Bokator – The Cambodian Khmer Martial Art


Bokator is an old Cambodian martial art that offers the incorporation of weapons. There isn’t an exact known age of Bokator. However, it is estimated that the art was developed over 1700 years ago.

This estimation stems from the fact that the art was used in the military prior to the existence of the Khmer Empire. Bokator is still widely used today due to the sheer amount of techniques it incorporates.

Outside of the weapons portion of the art, Bokator features around 10000 different techniques. This enormous quantity makes the art so difficult to defend.

This is because it offers skill sets to perform against almost any style of fighting. Today practitioners of the art wear the uniforms previously worn by ancient Khmer soldiers.

In this uniform traditional form of scarf is folded around the fighters waist. This scarf is used as a belt system for fighters in the art. These scarves are formally known as Kramas.

Additionally, cords are tied around the biceps and head of practitioners. In the past this was done by warriors to increase strength. Khmer warriors believed the cords could be enchanted. This aspect of the cords was believed to lead to an increase in strength in battle.

However this belief has faded in the modern style. Instead the cords are merely worn as a salute to past soldiers. A means of ceremony to remember the arts history.

Belt System in Bokator

Almost all martial arts have some form of system to dictate who holds the most experience as a fighter. This allows a way for fighters to have a means of achievement in the art. This is necessary especially in today’s society as these arts are no longer solely used as combat but also as hobbies.

Bokator sticks to the trend with a belt system similar to that used in Karate or Tae kwon do. However Bokators’s belt system uses the aforementioned krama. Their are seven different colors of kramas in the system.

To earn higher colors of Kramas a certain amount of techniques in Bokator must first be mastered. The first six colors in order of lowest level of krama to highest are white, green, blue, red, brown and black. Out of the 10000 techniques featured in Bokator , only 1000 must be learned to acquire a black krama.

The highest level of Krama past the black one is the gold Krama. This is the highest one can achieve in Bokator and is seen as a massive achievement in the art. It takes years alone to earn a black Krama, past this point though a further 10 years of study is needed to be given a gold Krama.

Bokator like many other styles of martial arts is primarily focused on its use as a mean of self-defense. This obviously wasn’t the case though in the past when this art was used in warfare. However a lot of the most brutal attacking strikes practiced in this art involve the use of weapons.

The concept of nature is a large focus in this craft. Taking different animal fighting styles and condensing them into sets that can be learnt is where most of the techniques use base from.

There are a total of 341 different sets that can be learnt. Of these some animal styles of note are the eagle, horse or crane. These animal fighting techniques allow bokator to be a straight up fighting style. This ensures the fight stays directed on achieving one primary goal which is to win.

The art also follows the theory of using hard points of the body in a fight. For this reason, a variety of knee and elbow strikes are used. Ground combat and submission is somewhat focused on in the art but not as strongly as stand-up combat.