The road to making Muay Thai accessible had begun.
I had been wanting to host classes for the community for a long time, but as I’m sure you know life has its ways.
At the beginning of the year, it was a choice between me going back to the ring or me starting to promote that I want to offer classes to the community. I chose to focus on myself and return to training for my mental health. I would aim to offer classes to the community at some point in the year. It was just a matter of when…
Fast forward to July...
Thursday, July 7th
I wanted to offer my training/coaching services to the local community. I joined the “Roman Road Bow Neighbourhood Facebook group” on Thursday, July 7th and offered my services as a PT and coach to groups of 10 people. Not a single soul responded.
I had a big fight coming up and was feeling confident so I wasn’t fazed by it, but now that I think about it, I can’t believe they all ignored me LOL.
Saturday, July 16th
It’s fight night. I did my bit and delivered on the night coming out victorious. (Victory Fight 6 Report)
Not even 24hrs after my fight, I was in Madeira for four days to escape the madness but whilst I was on the plane, I thought it would be time for me to start the community project which I already hoped to start as I mentioned at the beginning.
Tuesday, July 19th
I sent a post to the Facebook group to mention that I would be hosting Muay Thai classes for children and adults in Victoria Park that coming Sunday (July 24th) and the following Sunday (July 31st) for FREE.
The message stated the time & location of the class and how to book. I also created a video message on my Instagram the same day. All I could do at that point was hope for the best.
People loved the thought of what I was offering but no one booked. Which I guess was a good start, so I did another shoutout on Friday, July 22nd once I was back in London.
I had 3 parents make a booking for a total of 5 kids and 2 adults had also booked in. So on July 24th, I hosted my first class as I hoped.
Sunday, July 24th
It was finally the start of a new journey, so I was up early to make sure that I had eaten breakfast which I never usually do, and I was ready to host the classes. I made my way over to the park a little early to secure the bandstand and make sure I was fully prepared for the class.
I expected a few dropouts which did happen, but Ishaq brought his two sons Isa and Ehsan down as planned so two out of five kids came to the first session. I was overjoyed. I started by taking them through the basics from stances and basic strikes. It was safe to say that the brothers had done their homework because they just had a natural knack for it. Here’s a picture that Ishaq captured of us:
The feedback I got from Ishaq after the session was that he has been looking for something like this locally for a very long time, but no one offered it. He was surprised when he saw my post in the Facebook group about offering free classes for the community. That alone was enough to make me feel determined and more willing to get the local community together through Muay Thai.
Then it was time for the adult session. Noncel and Siobhan both showed up as planned and we got cracking. I made them sweat, but more importantly, I helped them both walk away having learned some fundamental basics about striking and self-defence. Their feedback was that they loved it. They both stressed that the rise in attacks on women, and an understanding of Muay Thai in a practical sense help give them the confidence to handle themselves in given situations. This stuck with me as I am very big on everyone, especially kids and women understanding self-defence. Let’s leave my take on that for another day.
The following Sunday, July 31st, we had a recruit join the kids’ class, Ezel. Noncel and Siobhan attended the adult session. Progress was being made slowly but surely.
Tuesday, August 2nd
I created a WhatsApp group so that everyone was in the loop of what was going on because there was a festival in Victoria Park so the location had changed. In addition to this, I also chose to keep the classes free of charge throughout the summer period whilst the weather was good and I was able to host sessions in the park.
Fast forward to September 4th
I had x4 kids and x2 adults attending regularly. We had Luka, the youngest of the group join us. This was already an outstanding achievement for me, but I had to start thinking forward. Winter is coming up fast.
(This video was created on September 8th to demonstrate the power of repetition.)
So, in anticipation of the winter period, I contacted the local community halls in the area that week and funnily enough none of them got back to me. When they did, they were all unable to offer me the classes at the time to facilitate the classes. My mum, however, is a youth worker and works at an adventure playground, so I asked if we could use the hall where she works. The management team was a little touchy about health and safety which was fair enough. She referred me over to one of her old colleagues Ozzie, who manages Caxton Hall Community Centre in Bow Road, London.
Ozzie and I spoke. I told him about the community project and what I was trying to achieve. He fell in love with the idea and said that his manager is someone that loves martial arts, so he would run this by his manager, and we were waiting for an answer. The fact that this was a community thing he said that he’s almost 99% confident that his manager will say that we can use the hall on Sundays for the given time.
Sunday, September 18th
Morning of September 18th, I received a message from Ozzie just before starting my class saying “Bro the hall is all yours. We just need to clear a few things and then you can get started straight away.” I was overjoyed, and I told the community members straight away that I got the 'Green Light' and sent a message about the news to the Facebook group and my mailing list. Everyone was happy for me about the news and the progress I was making.
This was the last of the classes in Victoria Park.
Thursday, September 22nd
With the change of location confirmed, I needed a way to connect with the community outside of social media, so I decided it was time to print some flyers and spread the word.
Sunday, September 25th
Again, this was another day and a start to a new adventure at the Caxton Hall Community Centre for the classes. It was an amazing class, but I had to inform the parents and participants that this would be the last free session and I would have to start charging a small fee to cover overhead costs.
I had mentioned this change might occur once I had an overhead to cover, so it was no surprise to anyone, and I had set up class fees and subscriptions for people to make advance payments.
At this moment in time, I still had x4 kids & x2 adults attending. Surprisingly after I created the subscription, more people were interested in taking part.
Saturday, October 1st
The new month was here and tomorrow would mark the start of the first paid session. I could not believe it. I had x7 kids and x1 adult signed up for the subscription and x2 kids signed up for a single class as a trial. As excited as I and everyone were, unfortunately, I had to cancel the session. Ozzie and his team were so focused on preparing the hall space for me to host the classes that they overlooked a booking on the 2nd of October that was pencilled in the diary a long time ago. The group understood this and respected the decision made. I made it up to them by offering 90min sessions for the following two weeks rather than 60mins as a gesture for lost time as we had new members excited to get started.
Sunday, October 9th
This was the busiest day yet for the classes. I had a total of 8 kids and 1 adult. I had double the amount of youth attending this session and I couldn’t have been happier with the trust the parents of the community have in me to guide their children through the discipline of Muay Thai.
Despite being at the hall, the weather was so lovely that morning that we did the session outside. This was good because the session was slightly longer and made it easier to let the kids play if they started to lose focus before gathering them back.
We also had Linda, our newest adult take part. As she was the only adult to attend, she got a 90-minute one-on-one session. Not a bad deal for her first session. Linda is no stranger to martial arts. She wanted to get back into some form of exercise and as her grandson, Elijah attends the kid's session, it made sense.
Sunday, October 16th
Today, we had our session indoors. Although it was sunny, it was a little chilly outside. We had 6 kids today and 2 adults. The kids are picking things up fast so I took them through the usual paces and added in some techniques. I introduced them to elbows and fakes. They made it look easy, or was it that my explanation is just easy to understand? Hmmm...
Siobhan joined the adult session so Linda had a partner. We had a good technical session which focused on boxing basics and defence.
My brain is becoming fried right now so I am going to add the rest of the visuals soon. I have a feeling I am going to update this weekly. So it will become the community class diary.
Thank you for taking the time to read the blog and I hope you enjoyed it. This is only the beginning and I really do hope to expand and help more communities in Tower Hamlets before I aim for London, the UK and then the world. With your support, I will definitely be able to achieve this.
Kind regards, Andre