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Bokator/Boxkator, or more formally, Labokatao is a Khmer martial art that includes weapons, close hand-to-hand combat, and ground techniques. This martial art is based on animal forms like kung fu. Bokator is one of the earliest Cambodian martial art and only younger than the Mon-Khmer martial art of yuthakun khom. Oral tradition indicates that Bokator or an early form thereof was the close quarter combat system used by the ancient armies of Angkor 1000 years ago. A common misunderstanding is that the term 'Bokator' refers to all Khmer martial arts while in reality it only represents one particular type of Khmer martial arts.

Angkorian warriors were a key factor in enabling a succession of Angkorian kings to dominate Southeast Asia for more than 600 years beginning in 800 AD.

Bas-relief carvings at the base of the entrance pillars to the Bayon, Jayavarman VII's state temple, depict the various techniques of Bokator. One relief shows two men appearing to grapple, or possibly wrestle, another shows two fighters using their elbows. Both are standard techniques in modern Kun Khmer, or Khmer Boxing. A third depicts a man facing off against a rising cobra and a fourth shows a man fighting a large animal.

Unlike kick boxing, which is a sport fighting art, Bokator was a soldier's art, designed to be used on the battlefield. It uses a diverse array of elbow and knee strikes, shin kicks, submissions and ground fighting. Bokator practitioners are trained to strike with knees, hands, elbows, feet, shins, and head. Even the shoulders, hip, jaw, and fingers can be used to fight an opponent to submission or death.

When fighting, Bokator practitioners still wear the uniforms of ancient Khmer armies. A krama (scarf) is folded around their waist and blue and red silk cords called sangvar day, are tied around the combatants head and biceps. In the past it is said that the cords were enchanted to increase strength, although now they are just ceremonial.

The krama shows the fighter's level of expertise. The first grade is white, followed by green, blue, red, brown, and finally black, which has 10 degrees. After completing their initial training, fighters wear a black krama for at least another ten years. To attain the gold krama one must be a true master and must have done something great for Bokator. Becoming a "true master" is most certainly a time-consuming and possibly life-long endeavor: in the unarmed portion of the art alone there are between 8,000 and 10,000 different techniques, only 1,000 of which must be learned to attain the black krama.

The art contains 341 different styles based on the study of life in nature. As examples, there are horse, bird, dragon, eagle, and crane styles, each containing several techniques. Because of its visually similar style, Bokator is often wrongly described as a variant of modern kick boxing. Bokator has many forms based on traditional animal-based styles as well as straight practical fighting techniques. Pradal Serey is a more simplified freestyle fighting system which uses a few of the basic (white krama) punching, elbow, kicking and kneeing techniques and is free from animal styles.


The name Bokator is itself a possible indicator of the age of Bokator. Pronounced "bok-ah-tau", the word comes from "labokator" meaning "to fight (like) a lion". The word tau translates as 'lion'. This refers to a story alleged to have happened about 2000 years ago. According to the legend, Bokator can be traced back to a warrior who defeated a lion bare-handed. Lions have never roamed Southeast Asia, although Asiatic lions are found in western India. Indian culture and philosophy were the major influences in Angkor culture. All the great buildings of Angkor are inscribed in Sanskrit and are devoted to Hindu gods, notably Vishnu and Shiva. Religious life was dominated by Brahmins. The concept of the lion and of a martial art named 'striking like a lion' most likely emerged during the reign of the Angkorean kings and this concurrent Indian influence. Martial arts imitating animals have long been practiced in India and it is likely that they had an impact on local fighting styles. The influence of the Brahmins diminished with the rise of Buddhism almost a thousand years ago.

At the time of the Pol Pot regime (1975-1979) those who practiced traditional arts were either systematically exterminated by the Khmer Rouge, fled as refugees or stopped teaching and hid. After the Khmer Rouge regime, the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia began and native martial arts were completely outlawed. San Kim Sean (English name order: Sean Kim San) is largely credited with reviving Khmer Bokator and is often referred to as the father of modern Bokator in Cambodia. During the Pol Pot era, San Kim Sean had to flee Cambodia under accusations by the Vietnamese of teaching Hapkido and Bokator, which he was, and starting to form an army, which he was not. Once in America he started teaching Hapkido at a local YMCA in Houston, Texas and later moved to Long Beach, California. After living in the United States and teaching and promoting Hapkido for a while, he found that no one had ever heard of Bokator. He left the United States in 1992 and returned home to Cambodia to give Bokator back to his people and to do his best to make Bokator known to the world.

