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Kun Krou

If you’ve ever attended a Kun Khmer event, you’re likely familiar with the term “Tvay Bangkum Krou” or “Rumleuk Kun Krou,” often shortened to just “Kun Krou” (IPA: gʊn gruː). This ritual, akin to a captivating dance accompanied by the slow version of the Pleng Pradal, unfolds in the corners of the ring as fighters showcase their distinctive styles of Kun Krou.

While observing the pre-fight ritual, you’ll witness fighters gracefully maneuvering around the ring, incorporating dance-like movements and adopting various fighting stances. This ritual assumes a central role in the preparatory routine of most, if not all, Kun Khmer fighters. The fluidity of movements, strategic positions, and accompanying music plays a crucial role in calming nerves, warming up the body, sharpening mental focus, surveying the boxing ring, and attuning to the energetic ambiance of the arena.

Kun Krou

Kun Krou Ceremony

Maeun Meikhea (left) and Long Benloeurn performed the Kun Krou before their match commenced, at the TVK Kun Khmer event.

| Photo Credit: TVK.

Delving Deeper

Tvay Bangkum Krou or Rumleuk Kun Krou is a ceremonial practice undertaken by Kun Khmer fighters just before starting the fight. It involves a fighter kneeling in prayer and engaging in a dance. Breaking down the terms, “Tvay Bangkum” signifies the traditional Khmer greeting, where hands are clasped together, and heads are bowed in a brief, prayer-like gesture, and “Krou” in Khmer translates to “teacher or master.” Kun, in this context, refers to the act of being grateful to those who have done favors at some point in life. So, Tvay Bangkum Krou or just Kun Krou is a gesture of gratitude and blessings, expressing thanks to coaches, gyms, training partners, family, and all those who contribute to the fighter’s journey.

To ensure simplicity and easy recollection, especially for our international audience who are not familiar with Khmer pronunciation, I’ll exclusively use the shortened term “Kun Krou” throughout this article and on my entire website.

Adorned in handmade sacred headbands called Klok, or occasionally substituted with scarves and braided armbands, Kun Khmer fighters wear these items during the ritual. These accessories are revered as sacred, being individually designed, handmade, and blessed by a monk. Each bears unique meanings, history, and mystical powers, akin to what one might label as lucky charms or talismans in the Western world. All these elements converge to protect the fighter in battle, inspire victory, and ensure their unscathed emergence.

My sketch of a Kun Khmer Fighter performing a Kun Krou dance.

Much like other aspects of Kun Khmer, including the Kun Krou, Ram Praodal, Klok, and the armbands, are deeply entrenched in historical and cultural traditions. Passed down from masters to students for generations, these rituals encapsulate the essence of Kun Khmer’s rich heritage.

Embark on a journey into Cambodia’s Kun Khmer training clubs, and you’ll find yourself immersed in the captivating world of Kun Krou, as detailed in our exploration.

Kun Krou’s Styles

In Kun Khmer, fighters commence their ring entrance with the Kun Krou ritual, each showcasing a unique style inherited from their gym and master, often inspired by the Hindu epic, the Ramayana. There are 20 known Kun Krou styles mostly linked to the act of the Ramayana’s character as follows:

