Buriram, Issan is located in the far east of Thailand, a place burdened with a lack of infrastructure and jobs that keeps so many impoverished, uninspired and without much of a purpose in life. It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise then to hear that many of Thailands greatest fighters have been forged under these brutal environments.


Nestled away in the beautiful countryside just outside Buriram you will find Wor. Watthana gym set up by Boom and Francis Watthana. After witnessing how so many local kids ended up on the path to drugs, crime or gruelling dead end, low income jobs the couple decided to take matters into their own hands by setting up a gym and safe space to get these kids off the streets, out of trouble and have a loving pair of hands to guide them to a more stable and safe future.


Upon entering Wor. Watthana gym you will immediately be melted by the genuine smiles and contagious laughter these kids radiate as they frolic and play as all young children should be able to, making it even more of an awesome spectacle once they strap on their gloves and get down to training. As cute and adorable as these kids are make no mistake, they are also absolute little warriors. Working the pads with such beautiful technique and ferociousness that it even puts many adult fighters to shame. By training Muay Thai everyday in a safe and loving environment it’s amazing to see how each child exuberates so much unique personality and confidence. One example is a young girl, Moi, she is noticeably more shy then the other kids but once its her time to work the pads and heavy bag she embodies the spirit like that of legendary fighter Buakaw, punching, kicking, elbowing while the sounds of her war cries and hits echoes around the gym, making for a truly spectacular display from such a small girl.


Some of the kids compete in Muay Thai fights fairly regularly which many naive souls disagree with, thinking it’s morally wrong to let kids fight. ‘It’s too dangerous’ ‘They don’t have enough protective gear!’ ‘It will teach them to grow up violent’ are some of the many arguments I ofter hear parroted again and again, in argument against kids competing in Muay Thai. It’s usually very clear none of these people have spent any time amongst young fighters to bear witness to how they actually live, train and fight . The truth is there are many sports kids partake in that are even more dangerous, especially for rattling the brain around such as rugby, American football, ice hockey and wrestling which are practiced by kids around the world and all have higher cases of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy)

There is also a clear level of maturity among kids that fight, this comes with the discipline involved in daily training routines, respecting that your opponent has trained just as hard as you have and also being able to build up ideologies in their mind about working hard towards certain goals and that winning or losing is all such a part of life. All of the above is something truly not easy to find in life’s lessons at such an early age. I challenge anyone who still believes kids competing in Muay Thai is wrong to go and spend some time with these young fighters, study them closely in their daily lives and I can almost guarantee you will leave with a completely refreshed perspective on the matter and most likely a new found respect for the sport itself too.


Francis and Boom have also taken it upon themselves to give a loving home to some of the kids many who would have nowhere else to turn. Providing them with daily cooked meals, education and most importantly a much needed strong parental figure to give them life guidance. Francis who has a daughter with Boom has also become the mother figure to many kids which is not only demanding physically but also emotionally, I couldn’t help but leave my time at Watthana with a profound respect for her and the selfless life she has chosen in order to provide these children with better lives and hopeful futures.


Francis and Boom are in the process of building these kids a permanent home where they can keep up with the demand of the many kids who need their help. To help support them and open the door for more opportunities and a better life for these children you can donate to their go fund me here:



For more information about Watthana and what they are about visit their website:


written by: Jason Lau