Immortalised on the walls of the Angkor temples, this ancient art form is elbow over fist one of the most distinctive and entertaining martial arts in this neck of the woods.

Kun Khmer or Pradal Serey (‘free frighting’) is thought to be the forerunner to many of the now better known martial art forms in the region, which may explain why the Khmer Empire was such a force to be reckoned with in its day.

Now Cambodia’s national sport, the discipline consists of stand up striking and clinch fighting with a match won by knockout or points. Fighters strike opponents using the hands, feet, knees and elbows, with this arm joint leading to more victories than any other striking technique.

If you want to sit ringside, matches are held regularly at weekends in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, although schedules tend to vary. Fights are held at TV studios or arenas and usually telecast, with the rolling cameras and lights adding to the spirited atmosphere, in addition to boisterous crowds and live music.

Guide to visiting

  • Events are either live fights or shows, with the former more suitable for hardened boxing fans and the latter more for families or groups less keen on seeing full contact martial arts matches which can verge or brutal.
  • Common venues for matches are CTN, Bayon, TV3, TV5 and SEA TV – ask a city tuktuk driver for details as they tend to be the best informed.

If you’re keen to get in the ring yourself, small gym Angkor Fight Club to the west of Siem Reap (Bakheng Rd, Taphul village) offers classes in Muay Thai, MMA and Crossfit at a fraction of the cost of classes in the West.

Classes held Monday to Friday 15:00-21:00 and Saturday 15:00-16:30.