According to His Holiness the Venerable Mogok Sayadaw around 1000 BC Burma was inhabited by hundreds of tribes and clans moving down from the Himalayan regions along great rivers from Northern India, SE Tibet, and SW China. Survival in hostile environments- high mountains, jungles, storms, wild animals and warring tribes – was extremely difficult for every clan.
The animal systems started from Shamanism. Shamans worshipped nature and paid tribute to the animals of the earth to appease the spirits so that their daily struggle for survival would be easier.
One of the earliest tribal rituals was to perform animal dances such as the eagle dance, the cobra dance, the tiger dance etc. Tribal warriors began to add to these dances techniques of strikes, blocks, traps, jumps and rolls, imitating the movements of animals.
Each animal possesses different characteristics in size, strength, stamina, weapons and targets. Their fighting and survival strategies are unique to the animal’s temperament and spirit. We study animal systems for 3 reasons:
- To pay tribute to the spirits of the regal animals of the wild
- To understand their survival strategies as predators and prey
- To emulate their movements so as to improve one’s martial skills.
Many of these systems along with their teachers disappeared during British colonial rule beginning in the 19th Century and following World War II. Many systems were lost, but in the 1940’s the National Bando Association under the direction of U Ba Than (Gyi) brought together the masters of the various animal systems to reorganize and systematize the ancient fighting arts of Burma. Many systems were studied but only nine were introduced to the country by Uba Than’s son, Dr. Maung Gyi.
There are as many as 30 animal systems and subsystems practiced by various tribes and clans throughout Burma. The American Bando Association focuses on only 9 systems. The Bando animal systems include the Boar, Bull, Cobra, Eagle, Panther, Python, Scorpion, Tiger and Viper. Each of these nine systems has a Master, personally trained for years by Grandmaster Gyi and designated as the leader of the animal system. These Masters, in turn, may appoint a Second, or apprentice Master, to inherit the system from them at some point in the future. Each animal system has unique weapons systems as well, some of which are still in the process of transmission by Grandmaster Gyi to the animal masters.
Choosing an animal system
Dr. Gyi asked U Ba Than Gyi how one should select a system in which to train. U Ba Than's reply was to choose NOT the system you liked best intellectually, but rather to choose the system most suited to you physically. One's physical potential must mesh with the animal, or the student must move on to another animal system. The animal systems are rich and diverse enough so that each student can find a "home" in at least one system. The system should not harm the student's body.
Once the student finds a "home," certain techniques in the system require an enormous amount of "regularities" (that is, consistent and persistent drilling, conditioning, and execution) to build the required reflexive muscle memory. These "regularities" give the student skill and self-confidence, as well as a sense of belonging in the animal's traditon.
The 9 Animal Systems and Masters are (L to R): Bando Python System - Sayaji Rick Rossetter Bando Panther System - Sayaji Tim Fleming Bando Bull System - Sayaji Tom Hogan Bando Scorpion System - Sayaji Duvon Winborne Bando Eagle System - Sayama Mary Mester Bando Boar System - Sayaji David Keeney Bando Cobra System - Sayaji Rick Suskind Bando Tiger System - Sayaji Jerry George Bando Viper System - Sayaji Michael Decker
The 9 Animal Systems and Masters are (L to R):
Bando Python System - Sayaji Rick Rossetter
Bando Panther System - Sayaji Tim Fleming
Bando Bull System - Sayaji Tom Hogan
Bando Scorpion System - Sayaji Duvon Winborne
Bando Eagle System - Sayama Mary Mester
Bando Boar System - Sayaji David Keeney
Bando Cobra System - Sayaji Rick Suskind
Bando Tiger System - Sayaji Jerry George
Bando Viper System - Sayaji Michael Decker
The Bando Animal Systems are under the direction of Sayaji Tim Fleming. For more general information on the Bando Animal Systems please contact Sayaji Fleming.
Wisdom of the Wild
Man can learn much from the animals in the wild,
if we could only close the door on our human pride for a while,
And open our minds’ eyes and ears
As predators of prey, these wild animals can teach us
Their one thousand and one ways of survival
For another thousand years
-Saya Po, 1860
(Translated by Dr. Gyi)