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The Never Ending Bokator Argument

In Uncategorized on September 5, 2015 at 9:43 am

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By Antonio Graceffo

A friend sent me a Phnom Penh Post story about yutakhun khom the traditional Khmer martial art of Master Chan Boeunthoeun. In the article, Chan Boeunthoeun claims that his martial art is older and more authentic than the Bokator of Grand Master San Kim Saen. Chan Boeunthoeun has apparently gone so far as to solicit UNESCO to remove Bokator from the Intangible Cultural Heritage, martial arts list, in favor of his yuthakhun Khom. The whole argument is preposterous on so many levels. But before I explain how baseless this argument is, let me first say one thing. I have huge respect for Chan Boeunthoeun who taught his son Chan Rothana to combine traditional Khmer martial arts with bradal serey kick boxing, which Chan Rothana then used, successfully, in over 90 professional bradal serey kick boxing fights. Chan Rothana even used a combination of traditional Khmer techniques, plus bradal serey and some modern MMA to become a One FC fighter and to amass a professional MMA record of 3 wins and 1 loss.

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There should be no question about Chan Rothana’s courage, or the fighting effectiveness of his martial. He definitely walks the walk. And I respect that. But there is no evidence of any kind to prove that yutakhun khom is older than Bokator or that the word yutakhun khom even existed prior to 2012.

Leading up to 2004, Chan Boeunthoeun used to be friends with Bokator Grand Master, San Kim Saen. They had both been part of the Hopkido federation and worked together to found the original Bokator Federation in 2004. They then had a falling out, and Chan Boeunthoeun left (or was asked to leave) the Bokator federation. Chan Boeunthoeun continued to teach Bokator out of his home until about 2012, when he suddenly decided that he was one of the two last remaining masters of yutakhun khom, which he claimed was the real Khmer traditional martial art.

In 2012, The National Olympic Committee of Cambodia, working together with Grand Master San Kim Saen, managed to get Bokator recognized by UNESCO on the Intangible Cultural Heritage, martial arts list. Before 2012, Cambodia had NOTHING on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage, martial arts list. Thailand had Muay Thai. Japan had Judo. Korea had Taekkyeon, but Cambodia had no official martial art until 2012, when the Bokator of Grand Master San Kim Saen was recognized. Since then, a number of other Cambodians have suddenly come forward, claiming to be teaching even older styles of Cambodian martial arts. In 2004, most of those masters, including Chan Boeunthoeun, were at the national meeting in Phnom Penh when the Bokator association was founded. Many of them were founding members of Bokator. So, if they actually knew of some other, older, better martial art, why did they wait until 2012 to talk about it?

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A Google search for “yutakhun khom” revealed the earliest online mention of the art was a post in a Sherdog.com forum in 2012.

The Phnom Penh Post story had this quote from Benoit Rigallaud, the manager of Chan Rothana and owner of the studio where yutakhun khom is taught, “’UNESCO giving bokator Intangible Heritage Asset status was a concern to the yutakhun khom community, and should be to all Cambodians, because ‘they failed to conduct a full investigation”’” Full investigation! Of what? The only evidence yutakhun khom has is the legend of a magical book of the ancient martial arts techniques which was allegedly hidden for Centuries and then finally destroyed by the Khmer Rouge.

Is it possible that someone who has a financial interest in yutakhun khom being recognized has a slightly biased opinion? And, when did opinion become fact? There doesn’t seem to be a shred of evidence to support the claims of yutakhun khom having existed. In fact the word does not appear in the 1936 dictionary of the Khmer language. Neither are there any ancient writings using that word, apart from the magical book which was destroyed by the Khmer Rouge.

Another quote from Benoit Rigallaud, “This is crazy, because we are talking about history and culture here, and if heritage is lost then it is gone forever.” If Benoit Rigallaud and Chan Boeunthoeun succeed in getting Bokator removed from the UNESCO list, then Cambodia will be losing its cultural heritage. And I agree, that is crazy.

