Looking to add a little spice to your workout? While traditional martial arts are definite musts for discipline, physical strength and selfdefense, we’ve gathered up some more obscure martial arts that you may not know about. Steeped in history and rich in culture (plus 1 Jedi training session thrown in for good measure), Kung Fu Panda this is not.
What: With origins over 2000 years old, Bokator is an ancient Cambodian fighting style which uses strikes, throws, drags, trapping, locking, ground fighting, weapons and pressure points as offensive attacks. While it may seem pretty bad-ass, it was almost completely lost (like much of Cambodia’s history) when the Khmer Rouge took control of the country and practitioners who did not flee, or hide their knowledge, were killed. When the Vietnamese took control of the country, Bokator was completely outlawed. Thankfully, San Kim Sean fled to America and while teaching Hapkido at a local YMCA in Houston, Texas realised the world had never heard of Bokator. In 1992 he returned to Cambodia to bring the martial art back to his people – and the world. While other practitioners of Bokator are now known throughout the country, San Kim Sean (in our books) can be credited as the sole guy who saved this ancient art.
What: Channel your inner Jedi and wield a lightsaber like Obiwan while learning a mixture of traditional martial arts attack lines, striking combinations, footwork patterns, and selfdefense. Got kids? This one’s for the whole family, welcoming little Padawans over 7 for an awesome workout that guarantees some Sci-Fi fun.
#3 Pencak Silat
What: Pencak Silat is the overarching term for the defensive martial arts practiced throughout Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippine archipelago. It roots itself in the basics of Tae Kwon Do, but each area and branch has developed uniquely. While you can find Pencak Silat training in Bali, head to Java for the real deal. In Bogor, an hour south of Jakarta, the PGB Bangau Putih is regarded as one of the more esteemed schools of training. If you’re just looking to dabble however, MesaStila in Central Java offers the perfect introductory sessions. Combine your workouts with a trip to Borobudor or Candi Prambenang and finish your days in the Turkish hammam at this stunning volcano ringed resort.
#4 Krabi Krabong
What: Double up on your 007 fandom and go beyond a visit to James Bond Island in Phang Nga Bay. As seen in “The Man With the Golden Gun” this Thai art focuses on the use of weaponry – specifically the krabi (a curved sword) and krabong (a staff) but includes others, as well as non-weapon combat similar to Muay Thai. History scholars believe the art to be over 700 years old and is thought to originate from sword-wielding Buddhist monks at Wat Buddhaisawan in Ayutthaya – an easy day trip from Bangkok. You can learn the art at various training centres in Phuket, but for total immersion, try to find the Pramote Gym in Bangkok or Muay Sangha School, 40 minutes north of Chiang Mai.
What: Similar to Krabi Krabong, Banshay is a specific form of the Burmese Bando martial arts that focuses on the sword, spear, and staff. Particularly cool (and technical) is the use of two swords spinning close to the body. If you’re looking for a little action in the land of golden pagodas, the International Thaing Byaung Byan Association in Yangon can get you sorted.
Bonus: Midget Boxing
What: Totally exploitive, completely politically incorrect, and just a bad idea all around. The Philippines provides you with a low blow. They also throw in some ladies that pack a mean punch. Don’t listen to us though and see it for yourself.