SMAC Gym to Showcase Fighting Fit South Auckland Youth in Muay Thai Show
In ancient Greece, the agōgē was the rigorous education and training regimen for young male Spartans.
So it’s a fitting name for SMAC gym’s upcoming youth fight promotion 'AGOGE' - Born & Trained for Battle', where “kids and youth will showcase the result of all their hard work, as well as what we do for the community in South Auckland,” says SMAC coach and co-manager Victoria Nansen.
Established over 20 years ago, SMAC gym has had a strong youth programme since it moved to its Manurewa premises two years ago and currently boasts a roll of 40 kids; with four classes per week divided by age groups - 8 to 12 year olds and then 12 to 15 year olds plus.
“They love it,” Nansen says. “It’s something for them to do which is safe and keeps them off the streets.”
And SMAC gym has even taken it upon themselves to work with troubled youth.
“A few of our students train government-funded due to behavioural issues,” Nansen says.
“Some look and think that we are silly teaching kids with these issues on how to fight in the ring.”
“On the contrary, the kids are taught discipline, respect, structure and order first,” she says.
“I have worked with kids, youth, teaching martial arts since I was 16. It is pretty easy now to identify the real students and children who want to try and learn something cool and new, and respectful, from the ones that want to take what they learn from the gym out on the streets.”
And safety is paramount. There’s a grading system for the child’s abilities, parents are required to come into the gym and give permission and all participants are fully padded and certainly do not fight full Muay Thai rules.
“Plus its limited knees for the littilies,” she says.
“It’s amateur rules for youth however.”
“As parents we are always looking for activities that will be fun for children and also help in developing their character and physical strength,” Nansen says
“Muay Thai increases children's co-ordination, balance, confidence and especially respect towards others. It is also a martial art that promotes humility and family.
“At SMAC the kids are also taught self defence, but still educating them on the difference between being violent and the use of strength to protect yourself.”
A good example is Ambrose Mataio, who Nansen says “was born to be a fighter”.
“Ambrose started with SMAC Gym at the age of 15. He is now 17 and is the current Junior NZ welterweight champion and has a record of 16 fights 3 losses and the rest wins. He has represented NZ in Uzebekistan and in Thailand, fighting world class fighters from the around the world his age,” she says.
Ambrose struggled a bit in school but comes from a good home, Nansen says, and “as per the normal teenage attitude he realised school wasn't for him and was in a bit of trouble at school as well”.
He has been boxing since the age of 10 and is a former NZ junior boxing champion.
“So although academics wasn't for him,” she says, “he found his sense to achieve more in his life through fighting”.
Now Ambrose helps at the gym with the young ones, which includes his three younger brothers - two of which have followed in his footsteps and are also fighters for SMAC gym.
“He has become a good role model for his brothers and for the youth of South Auckland,” says Nansen.
“Seeing what he has achieved has opened up the eyes of many of his peers and family. Muay Thai has given him the alternative road where he could’ve easily gone down the other!”
Part of his success can be attributed to the fact “Muay thai is about goal setting and achieving”.
“With the ongoing increase in children's confidence and esteem, some children enter into competition - with the permission from their parents.”
“Which is what our show is about,” she says.
“It’s about kids who have set a goal to fight, they train hard and sacrifice for it, and fight hard to achieve it. Muay Thai teaches our kids determination, passion and the willingness to succeed.”
A testament to this is Victoria’s brother Antz “Notorious” Nansen, a world champion heavyweight kickboxer who will be fighting pro-bono at the show “so SMAC can get more gear and contribute to our trip to Russia,” says Nansen.
“Antz found Muay thai as a youngster as well,” 'Lady SMAC says of her brother, who made his mark on the national Thai boxing scene at the young age of 21.
"AGOGE" - Born & Trained for Battle details
Date: Saturday, 7 July 2012
Time: 13:00 until 17:30
Venue: SMAC Gym 14 Holmes Road Manurewa