Singapore’s low crime rates give us a sense of security, and enough confidence to walk the streets in the middle of the night without fear.
In 2016, the police even reported 135 days-free from crime including snatch theft, house break-ins and robbery.
But as we are often reminded, low crime doesn’t mean no crime, and it’s extremely valuable to know how to protect yourself in case you ever land in a dangerous situation.
That’s how Qin Yunquan felt, especially as a “typical petite Asian girl” who would seem an easy target to attackers.
“The fact is that even in a country [with low crime rates] like Singapore, one still reads about the periodic sexual assaults that happen here. I have always felt vulnerable,” she says.
Not All Martial Arts Can Save Your Life
When she was 17 and in junior college, Yunquan, who at first wanted to work in the biomedical industry, decided to take up Wushu to keep herself safe.
She soon realised that the complex moves of Wushu were made for sparring and performing, but weren’t applicable for self defence in real life.
It was only two years later that she chanced upon a newspaper article about an Israeli hand-to-hand combat system called Kapap, that was being taught in Singapore.
Jumping at the opportunity to attend a free trial class, Yunquan headed down to Kapap Academy where she met her coach, Master Teo Yew Chye.
In a moment of disillusion, Yunquan’s eyes were opened to what proper self defence could really do.
I was amazed [by how] with the right tactics and techniques, I was able to fight off a bigger and stronger [aggressor] with little force.
She explains that Kapap is similar to the more commonly known Israeli martial art, Krav Maga, but the former focuses less on using force on force.
The skills were very street-oriented. For example, [you learn] how to defend and escape from chokes, body grabs, knife attacks, or multiple attackers.
She also enjoys practising wrestling, MMA, and was even certified as a teacher in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai, but Yunquan found that teaching self defence was her true calling.
Mentored To Be A Master
Teo Yew Chye had been a martial artist for his whole life, but when his brother fell victim to a street assault and died after a 7-year coma, he was motivated to set up Kapap Academy and prevent others from coming to harm.
He spent nearly 8 years going around the world to train under former Israeli special forces operatives and world renowned self defence instructors.
Master Teo founded the academy in 2008, and Yunquan became one of his first few students when she enrolled in 2009.
Not long after, Master Teo invited her to train to be an instructor as he was impressed with her commitment to helping others stay safe.
He sent Yunquan to train with experts like late British Catch Wrestling Champion, Billy Robinson, UK Snake Pit Catch Wrestling Champion, Dr Raul Ramirez, and Muay Thai Coach, Master Toddy.
Beyond the sports, she had to get equipped with knowledge in psychology and predatory behaviour so she could teach students how to ward off attackers.
She took lessons from Master Teo, who was a trained psychologist and researcher at University of Western Australia, and she also received external training in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
At our school, about 15% of our students have been victims of sexual assault or acts of violence.
“So I learned about their first hand experiences with worst case scenarios in street crimes,” she says.
“It was a baptism of fire for me, and a rude awakening to the underside of society.”
Now, 29-year-old Yunquan is Kapap Academy’s chief instructor for ladies and children, and was also inducted as a co-founder for her contributions to the academy in its early years.
She played a role in developing the academy’s proprietary self defence system called Modern Street Combatives, which includes the study of predatory psychology to detect and avoid dangers.
Their system aims to help students detect and avoid danger first and foremost, secondly, find opportunities to evade, and finally only engage in combat as a last resort.
Yunquan was also awarded the title of Queen’s Young Leader in 2017 in recognition of her work, and scored a place in Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list in 2018.
Using A Pen As A Weapon
Because force-on-force combat isn’t always effective for women, children or elderly fending off aggressors, Yunquan and Master Teo focused on developing techniques to lend them more strength.
They saw a demand for self defence training especially with many executives and students travelling abroad for work and education.
“We were concerned about how to empower them with the skills to stay safe in a relatively short period of time [before they were due to go overseas],” Yunquan says.
They considered various options, like training people in the use of knives, tactical torchlights, or improvised weapons like umbrellas, but these seemed to fall short in practicality or could even bring about legal implications.
Eventually, their solution was a pen.
We came to the conclusion that a tactical pen was the best compromise in equipping one with an improvised weapon that is likely to be used by executives and students, but yet will not run foul of the law.
Once they had decided on the most effective improvised weapon, they began developing a training syllabus, through months of focus groups and pilot testing with their student base.
They hold a high standard for the tactical pens they bring in for their students too.
“Before we order [the tactical pens], we subject them to a battery of tests for areas like strength of material, functional design, control and comfort in holding.”
Popular Among Ladies And The Elderly
Since Kapap Academy launched their tactical pen seminar 3 years ago, Yunquan says it has been popular with “ladies, executives who need to travel, and the elderly”.
“There are serious limitations to using force-on-force strategy for small, petite women, or the elderly. Needless to say, children are also grossly ineffective in using force-on-force systems against adult attackers,” she says.
She explains that a tactical pen acts as a force multiplier for someone who isn’t that strong.
“It can be used to improve one’s capability to deliver pain if attacking pressure points on an attacker.”
One of her students came face to face with a burglar who broke into his rented apartment in the US, in search of money to buy drugs.
With the skills imparted by Yunquan and other instructors, he managed to fend off his attacker with the tactical pen until the police arrived.
Kapap Academy is privately-owned and functions as a social enterprise, with the main purpose of helping people protect themselves, over profitability.
The academy is currently backed by almost $30 million in assets and “a steady revenue stream from these assets”, including Master Teo’s own financial investment to start up the school in memory of his late brother.
Yunquan says they are confident the academy will remain sustainable in its efforts to help more people stay safe with self defence.
Featured Image Credit: Kapap Academy Singapore