from a family of Lethwei fighters.Both his father and brother, Thet Oo, also a trainer at the gym, were fighters, and he is teaching his son. Because of this unfairness there are only a few fighters [here] now.” His trainees – all boys, between 11 and 20 years old – pay a portion of their earnings in return for coaching, food, and in some cases, free lodging.In Myanmar, where it’s still common for parents to send their children away to work, it’s thought of as more like an apprenticeship. One woman yodeled while another clucked her tongue, in what seemed like a festive femininity dance. Some had the build of sumo wrestlers, others resembled tiny fairies. Their breasts and womanly figures propelled them into all sorts of torrid affairs I heard about three continents away.

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It’s the second day of a weeklong festival dedicated to Lethwei, a brutal brand of kickboxing – and a national pastime in Myanmar.

He beckons to his prodigy: Shwe Hnin Si Luu Mike, or “Golden Rose Gangster.” The fighter is shy and sullen, dressed in a black baseball cap and t-shirt bearing the name of a local brewery.

Bloodied competitors mill around in between bouts in the hallway beside Tin Oo, a bald, boisterous man who works for the Lethwei Association, the sport’s governing body.

The sport calls for fighters to use their bare knuckles, and head butts are fair play. Fights are fast, exceptionally furious and typically don’t last long, with knockouts delivered swiftly.

They dream of becoming stars like the current open-weight champion Tun Tun Min, the son of two farmers who now earns tens of thousands of dollars per fight.

“I don’t want to be anything like an actor or singer, I just want to be a fighter,” says Phoe La Pyae, or “Mr.Daung Thel Ni says he wants to shepherd the next generation of Lethwei champions. Other trainers take a fixed percentage of winnings, but Daung Thel Ni says he relies on donations from his students.“Some clubs are biased,” he says, spitting out red blobs of betel nut, the stimulant chewed across Asia. “They can give me however much they want,” he says.On his lower left arm, beneath the image of a clenched fist with a raised middle finger, is tattooed the word Fuck. ” The older boy pulls back the hair on his forehead to reveal a scar from an opponent’s elbow.Shwe Hnin Si Luu Mike has fought in more than a dozen Lethwei matches for crowds of paying spectators. His scarred limbs are spindly, showing little more than a hint of muscle. He needed three stitches, but says he felt nothing at the time.Moonlight,” a serious-looking 16-year-year old with big black eyes and a downy moustache.