Street Fighting Techniques in Cambodia

Posted on by Dermot Sheehan


I have only witnessed a handful of street fighting incidents or violence in my decade here in Cambodia. A couple were simply mentally unstable people going off, like one night near Psah Kandal where a guy was swinging around a long pole and trying to attack passersby; a bit disturbing to get caught up in but silly stuff really. One day maybe a year ago I saw guys on scooters with machetes trying to chop up other guys they chased across a busy intersection. Still, where I’m from in the world,you can see countless examples of street violence on any given night, but the difference is that there’s very little random violence here.

A few months back I was strolling past the Golden Sorya Mall and noticed things were kicking off. Some guys at one of the bars in the centre part started throwing glasses at another crew, rather ineffectively as a matter fact. A couple of them attacked a guy who was sitting down, and it was truly a pathetic sight. They were flailing their arms around like they were pretending to be windmills or something, maybe slapping the guy a bit but it was totally ridiculous sight to behold. Some security bodies turned up, but didn’t really know what the heck they were doing – I guess the place had only recently opened. So there were a lot of people chasing each other around in front and back of the place, but nothing much happened and eventually the guys disappeared.

I was at exactly the same bar a couple of nights later enjoying some dollar-fifty jugs and some other young guys started getting silly. One of them chucked an empty jug on the floor, and started throwing off shapes.

This time security was right on the case, and loads of them came in mob-handed. This nitwit clown teenager continued shouting threats at some other guy, like “You wanna fight, or not?”, while doing jack sh*t about it. Where I’m from a sentence like that is punctuated with punches to some sucker’s head, or kept till after you have mashed him to death and made sure he wasn’t getting up again too soon. It was a completely lame show of bravado anyway, not one decent punch or anything in 10 minutes of hot air and shouting.

The problem here might be that, when small conflicts arise, they aren’t resolved with a few relatively harmless punches and kicks and it tends to go quite a bit further. So either a huge gang is organized to swarm on you and make you wish you weren’t born, or weapons will be employed. Guns are still of course used, especially AK47s and low-quality Chinese automatic pistols. Neither are very accurate, especially at any distance, in the hands of inexperienced shooters, or are just old and badly maintained.

Certain people do carry more modern and expensive handguns, mainly police and army guys who can afford them, or elite units who are supplied with them. Plenty of the more well-heeled citizens have side arms too.

Among the lower rungs of society, guns are not as cheap and easy to come by as they once were. Machete attacks have become more common since guns have become more difficult to get. Farm implements, especially axes and hoes or even items like bamboo sticks or brooms are common. Acid attacks have been disturbingly prevalent for many years, often in relation to jealousy in love affairs. The numbers of grenade attacks seem to have diminished in recent years, and the vast majority of these were related to petty arguments and drunkenness at parties.

So, even though one guy I know said he managed to punch a bunch of these teenage rascals out one time and watch the rest of them scurry away, I wouldn’t particularly advise it. The short-arsed dolt you just smacked could just drive over your head later on, or lob a bomb at you. Anyway, I’d like to see a few more heads kicked in around here, fighting on the streets and general mayhem on weekends , rather than this cowardly behavior. Where’s the martial spirit?

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4 Responses to Street Fighting Techniques in Cambodia

  1. Peter Hogan says:

    I think one significant cultural difference between Westerners and Asians is the concept of ‘controlled violence.’ We do it and they don’t.

    As a consequence, sidewalk pugilism is far more common amongst Westerners in Western societies, but usually ends with no more that a someone getting a flat nose, a few cracked ribs or losing a couple of teeth.

    In Asia, it kicks off far less often but when it does, all bets are off as to the consequences. I guess you could relate this back to the concept of losing face, which as we all know, is such a big deal in Cambodia.

  2. Khmerhit says:

    Everybody was kung fu fighting!–where is David Carradine? –o yeah…

  3. Dermot Sheehan says:

    Obviously the last couple of sentences were tongue-in-cheek, I prefer living somewhere where you don’t have to worry about getting bashed all the time, as long as you’re polite. I’d imagine some locals must be handy enough with the kick-boxing skills too, I just haven’t seen them so far…

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