Bokator is one of the oldest martial arts in South Asia. Literally translating into ‘to pound a lion’, it is thought to have begun 1700 years ago on the battlefields of the ancient Khmer Empire.
The martial art is unique in that every single part of the body can be used as a weapon. Reflecting the fighting styles of animals, moves have names such as horse, dragon, eagle and crocodile.
Anyone interested in learning can visit the ancient temples of Angkor, where Bokator reliefs are carved right into the stone, representing a visual history of the art. A closer look reveals a diverse array of techniques, including elbow and knee strikes, kicks, submissions and ground fighting. There are rumoured to be up to 10,000 different techniques.
During the reign of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970’s, Bokator was all but eradicated. Martial arts masters were being systematically exterminated for fear of a revolution. Those who managed to escape, fled and hid, guarding their secrets closely.
Grandmaster San Kim Sean was one such master. He returned to Cambodia after several years in exile, making it his life’s mission to find any of the remaining masters, rebuild the lost trust among his people, and resurrect Bokator for the new generation.
SURVIVING BOKATOR is the story of his quest to revive this national heritage for Cambodia and for the world.