This year is IFMA’s largest Youth World Championships in IFMA history with over 1500 participants and 100+ countries.

The beautiful city of Antalya was the perfect spot with qualifications for the event hosted by the Turkiye Muaythai Federation had been held all over the world, with the last 4 weeks having seen over 3000 youths participating in the final qualification from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and the Kingdom of Thailand.

Delegations of athletes and officials arrived in Antalya with large teams from all continents including teams from the IFMA Equipe Muaythai des Refuges (EMR) and IFMA Neutral Athletes (AIN).

At IFMA’s flagship event  this year, athlete numbers doubled signifying the growth and popularity of muaythai internationally. The smiling faces of so many youth was evident of the inclusive nature of all IFMA’s events. Many teams had delegations of over 60 individuals highlighting the growth of IFMA as the world governing body recognized by the International Olympic Committee.

The Director General of IFMA, Charissa Tynan, stated that the importance of this event is in the balance between cultural education and sporting exchange which is the foundation of Olympism and certainly IFMA.

The event started with a muaythai grading, the biggest youth grading ever performed, with over 1200 youths coming together to do the traditional Khan 1 celebration. The event showcased three rings with around 150 bouts per day in addition to the Wai Kru and Mai Muay competitions, and the Muay Kita and Muay Talay both firm favourites with everyone and as always – bucket loads of serious fun.

The Chair of the IFMA Athletes Commission, Janice Lynn stated that education is key in IFMA grassroots development, and this is why she ran a child-centred approach ensuring a focus on grassroot education covering anti-doping through to fair play.

Hasan Yildiz, the President of Turkiye Muaythai Federation stated that one focus for their organising committee was to highlight IFMA’s sustainability policy by using an ‘all-in-one’ venue approach.  The accommodation, competition venue and all other facilities were in one complex. Not only was this convenient for the participants, it was also important from a safety point of view. However, the venue being beachfront and containing a massive waterpark was definitely the highlight for all the youth who travelled up to 42 hours from across the world to attend. The slogan from this YWC was “unity in diversity” and it certainly lived up to its promise and beyond! 

The Opening Ceremony was attended by many VIPs from the National Olympic Committee, Sports Ministry and government including Mr. Yavuz Gurhan, Manager of Youth and Sports for Antalya and the District Governor of Kemer City, Mr. Ahmet Solmaz.

Turkish Muaythai President Hasan Yildz welcomed the youth of the world to Antalya and wished them good luck in the days to come.

IFMA President Dr. Sakchye Tapsuwan conveyed his delight as he looked upon the sea of nak muay from around the world and urged the youth to continue to celebrate the ancient traditions of muaythai by respecting one another and being together in friendship. He further stated that the IFMA Family are proud to be IOC recognized and he said that he is proud, especially as a Thai, that muaythai has spread to every corner of the globe.

Our tradition athlete, officials and coach’s oaths of the 2023 Youth World Championships were presented by Fatima Alammari from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Caroline Mohamed from USA and Cemal Kocabas from Turkey.

The competition kicked off with preliminary rounds showcasing the talents of the youngest competitors in the 10-11 division right through to the rising star athletes competing in the World U23 Cup. The enthusiastic crowd were treated to a spectacle of over 100 bouts of non-stop action on Day 1 of the competition. 

The action did not stop there. It continued to inspire everyone watching as rising stars from Morocco, Iran, Great Britain, Ukraine, Thailand, Congo, Tunisia, France, UAE, AIN, Germany, Kazakhstan and Libya came out on top for the first day of bouts.

The 16-17 Male division boasted talent from Iraq, Estonia, Italy, AIN, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Portugal, Tunisia, Morocco, Belgium, Iran, Ukraine, Hungary, USA, Great Britain, Netherlands, Croatia, Thailand, Germany, and Sweden all of who made it past the first round of competition demonstrating their strength and perseverance.

In the 16-17 Female divisions, these nak muay ying showed why they are the best of the best representing Poland, Tunisia, France, AIN and Morocco, to name a few. 

In the 14-15 Male division Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Latvia, Canada, Turkey, AIN, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Hungary and Czech Republic had athletes of note with the Female division in the same age bracket highlighted athletes from Belgium and Greece.

Next up the 12-13 Female division included players of notable strength and technique from Thailand, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Belgium, AIN and Palestine.

And in our youngest division, 10-11 Male and Female divisions had outstanding athletes from Iraq, Czech Republic, Kazakhstan, AIN, Uzbekistan, Egypt, USA, Romania and Saudi Arabia made it evident  that size was certainly not a consideration when it came to expressing heart in the ring.

The IFMA YWC has seen an impressive improvement in the skills of the youth from around the world. This was only second to the stadium’s daily atmosphere along with all the smiles of victory, the disappointment of losses, and the deep respect shown and lasting friendships made. Once again, the IFMA Youth have shown to the world their Olympic Spirit, desire for solidarity and joy at the new friendships they made.

