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Khmer Bokator Vs. Muay Thai Boran

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by Antonio Graceffo

Readers have written in from all over the world asking what is the difference between these two, ancient southeast Asian arts.

What is Bokator:

Bokator is the ancient Cambodian martial art, which was nearly whipped out duringt the Khmer Rouge genocide. Through the sacrifices of Grand Master San Kim Saen, the art was reborn. After surviving the horrors of the Khmer Rouge regime, he returned to Cambodia in the late 1990s. Scouring the country, he found less than ten Bokator masters who had survived. He later opened his school in Phnom Penh, where he teaches Bokator to about three hundred students. Several have been promoted to black karma (belt). Derek Morris and I are the only foreigners to have earned a black karma. Mine is in fighting only, Derek’s belt and certificate make him an instructor. The Grand Master hopes that a foreigner will open a Bokator school outside of Cambodia, so that the art will spread and survive. Unfortunately, I don’t accept students. After training in Muay Thai Sangha, with Kru Pedor Villalobos, Derek went to China to learn San Da (Chinese Kickboxing).

What is Muay Thai Boran:

Boran means ancient. It is actually a Khmer word which was absorbed into the Thai language. Long ago, Thailand raided Cambodia, capturing masters of various arts, from religion, to dance, to martial arts. Khmer words and culture were adopted into Thai culture. Today, in Thai language, all words associated with religion, royalty, martial arts, science, and government come from Khmer. The Khmer claim that they invented kickboxing. The original Khmer kickboxing art is called Bradal Serey (Pradal Serey) and Khmers claim that it was stolen by Thailand and later dubbed Muay Thai.

The masters I interviewed in Lao agreed with this theory. Some masters in Thailand agreed. Others essentially said that all of the countries of southeast Asia had a system of martial arts and they probably borrowed and stole form each other, developing along very similar lines. Today, Muay Lao, Muay Thai, Bradal Serey, and Burmese boxing (Lethwei or Lethawae) are quite similar. The cultures of these countries are also quite similar, with the people following Theravada Buddhism, which originated in India and then Sri Lanka and Cambodia. Ancient Khmer is the written language of the ancient scriptures of all of these countries.

Neighboring Vietnam is always the odd-man-out. The culture is Chinese. The written language was Chinese, until the French forced them to use the Latin alphabet. And the predominant ancient martial art, Tieu Lam, is a form of Chinese Kung Fu. There are rumors that Vietnam once had a kickboxing art similar to Cambodia. Today, this art seems to have disappeared, but even in Tieu Lam, we see some elements taken from kick boxing, such as shin kicks and elbow strikes.

The point here is that the fighting arts of all of the Indochina countries are quite similar, and clearly come from the same origin. In Thailand, however, martial art developed into a massive professional sport. Kickboxing is also the national sport of Cambodia, but there are less than 400 registered boxers. In Thailand there are close to 100,000.

Muay Thai Boran is a word which is often given to the original, military fighting art, which was later watered down into a sport art, used in a kickboxing ring.

What is the difference between Bokator and Muay Thai Boran?

Muay Thai Boran ad Bokator clearly share a lot of similarities, but one primary difference is that Bokator is a system. Muay Thai Boran is not. You study Muay Thai, and if your teacher knows Boran, he teaches you some movements in isolation. For example, he advocates kicking with the bottom or side of your foot, instead of just shin kicks. Or, he teaches you spinning back kicks or heal kicks, instead of just roundhouse.

Muay Thai Boran and Krabi Krabong get lumped together. Karbi Krabong is the weapons training:just staff and doubles swords. If you see Thai practitioners using double sticks, the sticks represent swords. There is, to my knowledge, no Thai double stick art like Arnis in the Philippines.

Bokator, on the other hand, is a complete system, like a traditional martial arts. There are belts, and you learn movements, forms, and techniques in order. The weapons include the double stick, double swords, long staff and scarf.

While Muay Thai Boran includes a bit more grappling than sport Muay Thai, it is still stand up grappling from the head. And you are wearing gloves.

Bokator includes Khmer traditional wrestling (jap bap boran khmer), kick boxing (bradal serey or pradal serey), and weapons. In true Bokator fights, you don’t wear gloves and you can fight on the ground, with bouts ending in submissions or chokes.

The ground fighting is not nearly as effective as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or western wrestling, but it is arguably the only ground fighting art in southeast Asia. I have trained in nearly every country in southeast Asia (except Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunai) and there doesn’t seem to be any ground fighting at all.

At this point, a reader asked me how ground fighting changes the landscape of fighting, both in Muay Thai Boran vs. Bokator and in MMA.

This is my take on the dominance of ground fighting. A good street fighter, a tough biker dude like Tank Abbot or Sony Barger, could probably hold his own against most strikers. If you see the youtube clips of the bare knuckles pro fighter named Kimbo (I think that is his name). He is a huge, strong, African American guy who makes his living knocking guys out in parking lots. He probably never had any training. And if he went in UFC and got matched with a striker, he could hold his own and might win on a KO because in professional street fighting the goal is to keep the fight short and get a KO.

I’ve done only one of these fights. Coming into it, the mistake I made was in trying to box and move, and win in a later round. I got hit once in the eye, it opened me up, and I realized there is no later. You have to win NOW. I did win. And the fight probably only lasted about twenty-five seconds, but it was too long.

So, the answer is a tough street fighter, big and strong, used to going for the knock out would be hard to beat in a ring. The best strategy would be to drag the fight on as long as possible to make him tired. But he would be landing bombs on you the whole time, and that wouldn’t be a very pleasant experience.

