For some, staying in shape means going to the gym or playing a sport. However, three young women from Siem Reap province chose to take up the traditional martial art of Bokator, both as a way of staying healthy and in order to preserve Khmer culture.
Travelling from Siem Reap province to compete in the national Bokator competition in Phnom Penh, Sin Sive Sien, 19, a recent graduate of 10 Makara High School, said she got involved with Bokator about three years ago. In competition, she performed Tvea Mekun Dai and Neak Kreach Leng Tik. She won the gold medal in Tvea Mekun Dai.
Ms Sive Sien said, “During the first week of training, I couldn’t move properly because my muscles were so sore. I wasn’t used to working out, so it hurt a lot, yet I kept doing it until I was selected to join this competition.”
Ms Sive Sien added that practising Bokator changed her physically and emotionally. Initially she was very temperamental, but later she gained patience. She said her mum used to discourage her, but lately had come to accept it after seeing the positive impact her training had on her.
Phearom Monyroth, 16, a student in Grade 11 at Angkor High School, said she trained as a boxer before taking up Bokator. She was inspired to train hard – sometimes she even misses school — by Sam Tharoth, a famous female Bokator practitioner.
“It is painful and I don’t have enough time to focus on my studies. Three times I thought of giving it up. However, encouraged by the passion and inspiration of my trainer, I recommitted myself, because I didn’t want to lose them,” said Ms Monyroth.
Besides wanting to become a successful Bokator practitioner, Ms Monyroth also wants to become a policewoman in the future. If her dreams come true, she said she will do her best to help society.
Ean Lita, 16, a Grade 10 student at 10 Makara High School, said that she practises Bokator because she wants a challenging way to stay healthy. She said she was curious to study something new, especially in the traditional Khmer arts.
“I don’t think my parents wanted their daughters to do this mostly male activity, yet I won them over through my efforts and the results of what I am doing. I have become more confident in my interactions with others since taking it up,” said Ms Lita.
She added that she strongly believes that practising a martial art will help her realise her dream of becoming a police officer. She suggests that girls should challenge themselves because there is no limit to what they can achieve if they make the same effort as boys.