Giv­ing kids a sport­ing chance

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By MARYKE PENMAN

Vi­o­lence in the ring does not trans­late to vi­o­lence in the home, re­tired pro­fes­sional muay thai fighter Eddy Lee says.

The head trainer at Lee Gar Legacy Gym in Glen­field is com­mit­ted to sup­port­ing Child Mat­ters, a non-government funded char­ity set up to pre­vent child abuse.

An event he or­gan­ised on Fe­bru­ary 9 saw fight­ers in­clud­ing former muay thai cham­pi­ons from here and overseas come to­gether to sup­port the cause.

Mr Lee says any­one ques­tion­ing the link be­tween child abuse and what ap­pears to be a vi­o­lent sport must un­der­stand the dis­ci­pline and cul­ture be­hind muay thai.

‘‘We are pro­fes­sional sports- men, just like rugby play­ers, and we are fight­ing in a con­trolled en­vi­ron­ment.

‘‘We all have amaz­ing fam­i­lies and kids. We would never dream of beat­ing our chil­dren.

‘‘But child abuse is hap­pen­ing in our neigh­bour­hoods and we are not just go­ing to turn a blind eye to it.’’

Thai kick­box­ing has been the es­cape Mr Lee says he needed from his bro­ken home.

‘‘Through­out my ca­reer I have dealt with a lot of scars from my child­hood. I have changed the cy­cle with lots of sup­port and by learn­ing to for­give.’’

He says muay thai gave him an out­let to vent his ag­gres­sion and keep him off the streets.

‘‘If it hadn’t been for muay thai I could have gone in the op­po­site di­rec­tion and ended up in a very dark place.’’

Mr Lee found his haven in a muay thai gym at age 12 and had claimed ev­ery na­tional ti­tle within two years.

He flew to Thai­land to stay in a muay thai camp just be­fore his 17th birth­day.

‘‘To start with it was hell. The Thais felt strongly against let­ting for­eign­ers in on their tra­di­tional sport.

‘‘They threw me in the ring with the six-time cham­pion and we sparred for five rounds. I then had to spar with all 29 fight­ers at the camp for three rounds each.

‘‘It was an ini­ti­a­tion to see if I had the heart. It took me two weeks to re­cover but I no­ticed a huge change in the way they treated me. I had their re­spect.’’

Mr Lee spent three years in Thai­land win­ning mul­ti­ple in­ter­na­tional ti­tles and trav­el­ling the world on the pro­fes­sional cir­cuit.

He opened the Lee Gar Legacy Gym 17 years ago with the aim of serv­ing his com­mu­nity.

He now works with po­lice to give trou­bled youth a brighter fu­ture.

‘‘I see my­self in them. The sport saved me so I want to give them the same op­por­tu­ni­ties.’’

Fight­ing pur­pose: Re­tired pro­fes­sional muay thai fighter Eddy Lee is de­ter­mined to see an end to child abuse in New Zealand.

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