Anybody who has been involved in the martial arts and probably more importantly, martial arts internet forums, is probably familiar with Dr. Muang Gyi. Dr. Gyi is the man credited with bringing the Burmese art of Bando to the United States and is the founder of the American Bando Association. Bando, a version of Burmese Arts collectively known as Thaing; can be, by all accounts, taught and practiced as a "non-bullshido" art against resisting opponents and as a competitive version of kickboxing.
YouTube- Team Bando - Spider
Dr. Gyi himself is credited with being a full-contact kickboxer from the Thaing tradition in the 1950's.
The primary "issue" with Dr. Gyi revolves around his claims of military service and heroism . Dr. Gyi was credited with being (and self-proclaimed to be) a combat veteran of WWII as a Gurkha jungle fighter. There are also claims that he was believed to have served in the Korean War, Vietnam, as a CIA operative and even to have been involved in conflicts as recent as the Falklands and Desert Storm. This eventually became used as proof of Bando's "proven combat effectiveness" and the marketing of Bando as a military art associated with the famed Gurkhas of the British Armed Forces. It also became part of the marketing of a line of Gurkha Kukri knives sold by Cold Steel with the Bando logo inscribed on them.
Eventually, the number and details of Dr. Gyi's "war stories" began to not add up and various people began to find the holes in this rather lavish tale of warriorship.
Born in Burma in the 1930's (details to come), Maung Gyi grew up with his father, Ba Than, who was the Director of Physical Education and Sports with the Ministry of Education in Burma. With his father?s support and encouragement, Maung Gyi became involved in team sports and participated in various individual sports along with studying and practicing Burmese martial arts.
Gyi travelled to Japan in the 1950's to attend college and compete in kickboxing competitions before returning to Burma. Eventually he wound up in the United States. In the early 1960s, he formally began teaching Burmese Bando at American University in Washington D.C. and in 1966 established the American Bando Association (ABA) in Athens, Ohio. He attended college at Ohio University, eventually earning his Ph.D. (hence..Dr.) in communication and psychology.
After WWII, Ba Than (Gyi), then director of physical education and athletics for the Union of Burma, tried to unite the techniques from the different bando styles and modernize them by founding a new Hanthawaddy bando system. The International Bando Association was officially formed on March 9, 1946. Donn F. Draeger describes the organisation's founding as follows:
In 1933 the Military Athletic Club was formed at Maymyo [sic?] in northern Burma by Gurkha Officers. By the end of the decade the club included Chin, Burmese, Kachin and Karen army officers. G. Bahadur, a Gurkha, was elected the first chairman of the club. Another luminary was Ba Than (Gyi) who was to serve twenty five years as Director of Physical Education of Burma before retiring.
...the International Bando Association, was established recently by Ba Than (Gyi) in memory of those who died in the China-Burma-India area for the allied cause in World War II. As such, it continues the work of the Military Athletic Club, which lapsed in 1948. It has of course a more international character, and Maung Gyi, its teacher accredited to the United States, is the son of Ba Than (Gyi). Maung Gyi a versatile fighter in his own right, having studied Chinese, Indian, Japanese and Western methods.
I have not been able to pin down exactly when Dr. Gyi began making claims of being a combat veteran. One of the earliest martial arts based sources on him that I was able to locate was a 1972 edition of Black Belt Magazine Vol. 10, No. 6 ISSN 0277-3066 Pg 14-18. Nowhere in this rather detailed biography are there ANY claims of military service. Of note is his then claimed age of 37 years..a birth date of 1935-36 by my count...this will enter into the discussion later.