With grappling, the rules change. An untrained grappler stands zero chance against a trained grappler. It’s that simple. I pound a bag every day in the gym, but I know if I come against the right street fighter, he could knock me out. But a guy who trains grappling every day would instantly take down an untrained grappler or a street fighter and that would be the end of the fight.

The smartest strikers, like Mirco, have learned to escape. He was smart enough to just ignore the grappling and hope to win on a kick KO. And he was smart enough not to try and win on submissions. He learned to avoid the take down and to escape back to his feet. But he had to learn that. You have to train specifically to avoid the grappler. If you look at early UFCs the grappler nearly always won because they always got the take down and then once on the ground, there was no escape for the striker.

So, comparing Muay Thai Boran with Bokator, because Bokator has the ground fighting, it is the better fighting art. The issue in Thailand vs. Cambodia right this minute, however, would be that the Bokator school has only been reopened for about five years. So, the guys don’t have a lot of fighting experience. When I prepared for my black belt I went out to the village and learned Khmer wrestling with the farmers. I was the first one to do this. The team isn’t ready yet to fight all comers.

In Thailand there is a lot of interest in MMA now. When I am training there, they all tell me how they would just wait for the shoot and then take the grappler out with a knee to the face. This is ludicrous because their entire game plan rests on a single technique. Yes, if you shoot and run head first into a knee thrown by a pro Muay Thai fighter you will get knocked out. But what if the Muay Thai guy misses? Or what if the grappler deflects the knee with his hand? Or what if he just absorbs the knee? Or, what if he shoots and executes the throw from the waist or the hip?

We have played around with this scenario in the gym quite a bit in Bangkok. And anyone who has seen my youtube knows I am no grappler. My shoot looks like an old man bending over to pickup his change. Even with that, I am able to take them down. And of course, once I get on top, I am so much bigger, that is the end of the fight.

The throw I usually use to take down a Muay Thai fighter is actually a technique from Muay Thai Boran. You shoot in with your forearm in front of your face. Instead of hitting the hips or thighs, you hit the opponent’s shin with the forearm and then scoop his heal with the other hand.

To sum up: Bokator is a complete art which, if learned would be a better fighting art than Muay Thai Boran. But at the moment, there are no battle-hardened Bokator guys to fight. And in grappling vs. striking. I believe an untrained striker may stand a chance against a trained striker. But an untrained grappler stands no chance against a real grappler. Grappling would be one of the biggest determinant in who would win between a Bokator guy and a Muay Thai Boran guy. Since Bokator has ground-fighting and Muay Thai Boran doesn’t, Bokator would win.

Antonio Graceffo holds a black karma in Bokator. He lives in Thailand and has practiced Muay Thai for a number of years. He trained in Cambodia for several years in boxing, Bradal Serey, and Bokator. In Philippines he has studied Kuntaw and Yaw Yan. IN Lao he studied Muay Lao. He has also trained at the Shaolin Temple, in China, and in schools and gyms in Vietnam and Korea. He is a frequent contributor for both Black Belt and Kung Fu magazines. His book, The Monk from Brooklyn, available on amazon.com tells about his experiences at the Shaolin Temple.

He is a qualified Emergency Medical Technician, as well as an adventure and martial arts author living in Asia. He is the Host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” Currently he is working inside of Shan State, documenting human rights abuses, doing a film and print project to raise awareness of the Shan people. To see all of his videos about martial arts, Burma and other countries: http://youtube.com/results?search_query=antonio+graceffo&search=Search

Antonio is the author of four books available on amazon.com Contact him Antonio@speakingadventure.com

Source: FightingTimes

















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60 thoughts on “Khmer Bokator Vs. Muay Thai Boran

  1. សូមអរគុណសំរាប់ការបង្ហាញ​នេះជាទ្រព្យសម្បត្តិមួយដែលដូនតាខ្មែរ​បានបន្សល់ទុកសំរាប់កូនចៅជំនាន់ក្រោយ​ៗ ។
    មានមិត្តភក្តិមួយចំនួនបានសួរគ្នាទៅវិញទៅមកថា តើពួកគេអាចទៅចូលរួមហាត់ក្បាច់ល្បុកតោ​នេះនៅ​ឯណា ?​
    តើការហាតល្បុកតោត្រូវតែចូលរួមប្រដាល់នៅលើសង្វៀនប្រដាល់?​
    សូមជួយដាក់អសយដ្ឋានទំនាក់ទំនង​ផង
    សូមអរគុណ
    សូមអ្នកទាំងអស់គ្នា​ ហ៊ាននិយាយទាំងក្នុង​ និងក្រៅប្រទេស​ថា
    ខ្មែគឺរូបខ្ញុំ

    • VERRY GOOD BOXKATOR WAS BORN IN CAMBODIA I AM SOPHEAP .I WAS STUDENT BOXKATOR BUT I AM BESY STUDY.I LOVE BOXKING KHMER I SHOULD TALK MY FRAND PUT GET UP BOXKING KHMER ALL .OK WE ARE CAN ITIM ON TV SHOW.

  2. Dear Sochet,

    It is good to hear from you. If you are interested in Khmer Bokator, please contact a friend of mine Mr. Sam Sokharith via 012 789 170. He would be more than happy to guide you to the Khmer Guru.

    Cheers,

    Chanroeun

  3. I would like to know about bokator martial arts style.
    Where can i find the source?

  4. Hi,

    If you want to learn more about Khmer Bokator, please contact Mr. Sam Sokharith via sokharith@gmail.com or his mobile +855-12 789 170.

    Cheers,

    Chanroeun

  5. This is interesting but you should get your facts more straight on Muay Boran some of this is true but not all.Muay Boran does have grappling and locking moves called Chap Ko.Yes they are very similair. I think you should actually get more of a unbiased look at both because in my opinion Muay Boran would win due to the stronger and more deadly attacks.

