An early morning start is the first lesson for youth taking part in the Discover Muaythai project in Malaysia; offering discipline and hope for teens who have lost their way. Already in its third round of funding and action, the partnership between muaythai and social groups is showing the true meaning of community sport.
The Muaythai Federation of Malaysia has strong regional divisions, with social projects adapted to local conditions, ready to meet the needs in each area. This project is a partnership between Persatuan Muaythai Malaysia , Dragon Muaythai Gym Malaysia, the myHarapan/ Youth Trust Foundation and other groups including the Drug Free Youth Association, Hospitals Beyond Boundaries, Food Aid Foundation and Asia Fighting Championship.
The young people come to live together within the Dragon Gym compound, given clothes and anything necessary to meet their most urgent needs. Each round lasts for two months giving them plenty of time to adjust to their new choices.
Founder Imran Harith says: “The youth who are part of this programme will not only learn the martial art of muaythai, but also fundamental values in life such as discipline, respect, selfconfidence, resilience, leadership and empathy.”
He found a willing partner in Dragon Gym’s owner Leko Beh who instantly understood the benefits of a programme like this for troubled teens. And understood what peace can come from structure and focus.
Their day starts at 06.30 with fitness training, followed by a large breakfast and some downtime, education including English lessons and practical skills like gardening or cooking follows. Counselling is also available from professionals if needed.
The teens train muaythai with the best trainers in the area for the afternoon.
In the evening they learn the dignity that comes from also giving back, when they assist with children’s muaythai classes in the gym. Anyone familiar with watching children doing sport, will understand that boost of confidence they get from being able to demonstrate a technique to a newer or younger student.
Mr Beh says: “I too came from a tough and humble beginning, and when Discover Muaythai came to me with this idea, I was excited because this allowed me to work with youths from the streets, and to use muaythai as discipline.”
Inspired by the work of Bangladeshi Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mr Muhammad Yunus, the project is set up as a non-profit. Mr Harith explains that investors agree to re-invest any profits to the organisation to subsides costs and also for future expansion of the project.
Future-proofing the project so it can continue is vital. Nurfarini Daing from the Youth Foundation said he sees these teens as a part of Malaysia’s future. Something worth waking up early for indeed.
Learn more about Discover Muaythai with Muaythai Malaysia
Read about other IFMA Sport Is Your Gang projects .