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Discover Muaythai mixes martial arts with social activism to get underprivileged and at-risk youths off the streets and into the ring.
Besides being known as a martial art, self-defense method and fitness alternative, Muaythai also emphasises on discipline and respect. This led to the birth of Discover Muaythai which provides fitness training services, but also focuses on helping underprivileged youths to have a better future by building character and instilling positive values through an intensive four month development programme.
When Discover Muaythai’s Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Imran Harith visited Chalong Bay in Phuket, Thailand in 2013, he witnessed Muaythai camps functioning as the base for youths to experience the martial art at the highest level. Then he realised that most of the youths at Muaythai camps were either orphans, juvenile crime offenders, victims of human trafficking or domestic abuse. The strong value of togetherness within the Muaythai discipline was exactly what inspired Imran to start Discover Muaythai in 2015.
The Discover Muaythai crew consists of Imran Harith, Khairul Azri (Co-Founder/Chief Operating Officer), Sanul John (Co-Founder/Chief Sustainability Officer), Mr. Leko Beh (Chairman of Dragon Muaythai KL), Fatma Younis (English Teacher), Puan Dalila (Counselor), and Kru Slatan (Muaythai Trainer). Besides Imran’s passion for sports, Sanul, Azri and himself have been involved with NGO sectors for quite some time now, which helped to push the social business that is Discover Muaythai.
“The first batch [of youths] was a great success and it turned out better than we expected,” Imran explains to us. “We faced many challenges at the start and it wasn’t easy. However, we managed to deliver our expected outcome with the assistance of our expert partners who are great at their own field. Eight boys were selected from various backgrounds for the first batch and we managed to make the first batch a memorable one, as we gained exposure and publicity which benefitted with connections to other players, particularly investors.”
So what is the schedule like upon being accepted to Discover Muaythai? Imran explains in detail: “They wake up at 6am and the Muslim boys do their Subuh prayers while the rest prepare for a light breakfast. They cook their own meals and eat together as a family – that is compulsory. By 7am, they will jog from Dragon Muaythai to KLCC Park, which is about 10km; after which they do three rounds in KLCC Park itself. Once they return to the gym, they will have their fitness training Muaythai style. Lunch will be at 12pm then depending on the day, it will either be an English class, a motivational class or volunteering work. At 4.30pm, they will start their Muaythai training with Kru Slatan, a two-time World Muaythai Council Champion. At night, they work at Dragon Muaythai Gym by helping out with administrative work, cleaning or be given customer relations duties. It is essential to have these life skills that is hard for them to get outside.”
The joy of knowing that the students are now either employed or back in school is one of the best things for Discover Muaythai as curbing unemployment amongst Malaysian youths is one of their initiatives. By doing roadshows at urban poor communities and giving talks at schools, they can gauge potential beneficiaries through in-depth interviews with youths aged 14 to 21 who might be interested to join Discover Muaythai.
When asked about his hopes for Discover Muaythai, Imran tells us, “Discover Muaythai aims to be the first Social Business Martial Arts Gym/Camp in Malaysia – if not Asia. We hope to be equipped with proper classrooms, prayer rooms, office and hostels that can accommodate up to 40 people, and also for fighters. A sports café and retail all at one place. The trainers will be from the underprivileged, the gym is run by the underprivileged. They work there, they live there, they go to classes there and they earn an income. Using Muaythai and martial arts will give them that second chance.”
It isn’t easy to balance business with social consciousness, but managing expectations and perceptions have become one of the challenges that they have to face. “It will be great to get the support from the corporate and government sector on a larger scale,” Imran tells us. “To see this as an initiative that can forge unity and hope amongst Malaysians – seeing the growth in humans is more satisfactory than anything else. The best investments are investments made in people. If we invest our time and effort in people, one day they will definitely give back to other people. Which is something important to have in today’s society.”
If you have the same drive as Discover Muaythai and would like to lend a helping hand, please reach out to them today.
Address: 3, Jalan SS 20/27, SS 2, 46300 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia
By Kevin Yeoh
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