© John Vink / Magnum Photos


Kun Khmer (male only?)

Four French Kun Khmer boxers were opposed to four Khmer at a meeting held at the Olympic Stadium. One thing is for sure: Khmer women are not ready yet for higher levels of competition in the boxing rings. Sok Sreytouch was wiped out in half a round… The reasons? Sexism… Khmer women cannot train close combat because what about those breasts?.. Khmer women cannot get a proper massage before combat because what about those hands touching a woman in public?.. Khmer women have to share the same dressing room with the male competitors… Khmer women go to work at the factory from 7 am to 4 pm… OK, that is “normal”, but otherwise this could become a long list…

There will be a multimedia slideshow on Ka-set (in English) later this afternoon.

(Story VIJ2008099)

4 Responses to “Kun Khmer (male only?)”

  1. john :))

    i left a long comment here yesterday, but it seems to have vaporized ;)), but i guess that’s a problem with the school computer and the web connection, so i’ll try to re-write what i’d written yesterday….(deep breath), here goes…

    I love this story, not the least of which is because of the light and the color. Ironically (as you know) at the Magnum blog there is a discussion about painting and it’s relationship to photography. In truth, i always cringe when i see that, cause the relationship between photography and painting has always seemed to me to be a (when photography was once considered the impoverished, little brother to big brother Painting) an over academized stretch. As a painter, I loved photography, just as now as a photographer, i love and miss and crave painting (but sculpture, video, performance as well). For me the relationship between painting and photography is a dandefied one, not one born of a more organic and mystery nature. Photography (for me) is connected primarily through the “physicality” of the head (memory, sight, time) and painting is connected through the physicality of the body (strokes, smells, movement, arrangement by using hands and tools), …that they both related to ideas expressed through sensorial properties (light, color, texture) is a given, but they exist quite separate for me but in the most superficial way. In other walls, even photographers who attempted a photographic dialogue with painting (Wall, of course, or Gursky, to site to of the more obvious guys) are still wrestling with very different issues…its a fun game, but photography and painting both inhabit quite different places and the comparison and the judgment seems unecessarily facile…fun, yea, but i cant help but sometimes feel that both are still engaged in that stupid competition…for the place from which creation of an object bubbles up subterreanily comes from a soup of disparate ingredients…i turned away from painting because i hungered for something i couldnt achieve in painting (wrestling with time), and ironically, now, my photographs increasingly look more like drawings, or the raw scrapings i use to paint…go figure…but i digress…

    what i love about this story is just that: the color of time. from the beautiful pattern of yellows to the midtones of the story in red to the culimination of the blues…in a sense john, this is a magnificently ‘painterly’ story, but that has nothing to do with the fact that they look like paintings…they do not ;)), but as splashes of color that evoke what paint does: sensation in the body to press out thought and memory…

    besides the gorgeous colors and the themes of these color running through out (yellow to red to blue), what i dig about this story is that it is DIFFERENT from the 1,000’s of other thai/khmer boxing stories i’ve seen. we’re not in the ring, but behind in, with the moments of these boxers before the ring…in fact, as i clicked through each, i thought “damn vink, great, no boxing shots”..for i want to know not what i’ve seen already, but what i have not…in fact, i want to see even more, especially of the women boxers, before the ring…this story, the preparation, the sparing, the stretching, the magical reading of charms, made the final photograph that much more powerful and actually a shock…those last 3 images come suddenly, as if i werent prepared, and then all the sounds and smells and bodies came rushing after the silence of the first 21 pics….

    can you give me even more about the women?….

    so, finally, a story not about the combat of the ring but about the concentration of the breathing (forgive my overly jealous buddhism), for that is what this story is about for me…and what i cherish about it….

    just as anyone who has painted understands (unlike what so many people think or what is portrayed in films), painting entails mostly sitting, silence, looking at the canvas as it’s worked…i used to spend much much much more time looking at the canvas (blank then covered and worked) than the actual act of painting…paintes work in heroic gaps of silence and stillness and waiting and looking…so too now for me as a photographer….so that when it comes, it tends to come in explosive moments, then stillness and reflection….

    so too boxing…

    now, last question, what’s the difference between Thai and Khmer boxing?…im clueless…

    ok, sorry for the long comment (i’ve been all week writing on finaling my essay for Bones), but sometimes i think if i write at blogs, the ideas get lost amid the tumult and discussion…

    so maybe this is just a talk, between 2 ex-painters ;)))

    terrific story john


    bobblack - December 18th, 2008 at 8:23 pm

  2. ps. the first image in the story (red teeth bathed and bruised in a bucket of ice) for me captures everything about the stillness and the pain of the sport >))))…love it…maybe it’s Chardin too ;))))

    bobblack - December 18th, 2008 at 8:50 pm

  3. Bob,

    There is no real difference. Less difference as between Dutch and Flemish? In fact the Cambodians feel uncomfortable with the fact the martial art is branded as being Thai, because it is depicted on some walls at Angkor Wat, and at the time Thailand was part of the Khmer empire. Muay Thai was popularised by US soldiers who used Thailand as a support/ leisure base during the Vietnam war and it spread out to the world then. Claiming it belongs here or there has unhealthy undertones of nationalism though.

    See more here: http://johnvink.com/story.php?title=Book_Poids_Mouche

    As for the women: I hope I can get something out of the Chom Chao story I am working on ( http://johnvink.com/news/category/chom-chao/ ). Or should be working on. Not much time for that lately. And time is running short before heading back…

    john vink - December 19th, 2008 at 5:00 am

  4. thanks john :))…very interesting…i cant wait to see the stuff….i always wondered about this…especially now that this type of boxing has been incorporated into america’s new obsession “ultimate fighting”…

    ok, running

    bobblack - December 19th, 2008 at 10:32 pm