Features

How Cambodia's Stars Are Helping Kids Through Martial Arts

Dec 15, 2018

One of the developing stories in ONE Championship as 2018 comes to a close is the increasing success of Cambodian athletes in The Home Of Martial Arts.

One of the key driving forces behind that emergence is one of the most prominent gyms in the country, Cambodian Top Team (CTT), which has developed a roster of athletes who are beginning to break through on the global stage for martial arts.

Led by gym head Hun Chan Reach, CTT has developed the likes of ONE Championship star Rin Saroth and ONE Super Series’ Kun Khmer champion, Sok Thy.

The gym is going from strength to strength, and 2018 was a big year for the collective.

As well as helping sharpen the skills of elite-level martial artists, the gym also serves the local community through projects and outreach programs. One organization who works with CTT in that field is Tiny Toones, a non-government company that works closely with at-risk youths in Phnom Penh.

The organization has successfully used music to help give youngsters more confidence, and now, Tiny Toones has diversified to work with CTT and add martial arts to its program.

The two groups have already established a self-defense workshop, where youngsters can come along and train alongside some of the top martial arts stars in Cambodia.

“We believe sport can bring unity and friendship,” says Chan Reach.

“Now, we want to jump to the younger kids — the younger generation — and try to get them to know a little bit more about Cambodian martial arts and how they can play a part in helping to preserve it, as well as having the knowledge to be able to protect themselves.”

Chan Reach recognizes the benefits of the project, having seen and heard the stories of the budding martial artists who have passed through his doors over the years.

Some of the gym’s biggest stars have had to rise above their difficult personal circumstances to achieve greatness in their field.

“About half of them were street kids themselves, but they found martial arts,” he says.

“Martial arts changed their lives in terms of discipline and self-confidence, and [it gave them] a way out.

“They use martial arts as a way to create a better future for them and their family, and now I think it’s time for them to share their experiences with the kids – the younger generation.”

CTT’s commitment to the local community and the development of youngsters, in particular, is gaining traction, and Chan Reach wants to expand his programs to run self-defense sessions for women.

The emergence of Cambodian athletes in ONE has only served to raise the profile of the work Chan Reach and his team at CTT is doing. He is determined to further strengthen his bonds with organizations like Tiny Toones to become even more of a positive influence on the community.

“Now is the time,” he says.

“Tiny Toones is growing in the number of kids, and they’re getting into the school programs and stuff like that. We want to play a small part in that, in helping the development of the kids.

“Especially in Cambodia, we have a lot of street kids that don’t care about anything anymore. They don’t care about their future, and they don’t care about what tomorrow brings.

“We want to help and be a part of changing all of that.”