As for the “history” of Bokator, I interviewed Chan Boeunthoeun, the first time, in 2007 in connection with the TV show, Human Weapon. At that time, Chan Boeunthoeun still called his style Bokator. He mentioned the book which had been destroyed as proof of the art. While telling me the history of Bokator, he told me that King Jayavarman VII, the patron of Bokator, and now apparently of yutakhun khom, and Bodhidharma (Da Mo) the founder of Shaolin Kung Fu, were “classmates.” According to Chan Boeunthoeun, Bodhidharma was Khmer, not Indian. Next, he said that King Jayavarman VII taught Bokator to Bodhidharma and Bodhidharma brought Bokator to China and called it Kung Fu. This story astounded me, given that Bodhidharma lived during the 5th and 6th Centuries and King Jayavarman VII lived during the 12th and 13th. When I asked him why history had recorded the story differently, he blamed Thailand. Those damned Thais and their political influence! They got the entire world to change the history of both India and China, just to repress the Khmer martial art of yutakhun khom.

Chan Boeunthoeun’s story, since 2012, has been that he has been teaching yutakhun khom all along and that it was yutakhun khom that King Jayavarman VII supported and that it was yutakhun khom that was in the ancient book which was destroyed.

According to the Phnom Penh Post story, “Boeunthoeun claims yutakhun khom dates back 2,000 years to the Funan kingdom of Southeast Asia, but it was King Jayavarman VII at the height of the Khmer Angkorian empire nearly 1,000 years ago who could be credited with cementing the yuthakun khom philosophy that survives to this day.”” This is the exact same story that has been told about Bokator. And, there is no evidence of either the word Bokator or yuthakun khom in any historical document in Cambodia. During the nearly ten years that I researched my book on Khmer martial arts, I also searched French documents. I searched in Thailand, Lao, and Burma. I spoke to Khmer martial arts teachers and students in USA, Australia, Canada, and Europe. And NO ONE had a book. No one had any evidence of any kind. And during those first many years, pre 2012, I never heard the word yuthakun khom. In fairness, I did here the word yuthakun used for martial art. And there was a yuthakun martial arts club that trained at the techno university in Phnom Penh. But their martial art was admittedly synthetic. They never claimed it to be original Khmer. It was basically a mix of everything from Khmer to karate, to taekwondo and even kung fu and probably judo.

But not one person I interviewed, including Chan Boeunthoeun used the term yuthakun khom.

Given the complete lack of evidence, it would seem more constructive for Khmer people to be happy that they made it to the UNESCO list at all. They should support the traditional martial art, whether it is called Bokator or yuthakun khom, and simply move on. There are so many other problems in the country which need to be addressed before tearing down work that has already been done and replacing it.

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo holds a black krama in Khmer martial arts. He is the author of the book, Khun Khmer: Cambodian Martial Arts Journey. He works as a lecturer at Shanghai University. He is also a PhD candidate at Shanghai University of sport, writing his dissertation on comparative forms of Chinese wrestling. He is expected to graduate his China MBA, from Shanghai Jiaotong University, and his PhD in Spring, 2016. Antonio is also a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia, the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

The Monk from Brooklyn, the book which gave Antonio his name, and all of his other books, the book available at amazon.com. His book, Warrior Odyssey, chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia, including stories about Khmer and Vietnamese martial arts as well as the war in Burma and the Shan State Army, is available at http://www.blackbeltmag.com/warrior_odyssey

See Antonio’s Destinations video series and find out about his column on http://www.blackbeltmag.com
Twitter
http://twitter.com/Brooklynmonk
facebook
Brooklyn Monk fan page
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Brooklyn-Monk/152520701445654?fref=ts
Brooklyn Monk on YOUTUBE
http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1
Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)
http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

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Martial Arts Styles Do Exist

In Uncategorized on August 3, 2015 at 10:22 am

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By Antonio Graceffo

Recently, I saw a Facebook video of a grappling competition, between a freestyle wrestler and a Brazilian Jujitsu practitioner. There are a lot of Youtube videos with titles like “Muay Thai vs. Kyokushin” or “Kung Fu vs. MMA” but what I liked about this particular video was that both practitioners were wearing the clothing appropriate to their art, which made them easily identifiable. The wrestler wore his singlet and wrestling shoes. The BJJ fighter wore a grappling shirt and shorts. The next thing that was special about this match up was that both men fought according to their distinctive styles. In this modern era of open grappling tournaments and MMA fights, most champion fighters are so well-rounded that the imprint of their original martial art is often barely visible.