  6. this first part is directed at Adon: Chap Ko (jap ko) is just the Thai word for “grab neck.” i hate when wetserners, who dont actually speak the languages of southeast asia try to use the language.

    As for the two arts, I have trained with Tony jaas original trainer in Surin, and Prah Kruh Ba in mae Hong Son, both which are Boran ftrainers, I have also trained in Kawila in Chiang Mai and Chakrit in Bangkok, i also lived and trained in cambodia for two years. I speak from experience. Muay Thai boran has NO GROUND fighting at all. Bokator does. and that is the primary difference. in a no hold barred fight, sovanara, wen, or some of the top bokator fighters would beat nearly any professional muay thai fighter from thailand because of the ground fighting advantage.

    • You know nothing!!!…do your duck move, and don’t forget to pray for self protections not to hurt you too hard… lol

  7. Hi,

    It’s like the story with wu shu and karate. The martial art of chinese is taken by japanese like karate, aiki jitsu.

  8. I have trained in nearly every country in southeast Asia (except Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunai) and there doesn’t seem to be any ground fighting at all.

    Hello,
    I’m from Malaysia and I need to clarify some points on South East Asian martial arts. We do have ground-techniques. It is called Silat. Don’t get confused with Competition Silat or exported versions which is a watered-down/strike-for-point – almost what happened between Muay Thai (ringsport) and Muay Boran. Look up Seni Silat Gayong & Lincah. Also, most SEA ancient arts are kept to the locals and I think that is the source of many confusion.

    I also learning Muay Thai & researching Muay Boran (hard to find school here!). In my opinion, Muay Boran & Silat shares similar technique in attack/defense-lock/break-ground/submission. But I don’t think these techniques will be allowed in competition because most of the combos are lethal with targetted killing blows. Usually it involves the blocking of a strike, and locking of the attacking limbs, and toppling the attacker down, and finally locking & delivering lethal blow to throat/groin/head/etc. There are also combination of cracking limbs after the attacker is down & pinned.

    Even so, Sport Silat competition (watered down) does frequently resulted in broken arms & legs.

  9. Graffelo you miss all the concept, There was no Muay Thai in the first place there were only “Muay” anybody could learn no matter what he is Thai, Lao, Khmer, Burma. Thai didn’t own the art it universal. Thai put the word “Thai” to separete Muay from Boxing(Thai call “Muay Sakol” mean International Muay)

    and from that with the dictatorship period in Thailand everything was force to be just like you see today if you study Thai history enough, though.

    I’m Thai and practicing Muay Korad(Northeastern Style). I have to confess I didn’t know either where the art come from, anything that you heard and thought it was a history about Nai Kanomtom and how muay thai invented It just very blury. it more a myth than a history. so just listen but don’t have to believe.

    Actually, Muay Boran have a lot of school like Chaiya, Korad, Tasao, Lopburi Etc. from where the part where it come from and it not look alike either. i won’t explain to you because it gonna be way too long story.

    So, sport Muay Thai is sum of everything that easy and work well something hard to understand they dump it just like that. you have learn it you knew.

    The point that every around Thai claim that Thai stole their art it just because they just simply hate Thai that all. There are a lot of political issue around here if you ask me.

    and anybody that learn muay thai and didn’t find it have a system in it because you teacher just didn’t teach you and may be he didn’t know the system he just a ring fighter. it is hard to make anyone who is only way to live is earn money by fighting to learn 20-30 thing may be he just know only 5 and that is more than that is just his imagination.

    If you learn Muay Boran and you teacher didn’t teach you about the Triangle Theory(samkhum). you are in the wrong place. it a Fake i can sure you about that.

    Muay boran have gound fighting too but not much because it the art in battle field if you fall down don’t think about grappling you already go to your finished. Just about how you move on the ground and grappling lesson but not very solid like Jujitsu

    almost breaking technic like zerobyte said (and i sure about his silat too) there are no room for tapping out just use the momentum and weight to break a joint it not a crafted art like Judo or Aikido it a wild-art so when use there no other way back.

    and about some say that Bokator are mother to muay thai i didn’t buy that about animal system muay boran didn’t have any thing like that at all we have only a move that teach you some concept(we call “Mae Mai” so don’t think it a move it not just that) with a fancy name from tale or mythology to descript what to look for like such as hanuman give the ring, elephant crush the house blah blah blah…. and actually lot of move have another funny name like faak Song(I just give you 2) or Sha Nang Non(sleeping beauty) just like that.

    if you didn’t respect to muay thai or muay boran just learn something else don’t wasted your time life is too short, you know.

  10. muay boran does have grappling moves ive seen muay chaiya students submitting each other on youtube.

  11. I am Native american from USA, i want to learn bokator. If anyone knows of people teaching contact me plz. my email is Mythias85@yahoo.com

  12. ANother thing is my wife and kids are Khmer, I love the Khmer Culture very much. Very simular to our Native American ways. My kids know and practice there Native religion and khmer culture. I would love to learn Bokator. I told myself that if i will learn to fight it would be something real…and with history. Thank all who keep the religion and culture alive. If we do not pass down what our elders and ancestors have fought to keep alive, we will have failed to remember who we are.

  13. Does that count as grappling (I don’t know what it means definitively) and make Muay Boran a bit more credible to you? Does Bokator have very similar techniques as well?

  14. muy thai is khmer not thai but what is the differend between muy thai and bokator i see it the same fighting style. add it together and kick thai ass

  15. anyone know if the film is released?

  16. Hello

    Why don’t you guy just go into my blog and see which martial art is originated first? Khmer Bokator or Muy Thai?

