Long Beach

Historic Long Beach Khmer kickboxing gym forced to relocate

Long Beach Khmer kickboxing center still has plenty of fight left, but the gym founded 36 years ago will be forced to relocate.

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A historic kickboxing gym that’s helped keep young people out of trouble is being forced to relocate to make way for a new shelter for homeless men with disabilities.

There is optimism that this kickboxing center will land on its feet and find a new home, but that doesn’t make it any more difficult to leave its existence. 

It’s been a home of second chances and of champions.

Watch any class and you’ll see the Long Beach Khmer kickboxing center has plenty of fight left.

It’s fighting spirit embodied in the person of Oum Ry Banh, a kickboxing champion in his native Cambodia, who fled the country’s genocide and founded the gym 36 years ago, to keep alive the sport he loves.

“I am a fighter, I am a champion,” Banh said. “I want to keep my culture forever you want to keep your culture forever, yes sir.”

The center says it’s been told it must vacate the space by the end of the month to make way for a shelter for homeless men with disabilities. 

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Ron Smith, who has been an instructor at the center for more than thirty years, was saddened by the news. 

Smith has helped train numerous champions here who’ve won titles all over the world. He says the center has changed the lives of many young people.

“Some of them came that was involved in gangs and they started fighting and started having fun and left the gangs alone,” Smith said. “Now we got people that got families, bought homes, got good jobs.”

“Very upset because long time I stay here,” Banh said. 

Smith says, thanks to community help, the gym has found two possible places to relocate, both in Long beach’s Cambodian community. He says he’s glad the space will be put to good use.

“Trying to clean up the streets and trying to do something for the homeless,” Smith said. “We’ll just move, we'll keep on, we will survive.”

We have not yet reached the long beach rescue mission, which told the Long Beach post that the new shelter will be wheelchair accessible. 

According to the city, a quarter of the homeless population are physically disabled.

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