IMG_2327Cultural exchange is an important part of any sporting event and for over 15 years, IFMA includes exchange events at every event. For the IFMA Youth World Championships, IFMA collaborated with the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority (BMA) to engage in a special intercultural exchange programme with a number of selected schools in Bangkok on the morning of the 29th August 2016. Teams were to visit the different schools, ushering with them presentation items and gifts for the local Thai school and engaging in cultural exchange. The objective is that the local schools prep for the visits to extend the culture of their own country to the international teams and vice versa.

The response on the day was unprecedented and immense. The Thai children at each school warmly greeted the international muaythai kids, with huge receptions, Wais and refreshments that were then followed by performance of traditional Thai cultural items that they had prepared. Some of these included Thai traditional dances, music played on “Kim’s”, sword dancing and other modern performance pieces. These items amused the international teams, who in the end joined the kids, learning how to perform these items themselves as well. There were lots of laughs and merriment.

The international teams then took to the stage performing and teaching the Thai children, item from their home countries; some of which included the Haka from New Zealand, Afro-Peruvian dance from Peru, Aussie Rules and Cricket from Australia, traditional Odessa dances from Ukraine, Hockey demo from Canada, American football from the USA, Swedish games from Sweden and many more dances and languages from other countries.

All the kids in the exchange, both Thai and internationals were fascinated and inspired but each other. In the end, there were tears and hugs and endless photos taken and memories captured, the biggest obstacle being saying goodbye and getting back on the buses for the rest of the competition. Everyone involved in the exchange, not just the children, but school administrations and teachers, the YWC leadership, team coaches and presidents were touched by the children and the beauty of the exchange, many lessons were learnt.

The event was in full cooperation with UNESCO; UNESCO’s Regional Adviser for SHS, Dr. Sue Vize, led the UNESCO delegation to the school, who only congratulated IFMA on this exchange initiative, promoting cultural understanding through Muaythai.

IFMA prides itself in being a family, one that prioritizes social and cultural exchange and inclusiveness. The youth are our future and carry with them the future of our sport. Let us continue to share together and celebrate not only what we have in common but also our rich diversity and backgrounds.