FRESH from celebrating its success at the National Bokator Championships in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap NGO The Green Gecko Project is hoping that other schools and organisations in the province will join together to promote bokator among school children.
Green Gecko attempts to provide a safe haven for Siem Reap street kids, and three of its kids – Chieng Eng, Sophy and Nott – won silver medals in the short-sticks dance competition held at the beginning of August.
Together with the more than 70 children in residence at Green Gecko, they’ve been studying bokator for only one year. But this is not the first success that the organisation has seen at national level.
Green Gecko took a medal in the single performance display at the championships last year, after only two months of training.
The men responsible for this success are Say Teven and Pich Pouv. Say Teven was the national champion at the 2009 bokator championships and he and Pich Pouv have been working with the Green Gecko kids every week.
Bokator is the traditional Cambodian martial art and can be traced back to the Angkorian period. Clem Velasco, the development coordinator at The Green Gecko, recognises the importance it has for the children’s comportment.
“The training has had an effect on their behaviour and their health,” she says. “They look healthy and strong and they’re learning discipline, self-respect and emotion management skills.”
As the children drill in the background, tumbling to learn how to fall without hurting themselves, Pich Pouv affirms the idea that the discipline of bokator is about so much more than learning how to fight.
“It goes deeper than that. It’s about how you discipline yourself, how you carry yourself. It’s about your values”, he says.
He also feels bokator is important for re-connecting with Cambodia’s culture.
“We own this,” he stresses.
The children have given public performances of their new skills at events including International Women’s Day and the ploughing ceremony at Angkor Wat, and at venues such as the Peace Café and the Hotel de la Paix.