Cambodian Television Network (CTN) announced yesterday, that it will host on Monday its first tournament of the traditional martial art of bokator, considered by some to be the father of modern-day kickboxing.
CTN sports director Ma Serey said that a growing interest in the fight form had prompted the channel’s producers to provide a stage for its most highly publicized event to date, a tournament of eight bouts consisting of three, three-minute rounds.
“We’ve heard of bokator before, but we’ve never seen it,” he said during a news conference yesterday at the station’s studio in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district. “We want to support that Cambodian institution and give the opportunity to show the people what bokator exactly is.”
Utilizing more than 2,000 techniques, bokator is considered by its followers to be the most complete martial art, using every imaginable part of the body to dispatch opponents. During the Angkorian era, bokator was a form of lethal combat, with fighters using a host of deadly weapons.
However, since bokator was banned during the Khmer Rouge era, it became almost extinct, and Khmer kickboxing (kun Khmer) found its way to the forefront as one of the country’s most popular sports.
Today, skeptics believe that because bokator uses too much cultural dance and not enough fighting, it will not be able to gain the same popularity of its counterpart.
But bokator’s grandmaster San Kimsean said during yesterday’s news conference that the dance moves are part of the martial art’s legacy, and that they do not adversely affect the quality of the fighting.
He said that while the fight form was once extremely vicious and unregulated, rules had since been drafted for the sport and more discipline had come into the game.
“Before, fighters would box into a coffin, so we regulated the rules. We are turning dangerous sports of the ancient time into a national sport for the next generation,” said Mr. Kimsean, who was wearing a suit and tie instead of his traditional tribal armband and golden trunks.
Although bokator gained some popularity during its first-ever televised tournament inside the Angkor Archeological Park in July, there is still a long way to go before the sport is considered as being completely legitimate, said Mr. Serey of CTN.
“If you want people to believe and support you, fight hard, because you are bokator,” he said. “Be strong on that day, because we will not promote just a simple demonstration.”