The first-ever organized competition of the indigenous Khmer martial art Bokator entered its second day Wednesday at Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium.
More than 300 “Yuthkhun,” or combatants in the bokator style, participated, displaying hand-to-hand combat techniques, and sword and stick fighting.
A different kind of action starts today, when contestants of all ages begin competing in bouts that will culminate with the crowning of a national bokator champion Friday.
Cham Bun Thoeun, who trains about 100 students in bokator at his Khemarak Klah Hauh Club in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district, described the fighting system as a proud Khmer tradition.
“Angkor was protected by this Khmer martial art,” he said. He added that Khmer kings chose the best fighters as their army commanders.
“Our Yuthkhun Khmer have been used in wars to fight the enemy. It is no kind of sport,” he added.
Chan Bun Chip, an 11-year-old girl who trains at Khemarak Klah Hauh, said she trained in the art to stay healthy.
However, Khon Ratana, an 8-year-old boy who also trains at the same club, said he started training a year ago because he liked the fighting. “I want to protect myself from the enemy,” he said.
Event organizer Hok Chheang Kim said contestants had come from provinces as far apart as Siem Reap, Kampot, Oddar Meanchey, Pursat and Kandal.
Bokator practitioner Sen Sorn, 75, originally from Kompong Chhnang province, said he had observed that today’s fighters use a different technique than his generation did.
“When I watch our young children, it looks like Chinese martial arts,” he said, adding that he learned Bokator without the aid of books.
“With the Khmer technique, one can kill very fast,” he said.