Inspiration is an amazing thing. It pushes you beyond your normal limits. It creates in you an urge to do things. It gives you extra energy to pursue your goals. Channel it towards the right direction, inspiration can change the world.
I want to start off 2016 with a poignant story. A story that can inspire others, as how it had inspired me to tell it here. I definitely felt a need to tell this story as it certainly seems like a well written movie script….but it is not fiction, it’s base on real life. Proud to say, a real Malaysian life but don’t worry fight fans, this story is still martial arts related.

In Oct 2015 during ONE Championship in KL, I had the opportunity to meet a charismatic young lad name Imran and a bunch of boys from Discover Muaythai. Imran had a dream…a dream to make Malaysia a better place through its youths; this was inspired by his time at myHarapan. This Subang Jaya lad is a graduate from Murdoch Uni Australia armed with a double degree in PR & Communications. Starts his work doing marketing and PR in an event agencies, but Imran always wanted to work with myHarapan…a youth trust foundation that empowers young Malaysians by supporting youth initiatives that contribute to current nation-building efforts.

Hanging with Imran ( center ) and Ayob ( Potosan Corner founder ) and some of the DMT boys  at ONE Championship : Tigers of Asia

Being a patriotic person, he was very inspired by the work carried out by myHarapan. He wanted to make a positive impact in society too. He wants to contribute to make Malaysia a great nation. And he knows Malaysia’s future lies with the youths. But not all youths has the opportunity to grow to their full potential and contribute to nation building. Many are plague by poverty and come from a broken homes which lead to schools drop out, substance abuse and addiction, which further leads to gangsterism and life of crimes.

The time Imran spent at myHarapan enabled him to learn from grassroots level on dealing with the underprivileged youths, these provided him a good understanding of the needs of these groups.

Nurfarini Daing – CEO of myHarapan . Follow them on fB and check out the amazing work done by myHarapan 

Imran believes strongly that these youths must be given a second chance. They are driven and energetic but they need to be guided in the right direction and live in an environment of discipline, respect, pride and positivity. All this can be achieved using Muaythai. Imran’s love for Muaythai provides the backbone to the idea of setting up an academy that houses these so called social misfits under one roof doing everything together.

Imran’s truly believes Muaythai can change people’s life; having experience it first hand, during his training in Phuket. He explained, “Muaythai emphasizes so much on discipline and respect. Most importantly, a Muaythai practitioner has the ability to not only be great in self-defense but also has strong mental toughness. Muaythai like other sports carries strong values; each sport has a unique ability or value, which gives positive outlay to anyone practicing it. However, Muaythai has a special element that brings the spirit of togetherness and family that is hard to explain in words.”

He shared this idea with a few partners and stakeholders and with the help of myHarapan, they began to work out the necessary structure and operational requirement in details. The idea is to use Muaythai as a core activity bringing together under privilege youths ( from background such as from broken families, urban poor, discipline issues, school dropouts and more ) in an academy …training them to lead a life of dignity and independence by developing character and positive values through Muaythai.

Life is a fight …and Muaythai is life

But as everything needs money to run, the idea must be self sustainable. Hence to make this idea a social business initiative. Again using Muaythai as a foundation, using 3 business modules, namely:
1. Giving out Muaythai classes to corporate, individuals and group at the convenience of their

    workplace/home. The youths will be the co-trainers so they’ll earn some income too.
2. Organizing Muaythai events ( in corporation with Dragon Muaythai )
3. Organizes team building using Muaythai.

After 2 years of planning, finally Discover Muaythai ( DMT ) was born, with Imran as the CEO, Co-founders; Sanul John – CSO & Khairul Azri – COO. Between June to Aug 2015, Imran and his DMT team conducted the selection and recruiting process. 8 under privilege boys from various backgrounds was chosen for the 1st batch. Most of them have a history of indiscipline and always getting into fights. They are reserved and don’t mix well with others. Some has drop out of schools. Most of them do not have a good education.

From the expertise and experience of their partner – myHarapan, in dealing with the underprivileged, they managed to cater a unique way in determining the right syllabus for this group. Even their motivator has 30 years of experience in team building and motivational work. Imran himself will be teaching the boys English and give them additional counseling classes and occasionally train the boys Muaythai.

