Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Thursday, September 03, 2020

The Revival of the Ancestor of Muay Thai

The South China Morning Post had an article about the revival of the ancestor martial art of the martial sport of Muay Thai, Bokator. An excerpt is below. The full article may be read here.

Grandmaster San Kim Sean closes his soft brown eyes and pauses. He takes a sharp breath and forces a smile before recalling how he survived the hell that Cambodia was plunged into during the Pol Pot-led Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979. During that time, almost a quarter of the country’s population perished.

“You don’t say you do martial arts, you don’t say you went to school, you don’t say you wear glasses. 

You’ll get killed within one minute,” he says. “You have to keep quiet, do what they want, follow their rules and just say yes. Never say no. They will kill you. It was a very terrible time.”

The grandmaster sits on a stool in the centre of his bokator academy in Siem Reap, a basic set-up with a tin roof, whirling ceiling fans, training mats, some battered wooden benches and a stash of ageing wooden weapons propped up in a corner. He becomes animated as he talks about his lifelong passion for the traditional Cambodian martial art, whose name translates as “pounding of the lion”.

“Bokator belongs to our great-great-grandfathers, masters and kings,” says the 73-year-old, who started learning the martial art at the age of 13.

Steeped in history, bokator is believed to have been developed about 2,000 years ago. 

Evidence of its widespread use can be found in etchings on the walls and other religious monuments of Cambodia’s 12th-century Angkor Wat temple complex.

“Angkor Wat was created to protect the country and the Khmer empire,” San Kim Sean says. “They built up a strong army that used bokator.”

He says that while regional sports such as Muay Thai (Thai boxing) are famous throughout the world, their origins come from bokator. This is because the Khmer empire covered vast swathes of Southeast Asia, including large parts of Thailand, during its peak in the 12th and 13th centuries.

“Bokator is the original,” he says with pride.

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