Saturday, 14 December; Coquitlam BC
By Omar Linares
Images courtesy of Tong Guan
Although Stand Up gym is a few blocks walk from the Lougheed Skytrain, participants were not deterred from the Muay Thai workshop. Tony Strong taught the basics of punching, kicking, and blocking, but most importantly giving back to the community. The workshop was part of a fundraising event for the Do What U Luv campaign, a community based organization founded by Emily Carr industrial design student Tong Guan, its aim is to provide creative and physical activities for youth who can’t afford it.
Concerned with the decrease in funding for education in BC, particularly of fitness and art programs, Tong has gone beyond school walls to help improve young people’s lives. As a part of this, the Muay Thai class was part of series of dance flash-mobs, workshops, and photo-shoots leading to the instauration of dance and martial arts programs. In January Do What U Luv will impart workshops at different schools in the lower mainland, in first instance in the Surrey School District and its 120 schools.
For this operation Guan has reached to several partners, from corporate sponsors to fellow charities, like Big Brothers who were already in the lookout to impart physical activity programs, yet the main partners of the Do What U Luv network are committed instructors like Tony Strong.
A childhood fan of action films, nonetheless, Strong’s main inspiration has been his brother and fellow mentor Krus Williams and his desire to give back the help he got when growing up. Thus, since his teenage years Strong has volunteered with a number of charities frequently in his role of Muay Thai instructor. Some of his latest collaborations have included the Breakfast Club of Canada, BC Children’s Hospital, and Parkinson Society British Columbia; in this sense, his partnership with Do What U Luv is special as it not only helps a cause but one that is young in terms of its promoters and beneficiaries.
Strong explained, that although the events vary in size his focus has always been on quality over quantity, with some of the participants becoming committed members of the Stand Up team. This seemed to be the case of Devon Marsland, who partook in the introductory exercises and said he would enroll at Stand Up Muay Thai instead of boxing; like many other attendants he benefited from the entrance by donation for training similar to that of school beneficiaries. Indeed, Guan describes physical activity of the Muay Thai workshop and other events of Do What U Luv as central, “the whole point is to feel comfortable about their body…to push confidence and self-esteem.”
The name of both the well-being organization and the Muay Thai gym reflect the dynamic take on improving people’s lives through, literally, action. Like Guan’s, Strong’s approach to community involvement is local and intrinsic to the participants’ knowledge, or as Strong puts it, “people don’t know how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
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