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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bokator: Ancient Cambodian martial arts resurrected

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Bokator, an ancient Cambodian martial arts form whose origins date as far back as the 9th century, had almost died out before it was resurrected by the efforts of cultural workers. Thanks to a French instructor , it has even been brought to the silver screen now and is making a strong comeback throughout Cambodia.

According to historical records, bokator can be traced all the way back to the Khmer Empire in the 9th century. The people at the time initially created bokator as a way of fighting against wild beasts and self defence. The style originally emulated a lion's fight, however it gradually changed into a martial arts form and gave rise to many legends. From what we know, ancient Khmer soldiers had to learn bokator, and history books recorded that the Khmer army used bokator to defeat the invading Siamese troops during the 16th century.

However, with the passage of time, bokator has gradually faded into obscurity, and many Cambodians now are not even aware of it.

It was chance that brought well-known French artist Daniel Perrier into contact with bokator. Daniel, 50, is an instructor at the School of Fine Arts in Paris. He travelled to Cambodia in 2008 to personally study and research Cambodia's culture and arts. While sightseeing at Orussey Market, he picked up a flyer printed with a boxing image from the floor, arousing his curiosity and interest.

22 training centres around the country

After asking around a little, he arrived at the Olympic Stadium and saw a group of young people seriously practising boxing. Although the training ground and facilities were simple, the old instructor and his young learners did not let up in their effort. In addition, their moves were very unique and different from other boxing styles he had known, triggering his intention of making a documentary about this boxing style.

With the cooperation of the sole remaining bokator instructor San Kimsean, Perrier successfully completed his documentary (Une Breve Histoire du Boxkator) about bokator, enabling people around the world to learn about the origins and developments of this ancient martial arts.

Perrier also hopes that it will attract more young people to learn it, with 60% of the proceeds from sale of the documentary's DVD to be used to improve the training ground and its facilities. The duo's greatest wish is that bokator can spread and flourish beyond Cambodia's borders.

This documentary uses an all-new angle to talk about the origins and uniqueness of bokator. Through a personal lecture by bokator instructor San Kimsean and the effort the students put into their training, it is hoped that more young people will be attracted to take up bokator, so that this ancient martial art which has almost died out can be preserved and handed down to future generations.

Currently, aside from the bokator school in Phnom Penh, there are 22 other training centres all over Cambodia. Unfortunately, they are unable to secure any funding and are in a difficult situation for continued survival.

Instructor San Kimsean says he teaches this old martial art to young people in the hope that they are able to show their strength and confidence through it.

When talking about the difficulties in promoting bokator, he said, "It's like I have walked into a dream, and am building an ancient palace."

He believes his sacrifices and efforts are worthwhile, because while Cambodia is seeking social and economic development, its youth must also engage in healthy activities to vent their excess energy.

This documentary about bokator premiered at the French Cultural Centre on April 8. (Translated by ALEX YUEN/Cambodia Sin Chew Daily)
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Cambodia renovates, builds 1,082 km of road in 2009

Cambodia has renovated and built about 1,082 kilometers of road linking across the country in 2009, a government's data showed Tuesday.

The data filed by Ministry of Public Works and Transportation showed that in 2009 with some work started in 2008, as long as 1, 082 kilometers of national road linking across the nation have been renovated and built.

It said of the above total distance, China's assistance was involved in the building projects with 791.55 kilometers, 135.7 kilometers from South Korea and 91 kilometers from Japan.

Beside the renovating and building of the national roads with asphalt, the government also made maintenance with total distance of 2,724 kilometers with asphalt and 992 kilometers with red soil.

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced his commitment to renovate and build as many roads and bridges as possible to help people with quick access to other parts of the country that will help ease the time consuming and transportation cost.

In recent years, many new roads have been built across the country.

In many occasions, Hun Sen said when "there is road, there is hope."

Source: Xinhua
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