Singapore

Roses among the thorns

Two women are now pilots with Singapore Airlines. CHERYL YING and VERNETTE CHIA (tnp@sph.com.sg) profile three other women who carved careers in male dominated industries

It's not a common sight in the martial arts fraternity.

In fact, only about one in 10 instructors here are women, says the Singapore Martial Arts Instructors Association.

Ms Grace Huang is a rare rose among the 1,000 instructors here.

The 33-year-old teaches Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) at Trifecta Martial Arts. BJJ focuses on ground fighting, where both combatants are on the floor instead of standing.

A person uses grappling methods like chokeholds and joint-locks to defeat his opponent.

Ms Huang said she got into martial arts after an abusive relationship where her former partner threw a bedside table at her.

"I needed to do something for myself and I wanted to feel empowered," she said.

When she first started learning BJJ in December 2011, there was only one other woman in the class of 30 students.

Now, Ms Huang is one of the few female entrepreneurs in the martial arts scene.

About three years ago, she started Trifecta Martial Arts with Ms Arlene Lim, whom she met when she started learning BJJ.

"Both Arlene and I started Trifecta at very bad times in our lives. We wanted to share this message that anyone could come to us at any moment in their lives," she said.

Not everyone, however, was keen about being taught by a female.

Ms Huang said: "What troubles most male students have is mainly their ego, because they don't want to lose to a woman or they cannot believe that a smaller, lighter woman can beat them."

Ms Huang said some of the women in her school were only recently allowed to pick up martial arts.

"There was a misconception in the past that learning martial arts means you're a gangster. But that social convention doesn't exist now," said Ms Huang.

She said women are more keen to take up BJJ when they realise two women run the school.

"More women are joining us at Trifecta, because they see that two women are running the school and are less intimidated," said Ms Huang.

"Besides, Arlene competes and she is someone to look up to. Most women look at her and go, 'If she can do that, so can I'."

She said when she told her mother that she was opening a martial arts school, her mother's reaction was, 'What took you so long?'

"My mum is very supportive and I really appreciate that. This is something I attribute Trifecta to," added Ms Huang.

"Her support gives me the confidence to take chances."

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