The Sport Is Your Gang programme is one which draws on the supportive environment of the muaythai family to create a platform, through which disadvantaged and marginalised youths are able to bring structure to their lives, learning skills and core values that will aid them in their development. This is why the SIYG project in Thailand targets youths living in disadvantaged and/or marginalised communities such as the inner-city slum areas, to create play spaces where youths can have the opportunity to engage in a healthy lifestyle, learn discipline, respect and all the important values and ideals inherent in the martial art.
The IFMA, in close partnership with RightToPlay recently opened up yet another location fitting the brief, bringing the important programme to the youths of the Klong Toey slum area. In this special space, youths are able to reap the social, physical and mental benefits that muaythai has to offer. Apart from developing social and traditional values, the kids also follow a strict regimen and protocol. Firstly, active participation in any martial art leads to increased attachment between athletes, their teammates and instructors. Such bonds have been shown to reduce anti-social behaviours. Secondly, competitive participation builds an athlete’s commitment to a particular cause and to conventional lines of action, so to deviate would mean a loss of athletic standing. Thirdly, the time required to practice and succeed in Muaythai decreases, by default, the time available for socially deviant behaviour.
It is the youth from communities such as these that are at high risk for turning to a life of crime or drugs, and which is why the geographical location of the project is such an integral aspect of the initiate
We must remember that children are amongst the most vulnerable groups within societies around the world. Now more than ever we need to continue to keep our children healthy, safe and positive. We must remember that for many the challenges such inequality, violence, illiteracy are faced as part of daily life, and it is our responsibility to empower these kids, give them safe spaces to play, to thrive, and to give them hope.