Yu Cheun - a Khorm Yut devotee

July 5th and 6th, 1997 marked a civil war in Cambodia. Those same days also marked the emergence of a young boy who is talented in one ancient Khmer martial art – Khorm Yut.

While Phnom Penh was in disorder, Yu Cheun met a soldier who later became his first master. Now, he himself who is just 25 years old becomes the only Khorm Yut master in Cambodia.

Yu Cheun began to learn Khorm Yut and was named Norak Soeng at the age of 14 after the country recovered to the stable situation in 1999. When he was 16 years old, he could win over his fellows who were young adults, and was selected as one of the martial art successors. Later in 2006, he established an association called Yutkrom Khorm Association to train Cambodian people, especially young ones, this ancient Khmer martial art.

 “When I started learning this martial art, there was no formal club. My master just taught his relatives at his house, so I just went there to learn fighting for pleasure,” said Yu Cheun-Norak Soeng, adding that after a while, he was obsessed with Khorm Yut, and when his master went to his hometown meeting the family after the ward ended, he also followed him to Kampong Speu province to continue his training there

A Khorm Yut master Yu Cheun performing this martial artThe young master said when going to the province, his father disagreed with him and forced him to stop learning Khorm Yut because it affected his study in Phnom Penh, but he didn’t listen to his father. It wasn’t until his uncles tried to explain to his father that he may have been the successor of his great grandfather who had been the soldier and known this martial art that his father forced himself to agree with him on his training.

During his times in Kampong Speu province, he also met another master who was his first master’s friend. After training with his new master for a while, he was introduced to other six masters in Prey Veng province, Battambang province, and Banteay Meanchey province. Since he had to stay in different provinces to learn the martial art, he could not pursue his study any more, and therefore he quitted studying in grade ten.

He said, “At that time, the only future for me was Khorm, for I had already stopped studying. Thus, I was determined that no matter what, I had to get success in this martial art in order not to upset my dad.” Accordingly, in 2006 he came back to Phnom Penh, and opened Yutkrom Khorm Association, and becomes a master himself.  So far, the association has already trained more than 2000 Cambodian people who mostly are Phnom Penh residents. Each student has to pay $10 a month as a donation to support the association.

“Conservation is the word that has motivated me to open this association,” said Yu Cheun-Norak Soeng. “I thought it would be useless if I knew this great martial art and kept it for only myself. It would be the end of Khorm if I did not share it with other Khmer people,” he continued.

In 2007, he led 30 students to join the national fighting contest and as a result, his group got two Gold Medals, two Silver Medals and three Bronze Medals.

Afterwards, his association was better known, and he and his students were invited to perform Khorm Yut in local TV stations, song production companies, and many other events in the provinces.

“Before, no one knew Khorm, but now more and more people know it,” said Yu Cheun-Norak Soeng, adding that his ambition did not end here though this martial art is not widely known yet.

“I hope Khorm will be inserted into school curriculum so that all Cambodian people can learn it. Then, this great treasure of our nation will be conserved,” he said.

Article by: Veng Rachana
E-mail: rachana_veng@yahoo.com
Veng Rachana is a freelance journalist and a year 4 student in Media Management Rachana profileat Department of Media and Communication (DMC) of Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP). He is a also a graduate in English literature from Institute of Foreign Languages (IFL).