Khmer Kickboxing: Cambodians Enjoy a Good Fight!
We like to spread the love here at Khiri Travel Cambodia. However, sometimes we do enjoy a good fight! With so many passionate followers, it’s hard to resist joining in the action of the unofficial Cambodian national sport of pradal serey or kun Khmer. Pradal means fighting or boxing and serey means free. Similar in stance and techniques with Thai kickboxing or muay Thai, pradal serey uses four types of strikes using hands, elbows, knees and foot kicks. There is also clinching or grabbing the opponent’s head to wear them down and gain position for punishing elbow and knee strikes.
While still a controversial topic and in some circles a heated debate, Cambodian people believe that pradal serey predates other Southeast Asian forms of kickboxing. It’s hard to argue with so many images of this widely practiced combat sport etched into the walls of the ancient temples of Angkor.
Yuthakun khom is the name for the original Khmer martial art, various techniques of which are depicted on bas-reliefs at the base of Bayon temple. These stone-carved artifacts are evidence that a style resembling pradal serey existed in the 9th century, which may be one of the reasons why the Khmer Kingdom dominated territory that encompasses modern day Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.
The Kingdom of Angkor used yuthakun khom, along with various weapons and elephants to wage war against their enemies. Fortunately for everyone, these days your traveler’s elephant experience is limited to the peaceful confines of a rescue sanctuary in Mondulkiri.
The closest you can come to Cambodian ancient mortal combat is learning from a Yuthakun Khmer Khom Master during a class in Phnom Penh. The more brutal aspects of this combative martial art were modified during colonial times to convert pradal serey into a competitive combat sport. In an effort to reduce injury and safeguard young competitors, the French encouraged the top promoters to add boxing gloves, timed rounds and hold bouts in ring.
If your travelers find themselves in the Cambodian capitol for the weekend, our Khiri Travel staff would be happy to arrange a visit to an authentic and exciting local bout of kun Khmer.
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