Martial arts have stereotypically been a male sport but it is increasingly popular amongst females as a way to keep fit or even to protect themselves. However, martial arts can also empower the spirit, to create a holistic mindset that for a healthier life – both physically and mentally.
And in Singapore, a strong spirit is what these two ladies have created in the heart of their gym.
An Encore To Muay Thai
Last year, 25-year-old Singaporeans Vivian Chan and Natalie Soh co-founded the Encore Gym, a Muay Thai gym in the heart of Joo Chiat.
Unlike other gyms, Encore is only for females and males are banned from the premises. Originally starting out as a mixed gym, the pair converted it after receiving feedback from the women that it would allow them to feel more “at ease“.
“We wanted to use Muay Thai to help women build themselves up in a more comfortable environment. They do not have to bother about the guys when they train,” Vivian shares in a previous interview.
Meanwhile, Vivian also runs the Instant Pain Relief Singapore Clinic located right next to the gym, where she offers pain relief therapy for general and sports injuries.
Here, she fuses East and West – combining her Exercise and Sports Science degree from Edith Cowan University and her tutelage in TCM and Acupressure Therapy.
Masters Of Muay Thai
“We met through common friends in a event and became best friends. Both of us had common interests (Muay Thai) and spend some time knowing each other’s past,” Natalie shares.
“Eventually, bringing our passion together to start something humble that can help ladies out there to gain confidence through working out.”
Natalie has been learning Muay Thai for 5 years now, her roots being at Hilltop Muay Thai. Originally as a means to get fitter, she now seeks to improve herself through matches.
“The glory earned after every intense training makes me want to fight for more things in life,” she reflects. “Muay Thai is not as fearful as others think.”
As for Vivian, she started at her late uncle’s gym at 17, as her uncle felt that her petite form would attract bullies. And although she found it tough, she emerged champion at a Sanda boxing match just 3 months after.
“I love how the art of eight limbs can actually make someone so petite like me strong and nimble. The discipline to mastering the art attracts me the most. Partly because I’m half-Thai too?” she laughs, referring to her mother’s lineage.
Vivian doesn’t compete anymore due to injuries that “immobilised [her] for a year”, but the experience showed her that there are also others suffering from chronic pain and discomfort daily.
“I have the ability to heal them through my therapy [and] that’s how Instant Pain Relief Singapore came about.”
The Serial Entrepreneur Life
Vivian sees patients during the day, coaches at night, and handles marketing, articles about Muay Thai, as well as creates videos at home.
If it sounds hectic, it’s because it is. Managing daily inquires can still be overwhelming, especially since she’s on 24/7 standby, but Vivian is thankful for her PA’s help.
Her parents also factor in here as she reveals that spending most of their time at the gym gets her “homesick all the time.”
“Thankfully, my parents support me a lot and my mum will always cook my favourite food for me to pack to the gym!”
Meanwhile, although Natalie is not involved with the clinic, she reveals that she also has other projects on the side.
The most significant one would be the Soo Bingbing raindrop cake at Westgate that took social media and food blogs by storm.
Being a “foodholic“, Natalie admits that she is inclined to desserts, and so she launched the raindrop cake and Thai Milk Tea Bingsu. Those on the hunt for the dessert right now will be disappointed as due to venue constraints, there is no longer a store.
But it is not a forgotten endeavour, as she reveals that she “still runs road shows and am bringing it back to the market with more food to come!”
A Muay Thai Mindset
Being an entrepreneur is not easy, but the pair shares that Muay Thai empowers them both physically and mentally, training perseverance and fearlessness. Not only that, but the pair is also working towards breaking gender stereotypes in the martial arts scene.
“Muay Thai isn’t only for males or the fit, it’s for anyone who wants to protect themselves and their loved ones. Females aren’t necessarily weak just because they are smaller.”
Featured Image Credit: Natalie Soh