NAIROBI, April 11 (Xinhua) -- Three budding Kenyan Muay Thai fighters landed in Phuket, Thailand on Thursday, to live, train and fight at the home of the sport in a bid to secure a ticket towards the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Hailing from disadvantaged backgrounds in the sprawling slums of Nairobi, Brian Serete, 18, Martin Achebi, 18, and Javan Buyu, 20, departed Nairobi on Wednesday evening to Thailand where they aspire to get battle-hardened for the forthcoming Tokyo 2020 qualifiers.
The trio who train locally at the Ultra Fitness Gym under the guidance of seasoned martial arts coach Maurice Odera, received a huge boost when technology and entertainment business, SportPesa, facilitated their trip and stay in Thailand as part of their expanded sports development agenda.
"I have no other means of earning a living. I turned to this sport since I come from a family of little means. I started training at a gym called Coliseum every Saturday but we were chased away," Serete said.
Muay Thai, or literally Thai boxing, is a combat sport of Thailand that uses stand-up striking along with various clinching techniques.
"A friend of Maurice, Kevin Muruka a fighter introduced me to the coach who picked me up and started sharpening my skills and got me my first fight. I became interested in the sport and I want to use it to get my family out of Kibera," Selete who has roots in the biggest urban slum in sub-Saharan Africa said ahead of departure.
Buyu started engaging in martial arts for self-defense in kick boxing aged nine. Serete had no means to access good training facilities and competed for the first time when he turned 11.
"I started watching and being interested in Muay Thai after watching YouTube and I wondered where I would get the chance to engage in the sport. When I heard there was Muay Thai in Kenya, I was excited when I got the opportunity to join Ultra Fitness," said Buyu who hails from the low income small village of Kayole in Nairobi.
On his part, Achebi who also grew up in the same crime-infested estate is relishing his breakthrough in the sport that has taken him from Kayole to his first trip alongside his colleagues out of Kenya as he shares in the dream of donning his nation's colours at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
"It's unbelievable that I have come this far. I had a lot of hardship growing up and through Muay Thai, I have a chance of doing something for my country and I hope to make the Olympics with my colleagues," Achebi said.
This discipline is known as the "art of eight limbs" as it is characterized by the combined use of fists, elbows, knees and shins.
Muay Thai became widespread internationally in the late 20th to 21st century, when westernized practitioners from Thailand began competing in kickboxing, mixed rules matches, as well as matches under Muay Thai rules around the world.