#A to Z Challenge: Bokator battle

AtoZ April2015Challenge

A bit of action for today’s post.

B is for Bokator, Cambodia’s ancient and mysterious martial art that includes weapon techniques. It is believed to be created more than 2,000 years ago making it, according to some, possibly the oldest existing fighting system in Cambodia and may be the predecessor of Southeast Asian kickboxing styles. Many Khmers also believe that the bas-reliefs carved on the walls of Angkor Wat temple prove that the origin of Khmer Boxing predates Muay Thai.

Bokator, Cambodia's martial art. Photo published with permission from my brother, JEDA.
Bokator, Cambodia’s martial art. Photo published with permission from my brother, JEDA.
Bokator, Cambodia's martial art. Photo published with permission from my brother, JEDA.
Bokator, Cambodia’s martial art. Photo published with permission from my brother, JEDA.

Bokator, or more formally Labokkatao, translates as “pounding a lion”: “bok“, to pound and “tor“, a lion.

This martial art has techniques that mimics animal movements while incorporating diverse kicks, knee-kicks, punches, elbow smashes, ground fighting, and many others, into its attacking postures. When fighting, the Bokator practitioners still wear symbols of the uniform of the ancient Khmer army. A krama (scarf) is tied around their waste and magic sangvar (silk cords) are tied around their heads and biceps for increased power and stamina. Ropes are also tied around their hands and wrists. The kramas also show the fighter’s level of expertise, very much like the belts used in most martial arts. White, green, blue, red, brown (lower levels) to black. The highest is the gold krama which is awarded to a grand master.

Bokator, Cambodia's martial art. Photo published with permission from my brother, JEDA.
Bokator, Cambodia’s martial art. Photo published with permission from my brother, JEDA.

However, during the dark days of the Khmer Rouge regime under Pol Pot, Bokator was almost lost as practitioners were sort out and exterminated along with other educated Cambodians, as they were perceived to be a threat to the society. However, Bokator is enjoying a revival these days.  San Kim Sean, the grandmaster of Bokator, survived the genocide and fled to the US where he settled for many years. But because he love his country so much and he had a burning passion to revive the Bokator, he returned to Cambodia in 2001.

Bokator, Cambodia's martial art. Photo published with permission from my brother, JEDA.
Bokator, Cambodia’s martial art. Photo published with permission from my brother, JEDA.
Bokator, Cambodia’s martial art. Photo published with permission from my brother, JEDA.

There was a renewed interest in reviving Cambodian culture after years of a repressive regime and San Kim Sean found followers of Bokator, young and not so young as well. Even foreigners sought him to learn this ancient martial art. It has gained a lot of popularity since then and there are a lot of Bokator Clubs all over the country. These days, too, there are national and international Bokator tournaments held in the country and they are televised on national TV. It is a beautiful and exciting martial art, albeit it looks brutal to most, as any other martial arts there is. I have never seen a tournament yet so I’m keeping my fingers crossed to see a live match soon, and not on TV.

2 thoughts on “#A to Z Challenge: Bokator battle

  1. They sure look fierce. Interesting bit of history that the practitioners were singled out for execution during the war. I could see how these martial artists could be conceived as a threat, though.

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