  1. Lord Shiva stepping on Mountain1 (ឥសូរជាន់ភ្នំ): Symbolizes the powerful and steady stance of Shiva, embodying stability and control.
  2. Kinnar2 scattering flowers (កិន្នរបាចផ្កា): Represents grace and beauty, mimicking the divine celestial beings scattering flowers.
  3. Rama releasing arrows3 (ព្រះរាមថ្លែងសរ): Depicts the precision and focus of Rama, symbolizing accuracy and lethal skill.
  4. Lakshmana drawing protective circle4 (ព្រះល័ក្សណ្មព័ទ្ធសីម៉ា): Symbolizes protection and defense, reflecting Lakshmana’s act of drawing a protective boundary.
  5. Ravana showing off his immense power (ក្រុងរាពណ៍សម្តែងរិទ្ធ): Embodies strength and dominance, showcasing Ravana’s formidable power.
  6. Hanuman constructing a bridge (ហនុមានសាងស្ពាន): Represents resourcefulness and effort, symbolizing Hanuman’s dedication in building a bridge.
  7. Hanuman showing off his mighty power (ហនុមានសំដែងរិទ្ធ): Reflects Hanuman’s incredible strength and bravery.
  8. Hanuman tearing the sky (ហនុមានហែកមេឃ): Symbolizes extraordinary power and the ability to overcome immense challenges.
  9. Buffalo sharpening horns (ក្របីសម្រួចស្នែង): Depicts readiness and preparation for battle, much like a buffalo sharpening its horns.
  10. Buffalo hiding offspring (ក្របីលាក់កូន): Symbolizes protection and care, akin to a buffalo protecting its young.
  11. Naga soaring with crystal (នាគហោះពាំកែវ): Represents elegance and mysticism, symbolizing the Naga’s majestic flight.
  12. Naga swimming (នាគចុះលេងទឹក): Reflects fluidity and grace, mimicking the Naga’s movements in water.
  13. Garuda showing off his mighty power (គ្រុឌសម្តែងរិទ្ធ): Symbolizes supreme power and dominance, showcasing Garuda’s strength.
  14. Garuda’s claw catching the Naga (ក្រញាំគ្រុឌឆក់នាគ): Depicts agility and precision, representing Garuda capturing a Naga.
  15. Four-faced warrior (អ្នកចម្បាំងមុខបួន): Symbolizes versatility and awareness, depicting a warrior with the ability to see in all directions.
  16. Rahu swallowing the moon (រាហ៊ូលេបចន្ទ): Represents the cosmic event of an eclipse, symbolizing transformation and power.
  17. Tiger hiding claws (ខ្លាលាក់ក្រចក): Depicts stealth and patience, akin to a tiger concealing its claws.
  18. A maiden adorning herself (ក្រមុំតែងខ្លួន): Symbolizes beauty and grace, reflecting the delicate act of a maiden preparing herself.
  19. Eagle spreading its wings (ឥន្ទ្រីត្រដាងស្លាប): Represents freedom and expansiveness, mimicking an eagle in flight.
  20. Fish gracefully playing (មច្ឆាប្រលែងគង្គា): Symbolizes fluidity and joy, reflecting the playful and smooth movements of a fish in water.

Please note that the English translations provided for each Kun Krou style above may not be exact, as there are no official equivalents accessible to me. I’ve endeavored to offer the closest translations possible to convey the essence of each style. The original Khmer text is enclosed in brackets for reference to those who speak Khmer. Additionally, it’s worth mentioning that in the Khmer adaptation or retelling of the Ramayana, various modifications are evident throughout the narrative, including scenes such as the buffalo’s fight against Vali and Lord Rama entering the coffin to trick an angry Sita.


  1. “Lord Shiva stepping on the mountain” likely refers to a significant event in Hindu mythology where Lord Shiva is depicted as lifting or stepping on the mountain known as Kailash. Kailash is believed to be Lord Shiva’s abode according to Hindu tradition. ↩︎
  2. A legendary creature having the figure of a human and the wings ↩︎
  3. In the Ramayana, Lord Rama’s legendary skill in archery symbolizes his righteousness, discipline, and dedication to upholding dharma. His mastery of the bow and arrow is showcased throughout the epic as he employs it in battles against demons, for protection, and even during hunting expeditions. With precision and control, Rama’s release of arrows exemplifies his divine nature as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, embodying unwavering commitment to duty and righteousness. ↩︎
  4. In the Ramayana, there is a scene when Lakshmana draws a protective line around their dwelling place and instructs Sita not to cross it under any circumstances. This boundary, known as the “Lakshmana Rekha” or “Lakshmana’s Line,” is meant to keep Sita safe from harm while he is away to help Rama at Sita’s insistence. However, this protective measure is ultimately breached when Sita crosses the line to offer alms to a disguised Ravana, leading to her abduction by the demon king. In Kun Khmer, the Kun Krou style reflect the act of drawing the line. ↩︎