We are turning into a society keen to vent our frustrations via combat sports. Anything seems to be up for grabs, battering or bruising — from boxing to mixed martial arts to Brazilian jujitsu. Fight gyms seem to be popping up all over the place. We duck and weave as we take on four fight gym owners to find out their bruising stories for the love of sport.
The Philosophy Of The Fight
In a battle of wits using one’s feet and fists, Robert Yap opts for cultural pureness when it comes to Muay Thai. Robert Yap likens Muay Thai to “playing chess with your fists”.
“It isn’t a battle of strength, or who can kick faster, it’s a battle of wits,” adds the head trainer and director of Chowraiooi Muay Thai. Having learned his craft in Thailand in his formative years, he is passionate in his quest to create a name for Singapore in the international Muay Thai scene.
He describes himself as a “troubled youth” who found martial arts an avenue to use his energies in a constructive way. His mother was unable to control him, so Yap found himself on the road to Thailand with his machinist father. At the age of 16, his father put him in a Muay Thai gym in the hopes that it would serve as an outlet for his anger and teenage angst. A stranger in a strange land, Yap says that the culture shock and language differences didn’t help his integration, but meeting other students at the gym really gave him the kick in the chin he needed.
The Comeback Kid
From cancer to boxing via death’s doorstep, Kumar Perumal has always been a fighter trading blows to remain in the fight. “It’s a gamble,” says Kumar Perumal, proprietor and Head Coach of boxing gym King of Strength, with a sheepish grin, as he explains why he decided to go out on his own and start a gym.
Not new to gambling the odds, Perumal was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer at the age of 13. That was the first knock down. But he bounced back, and after almost nine months of extensive chemotherapy and radiotherapy to keep the cancer at bay, he remained standing.
His interest in martial arts lead him to pick up boxing, which required a note from his doctor to clear him to participate in the sport. While he could only train at a very slow pace, under the watchful eye of his coach, Perumal was fighting fit within the year. He says that the tough gym environment also led him to rebuild his mental fortitude, while helping him regain physical strength. A lesson, he says, has not left him since and prepared him for the obstacles he would face in life. “Imagine you are in the ring, and you are getting hit. You don’t have the choice to take off your gloves and walk away, you have to fight your way out to survive.”
Surviving Close Calls
You can be the victim or you could fight back. Armed with Krav Maga skills, Edwin Peng reckons your attacker might rue his decision to go on the offensive.
Real world solutions for real world problems, that’s what Krav Maga can provide you says Edwin Peng, Chief Trainer and proprietor of Krav Maga Culture. Peng takes self-defence and the responsibility vested in him to keep his students safe very seriously, “I’m teaching people how to survive a violent confrontation,” he declares.
Peng has been a Krav Maga practitioner for the last decade, having picked it up during his time in the Singapore Armed Forces, where he served with the Commandos for 11 years. He first learnt Krav Maga as part of his training and later became a military Krav Maga instructor. In 2012, he set up Krav Maga Culture, the first school of its kind in Singapore, to promote and teach the fighting system to civilians.
With 20 years of fighting under his belt, and a few belts to his name, Arvind Lalwani wants a younger breed of fighter to emerge.
The second you see him, the nickname “The Juggernaut” makes complete sense. Arvind Lalwani, owner and head coach of Juggernaut Fight Club, is built like a brick house. He actually looks like he would be capable of dismantling a brick house with considerable ease. He bashfully disagrees “I’m not even in my best shape anymore. I will leave the fighting to the younger generation now,” laughs the 36-year-old.
Lalwani started boxing at 15 and admits he “always liked combat sports”. He says his father was a big influence in this. “We used to watch Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson fights together,” he explains. It was the unfortunate passing of his father during his teenage years that gave him the push to pick up boxing.
“I was getting into a lot of bad company so I told myself that I needed an avenue for me to release my angst.” Boxing became a place for all his energy, with his natural size, strength, and athleticism; combat sports gave a positive space for Lalwani to express himself. His interests also led him to study kickboxing, Brazilian JuJitsu, wrestling, and MMA.
Read the complete interview with the four individuals in STORM V27, available at Allscript, MPH, and Kinokuniya.