The podiums were filled with talented and driven young athletes from across all 5 continents including players from Colombia, Canada, USA, to Australia, New Zealand, Morocco, Egypt, Libya, UAE, Chinese Taipei, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, AIN, Libya, Uzbekistan, Estonia, Ukraine, Jordan, and the list goes on!

During this funtastic event the first WMC Rules R&J Course ran as part of the One Standard Muaythai and IFMA Education Programme. IFMA President Dr. Sakchye Tapsuwan shared his extensive knowledge and experience with an overview of basic foundational knowledge of Referee and Judge duties regarding fair play on and off the field of play. Esteemed Head Referee of the historic Lumpinee Stadium, Ajahn Thanong, who first debuted at Lumpinee Stadium as a referee in 1990 at the age of 27 years old. With over 30 years of experience, and having refereed over 10,000 bouts and judged over 20,000 competitions, Ajahn Thanong has many accolades to his name throughout his career including the award for Best Referee of Lumpinee Stadium (3 times) in addition to receiving the Boxing Council News Award on 3 separate occasions.

Ajahn Thanong stated that he feels honoured to lead this first WMC R&J course to build and enhance the development of the performance of all referees and judges. He further stated that it will take time to develop the international referees and judges and he is motivated and committed to sharing his knowledge to enhance the performance and quality of the WMC referees and judges with the main focus being to help protect the health and safety of the athletes in the spirit of sport.

Combat was not the only discipline at the YWC, the much anticipated Wai Kru competition was popular and filled with participants from around the world, all wishing to demonstrate their skills in the lovely art and tradition that is synonymous with the history, culture and traditions of muaythai. 

Fifty-six countries participated in the male and female Wai Kru championships which have run as IFMA events for the past 6 years. The opportunity this competition generates for our muaythai participants is invaluable. By promoting the Wai Kru as a separate cultural event , IFMA has created even more inclusivity and begun to educate the world that muaythai is more than just a combat sport – Muaythai is for EveryBody. 

Dr. Sakchye Tapsuwan, IFMA President, stated that he could not hold back his pride and joy after watching the youth from around the world perform the Wai Kru. He was very impressed with the postures expressed from other countries and how they were scoring higher than postures demonstrated by athletes from the Motherland. 

Janice Lyn, the Chair of the IFMA Athletes’ Commission, further stated that the Wai Kru competition had become as spectacular as the combat discipline and the number of countries entering compounded by the full house capacity at the venue highlighted this fact. We can not talk about muaythai traditions without thanking the live band playing for each ring at every IFMA world championship. 

After 7 days of contests with muaythai combat, Wai Kru, Mai Muay competition, it was the final day for the Youth World Championships 2023 and what a success it was. Medals went to all continents from Australia, New Zealand to Colombia, USA, Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Saudi, Jordan, Malaysia, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Thailand to France, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Morocco, and the list goes on and on. Apologies for not mentioning them all. 

Some of the contests were so close but, in the end, there could be only one winner however, the spirit of friendship and fair play shone through the day. The medal ceremony had touching moments. Ring A was televised live around the world and all results can be found on muaythai live.

Another highlight, organised by Valentina David, the Chair of the Active and Sports Society and coordinated with the Turkish Muaythai Federation was the IFMA’s Social Programme, Sport Is Your Gang – Youth fun day. SIYG is supported in over 100 countries and a winner of the Spirit of Sport Awards. The teams participated in an amazing day where kids from socially challenged backgrounds were invited to join in fun activities with the IFMA Youth of the world. Over 400 kids from over 80 countries came to support and be part of this special day which started with the infamous morning workout led by IFMA President Dr. Sakchye Tapsuwan who once again showed that age is only a number. IFMA Secretary General, Stephan Fox, and former world champion, lead the IFMA youth in various fun group activities facilitating the youth as they demonstrated their individual skills, teamwork and newfound friendships. The day can only be described as a huge success. The youth who joined our IFMA kids received special gifts given by IFMA and the Youth of the world. More importantly, all the kids got to enjoy free ice cream by the beach. 

The last highlight of the YWC was definitely the Gala night. In proper IFMA tradition the youth came together to celebrate their achievements and friendship. Over 1500 youth from 102 countries came together in the grand ballroom of the Daima Biz Hotel. The event was hosted by two outstanding youth ambassadors, Reema and Emily and what an unforgettable night it was.

The event opened with the winners of the Mai Muay and Wai Kru competitions and everyone went crazy with excitement giving the 10-year-old young athlete from Trinidad and Tobago a standing ovation. Everyone enjoyed the Turkish Dance assembly in a breathtaking 15-minute dance performance in which all the youth got up and joined in.

So many awards were up for grabs and this year’s awards went to….

The event ended in one big dance party where the youth of over 100 countries came tougher in a celebration of friendship. 

We can not finish our synopsis without a very big and special thank you to the Turkiye Muaythai Federation and all the hard work they put in to ensure the 2023 IFMA Youth World Championships and U23 World Cup was a smashing success. Until next year – train hard, train often and follow the 5 pillars of Muaythai!