From wanting to lose weight for a friend’s Indian wedding to having her first fight in China, The Legends Fight Sport members shares her roller-coaster journey in boxing.
“I’ve had five fights in total – one in Shanghai; one in New York; two in LA and one in Korea. For a long time, I actually never told my parents that I had any intentions to compete. They were really not supportive of my boxing, especially when I was alone in a foreign country.
But on the day of my first fight, my parents, grandparents and sister travelled to Shanghai to celebrate my birthday with me. I was terrified! I was already stressed out about the fight, and I was even more stressed that they wanted to have dinner on the same night.
I was desperately thinking of the best possible lie. In the end, I told them that I would be late because I had a ‘work event’. So the plan was to sneak out of the office early, rush to my fight, and then rush to dinner without looking like I had just been in a martial arts competition.
When I was at the fight venue, I had this feeling of dread. I kept going to the toilet because I was so nervous. TMI, but it really didn’t help that I had my period. And because there was a typhoon in Hong Kong, there was a possibility that my coach wouldn’t make it for my fight.
Thankfully, he made it in the nick of time. And I won my fight! I thought I lost but, whatever, I’ll take the win. The girl I fought already had three fights and she had so many supporters! I only had one friend who I basically forced to corner me in case my coach failed to be there.
It’s embarrassing to say this now, but I actually picked up boxing because I had to be part of a friend’s Indian wedding. We had to dance in a saree, and I was like, ‘I have to find the fastest way to get a six-pack!’
I googled and found this article by Brazilian model Adriana Lima. She said that before every fashion show, she trains like a boxer because boxing gives her that Victoria’s Secret body. And I was like, ‘This is it!’
So in 2014, I joined Legends Fight Sport. I’ve been thinking about this recently, and I feel like if I had started at a different gym, I don’t know if I would have stuck with boxing for so long, even after all these years of travelling and living abroad.
The experience that I’ve had at Legends in Singapore has always felt supportive and non-stressful. There’s such an emphasis on bonding and making sure that you’re always supporting one another, so being in a boxing gym has never felt overly intimidating.
At the time, I was working in public policy. But I felt stagnant and wanted a career change, so I left Singapore in 2015 and moved to Berlin for a year. The next few years saw me moving to New York, Shanghai, LA and Seoul before coming back to Singapore late last October.
Maybe it’s different now because I’m getting older. Maybe I feel like it’s time to settle down and be closer to family, but when I was younger, I felt like I should experience different things. There are so many fun things to do in the world, so why not go out and live them?
But when I moved to Berlin, it was a weird experience because I didn’t know anyone except for one friend who lived in Frankfurt. I didn’t speak German and I really didn’t know how anything worked. It was all so fresh and novel to me.
Because I needed an activity to do, I went to find a boxing gym. The coaches didn’t speak English, but in a new environment where everything felt uncertain, it was nice having that one regular thing that gave an anchor and stability to my week.
Even during my recent time in Seoul, I had boxing friends and coaches who didn’t speak English – and I didn’t speak Korean either – but it was so easy to have boxing talk through a universal understanding of certain keywords.
Words like ‘jab’, ‘straight’ and ‘uppercut’ are part of a common vocabulary that all boxers understand. If I’m watching a fight and tell someone, ‘Did you see that uppercut?’, we’re both immediately excited because we know what’s going on, despite the language barrier.
Going to a boxing gym felt like a home away from home, so this was exactly what I would do in every new city that I moved to. No matter where you are in the world, hearing the sound of jump ropes and people punching bags make a gym feel like a very familiar environment.
And to me, the routine of going to a boxing gym, wrapping your hands and skipping feels like meditation. People always say yoga is meditative, but meditation is very difficult for me. You’re supposed to be relaxed, but I keep having random thoughts come to my head.
But when you’re hitting the bags or even sparring, you can’t even think of anything else. Your mind is clear because you’re only thinking of what you’re supposed to do at that moment. And that is especially peaceful and relaxing to me.
So when I move into a new place and there are so many things stressing me out, I’d go to the gym and always leave feeling refreshed. You train for a couple of hours, see the same faces, maybe grab food with them after, and it just adds a nice rhythm to your life” – Jo, 34
Interview by: Arman Shah