A young Shakir Juanda never imagined he would ever be a full-time athlete, much less a two-time world champion.
Describing himself as a “not very active” child, the national silat exponent says he was first introduced to the sport in 2003 by his late grandfather, who wanted him to be more involved in activities outside the home.
The young boy dutifully signed up for silat classes at his neighbourhood mosque and was soon hooked on the weekly sessions, where he found a sense of belonging among his fellow enthusiasts. His love for the sport was infectious — his younger brother later followed in his footsteps.
His passion and natural talent did not go unnoticed by his instructor at the time, who suggested that Shakir join the national team.
Shakir took part in for the selection trials, “did my best, and luck was on my side, so I got to join the national team”.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Apart from his two world titles from the World Pencak Silat Championships, Shakir was also among the first batch of national athletes to be awarded the Sports Excellence (Spex) Scholarship by SportSG in 2013.
Shakir was also a recipient of the Singapore Youth Award (SYA) in 2015. The nation’s highest accolade for youth recognises exceptional Singaporeans who have displayed tenacity in pursuing their passions and dedication to serve those around them.
In addition to his sporting fraternity, Shakir credits his entire family for being his biggest source of encouragement and support.
Now married with two children, he admits that balancing his athletic career with being a family man is not without its challenges. However, he says that it can be done as long as he manages his time and priorities properly.
No matter how tired he feels after his rigorous training and practice sessions, he makes it a point to spend some time with his family each day after he gets home to ensure they know that they can count on him for support, in the same way that he counts on them.
“I just try to spend as much time as possible with my wife and children,” he says. “I usually set aside weekends for my family.”
As an athlete, Shakir considers discipline, determination and dedication to be the three most important values in his sporting life, displaying them every time he takes part in a match, even if it does not go his way.
This dedication to his craft saw him lose around 20kg over a four-month period in preparation for the recent Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia. But his second round match against Indonesia’s Komang Harik Adi Putra in the men's tanding Class E (65-70 kg) was over in mere minutes, where he lost by total knockout (TKO) after suffering a blow to the face and a slight concussion.
However, the very first thoughts that popped into his mind when he was injured were not of the medical treatments he would have to undergo, or of how his hunt for a gold medal in the Games was derailed.
Instead, he was more concerned about how the morale of his mostly younger teammates would be affected, and if his injury would have a negative impact on the team’s overall performance, as he was scheduled to take part in another category.
To rally his teammates, Shakir encouraged them to not worry about him as he was coping well and emphasised that “it ain’t over till it’s over” to ensure that they continued putting in their best efforts.
Paying it forward
For Shakir, it is important to give back to the fraternity that has long supported him.
He takes his role as a senior in the sport seriously, and hopes to set a good example for the next generation of silat exponents through his latest role of mentor and coach with the Singapore Silat Federation (Persisi).
Apart from the physical aspect of training, Shakir also shares with his juniors his own journey in the sport, often recounting his challenges and how he overcame them.
In doing so, he hopes to share with his juniors the sporting values that he holds dear and emphasise their importance.
He says: “For me, being a coach means you are their team manager and best friend rolled into one.
“I try not be too strict or aggressive in my approach, and try to get on their level to understand them better.”
This spirit of giving back is not just limited to his sporting juniors.
Shakir also regularly takes part in initiatives that serves the wider community, including the Jamiyah Food Bank, which distributes donated food to needy families.
Volunteering makes him more aware of those who are underprivileged. He says: “These experiences really opened up my eyes and made me feel humble.”