In 2001 moved back to Phnom Penh and after getting permission from the new king began teaching Bokator to local youth. That same year in the hopes of bringing all of the remaining living masters together he began traveling the country, seeking out Bokator lakrus, or instructors, who had survived the regime. The few men he found were old, ranging from sixty to ninety years of age and weary of 30 years of oppression; many were afraid to teach the art openly. After much persuasion and with government approval, the former masters relented, and Sean effectively reintroduced Bokator to the Cambodian people. Contrary to popular belief, Sean is not the only suriving labokatao master. Others include Meas Sok, Meas Sarann, Ros Serey, Sorm Van Kin and Mao Khann.

The first ever national Bokator competition was held in Phnom Penh at the Olympic Stadium, from September 26-29, 2006. The competition involved 20 lakrus leading teams from 9 provinces.


In the first Bokator national championships, there were complaints how the event hoster, Yuthkun Khmer Foundation, unfairly awarded all prizes to Phnom Penh based fighters. The complaints come from provincial based fighters. An event organizer defends that the judging was fair but provincial club leaders did not know the rules. The event organizer stated that the problem arise due to judges being trained three days before the events. Also, older Bokator enthusiasts felt that the youth's style particularly the ones from Phnom Penh was unauthentic. They felt that they were not true bokator techniques but instead a hybrid between other martial arts. In addition, it is known that San Kim Sean is a practioner of Hapkido from which techniques of modern day Bokator could be derived from. Kru Meas Sok said this of San Kim Sean's students, "These fighters are not fighting with real bokator techniques. Some of these kids look like crabs walking."

Animal styles

White Krama

* Duck (tiea)
* Crab (kdam)
* Horse (seah)
* Bird (preap)
* Dragon (neak)

Green Krama

* Monkey king (sdach swaa)
* Lion (tor)
* Elephant (domrei)
* Apsara
* Crocodile (krapeu) (

Muay Lao

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Muay Lao (also known as Lao Boxing or Lao Kickboxing in English) is a form of kickboxing practiced in Laos. It's also a branch of the many Indo-Chinese kickboxing styles. Other form of kickboxing from the region, for example, are Pradal Serey from Cambodia, Muay Thai from Thailand and Lethwei from Myanmar (Burma).

Like any other Indo-Chinese kickboing styles, Muay Lao includes attacks from knees, elbows, punches and kicks. In episode 170 of King of the Hill, Kahn uses Laotian martial arts (probably Muay Lao) to fight in street fights.

Unfortunately, we don't have any further information about this traditional Lao martial art. But, you can watch it on a video below:


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Lethwei or Lethawae (Read as "Let-whae", but quickly); also known as Burmese Boxing and Myanmar Traditional Boxing, is a form of kickboxing which originated in Burma (Myanmar). Lethwei is in many ways similar to its siblings from neighboring Southeast Asian countries such as Tomoi from Malaysia, Pradal Serey from Cambodia, Muay Lao from Laos and Muay Thai from Thailand.


Early Lethwei

Participants fight without gloves or protection, wrapping only their hands in hemp or gauze cloth. Rules are similar to Muay Thai but allow and encourage all manner of take-downs along with head-butts. In fact until the mid 1930s when Muay Thai was "modernized" (the introduction of timed rounds, western style boxing gloves, and elimination of headbutts), both Lethwei and Muay Thai fought under the same rules. Fights are traditionally held outdoors in sandpits instead of rings, but in modern times they are now held in rings. Popular techniques in Lethwei include leg kicks, knees, elbows, head butts, raking knuckle strikes, and take downs. In the past, sometimes biting and gouging were also permitted in the matches.

