Khmer Wrestling (Boak Cham Bab)

Baok Chambab is Cambodian traditional wrestling; a sport in which two opponents try to pin (hold) each other’s back to the ground. It has been practiced as far back as the Angkor period and is depicted on the bas-relief of the certain temple. The earliest form of Khmer traditional wrestling was called Maloyuth. Maloyuth was created in 788 A.D. by Brahmin Timu. It evolved to the current form of wrestling, Bok Cham Bab, in the 8th century. Although predominantly a male sport today, Khmer wrestling was once practiced by both sexes as female wrestlers are also displayed on the Banteay Srei temple.

In Khmer wrestling, the dancing is as important as the wrestling. A match consists of three rounds. Wrestlers perform pre-match ritual dancing before the match in which the wrestlers dance and move to the music. A wrestler wins a match by two out of three rounds. However, after each round, the loser is asked if he still wishes to continue with the match. A Baok Chambab match is traditional accompanied by drum beats; two drums known as Skor Nhi (female drum) and Skor Chhmol (male drum). Traditional matches are held at the Cambodian National Olympic Stadium during the Khmer New Year and other Cambodian holidays.

This folk sport used to be a means of choosing tribal and regional leaders. In the olden times, elders taught the young in their village on the full moon night after harvesting. It would take place on a rice paddy outside the village and under the moonlight. Today, the spot is still practiced in wrestling clubs in Pursat and Kampong Chhnang.