Introducing Edinburgh University alumnus Lewis Whale, founder of the Muay Thai Club. Lewis speaks about his experience founding a sports club and the impact it has had on his life, and in particular, his career in teaching.
Introducing Edinburgh University alumnus Lewis Whale, founder of the Muay Thai Club.
“I started Muay Thai when I was about 13 – I played football and wanted to improve my fitness, so my friends and I searched the internet for the hardest martial art, and Muay Thai consistently came up. I started competing semi-professionally as teenager, but since I knew I wanted to go to university I held back a bit, as competing professionally requires you to train up to six days a week and is a large time commitment.
When I came to university there was not a Muay Thai club, so in 2004 a friend and I decided we wanted to set one up. We originally tried to become a Sports Union member, but they were unsure how the sport was different from already existing clubs. This didn’t stop us - we were determined to make it happen, so we set up the club by ourselves. We had to fund the start-up costs for equipment by ourselves and recruited members by flyering outside the Sports Fair. Our club took off, with us filling the Salle in Pleasance with 40 people, and from there we went from strength to strength.
My friends and I ran the club successfully for the next five years. In its early days we were a real mixture of students and non-students, and some members even fought semi-professionally. One of our members, Craig Dickson, went on to become a professional Muay Thai fighter and won world titles in Thailand, that was something we were so proud of. After I finished my Geography degree and PGDE, I got a job in Glasgow so handed the club over to my brother and a few students to run, but I kept in contact.
Muay Thai changed my life. It helped me grow in confidence - my public speaking skills were poor as a child but through coaching they improved a lot and helped me get into the position I am in now as Deputy Head Teacher. In a Muay Thai fight you are under so much pressure – it now means that I am able to deal with any situation that is sent my way, which is particularly useful in a secondary school.
I still train with people I went to the University club with – I made friends there for life. The Muay Thai club continued to run independently until 2010, when it was eventually accepted as a Sports Union member club. I moved back to Edinburgh and started instructing again for another year, but I decided after that it was finally time to step back after being involved for so long. It is amazing to see that the club is still running and doing well, and that the younger members have come through and done so well.
Our biggest challenge was getting people to fully recognise the Muay Thai club and educating people about Muay Thai. Once we’d been told we’d be running the club ourselves, we didn’t look back and just kept focused on creating the best club possible.
Some words of advice – persevere through any of the challenges you might face whilst doing sport at university. If you believe in your sport and have a passion for it, it will make it worth it.
For people who are running your clubs, realise how positive what you are doing is. I look back on my time running the Muay Thai club with such fond memories and you will do the same for your sports club. Take advantage of the time you have to train and be involved in sport whilst at university, it really is an opportunity that you won’t get again.”
In our #AlumnioftheSU we seek to discover what sporting memories stood out for former students of our Sports Union, as well as learning how sport has helped them reach positive destinations in life after Edinburgh.
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