“When I Was A Beginner…” : FaMA - Fitness and Martial Arts Instructors Reminisce - Part One

Updated: May 24, 2020

It is hard to imagine our lean and mean FaMA instructors being novices, but yes, they were once fumbling beginners just like the rest of us. Financial challenges and negative self-image were just a number of the obstacles they had to face, but with perseverance and the right instruction, they have come this far. The fruit of their labour is what we get to experience and glean from today.

We decided to get them to take a trip down memory lane with stories from their early days in martial arts - and yes, it took a bit of digging up (for some more than most! 😉 ).

These stories serve as a reminder that every specialist has to start at the beginning. If they could get to where they are today, who is to say you can't? Be inspired not to quit as you read these candid memories.

Professor Zoro

A young Professor Zoro in his orange belt in 1996.

"I think I was six years old when I tried my first martial art - karate. However, I never made it to the next belt.

I wanted to start learning martial arts because I was so influenced by the Japanese cartoons that I watched on TV. I wanted to be like the ninjas and samurais in the shows, with the ability to jump off a 10th storey building without getting hurt! Fortunately, I never got the chance to try this feat during my years of practice. I eventually did learn that such achievements were not possible.

Fun fact: I received a 'belt demotion' in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu once. I was 13 years old and an orange belt. My coach felt like I was not ready for that level as I had not been training enough, So, he took it away and made me a yellow belt again!

Enjoying a bowl of acai after FaMA's first ever open mat in June 2016.

Years later, I decided to go pro in BJJ, making a choice to stop attending college for this. It was tough as I didn't receive much support, and I had to continually think of different ways to move forward with my training.

Training with Kru Yo in Thailand back in 2013.

The best advice I took away from my teacher through the years was "Respect," which is why I emphasise it so much in classes, especially with the kids. It is vital to listen to the teacher, respect others, and have fun in the process. That's not to say that adults cannot have fun, too! Have fun, be patient, and do not despise repetition. Whatever is being taught, repeat, repeat, repeat. You will learn through this."

Coach Kirstie

A teenage Coach Kirstie wrapping her hands for a boxing lesson in 2006.

I started boxing at age 15, after watching my brother competing in the sport. I'd always been interested in fighting, and my brother was the push to get me started. (Read the full story of Kirstie's martial arts journey here!)

Coach Kirstie working on her kickboxing skills in 2016 when she first joined FaMA.

Years later, I started attending BJJ classes. I knew a few basic submissions but didn't know how to front roll properly. So during a gym trial, I made a complete fool of myself by rolling into the wall. At least things looked up a little when I managed to submit one of the regular students during sparring later on!

I have always found martial arts very humbling. I used to think I was so tåough… until I got punched in the head. Getting submitted countless times daily also gave me a chance to deal with my ego. I learned to accept moments of defeat at an early age.

Over the years, I faced a few significant obstacles, such as lack of patience, negativity, and dealing with aggression and self-criticism. These were the most challenging barriers that I had to learn to overcome to move forward in my training, particularly as a professional. Thankfully I learned the importance of enjoying the process from my teachers. Also, to pay attention during my training sessions and practice applying my 100% focus while there. My teachers have also taught me to understand why I make mistakes during training, and to see things in a positive and constructive light.

Whether you are young or old, I believe that focus, respect, and discipline are important aspects to focus on in martial arts training. This is because these are essential life skills. One thing I would encourage adult learners to do, though, is to have fun and not be afraid of looking silly! Don't let the fear of failure or the spirit of perfectionism hinder your progress. As I said before, it's about learning to examine your mistakes in a positive light.

Professor Thiago

A teenage Professor Thiago BJJ membership card from 1996.

"I was ten years old when I first began, and I decided to take on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu because I thought it was cool.

However, the first day I stepped into a BJJ academy, I was called out by a blue belt. He put a triangle on me and asked me to try and escape it. I didn't know what to do, so I passed out. To this day, I still remember the 'dream' I'd had when I passed out!

From November 2017 when Professor Thiago first visited us as a BJJ Guest Instructor.

I would say that the biggest obstacles in my training years included getting injured, as well as balancing training hard with earning a living.

At the same time, I learned valuable things through this journey. The best advice I received about BJJ was that in combat, learning to defend myself comes first. When it comes to teaching others, I have learned the value of simplifying my knowledge.

Professor Thiago promoting his wife Juliana to Blue Belt alongside Professor Gordo.

Meanwhile, I encourage children training in martial arts to have fun in their practice. Don't be afraid to "play"! To my adult learners, I would urge you to get comfortable losing and to be comfortable putting yourself in difficult positions often. Yes, this means losing a lot in the beginning. However, it pays off in the long run.

FaMA - Fitness and Martial Arts Established in 2016, FaMA is a world-class martial arts academy located in the heart of the Central Business District in Singapore. Walking distance from Clarke Quay and Fort Canning MRT stations, FaMA’s main goal is to help people improve their lives through martial arts regardless of age or athletic capability. Our Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), Muay Thai Kickboxing, Kids Martial Arts and Fitness programs are led by experts in their respective fields. So, whether it is weight loss, a fun workout, camaraderie, competition training, or just to break a sweat, FaMA has something for the whole family.


3A River Valley Road,

#02-03, Clarke Quay


(entrance on level 1)

(Open on Google Maps)

 Closest MRT

Clarke Quay (NE Line)

Fort Canning (DT Line)


Clarke Quay​


Monday to Friday

06:30 - 22:00


Saturday and Sunday

9:00 - 17:00


+65 6352 0992



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