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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Bokator gaining in popularity to invoke some national pride

Bokator gaining in popularity to invoke some national pride


Cambodia's ancient martial art of Bokator attracted its largest field to date over the weekend for the 3rd Annual National Championships at Olympic Stadium

PARTICIPATION in the Annual Bokator National Championships increased significantly this year, and will continue to do so, according to Hok Chheankim, general secretary of the Cambodia Bokator Federation. Now in its third edition, the competition attracted 36 additional fighters from last year's numbers, with four new clubs also submitting entries. Competitors this year also featured 32 females competing in the noncombative kata discipline.

Hok Chheankim also estimated that the number of competitors would double for next year's event, noting that many this year were already trained in the Bokator fighting style, but did not enter. Bokator has received official approval as a traditional Cambodian sport from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, with the federation sending coaches to the provinces to help train students.

The federation is adamant not to let the ancient martial art, which is depicted in bas-relief stone carvings on Angkorian temple walls, to die out after barely surviving the Khmer Rouge regime, which completely outlawed its practice. "The Federation would like [many] Cambodian people to participate in the traditional sport [of Bokator]," Hok Chheankim said, adding that it promotes a good, healthy lifestyle.

"We want to show Cambodian culture to the world," added the Secretary.

"I think we Cambodians should learn the traditional fighting art [of Bokator]," agreed 20-year-old Yum Mono. "We have to know Cambodian culture.... We should not forget it." Yum Mono was one of the competitors hailing from PSE organisation, a French nonprofit providing general education and training in a variety of skills to impoverished children from Phnom Penh's suburbs.

Bokator received international recognition in 2008 from the World Martial Arts Union, an organisation related to UNESCO. Hok Chheankim revealed that there are currently people from 10 different countries studying Bokator in Cambodia. "A lot of foreigners especially Americans, and French come to study Bokator in our country," he said. "They know it through our Web site" www.khmerboxkatorempire.com.

The four-day National Championships concluded with individual combat finals Monday at a packed Olympic Stadium. Twenty-one-year-old Say Tevine of Siem Reap's Mohanokor Club triumphed in the 65-kilogram division, beating An Sina in the final.

Say Tevine was clearly delighted to attain first place, and expressing his desire to see the sport continue to gain popularity. "I think we have to protect one of our cultures, Bokator, because it is what our ancestors left for us," he said. "Bokator is a powerful martial art."

Meanwhile, Kampong Speu Club's Seng Sokchan took gold at 60kg, Savin Vichet won the 56kg final for Angkor Reach Club, and Chut Chunly claimed first for Tmor Keo Club in the 52kg division. Eleven other champions were decided on previous days in the Kata artistic discipline, which features fighters showing off Bokator movements and styles including the use of weapons such as swords and knives.

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