It had been a childhood wish of mine to take up Wushu when I saw flyers of classes near the community centre where I used to live. A primary school classmate of mine was practicing that form of martial art and I had always secretly admired her.
But to my parents, tuition lessons and enrichment classes were a much better investment than a Wushu academy.
In secondary school, I discovered that I could outrun all the girls in class and even some boys, so I went on to doing Track & Field.
Well, from my parents’ perspective, I guess that was a smaller expense in relation to Wushu; all I needed was a pair of decent running shoes – my school provided the running jersey and shorts.
I continued running and training (somewhat) competitively up till the near-end of my polytechnic education and hung up my shoes (spikes and all) to concentrate on my last semester of studies.
That was when I thought of taking up other types of sports.
At that point of time, some of my classmates were suddenly interested in lifting weights, some took up Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), and some took up rock-climbing as a way to de-stress after long bouts of mugging for our papers.
Since then, there was a boom in popularity in these extreme sports, and competitions offering six-figure contracts have also sprouted up.
While MMA is seen as the more popular sport for the contemporary working adult, there’s another similar contact sport that has its history deep-rooted in a certain Southeast Asian culture.
That is, Muay Thai.
On 23 September 2017, this sport will see its first regional Muay Thai tournament held at Marina Bay Sands, which will see fighters from of course, Thailand, Macau, South Korea, Singapore, and more.
It’s legit – this competition is authorised by the World Muaythai Council (WMC) and the Amateur Muaythai Association Singapore (AMAS).
But let’s find out more about the man who dreamed a dream and worked the grind to make this a reality.
Finessing The Fitness Field
Sasidharan Unnithan (37) is the founder of the inaugural Asia Fighting Championship (AFC) which, as mentioned above, is due to happen on 23 September 2017.
He is a veteran in the fitness field, working in the sports industry for more than 10 years after graduating from the Edith Cowan University with a Bachelor’s in Exercise Science and Strengthening and Conditioning with a Minor in Sports Marketing.
Sasidharan worked for California Fitness from 2004 and became the head of the gym’s personal training department just after two years there. He was then promoted to the role of General Manager of the gym in 2008 up until its closure in July 2016.
He is also a part of the Muay Thai gym, Muse Fitness Club, which is one of the organisers for the AFC.
I have always been intrigued by the beauty of martial arts and Muay Thai, it’s just that finally, I found the time and drive to follow my passion.
Sasidharan said earnestly, that it was the love for the art of Muay Thai that spurred him on to start AFC.
He hopes to make AFC a household name in Asia and his goal is to organise AFC events all around Asia every four to five weeks within three years.
Further explaining that, he said, “I hope to achieve a mainstream platform that all fighters around the region can aspire to be in.”
What Do You Fight For?
I asked him to share about how his many years of experience in California Fitness and his other fitness ventures had helped him in his current business and AFC.
The tough environment in California Fitness taught me how to survive and make every business succeed – it’s not about the business, it’s about how you manage it.
The tenacity seen in him is a common trait in many successful entrepreneurs.
In every sport, the one who doesn’t give up ultimately wins, and while it isn’t as straightforward in business, I think this determination will reap rewards in the long run.
Muay Thai is known as the “Art of Eight Limbs” or the “Science of Eight Limbs according to this article, and has the reputation to be deadly and lethal.
Misconceptions about this form of martial art is expected. Here’s what Sasidharan has to say about it.
First thing I hear all the time is, “Oh, wow, the ‘Blood Sport’.” We use the eight limbs, yes, but you know what? More sportsmen get hurt in Moto GP and racesports (than Muay Thai).
Every contact sport is violent in one way or another – but the mastery of each of such sport and martial art is a culmination of sweat, hard work, and practice.
Well, if you have read until here and you’re still unsure what is AFC, perhaps the upcoming, highly-anticipated celebrity showdown between Steven Lim korkor and former Singapore Idol participant Sylvester Sim might help jog your memory?
And he is clearly the favourite…
(Sorry, I couldn’t help but take a jab at him.)
But, seriously, I thought this was a good way to get exposure!
While Sasidharan expresses content at the attention it is getting, he still hopes that people who attend AFC this 23 September will appreciate the sport and the rest of the fighters too.
The fight will see our homegrown fighters in the ring going up against other regional experts and I will definitely be rooting for all of them to bring us glory.
But I was curious if Sasidharan has any personal favourites in the ring, and he lightheartedly and candidly replied,
Well, I have to be impartial, but if I go by my heart, of course my personal favourite will be our very own Brandon Ng. Partly also because he entertains me with all the trash talk, but (it is known that) fighters trash talk.
I agree with that – who doesn’t like a good banter?
Even though he has had so much experience as a business owner and a sportsperson, there is no overwhelming air about him. When he talks about the sport, his passion shines through.
“After a chapter in my life (has concluded), this new chapter that includes Muay Thai is my drive, my only focal point right now. My soul feeds on it,” he said.
This is the inspiration we all need on any dreary day.
Now, it’s time for him to tap out of this article with some words of encouragement to aspiring fighters.
If you want to be a fighter, commit your time, don’t do it just because you think it’s cool. There has to be passion.
Whether you’re a newbie in the Muay Thai arena or an experienced one, nothing beats a ‘live’ fight to study how the pros do it.
Featured Image Credit: Sasidharan Unnithan Facebook