The litmus test, for a fighter looking like his or her style, would be Ronda Rousey, who, in spite of being incredibly well-rounded, and in spite of having won her UFC 190 fight completely with striking, usually looks like a judoka. Watching her fights, it is generally clearly obvious that she comes from a world-class judo background. Lyoto Machida definitely owes much of his success to the fact that he fights like a karate man and both grapplers and strikers find it difficult to break inside of his unusual footwork. Another example would be Cung Le, whose san da background is evident in his MMA fights. But, when GSP defeated world-class wrestler Matt Hughes, did he really look like a kyokushin fighter? Or is there anything about Roy “Big Country” Nelson to suggest that his first martial art was kung fu?
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In this video matchup between the wrestler and the BJJ practitioner, the BJJ guy kept trying to pull guard, to take the fight to the ground, where he would have the advantage. The wrestler was clearly looking for, and got, the takedown, which is his strength. Once he engaged, the wrestler executed a suplex, followed by a high-crotch takedown. He slammed the BJJ guy so hard that the referee stopped the match.
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It was the comments posted on this video which caused me to write this article. “its not the name of the style… Its the practitioner”, “Jujutsu is wrestling, Judo – is wrestling”, “There are not ‘greco technique ‘ of ‘BJJ technique , ‘judo technique’ or ‘free style technique’ There are only ‘RIGHT TECHNIQUE’ and ‘WRONG’”.

Recently, I have heard a lot of people claiming that there are no martial arts styles, only “good technique” and “bad technique.” But this is simply not the case. Some techniques are similar across multiple styles, for example, a shoulder throw can be used in judo, shuai jiao, submission wrestling, or even san da. But other techniques are not. And if a particular style lacks a particular technique, the practitioners normally don’t drill the defense to that technique. Boxers, for example don’t practice sprawl, because there is no single or double leg takedown in boxing. Wrestlers don’t practice passing the guard, because that situation doesn’t exist in wrestling.
Styles definitely exist. And for that reason, when people wish to excel in mixed style events, like open grappling tournaments, or MMA fights, the best fighters tend to be complete fighters who train in multiple styles.

As anecdotal evidence proving the existence of styles, let me present the findings of my summer research. This summer, I travelled for three solid months training and filming Martial Arts Odyssey. My journey took me to Shanghai, Phnom Penh, Bangkok, New York, Singapore, and Johor Bahru. Along the way, I trained and/or filmed the following martial arts: san da, Greco-Roman wrestling, freestyle wrestling, shuai jiao wrestling, Kepap, catch wrestling, sambo, submission wrestling, judo, boxing, and Brazilian jujitsu.

In san da training, we spent an hour catching kicks. Kick catching is not taught in Greco-Roman wrestling, freestyle wrestling, shuai jiao wrestling, catch wrestling, submission wrestling, judo, boxing, or Brazilian jujitsu.

In Greco-Roman wrestling we were practicing dropping to one knee and executing a fireman’s carry (without touching the opponent’s leg). This method is not taught in san da, shuai jiao wrestling or boxing.

In freestyle wrestling we were working on cat’s cradle pin. This technique is not taught in san da, Greco-Roman wrestling, shuai jiao wrestling, or boxing.

In freestyle, we also worked on ankle-pick which is not done in san da, Greco-Roman wrestling, shuai jiao wrestling, Kepap, judo, or boxing.

In shuai jiao wrestling we practiced jacket grabbing drills. These techniques are not taught in san da, Greco-Roman wrestling, freestyle wrestling, Kepap, catch wrestling, submission wrestling, boxing, or Brazilian jujitsu.

In kepap class the students were learning how to execute a knife attack. Offensive knife fighting is never taught in san da, Greco-Roman wrestling, freestyle wrestling, shuai jiao wrestling, catch wrestling, boxing, sambo, submission wrestling, judo, or Brazilian jujitsu.

In Catch wrestling we were learning knee and ankle submissions. These techniques are forbidden, and thus not taught, in san da, Greco-Roman wrestling, freestyle wrestling, shuai jiao wrestling, boxing, or judo.

In sambo we were learning knee compression submissions. These are not taught in san da, Greco-Roman wrestling, freestyle wrestling, shuai jiao wrestling, Kepap, judo, or boxing.

In submission wrestling we worked on turtle defense and reversing an opponent who was turttled up, so you could get the pin. Turtle position doesn’t exist in san da, shuai jiao wrestling, Kepap, or boxing.

