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Youth of the week: Khun Yok Seang

Like many of our readers, Khun Yok Seang is busy studying and helping support her family from dawn to dusk, and continues to work hours after the sun goes down. But, unlike most of her peers, she spends her weekend kicking butt.

The 16 year-old, who splits her time between classes at the Australia Education Centre (ACE) and Baktouk High School in Phnom Penh during the day, and selling clothes at her family’s stall or O’Russei Market in the evening, lets it rip on the weekends. She has already gained recognition as one of Cambodia’s top young Bokator fighters.

The fighting style, which dates back more than 1,000 years to the Angkorian warriors, has been practised by men throughout Cambodia’s history. But it has only recently caught on among young woman at places like Pannasastra University of Cambodia, where Khun Yok Seang got her start.

Now a member of the Reach Prek Bokator Club, she trains for four hours a week and she recently received a gold and silver medal at the 2010 Cambodian National Bokator Championships.

Before becoming a champ, Khun Yok Seang had already fallen in love with the sport that her brother suggested she learn to protect herself while walking alone. She said she stuck with it for the chance to learn about Cambodia’s culture, protect herself and most importantly be a healthier person.

Khun Yok Seang said she is a fairly good student when it comes to academics, but she is seemingly prodigal when it comes to Bokator; taking only 11 months to train before gaining her title as Cambodia’s top young female fighter.

“The first week of learning Bokator was tough, but after nearly one year of practicing, I am feeling good” she said. “You have to remember everything in the lessons, otherwise you will get lost.”

In Bokator, the top fighters wear a black scarf. While Khun Yok Seang still has years of practise and many more scarves to obtain (there are six in all) before she reaches the pinnacle of the sport, she is optimistic about her future as an athlete. “I will train and train until I reach the Krama Khmau (the black scarf) level as a top Bokator fighter,” she said.

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