Monday, November 7, 2011

Learning about Cambodian martial art Labokator

This is a guest-post from Cambodian blogger Sreyneath Poole. Sreyneath is a student at the University of Redlands in California but home isn't far from her heart. She keeps a blog Inspiring Cambodian Women, and is writing here about Eng Sou Mala who competes in traditional Cambodian martial art Labokator. 
Growing up playing football in Cambodia, my relatives always try to convince me that I should play volleyball or tennis or something with less physical contact because it is much more feminine.
Contact sports are for men only. At least that is my interpretation. On top of that playing contact sports will build muscles in a women’s body and that is definitely not a good thing. My relatives were scared that I might look too masculine. I love football too much to care about looking like a man.

In Cambodia, you do not hear much about professional women athletes because of social and cultural views that prevents women’s participation in sports. Recently there are a growing number of profession women athletes. It is nice to see that Cambodia is slowly moving away from negative views of women participating in sports.

Eng Sou Mala is one of Cambodia’s woman athletes that embody the move away from traditional views.  On October 12th 2011, Phnom Penh Post selected Eng Sou Mala as “Youth of the Week.” Sou Mala excels at Labokator, which is Cambodia’s ancient form of martial arts. Labokator consists of close hand-to-hand combat and weapon use. Unlike kickboxing, labokator was designed to be used during battles. (For details on labokator please refer to this Wikipedia article)

Eng Sou Mala faces many difficulties while training to become a labokator player. Her first obstacle was her family and friends’ objections. “In the beginning, they (Mala’s parents and friends) reproached me, saying a woman shouldn’t play a sport that leads to having a bad-looking body,” Sou Mala tells Phnom Penh Post. another obstacle that she also faces is overcoming injuries.

Eng Sou Mala
Despite the obstacles, Sou Mala excels at Labokator. She competed at Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium three times and won many prizes at the competition. In 2008 she entered the national competition and won one gold and two silver medals. At her second appearance, she won three gold medals, a silver medal, and a bronze medal. Her medals are displayed in a glass box at the Labokator Academy. This is an impressive achievement and her passion for the sport shows.

Sreyneath used this Phnom Penh Post article in her research.

Are there any other less well-known sports you are interested in? Let me know and I will search out some experts!

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