Based on my reasearch, some of the earliest published claims of military service seem to originate from an issue of Command Magazine Issue #16/May-June 1992
In this article Dr. Gyi goes on to detail his service...as a Gurkha Infantryman in 1942...with the 3rd Platoon/C Company, 3110th BGR, in the 37th Infantry Brigade
Hmmm..16 yo in 1942 would mean a birth year around 1926 by my math...anyway, it is a rousing story of Gurkha training, jungle combat, hand-to-hand kills and chopping Japanese to pieces with Kukri knives. It's really quite good and would be very rousing...if it were true. I actually had a copy of that magazine back in the day. I wish I had kept it.
There were many teenagers in our unit. Some were only 16 years old, and I was one of them. The British were desperate to strengthen the defense forces with young and loyal soldiers. Our Gurkha drill sergeants were extremely stern and demanded total obedience and discipline. Total commitment to duties, courage under fire, and unquestioned loyalty to Great Britain were indoctrinated in us. There had been a growing anti-British sentiment throughout India that had been further inflamed by propaganda from Japan, along with many nationalistic Indian political parties and the pro-Japanese Indian National Army led by S. Chandra Bose.
The web is woven:
From this point it looks like the legend was established. Numerous seminar announcements, web-pages, articles and anecdotal stories about Dr. Gyi the Gurkha can be found.
At one point even the USArmy bought his story, back in 2005 I found an article at:
Gyi the 'Warrior'
In the early 1940s, young Maung Gyi faced extreme disappointment as his dreams of becoming a physician faded. Political conflicts between his native Burma and the imperialistic Japanese leadership led to a war between the two nations. All adult males in the Gyi family joined the Burmese military during World War II, and there were casualties among them. Uncles, cousins, and even Maung Gyi's brother were killed in battle.
Recruited to serve in a Gurkha regiment, the youthful Gyi spent some of his military service as a medic, which continued to fuel his ambitions for a medical career. However, his fate shifted dramatically as Maung Gyi was forced to defend himself against Japanese soldiers, while attempting to aid fallen comrades on the battlefield.
During this phase of life Maung Gyi benefitted directly from his father's insights regarding the applicability of Bando techniques. With khukuri in hand, he fought in dark trenches, jungle thickets, and hilly terrains against armed opponents. The rule was 'kill or be killed,' and Gyi chose survival.
The Japanese were armed with katanas (e.g., long swords ) and bayonets, while the Burmese soldiers used their short-bladed swords (e.g., khukuris) to fend off the foreign invaders. The young Maung Gyi had received instruction on combat uses of the khukuri during military basic training. He honed his sword skills on the battlefield and developed a keen sensibility for "pragmatics" in the martial arts. Daggers, swords, long staffs, and other handheld weapons were used in battle by Gyi during the Japanese incursion. The need to survive forced him to learn combat techniques quickly and efficiently. British military historians and achievers have, in fact, credited Maung Gyi with several battlefield kills during World War II. . . . . . .
he became a 'true warrior' during these war years . . . . . .
Unfortunate the Army deleted that article from it's archives (probably after this controversy came to light), but the image from Ft. Benning can still be viewed at the pownetwork.org site.
Retired Gurkha soldier Dr. Maung Gyi leads rangers in knife practice. War clubs and walking sticks also came into play during the field test.
Dr. Gyi himself even attended reunions of the famed "Merrills Marauders". I have one example from 1998.
During a speech he wore a red beret and some form of decoration on his suit jacket to imply military decoration.
04 Sept. 1998
Guest Speaker: Dr. U Maung Gyi (aka Manbahadur Rai) Served in the CBI Theater with the 3/10th Gurkha Rifles,37th Brigade, 23rd Infantry Division, British IV Corps. & 3/9 Gurka Rifles, 111th Chindit Brigade.
Dr. Gyi addressed the audience on the activities of the Gurkha Rifles and there coordination of operations with Merrill's Marauders in Northern Burma, and of the personal contacts that he had with the Marauders.
As a matter of fact, back in 2005, I was engaged in a forum dispute over at Martialtalk.com (fortunately I saved all the data from the thread because shortly thereafter I was banished). I believe you will need to be a member there to read the original thread. I am unaware if there has been any additional info added recently.
