Cambodian national kickboxing champion Say Tevine and his trainer Phearom Hok are teaching lucky Western disciples roundhouse kicks and kidney punches at Siem Reap Hostel every Thursday night.
The classes, which introduce the traditional Khmer art of bokator, start at 7:30pm, cost $5 and have been running for three weeks.
At the classes, the fighters instruct flabby barang on the correct way to punch downward from the head and how to grab a kick, twist the opponent into an awkward position and deliver a bone-breaking blow to the leg.
Muscular Say Tevine, 22, has Khmer tattoos across his chest and a sparkly, faux-diamond stud on an incisor tooth. He’s still buzzing from winning the gold medal in the 65kg weight class at the Bokator National Championships, held at Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh in September. He didn’t win a lot of money, but he did gain a lot of pride and a nice medal. “I was incredibly happy to win,” he says.
Say Tevine and Phearom Hok were asked by Grand Master San Kim Sean, the boss of the Cambodia Bokator Federation in Phnom Penh, to move to Siem Reap and start a bokator club 10 months ago.
They established the Mohanokor Club in a dirt road neighbourhood near Psar Leu market on National Road 6, where they hold nightly classes for Siem Reap boys and men.
Phearom Hok says Mohanokor is the only bokator club in Siem Reap, and adds, “Most of our students are workers and tour guides. I love my culture and I want to keep it alive. I want the next generation to learn about the culture, so I love teaching. If you go to Bayon or Angkor Wat temples, the carvings on the wall show the history of bokator. It makes me proud."