    Whatever people said it is only just a biase legend without any proof. We, the people in this
    century should seek and search more over the origin of this martial art.

    I do, actually accept that this kind of martial arts
    have had influenced each other from one region to other region and from one period to other period. This is the true history !

    To seek the truth of the origin of this kind of martial arts, we truely need however, the proof of it.

    in my wordpress with this link below

    http://tacyclo.wordpress.com/2009/05/18/%e1%9e%9b%e1%9f%92%e1%9e%94%e1%9e%bb%e1%9e%80%e1%9f%92%e1%9e%80%e1%9e%8f%e1%9f%92%e1%9e%8f%e1%9f%84%e1%9e%ac%e1%9e%94%e1%9f%92%e1%9e%9a%e1%9e%8a%e1%9e%b6%e1%9e%9b%e1%9f%8b%e1%9e%94%e1%9e%bb%e1%9e%9a/

    i have narrated the history of Bokator (but it is actually written in Khmer Language). I could not actually clarify that this kind of martial arts
    have originated in Khmer Empire first or in Thailand. But if we see the proof of some pictures of which i took from the Bayon temple (built during 13th century) i could even say that Bokator is first originated in Khmer Empire as we could see alot of evidences carved on the pillar of the temple.

    Anybody of you who got any information over Muay Thai of which you could say or clarify that Muay Thai is originated from Thailand, please you guy kindly help me by showing any evidences of which state that Muay Thai is even
    older than the relief carving on the 13th century
    sandstone temple of Bayon.

  17. This story is very interesting, where can I find out more information.

  18. Well, due to Muy Thai and Khmer Boxkator is really similare but if you want to make sure you should find and investigate Khmer history especially Khmer Temple,carving on the 13th century sandstone temple of Bayon. and Thai History about the resources of Muy Thai.

  19. Well, due to Muy Thai and Khmer La Bokator is really similare but if you want to make sure you should find and investigate Khmer history especially Khmer Temple,carving on the 13th century sandstone temple of Bayon. and Thai History about the resources of Muy Thai.

  20. JUST MAKE A TRAINING VIDEO OF THE MOVES IS A SEQUENTIAL ORDER OF LEARNING STEPS.

    DOCMUENT EVERY THING AND HAVE IT READY FOR WORLD WIDE DISTRIBUTION.

    YOU MUST HIT THE MASSES .

  21. Lerid Rit / Ultimate power & there is an art from Sumatra called Silek Kuciang Siam and as its name suggests,as does a Silek Guru from Minang state…this ground survival science origins are form the Kingdom of Siam.
    Its insane to think that any battlefield art is void of ground survival,as grappling is a military game ie used to keep soliders strong in times of peace,as is Muay Thai.
    All styles had to know how to get up of the ground armed and unarmed.I’ve seen plenty of Siamese ground survival scences,then for these methods to have such an effect of the development of Silek Tuo…speaks volumes for its effectiveness

  22. Sak Yant is Khmer Sanskrit which is written in Khmer alphabets and in Sanskrit meaning in order to make Sak Yant powerful. Khmer Bokator picture is carving on the stone wall of Khmer temple in Cambodia. Khmer Bokator is a father of Khmer Bok, Khmer Pradal Serei and all Khmer Boran such Kun Dao, Kun Lompeng, Kun Dombong etc…
    Muay Boran is copied from Khmer Boran and called it Muay Thai. Muay Thai fighter wears Khmer Yantra like Khmer Pradal Serei fighter. Thailand was a former Khmer land and Khmer people lived there when Thai came from China to live with Khmer so Thai just copied Khmer Boran and changed it to Thai Boran and that’s why Thai fighter wears the same Yantra as Khmer fighter which is written in Khmer alphabets and in Sanskrit meaning.

  23. The debate on Muaythai vs. Camboian Boxe Libre seems to be everlasting. I am a friend of Grand master San Kim Saen since the early 2000, before Bokator became known outside Cambodia. I am a historian on fighting arts — majoring in Muay Thai and other S.E. Asian disciplines, and actually began 1n 1965. The views below are part of my findings and I draw no race lines, being Chinese raised in the former British colony of Hong Kong.

    First, I believe the combat arts of Thailand, Cambodia, Laoos, Vietnam, and Burma all had a common root in the distant past — probably when their forefathers were inhabiting various regions as minority groups in Yunnan. We are talking about the time of Gautama, the Buddha, i.e. before B.C. 544 or 2,500 years from our time. Fusion and cross-pollination of the tribal cutlures had been taking place since time immemorial, through war and inter-marriage. We only have different names such as Muaythai, Kun Khmer or Myanmar Let Whyat and Tu Luyen Vo Tu Do ( free-style boxing art ) because of political preference – often dictated by nationalism – and/or regional cultural and conceptual / linguistic inclinations. These elements, over the face of changing history, have influenced the arts in diffrenent ways and to varying extents. Indochina, in the most ancient times, was known as Suvannabhumi ( the Golden Land ), and tribes of settlers and migrants, from China as well as the oceanic islands, were roaming freely with no recognizable boundaries. The ancient Yue ( Southern Barbarians in Chinese History ) , and the Wa people were there, preceded by the more indigenous or native Negroid and primitive Paleo-Caucasoid groups. Ancestors of the Thai, Khmer, and Mon-Burmans were all in Yunnan, around the region of Erhai Lake,

    as tribal confederates, and each, invariably, had been subject to Chines influence at divers times and to different degrees dependent on the extent of the Chinese rule over or interaction with the particular people. Tribes of the primeval Shan-Tai, for example, goes way back, to the age of Emperor Yaodi (B.C.2282). They had been on the move since, progressively sidelined as the power game in the cental mainland changed its political complexion.

