Book project aims to shine spotlight on local combat sports enthusiasts

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu student Shermaine Chng (right) is one of the people featured in the book. PHOTO: KHAIRUL SELAMAT

SINGAPORE - For Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) student Shermaine Chng, martial arts is a way to fight back and redefine her relationship with herself and her body.

The 29-year-old had gone through traumatic experiences, such as being molested, and picked up combat sports as a means to protect herself.

She started learning muay thai more than five years ago before switching to BJJ. She has since obtained a purple belt and won medals in various competitions.

Ms Chng, who has a seven-year-old child, is one of the people featured in an upcoming book about combat sports, titled Choke, Clinch, Crank, Combat. She says in the book: "I have faced a lot of obstacles in my life; a lot of bad things have happened to me and I feel like I need to be better than that. I cannot accept defeat."

Inspired by human interest projects like Humans of New York, the book is a passion project by a team of seven. It features 25 interviewees from Singapore's combat sports scene, from fighters to fight promoters and gym owners from sports like BJJ, muay thai and boxing.

The book, which aims to highlight women in combat sports, also features former national boxer Samantha Quek and Amanda Chan, who is a professional boxer, amateur mixed martial arts exponent and a blue belt in BJJ.

Mr Uzair Jaafar, 23-year-old undergraduate who is the project's marketing manager, says people often have the misconception that combat sports are male-dominated and many women in these sports are often not taken seriously.

"We wanted to highlight how combat sports are not just for men. It's really a sport for everyone," he tells The Straits Times.

He adds that more generally, members in the combat sports community are typically perceived to be aggressive and threatening.

"But what many people don't realise is that - more so than the aspects of fight and combat - the main message of combat sports is personal development," he says. "It's a lot about discipline, and the emphasis is really on the mastery of self."

The project started in 2019 but was delayed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Says Mr Uzair: "Given how we were concerned about the safety of the fighters and how the gyms were closed, we weren't able to do the photo shoots. It really derailed progress."

The team is doing a crowdfunding campaign for the book, which will be launched on Aug 4 on their kickstarter website. Those who show support can get rewards such as combat sports apparel and gym discounts.

Supporters can pre-order a copy of the book through the kickstarter website. The official launch of the book will be in October, when copies of it will be available at Basheer Graphics and Wormhole, as well as local martial arts gyms.

The book features 25 interviewees from Singapore's combat sports scene. PHOTO: THE CHOKE, CLINCH, CRANK, COMBAT TEAM

In the lead up to the launch of the book, the team has also partnered with online community Beautiful Inspiring Girls (B.I.G) to organise a four-part self-defence workshop series that aims to introduce women to the basics of combat sports.

On the final lesson on Saturday (July 30), participants will get to meet featured fighters like Amanda Chan in a panel discussion that will explore what it is like to be a woman in the Singaporean combat sports scene.

Book it/ CCCC X B.I.G - Empowered by Combat

When: July 30, 1.30pm to 3.30pm
Where: Flowartes at 344C King George's Avenue
Admission: $30 at this webpage
Info: @beautifulinspiringgirls' post on Instagram

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