While working on the thread about Gyi I found a GREAT photo of Dr. Gyi standing in full regalia with a chest full of medals at:
Unfortunately I never saved a copy of it to my hard drive and word must have gotten out because it is now nowhere to be found no matter how high a level of "google-fu" I employ. The root article left at SHIMABUKU.com is now scrubbed of ANY direct claims of Gyi's military exploits.
It looks like Dr. Gyi continued to attend these reunions as late as 2001 and 2002.
Eventually, all of these rousing tales of Gurkha combat resulted in some marketing bling. Seminars were keeping the Dr. busy and even Cold Steel made a knife in his honor.
At our closing banquet, with the compliments of Dr.Maung Gyi we will have a short Gurkha martial art performance.Dr. Gyi, originally from Burma, fought as a Gurkha with Merrill’s Marauders, Mars Task Force and with Detachment 101. After WWII, Dr. Gyi brought the art of Bando (an ancient martial art technique honed in Burma as a result of years of conflict with its neighbors) to the United States.
It all starts falling apart:
The Cold Steel Gurkha Kukri was inspired by Cold Steel President, Lynn C. Thompson’s close association with Dr. Maung Gyi, chief instructor of the American Bando Association, and a renowned martial artist with wide-ranging knowledge and skills. Under Dr. Gyi’s tutelage, Lynn gained insight into the full potential of the Kukri and learned it was not just a chopping weapon but a piercing, slashing, and smashing weapon as well. Smashing techniques allow the Kukri to function as a hammer or mallet or to deliver non-lethal blows in a self-defense role. A concentrated blow with the back of the blade can break bones or be lethal if directed at the head.
The age thing.
The very first and easiest refutation to all this derring do is the simple math. In Command Magazine back in 1998 he said he was 16 in 1942..a birth year of 1926. But back in 1972 he told Black Belt Magazine he was 37...birth year of 1935-36 depending on birthday.
There are plenty of free resources on the web that hook up to public records. Im not going to tell you which one I used because they personally scare me and I am not going to post someones address or phone number, anyway...
MAUNG GYI Born Mar 1936
XX XXXXXXXX BLVD
ATHENS, OH (XXX) XXX-XXXX
This is probably from what he has told the DMV his DOB was.Note the birthdate, which is repeated in different sources, and mirrors what he made as his birth year back in 1972. This makes him 10 yo in 1946. After the war was over. SIX YEARS OLD IN 1942! Athens OH. is well known as Dr. Gyi's place of residence, the DOB is right on in terms of past data and how many Maung Gyi's live in Athens OH anyways?
As far as Im concerned that closes the book on his WWII claims and as far as Im concerned should rest the case on all the rest of his Korean, Vietnam, CIA...etc. yarns..but I will continue.
The Gurkha Claims:
Gurkha are people from Nepal and northern India who take their name from the eighth century Hindu warrior-saint Guru Gorakhnath.
The first mistake he made was with the claims (or allowing others to claim) of being a Gurkha...The "10th Burma Gurkha Regiment". Another Gurkha unit Dr. Gyi has associated himself with, even though it has the word BURMA in it..is composed of Nepalese Gurkhas. All non-Gurkhas were wasted out of the regiment in the 1800's. By definition, a non-Nepalese cannot be a "Gurkha" any more than I could be. Dr. Gyi is Burmese.
Even though this is from a modern Brit Mil. resource, true Gurkha's are, have been and always will be "Gurkhas", people recruited, and till recently, discharged in Nepal..not Burma.
•Gurkhas should continue to be selected and recruited in Nepal, and remain Nepalese citizens throughout their service.
•Formed units consisting entirely of Gurkhas except for British officers and a few specialists, should be retained as the Brigade of Gurkhas; and Gurkhas should be recruited only to those units.
•The practice of compulsory discharge in Nepal should be discontinued.