    The ancient Shan-Tai groups were migrating into the Indochina peninsula as early as B.C.425. The Cambodians, on the other hand, founded Funan ( A.D.85 ), which was annexed by Chenla in A.D.657. Chenla was a state of mixed races. The primary ones being Cambodians, Indonesian, and the ancient Shan-Tais. In A.D. 707 Chenla split up with the southern part ( Water ) dominated by the Khmers, and the upper ( Land ), by the Shan-Tai-Lao groups. Chinese chroncles attest that Land Chenla, also known as Wen Shen ( Thai language Vieng Shan ), was a glamorous state, and its capital, as we can ascertain today, was Ubon Ratchathani, in northeastern Thailand. Chenla, as far as one can establish, was from the line of Funan, and founded by an Indian prince ( Ksatriya caste )

    A unified Cambodia only emerged in A.D.902, after which the Great Empire of Angkor took over almost the whole of the Menam basin. It is public knowledge that before Siam was officially founded at Sukhothai, the Thai people had been living under Khmer rule, and also, after the fall of Angkor (A.D.1420), a century of Khmerization occurred in Siam. There can be little dispute that the best of Cambodian art and culture had not only continued to develop in the land of its conqueror, but things such as language, architecture, Court rituals, astrology, drama and dancing were received with great passion. It was so intense that the arts and religion of the two civilizations began to merge to a degree never so visibly before.

    Noteworthy is the fact that, five centuries later, Cambodia, having lost in the traumatic dark age of the Khmer Rouge almost entirely her classical dancing tradition, managed to re-import the art from Thailand.

    So, the question of who has stolen from whom, or who owes her art to whom, is just too emotive — and perhaps complicated — a subject to resolve by martial art fans. Insofar as historical information is concerned, the points below maybe useful to all those endeavouring to determine the truth, or what came closest to it :

    1) The Shan-Tai racial family had a history traceable to the dawn of Chinese civilization. The Cambodians, however, first appeared in around the Eastern Zhou dynasty ( after B.C.770 )
    although as a people, they may be some 3,000 years old. The Mon people were in Indochina before the Tai migration, and the Burmans, like the Tais, were inhabiting southwestern China, before moving down to the Golden Land in the 6th century.

    2) The Shan-Tai men were always a fighting race, with a long custom of assigning soldiers (warriors) to watch their village. These were men trained in fighting, with swords or fists.

    3) A custom of martial contests at festivals, held to celebrate victory at war, alongside liberal drinking and ecstatic dancing, existed in the Kingdom of Ye Lang ( around 400 B.C. ) in Yunnan. It was the largest of the confederates of minority races, with the prime rivals being the Tai and the Yi ( karen ) groups.

    4) Indian fighting arts came into the Suvannabhumi region when traders, warrior princes ( Shakya ), and religious missions came east. The first city-state, Ta Gaung, in upper Myanmar, was founded in B.C.850 ( my reckoning is B.C.424 ) by a Shakya prince, Abhi Raza. The word “muay” had its origin in the Sanskrit name, Malla, a fighting clan in northeastern India, which has been taken to mean pugilism or a professional wrestler – fighter.

    5) Freestyle boxing as a tradition in Southeast Asia possibly took root first in the Korat plateau, during the Chenla period. It is now known to the Thais as the Upper Cambodian region, and the territory has produced many of the premier muaythai fighters in history. Conversely, Battambang, the best known place for its kickboxing culture in Cambodian, has been a Thai province for centuries until 1907. Van Shen ( capital of Land Chenla ), as the name implies, was Town of the Shans. One tribe, the Xang Khao (white elephant ), was recorded in a Chinese document dated 638 A.D. as ” men are, by custom, savage, and brave in combat .” Subsequently, it became the Lao city of Lanxang.

    6) At the annual temple fair at Bakong, likely from A.D.889 onwards, boxing became a popular event. Was it Cambodian, or Shan ?

    7) Thailand’s muay tradition was already a known national heritage by the 50′s. The best of Boxe Libre ( in the 60′s ) were nowhere as potent as the the top Thais, due to difference in the industry’s economy on each side, and the comparative popularity in result. Sar Sary, the Cambodian legend, was kayo’d in R2 by Nilpad Lukthon of Thailand at Phnom Penh in 1958, and in March, 1974, at Bangkok’s Rajadamnern Stadium, a Thai vs. Khmer card concluded with 5 : 0 result. Amongst the defeated were the best of Cambodia, including Chea Sarak (148) and Chhith Sarim (118), National Coach for Cambodia’s revived kickboxing in the past decade. I cannot see they could made a wothwhile comparison with the likes of Somdej, Apidej or Puth Lawlek.

    8) Wrestling, presumably Hindu, was part of royal court entertainment in Siam until the 19th century, after which it has been Muay all the way. It was, based on the logic of evolution, eliminated and assimilated by the surviving art, which has been enriched in technological contents in that process. Sport muaythai, what we see today, is only the permissible part of Muay. The Muay Boran — red uniforms and yantra-marked vests — much talked about nowadays is actually Classical Muaythai ( Kadcheuak or bare-knuckled ), whereas real Muay Boran (Muai) is the amateur form of ancient boxing embodying forms and patterns of animals. They are still around, with grappling and finger/palm strikes, locks and throws, body drops and takedowns, in remote regions of Lao, Thailand (north) and Yunnan.

    9) Unfortunately people are just subjective in their own perception. I dare say there is no bad martial arts, only folly of ignorant people who cannot see the wood from the trees.

