A fight less ordinary


From: Singapore

What: In Japanese, the word means "Way of the Japanese Sword". It focuses on sparring methods and is a hybrid version of a generic Japanese sword technique called kenjutsu.

Who teaches it here: He has been accused of seeking attention by deviating from tradition.

Others have praised him for taking a foreign martial art and creating a hybrid fighting technique of his own.

He is Mr David 'Dav' Sabobel, the creator of NihontoDo, which combines different kenjutsu forms - including combative sparring, and drawing and sheathing of the sword, among others.

He says: "I've taken what I've learnt and updated it for the 21st century.

"(My) students have school, work and family commitments. I try to squeeze my art in between all these, and the only way to do that is to condense it."

The traditional method of learning kenjutsu takes at least 15 years, but students of Mr Sabobel's accelerated version take roughly seven.

In addition, NihontoDo is not just about sword skills but life skills too. Mr Sabobel explains: "I threw out what's too traditional and too cultural, but kept the basic fundamentals like respect, honour, hierarchy and filial piety."

His idea took root in 2006, when the government introduced the Sports Elective Programme in schools to promote unconventional sports.

At the time, Mr Sabobel was running Samurai Sports Singapore, a company offering other martial arts. He saw the programme as a chance to introduce something new in secondary schools and polytechnics.

He has since left the company to focus on developing the art of NihontoDo full-time as an instructor. He now oversees classes and teaches advance courses.

Classes and programmes are run mainly by his pioneer batch of students - nine of them, who are in their early 20s. They are mostly university and polytechnic students and graduates who learnt NihontoDo through their schools.

Numbers: NihontoDo has about 100 students now, compared to 15 when it started in 2007.

Website: www.samuraisports.com.sg

Students say:

"I've learnt wushu and taekwondo, where the sparring was competition-style and didn't gel with me. But with NihontoDo, the foam weapons made me realise that I didn't have to hold back. Master Dav has taught me a lot of skills which I don't learn in school, like character development."- Mr Jim Lee, 23, a Nanyang Technological University undergraduate and NihontoDo pioneer student

"I was very shy in the polytechnic, but now, I have the confidence to speak in front of 200 strangers."- Miss Nurulain Ramli, 23, part-time NihontoDo 
instructor on how the sport helped her overcome her fear of crowds


From: Israel

What: A system of defensive tactics and hand-to-hand combat, employed by the Israeli Defence Forces, the 
Israeli National Police, and its special operations and anti-
terrorist units.

Who teaches it here: It was a personal tragedy that spurred Mr Teo Yew Chye to set up the Kapap Academy (Singapore) in 2008.

His brother was heading back to his car after a dinner in Johor Baru when he was beaten up by some men.

Mr Teo, 53, says: "He was in a coma for months before he died. It was a deeply traumatic time for the family."

Mr Teo channelled that grief into positive action by starting his self-defence academy so that others would not become victims of assault.

With over 20 years' experience in various forms of martial arts, he is the academy's principal instructor.

Kapap, an acronym for Krav Panim El Panim, or for face-to-face combat in Hebrew, teaches personal protection moves that can be used in real-life situations.

Like the more famous krav maga self-defence technique, it was developed by the Israeli Special Forces.

But while krav maga encourages aggressive and decisive moves - with hard-hitting hand and elbow strikes, low kicks and knife defence - Kapap focuses on defence and escape during violent confrontations.

It even teaches how to make use of ordinary objects at hand - like a water bottle - when in danger.

Mr Teo says: "Improvised weapons can help if someone isn't confident in an assault - especially if the assailant is armed."

Numbers: The Kapap Academy (Singapore) started out with about five students but now has around 3,000 students, including schools and corporate clients.

Website: www.kapap.asia

Students say:

"I'll be travelling later this year and thought it was time I take some personal protection lessons. I find Kapap easier than something like taekwondo. The lessons learnt here are diverse and prepare you for various situations."- Miss Sim Wei Shan, 30, a training and development coach, who often travels alone


From: The Philippines

What: A military martial art using both armed and unarmed combat. Take on your opponent with a car key, cellphone or ballpoint pen - you just have to master one technique.

Who teaches it here: Mr Robert Guerrero, 37, is United Arnis Singapore's head instructor, and describes arnis as "simple 
but powerful".

Its block-and-counter technique requires the use of arms and legs, and protects against 12 possible angles of attack.

Mr Guerrero, who is from the Philippines, says: "It works by focusing on where the attack is coming from and building your defence around that angle.

"It doesn't matter whether you are using weapons or empty hands, you still employ the same technique. It boils down to your muscle memory."

Arnis - meaning "harness of the hand" in Spanish - was developed by Filipino warriors in the 1500s, and is also known as Eskrima and Kali.

The martial art is centred around five sets of training: Two sticks; a stick and parang; a stick and short knife; a knife; and bare hands.

Having height and reach is an advantage, but thinking is still the most effective strategy.

He says: "The strategy comes in the form of an unexpected block or counter. It's not about overpowering your opponents; it's about outwitting them."

Numbers: Mr Guerrero runs a weekly paid class of about 20 students but has recently seen an increase in people taking free trial lessons.

He says: "Last year from June to December, there were two to three people. Last month, I saw about 12 newcomers."

Website: www.unitedarnis.com

Students say:

"I like it because the skills are transferable to different tools. I can use my phone or a canned drink to tackle an aggressor."- Mr Wan Qi Wei, 23, a polytechnic student on the appeal of arnis' practicality.

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