The hammer falls:
The hammer really fell on Dr. Gyi in the early 2000's when the pownetwork got ahold of him. A "Bullshido of the Military World", the POW Network focuses on false claims of having been captured, held in captivity, tortured or having escaped captivity. Dr. Gyi pinged on their radar when at some point he claimed to have worked for the CIA in the 1960's to find American POW's.
They made a thorough gutting of many of his claims, most of which I have not even begun to look into..service with the USMC in Korea at the Chosin and tall tales of Vietnam service. I will refer you to their site for that stuff.
Currently, it appears that Dr. Gyi and his supporters prefer to ignore everything that was said in the past about his military exploits. Most current literature and web information simply say that...
This "memorial organization spin" now appears to be the "no comment"...pay attention to the Martial Art...tactic to address the past claims of the master.
Grand Master Dr. Muang Gyi formed the American Bando Association as a Veterans Memorial Organization, who's mission is also to honor veterans and the spirits of those who have fought and died in WWII. We also honor veterans of Vietnam, Korea, and subsequent actions. The ABA is an all volunteer organization.
However, back in 2005 when I was involved in that thread on Dr. Gyi, I had some communication with a newspaper reporter in Athens Oh. who once spoke to Dr. Gyi when considering a newspaper story about him. This is what he wrote:
So even back in 2005, the good Dr. was alluding to CIA service and WWII combat..even after the POW Network claims that in 2003:
Dear Mr. Gerace -
A few years ago, some local vets started bugging me to look into Dr. Gyi's story. They claimed that Gyi was publicly misrepresenting - usually to people in bando classes he taught - the nature and extent of his military record. I checked with the records people in Missouri and determined that he had never been connected officially to the U.S. military.
When I spoke to Gyi at his home, however, he readily acknowledged that this was the case. Now, I don't know what he says to other people. He did hint to me that he had some sort of connection with the CIA, and I guess he also talks about being with some sort of irregular fighting force in Asia during WWII and other conflicts. (Forgive the vagueness, it's been a while.)
I know that a lot of vets around the country have long made an issue out of Dr. Gyi's supposed fabrications, including the people at POW network, whom I have spoken to. But from this end, I couldn't justify doing a story, given the fact that Gyi told me flat-out that he was never U.S. military. As to any other claims he may be making, whether true, false or in-between, I can't be of much help.
the athens news
So what is currently subscribed too by the "true believers" remains unknown.
April 25, 2003 Federal Investigator's visited Gyi....
At 12:15 he knocked on Gyi's door
Gyi is told anything he says can and will be used against him. Lying to the Federal Investigator is and will be a federal offense.
Gyi is questioned about impersonating a military officer. He distracts by having the investigator watch VIDEO tapes of his "accomplishments" as a martial artist!
Gyi is asked first to provide copies of his diplomas from various colleges, Gyi did show a certificate from OU on his PhD. When asked to produce a diploma from Georgetown, Gyi could not and would not do it, nor would he produce any types of documents from the CIA or any military branch.
Originally Gyi would not acknowledge that he had actually worn the uniform and denied the photo on this web site was him.
Eventually, Gyi did admit he was pretending to be someone in the military and that he gave the investigator his word it wouldn't happen again!
Dr. Gyi was and probably still is a great instructor of the Burmese Martial Arts. Arts with a history of "aliveness" and real "Non-Bullshido" potential. However, as is too often the case, this did not appear to have been enough for him. Perhaps his fathers relationship to the Gurkhas tempted Gyi to tell one tale to many and the chain of dominoes began to build. Or maybe he thought that stories about his personal combat prowess would assist in building the reputation of his fledgling Bando Association. This hopefully leading to a martial arts empire of seminars, knives and books. Whatever the case, I believe that anybody with an interest in Bando should follow that interest as one of learning an effective and "alive" art and not fantasize about learning a "Warriors Art" used by the Gurkhas and taught by a decorated war hero.