  24. Thai Boxing Verygood in the World

  25. i really like khmer bokator, but there is no way i could find some one that will teaches me cos i am living in a town called zamfara one of the northern state of nigeria,i will be very grateful if i found some one that would be teaching me: thanks::::::::::::::::::::

  26. Greetings! I know this is kinda off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you using for this website? I’m getting sick and tired of WordPress because I’ve had issues with hackers and I’m looking at options for another platform. I would be awesome if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

    • study it first before you would like to practice, the root of Mouy boran is Khmer Martial art which included Bokator

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  40. If one wants to grasp the roots of Cambodian fighting arts, he must revisit the ancient history of the Khmer people. That is, well before they found Angkor, Chenla and Funan. The used to be known as the Kunmin ( Khmen ) tribal group in the region around
    Lake Erhai, Yunnan before the arrival of the first millenium. Thas been some very interesting legends about these people of those
    times, conflicts as well as customs, and even their antagonism against the old Tai groups were recorded by the Chinese. Stimulating ?
    Most certaining…………..Good warrior they have always been, and as the Yi Group ( old Karen ) they ruled the old Tai ( Pu ) in Yelang
    which was one of the biggest and most potent confederation of tribes in the 1st century BC.

    Yet all came to destruction and oblivion, when the First Emperor of Qin upon unifying China, mounted a huge campaign against
    the South. Further offensives by the Han forced the Kunmin clans to move down the Mekong, and like their traditional rival, the Tais,
    chose to settle down in the furtile plains of the Golden Continent, or Indochina of today.

    Alex T. Khuncherng ( Muay Boran Grandmaster/Golden Mongkol )

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  47. Kun Khmer is the original kickboxing art from South East Asia; practiced by ancient Cambodians and taught to others throughout the golden land. Kun Khmer is also referred to as Pradal Serey and commonly marketed by Thailand as “Muy Thai.”
    Angkor, home of Cambodia’s ancestor Khmer people, was the greatest kingdom in the areas history and at one time ruled over all the surrounding regions. The great Khmer people taught fighting techniques to their army and temple guards. The kingdom of Angkor used Yuthakun Khom to constantly wage war against the Vietnam-based kingdom of Champa, and people of Siam during the time period of 200AD to 1800AD. Statues and carvings dating from late 100AD depicting the MPCS (multiple point-of-contact striking) still exist from this lost civilization.

    Muay Thai schools attend, the techniques came from Thailand’s Krabi Krabong a newer version of Cambodian kbach kun boran. Krabi Krabong was a military art that used primarily weapons and was mostly lost during the destruction of the kingdom of Ayutthaya (1351AD to 1767AD) by the Burmese. Kbach kun boran was a multipurpose military combat system containing operation of weapons, hand to hand combat and the use of elephants and other animals for war. Khmer Pradal Serey stems from Yuthakun Khom the hand to hand combat systems of Kbach kun boran and existed 1000 years prior to start of the Kingdom Ayutthaya. It is very important to point out, though the Kingdom of Yuthakun was located where current Thailand is, the people who lived in the area before the Tai branched off from the Southern Chinese lands and immigrated, were Khmer. As seen in the maps, Khmer people controlled what is now Thailand and part of Laos for a long period of time. The ancient Thai (Tai) people actually lived northward and migrated South during a period of 1000 years. Many of the Thai people today are actually from the Khmer race decent, not Tai. For this reason much of the culture and language is the same. Contrarily, the Tai have a tonal langue much like the Southern Chinese from the area they migrated from. It is important to understand, Cambodia is what remains of the Kingdom of Angkor and the Empire of Khmer. After several wars, the Khmer Empire broke apart into many of the divisions we see today. Thailand has been battling an identity crisis for many centuries, the people are a mixture of Khmer and southern Chinese Tai. To get an idea of how Thailand came to be, imagine a group of French militants occupying Canada at the time of the United States civil war, coming down into the “North”, taking over and calling it “French land.” This is basically what happened; of course, the Tai were forced South by other kingdoms; but the idea is the same. The Thai people did not invent or modify the fighting techniques of South East Asia because they weren’t from the area when it they were invented, they merely inherited them during annexation after war.

    Note: Some statements in this history are object to scrutiny due to political wars going on in South East Asia. Because of current racism fudes in the area, many Thailand nationalists are now referring to the original Khmer people as Khom in order to separate Cambodia’s past with the land. In their teachings, they change the Kingdom name to Khom which is a Siam ancestor and they portray “Khmer” people (Cambodians) as poor workers who were ruled by Khom elites then migrated to the region that is now Cambodia. This is obviously a contortion, designed for Thailand to make a long lasting connection to the land their Tai kingdom migrated into. These actions show how little progress the Thai government has made in protecting truth and rights of people in the area. This is a very sensitive topic to many, especially Thailand which is trying hard to make an international name for themselves.

    There have been many public efforts by Thailand to ward off Cambodia staking claim to their teachings, at one point Cambodia negotiated and requested that the sport be called “South East Asian” to incorporate everyone who had learnt it. Thailand turned down this idea.

    Calling Kun Khmer “Muay Thai” is like calling Hockey “Californian ice soccer.” Californians may play the sport, but they didn’t invent it, and it sure shouldn’t be named after them.
    Using the same argument. Mexico once owned the region of Texas. However you call the food “mexican-food”, not “Texas-food” some refer to a watered down version as “Tex-Mex” but never just “Tex.” If Thai land takes over Greace are we going to start eating Thayros?