In judo we learned how to use the opponent’s gi top to choke him. This is not practiced in: san da, Greco-Roman wrestling, freestyle wrestling, shuai jiao wrestling, Kepap, catch wrestling, submission wrestling, or boxing.

In boxing training, my coach, Paddy Carson, was helping me improve the rhythm of my three-punch combinations. Punching isn’t taught in Greco-Roman wrestling, freestyle wrestling, shuai jiao wrestling, catch wrestling, submission wrestling, judo, or Brazilian jujitsu.

At Brazilian jujitsu class we were learning spider guard. These skills are not taught in san da, Greco-Roman wrestling, freestyle wrestling, shuai jiao wrestling, catch wrestling, or boxing.

Styles clearly exist. For this reason, to be a complete fighter, one must study multiple STYLES.

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a PhD candidate at Shanghai University of sport, writing his dissertation on comparative forms of Chinese wrestling. He is martial arts and adventure author living in Asia, the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.
The Monk from Brooklyn, the book which gave Antonio his name, and all of his other books, the book available at amazon.com. His book, Warrior Odyssey, chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia, including stories about Khmer and Vietnamese martial arts as well as the war in Burma and the Shan State Army, is available at http://www.blackbeltmag.com/warrior_odyssey
See Antonio’s Destinations video series and find out about his column on http://www.blackbeltmag.com
Twitter
http://twitter.com/Brooklynmonk
facebook
Brooklyn Monk fan page
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Brooklyn-Monk/152520701445654?fref=ts
Brooklyn Monk on YOUTUBE
http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1
Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)
http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com
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John L. Sullivan, the Truth

In Uncategorized on December 14, 2014 at 12:02 pm

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William Muldoon
By Antonio Graceffo

John L. Sullivan, contrary to what most people believe, did not fight most of his matches bare-knuckle. Not only did he wear gloves in most of his fights, but he published a public challenge, stating that he would wear gloves to protect his hands, but he didn’t care if his opponent were bare-fisted or not. He also preferred Marques of Queensbury Rules, rather than London Prize Fight Rules, as the London rules were more brutal and allowed limited grappling. According to a biography I just read, John L. never studied boxing. In fact, he never even practiced boxing. The only times he trained was when his weight would balloon up to 240 or more and he had to lose weight. Training routines in those days were a joke. John L’s training, before a title fight, consisted largely of long brisk walks and vigorous rundowns. His training diet consisted of beer and mutton. Once, in order to prove that he was the best, and to make some money, he went on an 80 day tour of the US and parts of Canada, fighting all-comers. He went completely undefeated. In those days there were no weight limits and the average fighter was 160 pounds, considerably smaller than John L Who fought between 190 and 250. Today, a tour like that would be impossible. There is a kid you’ve never heard of, in a random town in Iowa who could beat a UFC champion if it was the right day of the week. Fighting and fighters have really come a long way since the late 19th Century.

His reputation as a bare-knuckle boxer most likely stems from the fact that he was declared the last heavyweight champion of bare-knuckle boxing. This moniker came from his 1889 epic battle with Jack Kilrain, which lasted 77 rounds. This was both the last title fight fought under London Prizefighting Rules and also the final match ever held for the bare-knuckle championship of the world.

William Muldoon, one of the great wrestlers of the catch-as-catch-can days trained john L for this fight and he was in the best shape of his entire career. Muldoon was a visionary and pioneer in the field of physical fitness. He had John L. eating a high protein, low carb diet and abstaining from alcohol. Under Muldoon’s tutelage, John L. dropped about sixty pounds, weighing in at 190, a weight he hadn’t fought at since he was in his late teens.

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a PhD candidate at Shanghai University of sport, writing his dissertation on comparative forms of Chinese wrestling. He is martial arts and adventure author living in Asia, the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.
Warrior Odyssey, the book chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia is available at amazon.com. The book contains stories about the war in Burma and the Shan State Army. The book is available at http://www.blackbeltmag.com/warrior_odyssey
See Antonio’s Destinations video series and find out about his column on http://www.blackbeltmag.com
Twitter
http://twitter.com/Brooklynmonk
facebook
Brooklyn Monk fan page
Brooklyn Monk on YOUTUBE
http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1
Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)
http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

