Meet Azwan: Son of Rubber Tappers From Kelantan Who Became A National Muay Thai Champion

Azwan Che Wil

Azwan Che Wil is a Muay Thai OneSongchai S1 Champion who is packed with punches. Tough and strong willed, his positive outlook in life has enabled him to overcome absolute poverty that has plagued his family.

Living In Absolute Poverty But Still Grateful

Born in Manek Urai, Kuala Krai in Kelantan, both his parents were rubber tappers who earned RM1,800 a month and with that had to support six children.

Source: Instagram – maj_yu

“To us, having new school uniforms or getting some used toys felt expensive. We felt privileged. But if I were to look back, it was definitely a hard time.”[1]

Azwan was generally a good kid putting in good effort in his studies. This continued through in his teenage years and he would often complete his work at school whilst waiting for his dad to pick him up on his motorcycle.

Source: Instagram – azwanchewil

Without much available entertainment compared to his friends or city kids, Azwan poured his free time into playing sports. He was a good football player, made better because he learned to play on fields logged with mud or water. Apart from that, he excelled in hockey, handball and track and field.

We would have roughly about 10 to 12 guys, all playing in the mud barefoot. It was really fun, and a good way to let loose after studying. I was quite a famous athlete in school.[1]

The Art of Eight Limbs

When he was 13 years old, Azwan discovered Muay Thai through flipping channels on the television. He saw the “art of eight limbs” and then enrolled himself in a Muay Thai gym in town.

Source: Instagram – azwanchewil

I spotted this gym called N41 Manek Urai. From the outside, I could barely tell what the purpose of the gym was. But then it clicked in my head that what I watched on television the night before was similar to what these guys were doing in the gym.[1]

Azwan seized the moment and made full use of the gym and the opportunity before him. The gym was not the most equipped but he never skimmed on hard work.

 I come from a very small kampung (village). We don’t even have sophisticated gyms to train in. Sometimes, it’s just a small shed with some punching bags and a few equipment. Training tends to be quite basic. This is a different game altogether. The right mindset is crucial.

Source: Facebook – azwan.steady.7

His hard work paid off and by the age of 18, he brought home a silver medal in the SUKMA competition. After that, he was selected to represent Malaysia in a competition in Sweden and many other countries.

Source: Facebook – crossmuaythai

Azwan’s ‘NEVER SAY DIE’ attitude not only propelled him to be a champion but was also lifted his whole family out of poverty. Through the earnings as a Muay Thai fighter and from various sponsorships, Azwan has created a steady income stream to support his family.

Source: Instagram – azwanchewil

I tell myself I need to do my best — always. No matter the situation, surrendering isn’t an option!

Azwan’s story serves as an inspiration for us to never look at our current circumstance as a hurdle but a challenge to overcome.

Source: Duniasukan.com

Three facts about Manek Urai you never knew:

  1. This narrow valley village in Kelantan is often affected by the annual vicious flood cycles during the monsoon season. It was the epicentre of the 2014 flood.
  2. The total population in Manek Urai is 11,697 (DOSM, 2010) and the majority of the people living in Manek Urai earn their living as rubber tappers and fishermen.
  3. Communities in these rural areas do not have access to weather warnings and announcements to prepare them for impending bad weather. When bad weather hits, they are left to fend for themselves. According to a resident: “I lived in a tent for almost a year waiting for a government house. I felt sorry for the kids because they are so young and it is cold when it rains. I think this is a test from God to us. I keep up praying to God for the strengthening of life”.[4]
Source: Instagram – farizul_abdullah

Explore Our Sources:

  1. Mohan, C. (2020). How Muay Thai Helped Azwan Che Wil Escape Poverty. One Championship. Link
  2. Ahmad Kamal. (2020). Two Malaysian Muay Thai stars are determined to make their mark in the world of martial arts. New Straits Times. Link
  3. Department of Statistics Malaysia, 2010
  4. Anua and Chan. (2019). Community Resilience Building In The Aftermath Of Flood Disaster. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences. Link.

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