Discussions on the Future of Martial Arts.
Melvin Yeoh is a Martial Artist, Thai Boxing champion, and professional MMA fighter from Malaysia. Melvin has a great perspective, growing up in traditional Martial Arts, then making the jump into the realm of MMA. He is considered the most successful MMA fighter from Malaysia, and currently fights in ONE FC. I would like to thank Melvin for his time and insights.
*The opinions expressed in this interview are solely that of the interviewee
-Melvin, first off I would like to thank you for taking the time to participate! For our readers out there that may not be familiar with you, can you tell us about your Martial Arts background?
I started training in Muay Thai and taekwondo at the age of 13, and was actively competing from ages 13 to 18. I started practicing the grappling type of martial arts such as Judo, Brazilian Jujitsu and submission wrestling in 2003.
-From the time you first started training until now, what are some of the big changes you have seen? Why do you think these changes have taken place?
Trends outside martial arts that affects martial arts from my perspective is the media influence. It could be something that the next big superstar trains in or something that is hyped in media, something going viral in the social media sites etc.
-MMA is a huge trend now. You have made the transition from Muay Thai fighting to MMA. What was that transition like? How did your training change?
I think from the time when I started any martial arts to now a few big changes that I have seen are namely, there is more emphasis on stuff that is practical rather than what is more flashy or good to look at for e.g. basic leg kicks took over spinning kicks. Another major change I have seen is that now there is a major focus on grappling arts over striking arts with the introduction of MMA. Like for me growing up the biggest thing was to learn a martial arts like Karate or Muay Thai but now I really want my son to build his base in wrestling more than any other traditional martial arts.
-What are some key trends that are taking place in the martial arts world that could change martial arts in the future?
The access to information is creating a level playing field for many martial artists. Years ago a practitioner only had access to what his master taught him. Today even in rural areas people can access sites like YouTube, Evolve University and Gracie University. Although nothing can replace the guidance of a good instructor, there are, however, no more secret techniques. This means competitors aren’t as limited by not having access to gyms. Also there are tons of instructional videos out there in market.
-What may be some trends or shifts taking place outside the martial arts world that could have an effect on martial arts in the future?
People are spending less and less time in front of their television and more and more time on the internet. We are no longer limited by our local, or even national, programming. This means people who live in an area where mma is still in the grassroots stages will have exposure via the internet. Online broadcasting has already become an industry norm. In the old days it was because MMA was banished to the underground, now it’s because more people are on a computer than in front of a television. So while online access to MMA is nothing new, the amount of people that can reached today through this medium has unlimited potential.
– I know you have done a lot of work to save children from the street. Can you tell me a bit about that?
I just hate to see children and teenagers lost without direction with no one there to guide them. I hate people who give up easily. Usually I will try to reach out to them if I find out they are lost, make friends with them and then bring them to my gym and see whether they like it or not. When teenagers have something to do, they will not cause trouble in the streets. Also there are some with very low confidence and by letting them learn martial arts, they can slowly gain confidence.
-Do you see martial arts as a path forward for these children?
The first thing you learn in any type of traditional martial arts is self discipline. And that is the most important for every person in order to find success in any thing they do in life. The 2nd thing martial arts teach us is to be tough. With these 2 things I believe children will have an easier time in their future life, because they will be able to face any challenges and overcome them.
-Do you see it being a path forward (in this case out of poverty) for children in similar situation in the future?
Lets just quote what Rickson Gracie said : We are not in the business of martial arts, we are in the business of building confidence …not only to defend yourself, but with that comes the confidence of facing life.
-Ok, the big question! If we were to extrapolate all the changes you mentioned, what does the future of martial arts look like to you in 10 years time?
It will be more commercialized. People now are already not so focused on the spirit and core of traditional martial arts, which is honor, respect and loyalty. People just want to get the most effective training in order to compete and win and make a name for themselves. Gyms are also trying to find the best and fastest way to produce the best fighters and they’ve already become like factories. Not many gyms/dojos will focus on the spirit of martial arts in the future.
Melvin Yeoh can be reached at :