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The Road to Dissertation

In Uncategorized on June 15, 2014 at 2:42 am

By Antonio Graceffo

a125 neck crank

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Chinese technique

On the long road to writing my dissertation on the subject of Chinese traditional wrestling compared to modern freestyle wrestling:

roll over

Rules

free ji ben

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a PhD candidate at Shanghai University of sport, writing his dissertation on comparative forms of Chinese wrestling. He is martial arts and adventure author living in Asia, the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.
Warrior Odyssey, the book chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia is available at amazon.com. The book contains stories about the war in Burma and the Shan State Army. The book is available at http://www.blackbeltmag.com/warrior_odyssey
See Antonio’s Destinations video series and find out about his column on http://www.blackbeltmag.com
Twitter
http://twitter.com/Brooklynmonk
facebook
Brooklyn Monk fan page
Brooklyn Monk on YOUTUBE
http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1
Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)
http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

Wrestling Articles published by Antonio Graceffo (Academic year, 2013-2014)

In Uncategorized on June 12, 2014 at 2:36 am

安东尼Graceffo(学年,2013至14年)出版的摔跤文章
Wrestling Articles published by Antonio Graceffo (Academic year, 2013-2014)

A38 SHuaijiao lead

中国武术和柬埔寨武术的比较
https://www.academia.edu/7318181/_

标题:残疾人摔跤手
https://www.academia.edu/7294762/_

标题残障人士可以是专业的战
https://www.academia.edu/7086251/_

体育教育在美国
https://www.academia.edu/7318237/_

Sports Education in the US
https://www.academia.edu/7318214/Sports_Education_in_the_US
Cambodian and Chinese Martial Arts Compared
https://www.academia.edu/6056191/Cambodian_and_Chinese_Martial_Arts_Compared

The Travels of Antonio Graceffo: The Brooklyn Monk, Part II: Shuai Jiao Realist
http://wrestlingroots.org/the-travels-of-antonio-graceffo-the-brooklyn-monk-part-ii/

Shuai Jiao in Kung Fu Magazine
https://brooklynmonk.wordpress.com/2014/01/28/shuai-jiao-in-kung-fu-magazine/

Wrestler Looks at Judo — Part 1
http://magazine.fighttimes.com/wrestler-looks-judo-part-1/

SUS Wrestlers and San Da Fighters in the MMA Gym
http://magazine.fighttimes.com/sus-wrestlers-san-da-fighters-mma-gym/
Wrestling for San Da
http://magazine.fighttimes.com/wrestling-for-san-da/

视频纪录片Video Documentary

Traditional Chinese Wrestling (Shuai Jiao) Sparring, Beijing

Shuaijiao Wrestling, Shanghai University of Sport (Part 1)

Shuaijiao Wrestling, Shanghai University of Sport (Part 2)

Wrestling Sparing, Shanghai University of Sport (Part 1)

Wrestling Sparing, Shanghai University of Sport (Part 2)

Cambodia National Wrestling Team (Part 1)

Cambodia National Wrestling Team (Part 2)

Cambodia National Wrestling Team (Part 3)

Radio Interviews

No Holds Barred: Antonio Graceffo on Wrestling in China
https://archive.org/details/NoHoldsBarredAntonioGraceffoOnWrestlingInChina

访谈Print interviews

The Future of Martial Arts
http://futureofmartialarts.com/2013/12/21/antonio-graceffo/

Chinese Presentation: Chinese and Khmer Martial Arts (Chinese language) (Parts 1 and 2)

In Uncategorized on March 21, 2014 at 1:35 am

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A PhD research presentation (in Chinese), from Shanghai University of Sport, comparing Cambodian and Chinese martial arts. Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is writing his doctoral dissertation on comparative forms of Chinese wrestling. Along the 3 year road to his dissertation, he is also writing shorter papers on various forms of comparative martial arts.

Watch: Chinese and Khmer Martial Arts (Chinese language) (Part 1)

Watch: Chinese and Khmer Martial Arts (Chinese language) (Part 2)

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.
Warrior Odyssey, the book chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia is available at amazon.com. The book contains stories about the war in Burma and the Shan State Army. The book is available at http://www.blackbeltmag.com/warrior_odyssey
See Antonio’s Destinations video series and find out about his column on http://www.blackbeltmag.com
Email Antonio
Antonio@speakingadventure.com
website
http://www.speakingadventure.com
Twitter
http://twitter.com/Brooklynmonk
facebook: Brooklyn Monk fan page
Brooklyn Monk on YOUTUBE
http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)
http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com