    (taken from: kunkhmerUSA.com)

    • I being Chinese by birth and a Hong Kong resident, am not interested in Thai-Cambodian politics but have done extensive research into the origin and evolution of Southeast Asian fighting arts. Why do we have to conflict over ownership of an art ? The ancient Khmers lived in Yunnan, just like the forefathers of the Tais ( called Ba & Pu tribes in old Chinese chronicles ). The ancestors of the Khmers used to inhabit around the Lake Erhai region in Dalin. Legend had it the they, an animistic people, was defeated by the Buddhists after many conflicts, and hence moved away, to the south and east area. In the south they reached Mekong and settled there. Funan was not originally Cambodian, but more a mixed breed of Sumatrans and native naga ( Wa ) people led by a female, a
      legend which tends to indicate a transition from the primitive Matriarchal society to a male- dominant one. Funan was not known for
      any fighting culture, but the subsequent kingdom of Chenla was. Chinese historians concluded that Chenla had two primary constituent groups : the Land Chenla in the north, mainly Shan-Tai ( later Syam) The name Thai , a more modern creation, was not known at the time, and Water Chenla, on the lower Mekong basin, comprising Cambodians and other Malay-polynesian people.
      A strong fighting culture was recored in Land Chenla ( Shan region ) and the part of Annam dominated by Tai migrants in the 9th century. That was before Angkor rose to her eternal glory.

      So, it seems fairly cogent that the Shans actually led the trend in fighting even before Angkor. ( To be continued ) Alex T. Khuncherng

      • So this conclude that all mixed race and tribes and interracial marriage in Indochina that was involved; shared and borrow fighting techniques? It would make alot of sense. I don’t think the ancient khmers lived in Yunnan. it is better off to do some kind of DNA genealogy test to determine the origin of people where they truly live. Alex Tsui Khuncherng, do you have any sources that you can share with me or books, articles, you recommend. I am quite interested in SEA history also. It seems history in SEA is very vague. How can i contact you? I do have some questions i would like to ask.

      • My sources are regrettably all Chinese – primarily very lerned scholars from Yunnan who have no racial ties with Thailand or Cambodia. The fact, as we can now deduce, is the the fore fathers of the Cambodians today were in pre Christianity days known
        as the Kun Ming race, They inhabit the area north of Lake Erhai within a region designated as Xi-Kun Ming by the Chinese administration. The Kun Ming was a very old race of the Jiang family moving down to settle in Yunnan from Northwestern China, probably from the Kun Lun mountains. In Yunnan, within Dali, they were sandwiched between the Dian, Yelang to the east, and the Ai Lao to the south. Many of the Kun Ming tribes found their way into Dian ( the Kingdom ) and Yelang the biggest of the tribal confederates at the time. The cconflict between the Tai ancestors and the Khmer forerunner has been a historical fact. Yelang was first founded by the Tais ( then called Pu or Bo ) while Dian was possibly a akso a Kun Ming or Khom nation. After centries of bitter
        warfare, Yelang was taken over by the KUn Ming race ( then called Yi ) IN fact the Pu and the Yi had lived together in peace and at war for hundreds of years before Yelang was eventually annexed by the Chinese. Martial arts evolved among the Tai and the Kun Ming
        people during this time.

        Rather interestingly, Kaudinya, the foreign invader who married into the Mekong basin ruled by a Naga princess was named Hun Dian
        ( in Chinese ) THat name, if transliterated by the customary way, should read Kun Dian, which may be taken to mean Man from Dian. Yunnan is always known as Dian collectively, besides the narrower meaning of Dian Kingdom. Kaudinya is named by historians as the
        founder of Funan, the first Camddian nation in southeast Asia. He was definitely no Indian by his cultural character, and so, it remains
        very possible that that he was from Dian. One striking data is that Funnan was founded in AD87, whilst the Dian Kingdom was demobilised by the Chinese in AD 86. A co-incidence, or a logical sequnce of events ? My suspicion is that after Dian fell, its elite went
        south and took over the more primitive river people in Mekong, because the Dian people themselves had many similarities with the
        later Cambodians, especially in the exposition in fine arts, in sculptires and building. They were certainly superior to all other races
        in Yunnan at the time.

        The Kun Ming groups actually helped the Chinese to crush the Ai-Lao ( Tai-Lao ancesters ) on occasions, until they were finally subdued by the Chinese before BC 72.

        So it seems factually correct that the forefathers of the Khmers and the Thais were already fighting each other in the Yi vs Pu setting
        some 200 years BC. The Khmers ancestors then became the Dark Barbarian, and later merged with other family ( Cuan ) in Dali. Many
        had made their way south into Funan, then Chenla, before Angkor eventually rose to become the most feared nation in the sub-continent in the 9th century.

        My e-mail No. is alextsuik328@yahoo.com.hk

  48. My conclusion based on historical fact and in some cases actual chronicles : Tai fighting arts started to take shape during the age of Kausambi ( later Moung Mao ) in Yunnan. But actual boxing contests probably became a a sport by the 2nd century AD the latest. For
    the Camdodian art, it began to take shape in about the 5th centuray in the Korat Plateau ( which was a Lao-Shan territory ) later ruled
    by the Khmers.

    The Bokator we see today is, more or less like Cambodian classical dancing, a re-invented art with Siamese influence after the traumatic destruction of the Cambodian Empire by Siam in 1431. In the heyday of Cambodian Boxe LIbre, it was not as sophisticated
    as muaythai, but very similar in basic theory. Bokator was then just a traditional kungfu of the Cambodians seen mainly outside the
    capital Pnom Penh.

  49. To recap, if I may offer the following summary of the known history of the Khmer people for reference by all, to enable us to appreciate the evolution of Yuthakun Khom ( Indianized term ) , boxe libre ( French ) and Kun Khmer and the ageless conflict
    between the Tai and Khmer people.

    BC 2282 Three Miao ( inclsive of the Pu -ancestors of Tai ) people relocated to the Three Perils after being defeated by Chinese
    Emperor Yaodia in a massive battle.
    Tais evolved in Sichuan and later spread into Yunnan.

