Karma, Kids and Thai Taekwondo

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SEOUL, Korea (April 6, 2016) – Thailand is one of the most deeply Bud­dhist nations on the face of the earth and it was a religious urge – the urge to build good karma – that convinced Thai Taekwondo Association President Pimol­Srivikorn to take taekwondo to orphans and refugees.

“Because we are Buddhist people, we believe that, ‘What you sow is what you reap’ – good karma comes to you if you practice good karma,” said Sriv­ikorn, who is also vice president of the Asian Taekwondo Union and a Coun­cil member of the WTF. “We have won here and there, we have Olympians and world champions so our good karma will run out if we do not cultivate some! I thought, ‘Why don’t we build karma instead of donating to temples?’”

From thought – action. In 2009, Sriv­ikorn decided to sponsor weekend tae­kwondo classes – instruction, uniforms and equipment – at a Bangkok orphan­age for boys aged 8-16.

“The results were quite amazing these boys became better kids through tae­kwondo,” he recalled. “And by better kids I mean they are more responsible, more stable, more consistent; all the bul­lying stopped.” As skill levels rose, Sriv­ikorn sponsored the orphans to compete on the local circuit. “They gained med­als, self-esteem and self-confidence,” he said. “This can be testified by the local social workers. They told me, ‘This boy used to be a big bully, but now he helps his juniors… this kid used to give the fin­ger to the head master, but now he is very courteous.’”

The positive outcome led to a second project. “I thought, I could take it fur­ther – so we took it to an orphanage for girls in Lampoon Province in northern Thailand,” Srivikorn said. “In this partic­ular orphanage, most girls had parents who died of AIDS and they got rejected by their communities, while some had problems with stepfathers and sexual abuse and so on.” That program started in 2012. Similar results occurred.

The Taekwondo Association of Thai­land’s latest project is at a refugee camp for hill tribes people whose home region straddle the Southeast Asian nation’s rugged borders. “It started with an in­structor doing research on education among hill tribes, and she happened to be a taekwondo instructor,” he said. “That is how it all started.”

The program got underway in 2014. “It is sort of an orphanage, sort of a refugee camp, they take on refugee kids who are not accepted as citizens of the neighboring country; they don’t have nationality there, they don’t have citizenship or passports; they have noth­ing.” The hundreds of children at the camp have not yet reached the competi­tive level, but look forward to their tae­kwondo classes and are doing well.

On a courtesy call to the WTF offic­es in Seoul in April 2016, Srivikorn was surprised to hear that the WTF was also sponsoring a program to take taekwon­do to refugee camps: the nascent Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation, or THF.

Looking ahead, he sees future syner­gies. “Dr. Chungwon Choue said that the THF will do some fundraising so I will donate to start off with, then I am hap­py to share our experience with whoev­er is going to be running this program,” he said. “Funding is easy, but the expe­rience of maximizing the effectiveness of the program is probably most import­ant.”

Sounds like good karma all round.