Three practitioners of Cambodia’s traditional martial art bokator left the country Sunday to compete for the first time in the Southeast Asian Games.
The team—Lay Rayong, 35, 72 kg, Yeuth Meth, 34, 65 kg, and Phann Piseth, 20, 65 kg—flew to Manila on Sunday, said San Kim Sean, a master of the little-known art bokator, which is believed to date back to Angkor times and includes both unarmed and armed techniques.
“We will struggle to bring back a medal for the nation,” said Lay Rayong, while preparing a small suitcase for the trip. He wore a Brahman amulet on his shoulder, which he said improves his performance.
San Kim Sean said he was proud that the team has been invited to compete, but he added that it is unfortunate that they had little time to prepare. The organizers have given the bokator team little information about the competition and its rules, or even which country the team is going to compete against, San Kim Sean said.
The athletes were only able to train for 10 days—about 20 hours total—after receiving the invitation from the Cambodian Olympic Committee, he added.
However, Lay Rayong said he and his teammates are still excited to display the Cambodian national flag to the world at the competition.
“I have dream since I was young, I wanted to show our original martial arts,” Lay Rayong said.
San Kim Sean said that he is confident that the team will compete well, although he is concerned that the athletes might become sick on the plane, have difficulties with a different climate or “shake when they see millions of people in the stadium for the first time.”
In addition, the team does not have proper funding, he said, adding that he spent $10 of his own money to buy equipment for the competition.
Upon receiving the invitation, he said, he and his wife went to a Phnom Penh market to purchase fish basket covers to fashion into protective gear for the competitors.