Martial arts is not just a hobby. It’s a way of life, a way of protecting ourselves and gain freedom, and it is also how we can protect others.
Meet Qin Yunquan, a Social Activist at Kapap Academy Singapore. She has been training girls, women and even the elderly and the disabled about self-defense. Her mission is to keep as many ladies as safe as possible.
Yunquan started her interest in martial arts back in Junior College at around 17 years old. She was trained in Wushu, a performance martial arts. However, later she was trained for different categories, which are combative sports (mixed martial arts, wrestling, Brazilian jiu jitsu) and realistic self-defence skills (Kapap, catch wrestling).
She was a skinny and petite girl. She’s heard so many stories about teenage girls and women being molested or raped. It disturbed her and made her feel vulnerable. So, about a decade ago, as she was a martial arts student, Yunquan began to focus on Kapap, an unarmed combat originated from Israel. She wanted to learn how to better protect herself, and it didn’t stop there.
After a year of training in Kapap, she became an instructor. She started teaching others and it satisfied her to see the grateful looks on the faces of her students, especially the ladies, as they were able to pick up new moves. She wanted to prevent them from being helpless or caught off-guard when they are in a dangerous situation.
Unfortunately, not everyone can afford a self-defense lesson.
So, she and her coach Master Teo Yew Chye started Kapap Academy a couple of years ago. The social enterprise provides either subsidised or free training at organisations that support abuse victims, the elderly or the disabled.
Kapap Academy has a realistic self-defense system known as Modern Street Combatives. The unique system combines psychology to identify predatory behaviour and pre-attack cues with body guarding principles and realistic combative skills.
They first teach the students how to identify pre-attack cues, then how to de-escalate a hostile situation. Physical engagement is actually the last resort because in a real life situation, it is not necessarily the most effective way to fight off the attacker. For instance, the attacker might be much stronger or the victim’s drink or food might be drugged before the attack. That’s why it’s more important for the students to prevent being in such a dangerous situation from the beginning.
Yunquan has now trained around 50,000 participants, most of them are disadvantaged women and girls. For her work, she became the first and only self-defense instructor to be awarded with the Queen’s Young Leaders Award in 2017. She was also one of the top 3 finalists of the Women of the Year Award (2014), honouree for the 30 on 30 Award (2018), and honoree of the Singapore Tatler’s Award (2018).
An Inspirational Teacher
Despite her success and internationally recognized humanity, her journey didn’t run as smooth. When she first started, she didn’t even get a support from her friends and family. There were a lot of criticism and skepticism on her way, especially considering that she is a girl. It’s just deemed unusual for girls to be involved in such ‘masculine’ sports, let alone start a movement around it.
Not only support, Yunquan also struggled with her trainings. She was doing both learning and teaching martial arts at the same time which resulted in her being the slowest student in class.
She was discouraged and ready to give up, but her coach said the opposite. He reminded her to go one step at a time and that if she has her heart in it, her ability shouldn’t be questionable.
That coach was Master Teo Yew Chye, who is also the founder of Kapap Academy. He challenged her to chase her dream of becoming a martial artist who also help other women and children to protect themselves.
He himself was dedicated to help others from a bitter experience of losing his brother from a senseless killing in Johor Bahru. The experience led him to walk away from an ordinary corporate life to establish Kapap Academy Singapore.
Yunquan plans to reach out and educate more people about self-defense. She wants people to be able to protect themselves effectively by engaging in the correct mindset that self-defense isn’t 100% physical, that there is a psychological aspect to it which is more complex than physical abilities.
Currently, Yunquan is working with a few partners to establish the Modern Street Combatives system to India as it is one of the countries where women are constantly in danger of crimes. She wishes that the establishment will be self-sustaining, meaning that women she’ll teach will be able to become trainers themselves and teach more women.