Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, longtime martial artist and New York native Antonio Graceffo quit his job as a banker and traveled to Asia to pursue his dream of studying kung fu at China’s legendary Shaolin Temple. That was the start of a much larger adventure — one that would take him on a journey throughout Asia to learn from that region’s greatest masters in a wide variety of martial arts styles.
The result of Antonio Graceffo’s journey has been an ongoing series of online videos documenting his travels and martial arts training — many of which have been featured here at BlackBeltMag.com — and a series of books, including his two latest: Warrior Odyssey: The Travels of a Martial Artist Through Asia and a history of Cambodia: Khun Khmer: Cambodian Martial Art Diary.
In this exclusive video regarding those two martial arts books — both of which explore the martial history of Cambodia and other countries such as Thailand, the Philippines and Laos — Antonio Graceffo talks about his world travels and what he goes through to bring readers and viewers his up-close-and-personal perspective.
MARTIAL ARTS BOOKS VIDEO
Author Antonio Graceffo on Exploring the History of Cambodia and Other Southeast Asian Countries
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The (Shady?) Martial History of Cambodia
In the second most recent of his martial arts books, Warrior Odyssey: The Travels of a Martial Artist Through Asia, Antonio Graceffo writes:
The deeper I got into the world of professional kickboxing in Cambodia, the more it made professional wrestling back in the States look honest. In fact, Don King had nothing on the slave contracts and shenanigans going on in Phnom Penh’s fight community.
In Cambodia, boxers turn pro at about 14 years old. In the provinces, they can start fighting as early as 7 or 8 years old. In Cambodia, age is arbitrary because of unsubstantiated birth and death records. Even the youngsters get paid for their fights, but they are called amateurs, which means they fight under slightly different rules.
Youngsters fight four rounds that last two minutes each with two minutes rest in between. Adults fight fives rounds that last three minutes each with two minutes rest in between. All fights are scored by five judges. The judges look at such aspects of the fight as dominance and the damage done by effective striking. Knee strikes, elbow strikes, kicks and punches are allowed. Head-butting used to be allowed but is no longer used.
In the old days, fighters fought with their hands wrapped in gauze, and matches also went on as long as they had to, until one fighter could no longer stand. These matches often resulted in death. During the colonial days, the French introduced the Khmer to boxing gloves, as well as the concept of rounds. Today, regulation Western boxing gloves are worn in official fights.
Although the national Khmer boxing commission does a fairly good job at keeping an eye on the sport, many of the Western safeguards are missing. For example, a fighter’s hand wrappings are weighed in the West. You are only allowed so much gauze. After wrapping, the hands are checked and signed by a commissioner. In Cambodia, fighters wrap their hands with as much gauze as they want, heaping up the extra over the first two knuckles to make their punches harder.
Learn more about the martial history of Cambodia and nine other countries in Warrior Odyssey: The Travels of a Martial Artist Through Asia by Antonio Graceffo, author of several martial arts books. For more information about the adventures, martial arts books and travels of Antonio Graceffo, visit his website at speakingadventure.com.
Download digital issues of recent Black Belt magazines to read our exclusive 11-part series detailing Antonio Graceffo’s journey to train for the Mayhem II MMA event in Malaysia!