A four months course that aim to change these boys life positively was put in place. But DMT still needs a gym partner. DMT explored a few options for this gym partner…but Dragon Muaythai was the primary options from the beginning. Dragon is a renowned Muaythai gym located in Jalan Alor KL, having many experienced coaches and successful fighters. Mr. Leko, owner of Dragon Muaythai Gym believes in Imran’s dream and accepted the idea of having the academy at his gym. Kru Slatan a 2 times World Muaythai Council Champion was appointed as their chief trainer.

Leko ( center ), and his Dragon Muaythai coaches & fighters. Standing right to left, Munir Jihan, Kru Slatan, Faizal ‘Golden Elbow’ Ramli,
Conrado Furlan. Crouching ( L ) Chen Wee ‘Dragon Boy’, Kru Jack ( inset picture )
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With everything set in place, the program kick started in September 2015

Warriors of Borneo managed to got hold of Imran to know more about Discover Muaythai.

What do you teach them in the program? How much does Muaythai plays a role?
Muaythai plays an important role in shaping the boys. They train Muaythai twice a day, in the morning from 7am to 10am and evening from 4.30pm to 6pm. They have English class in the afternoon twice a week, motivational class twice a week and volunteering work once a week. Muaythai teaches them discipline, respect and to increase their mental toughness. It is an outlet to channel all the negative aggression to somewhere positive and in a positive environment.
What is a typical day in the program like?
They wake up at 6am. The Muslim boys do their Subuh prayers and the rest prepare for light breakfast. They cook their own meal and eat together as a family. That is compulsory. At 7am they will jog from Dragon Muaythai to KLCC Park, which is about 10Km after 3 rounds in KLCC Park itself. Once they reach back at the gym, they will have their fitness training (Muaythai style). 
They have lunch at 12pm and English class starts at 2pm. usually in the afternoon it will be either English class, Motivational class or volunteering work, depending on the day. At 430pm they will start their Muaythai training with Kru Slatan, a two-times World Muaythai Council Champion. At night, they work at Dragon Muaythai Gym doing either admin, cleaning and customer relations. It is essential to have these life skills that are hard to get outside. 
Building mental & physical toughness as a team through Muaythai…under watchful eyes of Kru Slatan – chief trainer at Dragon Muaythai

 

Building unity, tolerance and cooperation through food and cooking
Building confidence, character and team work through team buidling activites, volunteering work, public speaking and project management.

Which is your most cherished experience during this program?
There is so many. When people ask me, “So Imran, do you think the boys have changed and if the first batch is a success?” There are two ways to answer that question. Number 1 is the formal, politically right, black and white, and corporate answer where I will have to proof via the monthly reports, behavior change development report. The other one is through my own personal encounter where it is just so hard to put on paper. 

Twice every month we allow the boys to go back, this are the ones who have homes and I told them to report back at the gym on a specific day and time, when they report back earlier than the time given or on time, I know they want to learn. Like the time when one the boys went to visit his grandmother and her grandmother cried because he changed so much as he is more confident and does not only stay in his room and do nothing at home. That to me is the moments which I most cherished. 
We made it clear at the start that they will have to endure an intensive self-development routine through sports. It was difficult at first, knowing that it is the first batch and have no idea what its like. But they adapted well, they strive and endure all the pain and struggles together. The secret is to start with implementing unity in them; from there they become family. Once they become family, they can adapt and go through struggles together. 

Who else plays an important role for the success of this Academy?
Most important role is myHarapan-Youth Trust Foundation. Dragon Muaythai, AHD Associates and Potosan Corner also played a crucial role.

What was Potosan Corner’s role?
Potosan Corner plays an important role. A strong believer of giving the underserved a second chance, they hired 2 boys to work at one of their 2 branch. They also sponsor apparels for the boys. 

Potosan Corner ProShop founder Ayob distributing apparels and giving the boys opportunity to help there to learn essentials working experience



What about AHD Associates role?
They are our partner, a Team Building company. Their founder Puan Dalila is also the motivator that comes to give team building / motivational classes to the boys twice a week.