    12th Century BC The Kun Ming race ( a branch of the Shi-JIang family ) began moving down into Yunnan from Northwestern China.
    One branch inhabited the Lake Dian Chi region, while another lived close to Lake Erhai ( Dali ) in an area designated as Xi-
    Kun Ming by the Chinese Han administration. The name Kun Ming was simply a phonetic Chinese translation of the
    term Khmer.

    BC 276 During the Warring States Period, a General from Chu entered Dian ( Yunnan ) with a huge army and took over the entire
    land. It became the KIngdom of Dian, around Lake Dian Chi ( also known as Kun Ming Lake ). His descendants ruled many
    states in Dian, until the kingdom was annexed by the Chinese in BC 87. many of its population took refuge in neighboring
    states, in Yelang and west Yunnan.

    BC 109- The Han administraion began to bring Yunnan ( Dian ) into the Chinese map. States of Lao-Jin ( Shen ), Dian, Yelang, and Kun
    Ming all succumbed to the Central Empires military might. The Kun Ming race began to move down the Mekong Basin, into
    Suvannabhumi…….. The group around Erhai, an animistic people, was subject to the pressure of the Buddhist Bai group,
    and they, likewise, were driven away……..

    One Chinese authority noted : Cambodians named their nation Khmer. In Champa inscriptions, it was Kvir or Kmir. Verbally it was Kur in Cham. Indians called them Comar, while the Siamese customarily refer to them as Khmer in writing, but orally as Khamen.
    The famous Chinese monk from Tang recorded it as Ge Mao.

    (To e continued )

  50. It should be noted that the name Kun Ming as a racial group, must not be confused by the name of the city of Kun MIng. The latter did not emerge until 1254, when the once Kun state was renamed Kun Ming by the Mongols ( Yuan ). The meaning of Kun Ming has
    a number of connotations. Anthropologists explained that, in Jiang language, it refers to ” people from the snowy hills”. To the Yi group, it means ” Land by the Sea”. The Bai group takes it to mean ” Living on the lakeside”. And, to the Zhuang ( a Tai-Lao group ), Kun is man, and Ming means Yi tribe. So together it satnds for “Yi man”.

    It is pretty certain to experts that Cambodians have come from the Yi tribes of abcient times. The migration has been a prolonged process, over tens of centuries. It is also important to realise that in many locations on the world, civilisations emerged, replacing primitive or less advance one all the time. The case with the Siamese was that the Bo group was a fusion of the Pu and the Ba in Sichuan. It had progressed through mixing with the Yues ( southerners ) in Yunnan to become the Tai and later the Zhuang. The Ai-Lao was a fusion of a Pu clan with a female family native to Boshan, Yunnan. When these tribal people moved south into Indochina,
    they progressively displaced the indigenous local tribes, the Lua ( Naga ), the islanders and the Negritoes. And when newer groups
    came on the scene, also Thai, they eliminated the older stock of their own kind. There is nothing sentimental in this. It is simple evolution. I believe the Cambodian have faced the same reality. The ancient Yi descending from the Kun MIng tribe dispersed, a
    branch settled down in Mekong basin to build Funan. Waves of tribes of different configerations then came to found Chenla, which
    replaced Funan. The Shan-Thai-Lao took the land part, as the Cambodians kept the part close to sea. Then from 802 onwards,the Cambodians mostly the Khom elite united the land to buil the great Empire at Angkor. There was also a Java implication to the rise
    of the empire.

    Now, let use examine the fighting heritage and traits of both people.

  51. For the record, the name Kampuchea, as a country or people, was first recorded in Chinese annals in 84 AD. Maybe it was early Funan ? or it was Hun Dian’s group ? We can never be sure.

    Cambodian boxing became well known in Hongkong after a team of highly reputable kungfu men had their ass kicked by Boxe Libre champions in 1961. I have full accounts and photos. Saing Sarak was said to to three-time grand champion. But before then, two Taichi experts had met their waterloo in Bangkok in a much publicized match in Bangkok. The defeat was scandalous to the Chinese community. Muaythai has since been mystified, and much villified by all. The same happened in USA in the 80′s. But in the end, truth
    prevails. There can be nothing further than the truth, especially in fighting arts. Muaythai and Khun Khmer are as close to truth as a fight sport can be. UFC/MMA is also real close to the truth in fighting. We all have bias and fixations, yet in the end, it is the capacity to
    appreciate which matter. For that provides the foundation for advance and development. Martial arts evolution is a living organism.
    It will grow whatever the obstacles and bias. In the end, only the best will be recognised as being the best.

    Ownership ? It it important ? I think not, but the truth is what needs recoding. For all the values and merrits are in history.

  52. Before the fall of Angkor and the resiting of Cambodia’s capital to Pnom Penh, the kingdom had had three known dynastys.

    Funnan AD 87 – 616
    Chenla AD 550 802-
    Angkor AD 802-1431

    No record exsists of any martial discipline of sophistication during the Funnan perod. But in the Chenla period, the Land Chenla and her neighbor Annam ( Tonkin ) shared a common militant culture. The region was basically a Shan-Tai-Lao habitat. Boxing as a festive event appeared at the Bakong temple fair by 889. Water Chenla dominated by Khmers eventually re-united the two Chenla
    states, and it is probable that L’bokator was deviced dring this period as part of its military machinery. Bas-reliefs on the galleries of
    the Bayon provide uncontestible evidence that free-style boxing was practised in the great enpire. The relevant sculptures were conceived in about 1100.

    What about the Kun Ming race in Yunnan. Were they able to fight ? The answer to that is yes.

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