Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Bokator battles at Angkor

Bokator battles at Angkor

Bokator battles at Angkor

French Bokator fighters (from left to right) Benjamin Sebire, Jordan Gomez, Celestin Mendes, Julien Carrara and Derek Bidaut pose at Olympic Stadium ahead of Saturday’s bouts.

A corral used to house elephants at the foot of Phnom Bakeng in Siem Reap’s Angkor temple complex will be transformed into a martial arts arena on Saturday as a team of French Bokator students face off against Cambodian warriors in a historic throwback to the Angkorian army fights a thousand years ago.

In what has been billed as the first ever Bokator tournament in the Kingdom to involve foreigners, a star-studded card featuring five bouts between visiting French raiders and native combatants will  be
showcased, bringing to life the stone carved depictions of fighters on the walls of the nearby Bayon temple.

“Hosting the fights inside the Angkor archaeological park made sense as the venue is a magical place for a magical sport,” event co-organiser Pierre-Yves Clais told The Post.

The Sofitel Hotel in Phnom Penh had their offer to host the event declined in favour of the more ancestral setting.

As part of Cambodian cultural tradition, Bokator’s preeminent status was twice nearly destroyed. Firstly, at the end of the Angkorian era and again during the murderous Pol Pot regime.

“Thanks to the efforts of people like Grandmaster San Kim Sean, Bokator has been revived and we are happy to help with its rebirth,” added Clais.

According to the organiser, the tournament is the brainchild of Philippe and Mom Sebire, who helped recruit the overseas fighters through their martial arts business in Paris.

“Philippe has helped make people aware of Bokator in France and recruited some of his students for the fight. They approached me to help on the ground organising it,” said Clais.

“Philippe’s son [Benjamin] is one of the fighters. He was trained in Ju-Jitsu but has been training hard in Bokator.”

Grandmaster San Kim Sean, founder and President of the Cambodian Bokator Federation, has played an important role in promoting the sport internationally, including instructing the first foreign student, US martial arts author Antonio Graceffo, to achieve the rank of Black Krama in 2005.

The Cambodian fighters on Saturday have been selected by San Kim Sean from various clubs across the Kingdom.

According to Clais, who operates the Terres Rouges Lodge in Rattanakkiri and the Sala Koh Trong guesthouse in Kratie, the entire event will be filmed by the representatives of the French magazine, Karate Bushido.

“As a sport that is extremely similar to dancing - both my daughters take Bokator and Apsara dancing classes after school - I’m thinking of learning myself next year. For now I’m just happy to be behind the scenes,” said Clais.

The event is slated to start at 3pm on Saturday, with Apsara dancing and demonstrations of Apsara techniques by junior Cambodian fighters before the main bouts.

19-year-old Julien Carrara, a student from Marsilles, is first up and will face off with Cambodia’s Ki Deth, a member of the Angkor Reach Bokator Club in Phnom Penh.

Standing 1.65 metres and weighing 60 kilograms, 29-year-old Deth’s experience will be up against that of the youthful Carrara, who claims to have donned boxing gloves as early as three years old.

Meng Samath, 26, fighting out of Takeo’s Neak Krahom Bokator Club takes on 23-year-old Derek Bidaut from Marseille. Bidaut has been training in the Kingdom for nearly a year having started out with Wushu, in which he attained a black belt.

He tried his hand at Muay Thai boxing up to July, 2009, before becoming addicted to Khun Khmer and Bokator. He has two victories behind him in Khun Khmer and holds a Black Krama in Bokator.

The third fight features Cambodia’s Sim Meng Heang and French firefighter Celestin Mendes. While Meng Heang trains at Kampot’s Kuch Sa Bokator Club, Mendes has been learning Bokator for just a few months.

A former footballer living in the suburbs of Paris, Mendes got into Kun Khmer boxing last year. In his four fights he has a 2-1-1 record.

Say Tevin, meanwhile, is Siem Reap’s pin-up boy having picked up a back-to-back Gold Kramas at the last two annual national championships. The 25-year-old, a member of the Moha Nokor Bokator Club, squares off against 19-year-old Jordan Gomez from Marseilles.

Unbeaten in five Khun Khmer fights after getting into the sport three years ago, Gomez is the current Provence Alpes Cote D’Azur champion.

Bronze Krama holder Chab Loeun is the oldest among the Cambodian contingent. At 31, Loeun is an experienced exponent and the fighter of Kandal’s Vihear Sour Bokator Club will be matching his strength against a much younger opponent in the final bout.

18-year-old Benjamin Sebire from Andrésy near Paris, whose mother is an ethnic Khmer from Surin province in Thailand, is a cook by profession but has been boxing since the age of eight.

He has fought six times in Kun Khmer with a 4-2 win record and is the only foreign Bokator teacher recognised by the Federation. He teaches both Kun Khmer and Bokator at Kajyn, one of the biggest martial arts clubs in Paris.



  • Ministry requests school opening

    The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport on Thursday said it would request a decision from Prime Minister Hun Sen to allow a small number of schools to reopen next month. Ministry spokesman Ros Soveacha said if the request is granted, higher-standard schools will reopen

  • Judge lands in court after crashing into alleged thief

    Sen Sok district police on Thursday sent a Koh Kong Provincial Court judge to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on manslaughter charges after he crashed his car into a woman riding a motorbike on Wednesday, killing her. District police chief Hour Meng Vang told The

  • Gov’t to boost Siem Reap tourism

    The Ministry of Tourism released the results of an inter-ministerial committee meeting concerning Siem Reap province’s Tourism Development Master Plan for 2020-2035 on Wednesday, revealing the government’s plan to improve the overall tourist landscape there. The meeting was attended by Minister of Tourism

  • ‘On the offensive’: Cambodia to load up on loans to stimulate economy

    As the dust settles on the economy, Cambodia comes to grips with what needs to be done to turn the economy around, starting with a big shopping list for credit ‘We are going on the offensive,” Vongsey Vissoth, Ministry of Economy and Finance permanent secretary

  • Government set to make up for cancelled April holiday

    The government is set to make up for a five-day Khmer New Year holiday late this month or early next month. The holiday was earlier cancelled due to the onset of Covid-19. The announcement is expected on Friday as the government is studying a range

  • Families told to register for cash handouts

    The government has called on poor families to apply to commune authorities for evaluation to receive financial support during the Covid-19 crisis. A $300 million budget has been planned for implementation within a year. Ministry of Economy and Finance secretary of state Vongsey Visoth said this

  • Crumbling prices, rent ruffle condo segment

    The prolonged decline in international arrivals to Cambodia intensified by renewed Covid-19 fears has driven down condominium sales prices and rental rates in Phnom Penh, a research report said. CBRE Cambodia, the local affiliate of US commercial real estate services and investment firm CBRE Group

  • Over $3M in traffic fines collected in two months

    Traffic police officers collected over $3 million in fines throughout the Kingdom during the past two months when officers strictly enforced the law in accordance with a May sub-decree, officials said. As incentives, law enforcement officers received between 200,000 and two million riel ($50 to $500) each. The figures

  • More than 10,000 workers suspended

    More than 10,000 workers at 18 factories in Svay Rieng province have been suspended because of Covid-19, said provincial deputy governor Ros Pharith. Home to 11 special economic zones, Pharith said Svay Rieng has not been spared as the pandemic takes a toll on the global economy. “There

  • Nod given for school exams

    The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport announced that State-run higher educational institutions can hold examinations to end the academic year, while private schools can organise grade 9 and grade 12 examinations at their premises for two days. However, private institutions have to take measures to prevent