When people think of kickboxing in Southeast Asia they immediately think Muay Thai, but few will mention Pradal Serey. You are probably asking yourself, what the F@#% is Pradal Serey?! Well, Pradal Serey is Cambodian kickboxing, aka Khmer boxing. It is almost identical in ritual, and style to Muay Thai. So is it a rip off of Muay Thai? Not exactly. Actually many Cambodians believe Muay Thai is derived from Khmer boxing. This accusation which is hotly debated by Thais, is not so farfetched considering Thailand was once part of the Ancient Khmer Empire.
So you may be thinking, well why haven’t I heard anything about this Khmer boxing stuff? That’s because many Khmer boxing champions, and trainers where executed during the communist takeover of Cambodia in the mid to late 1970’s. The Khmer Rogue as it came to be known, viewed Khmer Boxers as threats and executed them. Not only martial artist, but anybody with the education to over throw them were massacred, including doctors, students, and former military.
It was not until recently that Pradal Serey has made a resurgence. In Siem Reap the Country’s second largest city, a new kickboxing stadium has been erected. Twice a week you can catch Khmer boxing at Angkor Stadium. I had the pleasure of watching dozens of Khmer boxing matches, I even got the chance to chat with its legendary promoter a man named Paddy Carson.
Paddy made a name for himself as a boxer and full contact Karate fighter in South Africa. Decades ago he moved to Thailand and began improving the boxing of Thai fighters, then eventually made his way to Cambodia. Originally opening a school in the Countries capital of Phnom Pehn, Paddy couched Khmer boxers on how to improve their hands . I asked Paddy about the difference between Khmer Boxing and Muay Thai, and according to him they are one in the same.
Once a month or more there is a showdown between the Khmer Boxers and Thai boxers. During these events, I began to notice the Thais had superior clinch work, while the Khmer boxers typically fared well in long range striking. According to Paddy, hands are what get the most knock outs, and of all the fights I witnessed it seemed to hold true.
Below is a video I threw together of a brief history of Pradal Serey along with some fight highlights. Hope you enjoy 🙂
Let me know what you think, Leave a comment!