What is the Bokator: zoom on the martial art of Cambodia

Qu’est-ce que le Bokator : zoom sur l’art martial du Cambodge

The Bokator is a martial art of Khmer origin practiced in Cambodia. Ancient Angkorian warriors practiced this art of self-defense. It would have been invented in the third century. It belongs to the history and tradition of Cambodia. Discovering this art allows you to enter into the Khmer tradition and into the Cambodian culture.


A martial art rich in history

Crossed by several conflicts over the centuries, Cambodia is now divided into 20 provinces. The official language is Khmer. French is spoken in several sectors. Current Cambodia is the heir to the Khmer Empire, under which the Bokator technique was developed. It has been the scene of several conflicts over the centuries, hence the need to develop combat techniquesfor all situations.

Cambodia has a very long tradition of martial arts. Combat techniques have played an important role in the history of the Khmer Empire. At important sites like Angkor, several bas-reliefs show the important role played by warriors able to confront opponents in any way possible.

Bokator is a very old art. The bas-reliefs attest to its presence from the third century. The word Bokator means fight like a lion. Legend has it that at the beginning of our era, a fearless warrior would have succeeded in defeating a lion with his bare hands. The legendary nature of this story is evident since the lions are absent from this part of Asia. The legend, however, reflects the strong influence of India on this culture.

Origins of Bokator

Originally, the Bokator was intended to teach how to win a fight on the battlefield. In Angkor's days, fighters learned to strike with all parts of the body. The warriors also used weapons like spears and bamboo sticks. Some warriors even used the krama, a Cambodian scarf.

The Indian influence is all the more evident in the art of Bokator as the fighters begin their practice by paying homage to Brahma. The practice of Bokator has long been suppressed by the invaders. It was also banned during the Vietnamese occupation. There are still representations of the Bokator in the temples of Angkor.

When Vietnamese troops invaded Cambodia, a master in Bokator, San Kim Sean, went into exile in the United States. There he taught his art, which gained popularity. This is why he is considered to be the father of modern Bokator. He returned to his country in 1992, where he continued to teach his art, which became famous all over the planet. He transformed Bokator into a competitive sport from when it was originally intended for warriors on the battlefield.

The Bokator is now part of the sporting world in Cambodia. Modern fighters focus more on the mind than on the body. This art is now based on meditation, available in three levels: the physical level, the mental level and the energy level. The conflicts that led many Cambodians into exile meant that Bokator was gradually taught in several countries.

The State of Cambodia is currently taking steps to have Bokator recognized as an art form part of the heritage of mankind.

The fights

Even today, athletes who practice Bokator wear the traditional costume worn by warriors of the Khmer army. They tie silk cords around their biceps. It seems that these cords were originally meant to bring good luck to fighters. To avoid injuries, today's fighters sometimes don boxing gloves. It exists more than 341 moves possible during fights, deemed difficult and dangerous.

As a sign of belonging to the Khmer tradition, fighters sometimes wear the krama, the traditional Cambodian scarf, around the forehead. Another is wrapped around the waist. It is often the color of the national flag. The krama is an important emblem in the Cambodian tradition. It is worn as much by men and women as by children.

When wrapped around the waist, the krama reveals the fighter's level. There are seven colors which correspond to the seven degrees of mastery of Bokator. The belt also reveals the animal that matches the athlete's style. The White represents the duck, the horse, the bird and the dragon. The green matches the style of the monkey, elephant, apsara, lion and crocodile.

The black belt represents a higher level. To be eligible, you have to master 1,000 Bokator techniques. There are nearly 10,000 techniques in this martial art. The yellow belt represents the ultimate level. To be eligible to wear it, the fighter must first wear the black belt for 10 years and continue to perfect his style. Wearing the yellow belt means that you have mastered all the techniques and that you are completely dedicated to your art.

Animals as role models

The Bokator is unique in that its technique is movement-based animals like the lion, the bird and the horse. This very ancient art involves the use of weapons as well as hand-to-hand combat. There are 341 sets of movements in the Bokator. This martial art is often confused with another combat art, the Kun Khmer, but this is a misleading perception.

Indeed, the Bokator was originally intended for warriors and it retains traces of this origin. This art is also rougher than Kun Khmer. It also involves knowing many more movements and techniques.

The Bokator technique

bokator martial art

All parts of the body are involved in the practice of Bokator. The elbows are often used, but also the feet and fists from any position. There are several elbow techniques in this martial art. A fighter who masters the elbows can use them as well as fists. It is possible to practice the jab, uppercut and hook only with the elbow, which is a formidable weapon.

It is very advantageous to use the elbow during fights since it allows you to hit the opponent harderand even put him out of action. The fact that the elbows are sharp means that they can injure the other fighter. Today, it is often compulsory to wear boxing gloves on your fists, but nothing hinders the action of the elbows, which is therefore a definite advantage during the match.

Use of elbows

The elbows can also come from all directions when the movements are well controlled. They can move up or down and can be activated when the athlete is leaping. Over time, it is possible for the fighter to wield the elbow smoothly and quickly. He should stand straight in a fighting stance with his elbow bent at roughly 70 degrees.

In principle, the triceps should face the ground and the hand should be raised. The forearms should be placed using the motion of the bow of a ship as it cuts through air. The hand must be placed above the target that the fighter wishes to reach. The object of the movement is to have the elbow strike the opponent's face, with the hand above their head. When striking, the fighter must twist his hip for the blow to strike.

The position of the hand is also very important for the fighter who unleashes this blow. He must remember that the hand should not be aimed at himself, but rather pointed at his target. In fact, it must be placed above the point to be reached.

One of the basic techniques that the fighter must master is the elbow hook. This must rotate and hit the opponent in an area where he is vulnerable. Touching certain areas automatically wins the fight. You have to turn the hip by performing the elbow hook. The forearm should be stable. He must neither descend nor ascend. It should remain at shoulder height.

The right forearm must therefore remain in phase with the movement for the blow to be effective. A poorly executed move can injure the one leading the attack. The fighter keeps his body relaxed and in harmony with his movements. The body remains relaxed until the blow is done. It is then possible to tighten the muscles.

All the blows of the confrontation are given very closelywhether with elbows or fists. The power of the blow is a function of the speed. A close shot avoids the resistance of the air. Breathing is also important. The athlete inhales before hitting and when he strikes he exhales and releases his breath outward. If the fighter holds his breath when striking, he loses power and can even damage his lungs.


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