Kun Khmer (Khmer kickboxing)

A gritty good time

Photo of Kun Khmer (Khmer kickboxing), , Phnom Penh

What we say: 3.5 stars

The easiest way to lose a Khmer friend is by referring to it as muay Thai -- Cambodians are very proud to say it was their ancestors who invented the sport back in the ninth century CE, as evidenced by stone carving reliefs at the Terrace of Elephants of Angkor Thom and elsewhere. According to them, the Thais picked it up only after getting their butts kicked by Khmer warriors in hand-to-hand combat. Continuing this ancient tradition, boxers perform graceful dances before each fight and the action is set to traditional Khmer drum and flute music.

Ask your guesthouse or a friendly tuk tuk driver which TV station is hosting fights -- generally, it's TV5 on Fridays and Saturdays, Bayon and CTN on Saturdays and Sundays. Admission is free at all, but the CTN studio is the easiest to reach, just six kilometres from the city centre. On arrival, head to the warehouse building to find a good viewing spot on the grandstands or stand near the ring. Note the throngs of Khmer men boisterously placing bets by shouting and pointing.

Although many of the boxers enjoy great respect and admiration, they don't exactly make a fortune. You can see them preparing for the fight in public bathrooms and hopping on their moto to get home after a good pummelling. It's this gritty reality, as much as the action itself, that makes a Khmer boxing match so thrilling.

Last updated: 30th January, 2013

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