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Bokator in fight for recognition

The Cambodian Bokator Federation is pursuing UNESCO Heritage Asset status for the ancient martial art.

The Cambodia Bokator Federation (CBF) is planning a big promotion drive in the Southeast Asian neighbourhood early next year to establish new vistas in a bid to gain SEA Games recognition for the Angkorian-era martial art.

“We are targeting the 2015 or 2017 Games as possible launching pads for Bokator,” CBF president and grand master San Kim Sean told the Post in an exclusive interview yesterday.

“We will start reaching out soon to all the ASEAN countries, virtually taking Cambodia’s proud heritage to their doorsteps, to create region-wide Bokator awareness.”

As a logical first step, the federation is stringing together video presentations of the nuances of Bokator and the rules governing this complex but challenging art of fighting, along with an insight into its 1,000-year-old history.

“More importantly, our mission is to convince the rest of the ASEAN community that Bokator is not just a Cambodian obsession pursued by Cambodians and a handful of foreigners, but an exciting sport that is as good as any other form of martial arts,” San Kim Sean said.

Although the federation is out in front spreading Bokator far and wide, it strongly believes in the idea of fighters seeking mixed martial arts as a profitable alternative.

“We were highly encouraged by our performances at an MMA meet in Malaysia a couple of months ago. A Cambodian team will be taking part in a similar event in Kuala Lumpur early next year,” San Kim Sean said.

Running parallel to the Federation’s promotional initiatives is its mission to acquire UNESCO Heritage Asset status.

“We have a lot of historical evidence to support our claim that Bokator originated in Cambodia,” the grand master, who sports a Gold Kroma, Bokator’s highest distinction, said.

“Now we are in the process of gathering additional information that would strengthen our case. We are delving into the history books, re-visiting historical sites such as Angkor Wat and poring over old Khmer literature to gather as much evidence as possible.

“By the end of this month, the federation is also planning to interview some of the past masters so as to get their take on all facets of Bokator.”

The World Martial Arts Union, of which Cambodia is a member, recently deputed a representative to undertake a more in-depth study of Bokator.

San Kim Sean said the Kingdom was banking on the power of the union, which has an advisory role with UNESCO, to get its due.



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