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New book traces bokator’s historic roots

Bokator grandmaster San Kim Sean holds up illustrations from a new book on the martial art.
Bokator grandmaster San Kim Sean holds up illustrations from a new book on the martial art. Sreng Meng Srun

New book traces bokator’s historic roots

As Cambodia awaits Unesco’s verdict on Angkor-era bokator getting its due as a World Heritage tangible asset of humanity, a new book on the martial art was released three days ago to enhance its historic, cultural and social impact on the Kingdom’s way of life.

Penned by 70-year-old grandmaster San Kim Sean, who after the brutal Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s revived bokator to its present status as a national treasure, the book offers spectacular insight into how and why this particular fighting style has been such an integral part of Cambodian life for well over 1,000 years.

According to the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia (NOCC), the book serves the dual purpose of documenting bokator’s history over the centuries and makes a strong case as to why it should be promoted among the next generations and preserved as a tangible asset of humanity.

“It has taken me more than 10 years to complete this work. Artefacts in the Angkor Wat temple complex depict hundreds of techniques of which I have chosen a bunch of traditional ones to highlight while tracing the roots of bokator as deeply as possible,” Kim Sean told The Post from Siem Reap, where he heads the Kingdom’s first bokator academy.

A collage of bokator depictions at Angkor Wat adorns the cover of this 200-odd page book filled with illustrations and photographs.

The Korea Heritage Foundation and the NOCC jointly financed the printing of the book, which has been priced at around $10 per copy.

The release of the book took place during an extraordinary congress of the Cambodian Bokator Federation (CBF) convened at NOCC headquarters as incumbent President Vath Chamroeun relinquished office due to personal reasons.

The congress installed Nem Sowath, president of the Cambodia Martial Art Council as the honorary president of the CBF, with Chan Sarun taking over the presidency in place of Vath Chamroeun, who will now serve the federation as its first vice president.

The other vice presidents named were Kim Sean, Hok Chheang Kim and Heng Meng Ho. Ou Dara assumed charge as secretary-general, with Penh Song Chhun as his deputy.

Delegates to the congress also reviewed a video presentation of material presented to the Unesco by the Cambodian government to support its plea for declaring bokator a world heritage asset of humanity. According to NOCC sources, a decision is likely by September of next year.

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