Khmer Kickboxing

Robert Starkweather

Khmer Kickboxing is the national sport of Cambodia; they love it! The Khmer name is Pradal Serey meaning 'free fighting', and the objective is to knock an opponent out, force a technical knockout, or win a match by points. The fighters use four types of strikes, punches, kicks, knees and elbows. It's fast and furious! It is believed Pradal Serey has shared origins of similar martial arts in the region such as Muay Thai, Muay Lao, Lethwei and Tomoi back to the end of the Funan Kingdom (550AD). They share similar techniques and stances but as any Cambodian will tell you, Pradal Serey has its own long history and is not just a copy of the more widely known Muay Thai. One notable difference would be more victories are won by use of the elbows than any other strikes. Wednesday afternoon fights are televised and avidly attended by the locals. There are five fights starting at 3:15pm until around 5:30pm. The fights are performed in a professional ring controlled environment and begin by the boxers praying and offering homage to the audience, the spiritual world, and each other. When the orchestra plays the round begins and the ceremony is replaced with a burst of limbs flying into action. Incredibly exciting! The venue is filled with locals rather than tourists, and they take this very seriously. The action outside the ring is almost as exciting with shouting and enthusiasm from the crowd. The winning fighters come round to collect cash from the audience at the end, a great photo opportunity moment for a tip. They reserve around 10 front row 'VIP' seats for foreigners to be visible on the TV cameras. So you can get a great view! These are just standard tickets on a first come first served basis. Get here at least 30mins before show time if you want to get these seats. While perfectly safe for tourists and children it can be smokey in there, not so ideal for kids. The Wednesday tickets are US$15 and you can ask at a tourist agency or your hotel to organise them or collect them from the venue. It's about US$3 each way in a tuk-tuk from central Siem Reap. There were show fights on an evening aimed at tourists which lasted around 50mins for $10. Nice to do if you can't make the Wednesday event. We think they lacked the atmosphere of the real thing and so weren't as popular as hoped, so the last we heard they had been cancelled. If you are interested, ask at an agency to see if they are now running again. If you do hear anything let us know. Tel: +855 77562565 Address: Charles de Gaulle, CTN Angkor Arena, Siem Reap

Map of North West Cambodia

North West Cambodia-Map