Matches traditionally and ultimately would go until a fighter could no longer continue. In earlier times, there were no draws, only a win or loss by knockout. No point system existed. Extreme bloodshed was very common and death in the ring was no surprise. Nowadays in the match, if a knockout occurs, the boxer is revived and has the option of continuing; as a result, defense, conditioning, and learning to absorb punishment are very important. Burmese boxers spend a great deal of time preparing the body to absorb impact and conditioning their weapons to dish it out. Matches today are carried out in both the traditional manner and a more modern offshoot started in 1996, the Myanmar Traditional Boxing. The modern style has changed to make the contests more of an organized sport under the government's organization. The goal seems to be to make it a more marketable sport similar to Muay Thai. Some Lethwei boxers tried to participate in kickboxing and Muay Thai matches outside Burma but their extreme style and techniques were banned in worldwide kickboxing and Muay Thai matches thus making them unadaptable to professional sport fighting contests, and consequently unable to win any major titles. There are a number of Lethwei boxers who do compete in Thailand professionally with varying degrees of success.


The Myanmar government held the first championship tournament in 2000. In ordinary matches, there is no scoring system to decide the winners, but it was adopted then. After the championship tournament, the official title matches haven't been held. So, the fighters who knocked out the tournament winners are recognized as the unofficial champions by people. By the way, there are a lot of lethwei matches are done everywhere around Myanmar every month, but there are only 2 or 3 official events held by the government. Other matches are just a kind of a part of local festivals.

Myanmar government officially offered 3 American fighters from USA in June 2001. They were Shannon Ritch, Albert Ramirez and Doug Evans. That was the first official international event of lethwei in Myanmar. They fought against fighters from Myanmar, but all of them were knocked out at 1st round and they lost. In the official events held by Myanmar government, the winners and the losers, both of them are given belts as commemorative gifts. The winners are given black coloured belts, and the losers are given white coloured belts.

In July 10-11 2004, 4 Japanese fighters were offered to fight against Myanmar fighters. They were Akitoshi Tamura, Yoshitaro Niimi, Takeharu Yamamoto and Naruji Wakasugi. Only Tamura was a professional MMA fighter. It was the 2nd official event held by the Myanmar government. Tamura knocked out Aya Bo Sein at 2nd round and became the first winner who beat a Myanmar fighter at the official Myanmar match.

In June 2006, 2nd Myanmar national championship tournament was held by the government. The new champions were decided at 10 weight classes.


Lethwei is similar in concept, but radically different from Muay Thai due to the allowance of head-butts. In comparison, Lethwei can be interpreted as being bolder and more extreme. The techniques are a bit slower and stronger than in the other Southeast Asian kickboxing forms, possibly because it has more Indian influence than the other styles. There are records recording Lethwei style matches dating back to the Pyu empire in Burma. Ancient Burma armies successfully used Lethwei, Bando and its armed sibling Banshay in winning many wars against neighboring countries.

It should be noted that the modern style of Myanmar Traditional Boxing greatly resembles Muay Thai in its sporting outlook, and not the rough and tumble fighting of its rural roots.

In many traditional and rural fights, members from the audience are welcomed onto the ring to fight with the professional boxers. Sometimes, fighters among the audience successfully knock out the boxers in the ring.

Many of the ethnic groups within Burma have their own variant of the indigenous martial arts giving them different styles of Lethwei that make for exciting action.

The Kachin variant of Lethwei is referred to as soft (relaxed). There is very little wasted motion or effort. Lethwei matches usually start in long range with kicks to the legs and raking punches to the face in an effort to draw blood. As the match continues, the fighters often end up in a clinch and the primary techniques used are standing grappling coupled with various takedowns and sweeps. The preferred finishing techniques are head butts, elbows, and knees. The Kachin Practitioner generally prefers to fight from the clinch and tends not to fall after missing with a long distance strike, opting instead to follow low line kicks and raking punches into close range.

If the sport is viewed in the context of preparing an athlete for combat you can see that it not only teaches timing, distance, and movement but also the ability to absorb and deliver punishment, thereby winning a war of attrition. The goal is not so much the winning and losing but fighting hard and learning lessons about survival. (