World-renowned martial art Brazilain jiu-jitsu caused a stir in downtown Phnom Penh a couple of years ago when French-born Cambodian Vivaddhana Khao began to passionately promote his H/Art Academy.
Inspired by his training and competition experiences in Japan’s Axis Jiu Jitsu, Khao’s mission went far beyond just training young men and women in the self-defence oriented style of fighting – he wished for recognition from the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia so that the Kingdom could enter the competitive stage.
After nearly two years of hard lobbying and promoting, the now 29-year-old Khao achieved that goal – and at 10am on Friday he will line up in the men’s -69kg class at the JCC Convention Center in Jakarta as the first Cambodian BJJ competitor, in a discipline that had never previously been part of the Asian Games protocol for all these years.
Born in Paris, Khaou’s father is Cambodian and his mother French, and an urge to try “something challenging” after his studies in Phnom Penh drove him to this hugely popular style of martial arts, and he has in turn driven it as an attractive choice for Cambodia at the Games.
The Kingdom is fortunate enough to find a female co-competitor with Khaou who also has an impressive track record.
This year’s double gold Pan Am champ Jessa Khan, who also has Cambodian lineage, trains out of Art of Jiu-Jitsu Academy in California.
She has a slew of grand performances in Organge county, San Diego, World Championship and LA Super Championship and can make her class count in the women’s -49 kg class.
According to team leader Jayson Panathong, there are high expectations of the 23-year-old Khan and Khaou doing the country proud, and Dutch coach Paas Casper is also guardedly optimistic that the two stand a good chance of a podium finish.
Panathong said: “If Jessa fights to her full potential and uses her skills and strength the way she has done in so many high-profile events, she should be among medals.”