The last surviving Grand Masters
There are still relatively few Grand Masters of Yuthakun Khorm who survive to pass on the skills. Sixty-two-year-old Chan Bunthoeun is one and claims to have learned the skill from his father. He was a Commando in the Cambodian military in the 1960’s and 70’s and claims to have used Yuthakun Khorm many times in military campaigns, saying it saved his life several times. He also claims to have mastered the magic spells that traditionally were used alongside it.
He told the Phnom Penh Post “In addition to the strength of an elephant and the speed of a leopard, a Yuthakun Khorm warrior uses magic spells to help them knock down their opponents… For example, Moha Kamlang is a spell that makes you powerful during the fight.”
It is the more practical physical elements of the discipline which are attracting new disciples these days though. Yuthakun Khorm brings together various different fighting techniques, with practitioners learning hand-to-hand combat, various grappling techniques, and the use of swords, spears, and various other weapons.
Young people are increasingly taking it up as a form of self-defence or as a form of physical exercise. Seak Sethkathiya is a 26-year-old student from Kratie, who turned to Yuthakun Khorm when she moved to the capital of Cambodia Phnom Penh. She told the Phnom Penh Post, “I left my hometown for Phnom Penh to study and work. My family is very worried about me, so I have to learn to defend myself.”
It is also still being used by some sections of the Cambodian military, but still, the number of people actively practising Yuthakun Khorm is thought to be as low as 2,000. This number is on the rise though, in no small part thanks to the use of the discipline by Cambodian MMA fighters, such as Chan Rothana.