I Am Oum Ry
A Champion Kickboxer's Story of Surviving the Cambodian Genocide and Discovering Peace
Published by: DoppelHouse Press
Imprint: DoppelHouse Press
“The story of the legendary martial arts fighter and kickboxer Oum Ry is by turns pulse-pounding, disturbing, and powerful. His is an astonishing life told beautifully by his daughter Zochada Tat and Addi Somekh. The book will grip you from its first pages and not let you go."
—Jeff Chang, author of Water Mirror Echo: Bruce Lee and the Making of Asian America and Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation
Oum Ry (b.1944) is a former international champion kickboxer who first brought the Cambodian martial art Pradal Serey to the United States. When his family of silver engravers couldn't afford his food or schooling, he lived with monks until seeking out Pradal Serey masters, soon becoming national champion at 23 years old and one of the most famous fighters in the region. For 15 years, he toured Southeast Asia, and without ever suffering a knock-out, won more than 250 fights. After a young man’s dream-life of stardom, parties, and girls, his new wife gave birth to a child in 1975, two months before the Khmer Rouge entered Phnom Penh and threw the country into the chaos of civil war, where starvation, disease, and mass executions were common.
Oum Ry survived the genocide though much of his family perished. He was saved many times from death in Cambodia due to fame, talent, and his resilience, but suffered a life-threatening attack during Southern California’s epic gang violence of the 1990s. Earlier, as a refugee with his young family in Chicago, Oum Ry learned English while working cleaning hotels. But within a few years, he had an investor in Long Beach, California and opened one of the first kickboxing gyms in the United States.
This is Oum Ry's life story, which is propelled by his highly anticipated return to Cambodia in February 2022 to reunite with family and to pass on Pradal Serey traditions to the next generation.
1 – Father and Daughter
2 – Childhood
3 – Pradal Serey
4 – Champion
5 – Genocide
6 – Refugee
7 – America
8 – Long Beach
10 – Return
Afterword " Oum Ry's Life in the Context of Cambodia's History" by Michael G. Vann, Ph.D.
Archive: Photographs and Documents
“This memoir strikes hard on multiple levels. It is a reflection of contemporary America and the transnational, transcultural, immigrant experience that many Americans live, whether themselves or vicariously. Oum Ry, like many other fortunate refugees makes his way to the United States where he finds both happiness and deep disappointment. The life of a migrant is bittersweet, filled with hope and longing. Oum Ry’s life has been a rollercoaster in and out of the fighter’s ring, dramatic in positive and negative ways. His is a life worth the reading.”
—Dr. JoAnn LoSavio, Washington State University, Vancouver