Puan Dalila of AHD, in her motivational session with the boys…building healthy minds
What was the biggest challenge you face during this Academy? And who is your biggest motivator and supporter?
When the idea of DMT first came about, people told me that “IMRAN ARE YOU CRAZY?!, IMRAN ITS GREAT WHAT YOU WANT TO DO BUT MAYBE YOU MUST WAIT, YOU’RE ONLY 26 YEARS OLD?! “IMRAN YOU ARE STILL YOUNG TO DO THIS, CAN YOU TAKE OF THE BOYS? YOU CANT EVEN TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF!
Imran presenting about Discover Muaythai at the ASEAN Youth Social Business Summit (AYSBS), Dec 2015

It’s true, I’m only 26 years old and what are the credentials or expertise that I have to take care and lead these boys? I don’t have a degree in psychology or I don’t study human behavior or a have PHD in Social Work. NO, All I can say is that I am blessed to still have both my parents. My dad is a very generous man, very quiet, tactical, down to earth and most importantly very, very, very patient. My mom is very expressive, very outspoken, THE GARANG ONE and very humble. I have the best of both worlds. So when people ask me how I take care of the boys, I told them that I took care of them like how my parents took care of me. 

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Imran’s dad, taking time off his busy schedule to give some motivational talk to the boys. Personaly a milestone achievement for Imran having his dad’s supporting his cause.

 

As a social project, how do you get funds to run this Academy? How much involvement does our government has in this or it’s a fully private initiatives?
First and foremost, DMT is a Social Business initiative for underprivileged youths to lead a life of dignity and independence by developing character and positive values through Muaythai. To sustain Discover Muaythai (D.M.T) provides Muaythai-based health and fitness training and services for both corporate bodies and individuals at the comfort of their office, homes or public area. myHarapan has provided the funds and supported us all the way.

Overall what kind of positive improvement have you seen in the kids? Which kids’ progress are you most proud of?

There is just so much that is hard to put in words. It goes way beyond our assessment that we put in out reports that is submitted to our stakeholders. Many who met the boys personally and attended the graduation day can see that the boys are more wholesome and independent now. Full of confidence, loving, discipline and so much more. 
Boys to men

As the 1st batch now already graduated…when will 2nd batch starts?
The second batch will most probably start in March. Depending on our financial situation and support from partners. 

The DMT Boys…meeting MMA superstars, Ann Osman & AJ Pyro of Borneo Tribal Squad and Peter Davis of MuayFit. The Stars gave them some motivational talk to encourage them in their lives 

Will you be tracking the progress of your 1st batch after they graduate? 
Most definitely, we are in constant contact with their guidance, parents, teachers etc. It is compulsory for them to meet up as alumni once every 4 months with their DMT’s teachers and trainers. 


How can public help/support/contribute to this Academy?
It will be great to get the support from the corporate and government sector. To see this as an initiative that can forge unity and hope amongst Malaysians. Seeing the growth in humans are more satisfactory then anything else. The best investments are investments made to people. If we invest our time and effort to people, one day they will definitely give back to other people. Which is something important to have in today’s society. 
The family of DMT
What is your aspiration / hope for 2016?
To take Discover Muaythai to the next level. The first batch is an example that we can do it and the results are proven right in front of our very eyes. I hope that we can get more support from the public, corporate and government. 

What do you aim to achieve in the long term?
I dream of having the first Social Business Martial Arts Gym/Camp in Malaysia if not Asia, that is equipped with proper classrooms, prayer rooms, office and hostels for the underprivileged that could accommodate 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 that will give them that second chance.

Dreaming of something greater for DMT

DMT 1st batch graduation ceremony was held at Dragon Muaythai Gym in December 2015. The boys took upon themselves important roles such as coordinating invites, ushering, food & beverage , and also doing the M.C.
You can see in their faces the reluctance of leaving because of the special bond they have build with each others, with DMT and Dragon’s Muaythai family…but also a profound joy of finishing the course and trully felt they changed for the better and a great sense of achievement. The best judge for this is their parents and caretaker which felt proud that the boys are now men. Men that care, men that wants to use their lives and what they have learned to achieve something positive.

The 1st batch graduation…When great minds and committed hearts come together,…nothing is impossible.

Malaysia was born as a multi cultural/races nation that prides itself on the races working together and living in harmony. But much has happened recently with racial and religious tension on the raise. Social media is full of comments on who did what and who was the culprit and the blame game never ceases. Many have ideas and suggestions on what to do…but as it is, it remain just an idea. Situation will never improve if we do not materialize our idea.

Imran is a doer, he walks the talks and took the big risk on his idea and pushes it through. Warriors of Borneo look forward to the 2nd batch of intake for DMT. Hoping that they will keep on changing the lives of youth for the better. We need more people like him in building Malaysia’s future. The team that partner DMT to do this such as Dragon Muaythai, Potosan Corner, AHD Associates deserve great commendation, for what they all do here are changing peoples lives positively. I hope what they all do will inspire more people to do so.