The ancient martial art of Bokator was developed in Cambodia by the Angkorian people. The origins of Bokator were probably a mix of Indian and Chinese martial arts developed into a new style by the Angkorian race.
Bokator literally means Bok “smash” Tao “tiger”. The complete sentence means smashing the lion or the tiger. After Bokatao/Bokator was developed the martial arts called Khun Khmer and the free fighting mainly for the ring, Predal Serey, followed.Among a few other masters in Cambodia Ajarn Sam Kim Sean is perhaps the most well known in the martial arts community today. Here is the story that he has shared with us about the history of Bokatao.
Almost 2000 years ago Angkorian people lived in the deep jungles and mountains. One of the main problems was wild animals because they were killing domestic animals and people. They didn’t have guns or powerful weapons so they were forced to try out a way to defend themselves against these attacks. A popular strategy to defeat a tiger was to fully submerge experienced young, strong men inside a wooden container filled with medicinal herbs and water for a few days. They would breathe through a straw poking out of the water. As a result of doing this, the skin would become so hard that no weapon, needle or knife could cut it.
They would go to kill the tiger carrying only ropes sticks and wooden spears. The strategy was to surround the tiger while he was sleeping. One man would approach the tiger from behind and slap it on the back leg making a loud sound. The surprised tiger would run into a circle where he was surrounded by hidden villagers. In front of the tiger the young men with tough skin would jump to catch the tiger’s attention. The tiger would see him and run towards him, jump and try to bite his neck to kill him. The young men would protect his neck with his forearm which the tiger then bites. Laying on his back with the tiger on top of him the boy would stab the tiger in the groin with a knife attached to his big toe. After this the villagers would come out with their spears and stab the tiger until he was completely dead. The villagers then carried the tiger to the village to eat. The people inside the village were very surprised and called the men Bok(smash) Tao(Tiger or Lion).
Angkorian people believe that the ancient art of Bokatao developed from killing tigers and many techniques spread through the country. The following are the three main elements of Bokatao: 1.“Kro Pue Haa” meaning the alligator opens the mouth 2.“Sro Ngnae Pin” meaning the wheat blows with the wind 3.“Kla Krap” meaning the tiger lies down.
Each element contains many different techniques and the strategies, body positions, guards and movements are all completely different.
When Kru Pedro went to Cambodia to train Bokator, he found something really useful in the way that Angkorians were training. Their training was based in different positions all blended under one flow. Each position had few counter techniques and explosive attacks making their movements very effective and difficult to read. The element of surprise and the three inches strikes were some of the big factors in their strategy.