Living in this part of the world means I get to see many amazing places and experience different cultures, food and ways of life. Only last week I had the pleasure of going over to Singapore to link up with Onyx MMA, a prospective partner gym in this corner of South East Asia. I was met by Jack and Chocolate (the owner and manager of the gym) at Changi International airport to spend a few days getting to see how they run the gym as well as to discuss ways in which we can take the relationship between the two gyms forward.
Singapore is unlike any other country in Asia I have visited. A bustling metropolis with the grandeur and unashamed wealth of any western hub you care to think of mixed in with a traditional element of a myriad of Asian cultures. It is home to a large population of Chinese, Indian and Malaysian along with a large expat community mostly working in the impressive financial district.
Driving through the well maintained streets and boulevards it was a welcome experience not having to worry about a lunatic in a pick-up truck trying to undercut us at every opportunity. My initial impression was that it reminded me of downtown Melbourne. Clean, efficient, modern.
Onyx MMA itself is situated on the edge of a large public park and shares the land with a large paintball facility. Something to do between training sessions perhaps? I was introduced to the team and made to feel very welcome. Even though I had arrived at around lunchtime the gym was bustling with people coming and going and having one on one sessions. The trainers, as you’d expect in Asia, were all very humble and polite, keen to exchange greetings with me. It was agreed that I would take part in the evening Muay Thai training followed by a strength & conditioning session run by their dedicated coach.
After some local food from a street vendor and a good chat with Jack, Chocolate and their partner at the gym, Handy, I retired to my room to rest up for the evening session not knowing what I was in for.
In Thailand there is a certain way of training that I am used to. We run, we stretch, we wrap hands, we shadow box, we spar and then we kick bags or pads. All of this is done with a high intensity with rest periods in between and the sessions generally last around 2 hours. I would say my level of conditioning is ok, not great, but I was not prepared for the intensity of the training at Onyx! There was running, skipping, bag work, sparring, pad work all with minimal rest periods. There were some incredibly fit people training and the trainers must have unbelievable stamina to keep up for the full hour and a half sessions at that pace. It would put most people I know through their paces.
The session incorporated a small section dedicated to strength & conditioning which involved a lot of body weight and plyometric work which I enjoyed. I have never done so many press ups in such a short space of time! After the initial session was finished I had about an hours break to catch my breath and gear up for the full S&C session. This was more specialised and included agility and speed work as well power and core strength. Arab (the S&C coach) runs a very tight ship there and handles the groups of around 15 people very well, ensuring everyone has proper form and gets the most out of the session.
Throughout my entire time in Singapore I was treated to true Singaporean hospitality and that evening was taken to a local street food vendor for a sea food buffet. Now, I am not the biggest fan of seafood. I’m very British and I like salmon, cod, haddock etc but when it comes to more exotic cuts of fish I am relatively inexperienced. Not wanting to be rude I kept my mouth shut and sucked it up. The fact that I was starving probably helped with that decision. Brought out to us on platters were clams, squid, prawns and stingray. Yep, that’s what I thought too. But I can honestly say they were some of the tastiest dishes I’ve had whilst being in the Far East. The flavours were delicious and varied, the stingray especially being a personal favourite. I will not be such a little Englander in future.
The following day was my own to do with what I pleased. A quick search on Google left me completely bewildered as to what I should see in my short time on the island. I had been told that the MRT (train service) was the best way to get around so decided to purchase a day pass to see a few key sights.
First things first was lunch. I decided to jump off in the financial district to see what I could find. Big mistake. No sooner had I left the station I was lost and hungry, struggling to get my bearings. I managed to get some chicken and rice from a street vendor and started to wander along the river, not in any particular direction. Some of the buildings down there are absolutely spectacular. You have most of the worlds big banks there as well as some luxury hotels to boot. Before long something came into view that I recognised. The Marina Bay Sands hotel. A monstrous building divided into three tall pillars with what can only be described as a cruise liner sat along the top of them. I headed towards it.
Seeing something that big in the distance and trying to get to it on foot was no mean feat. I had to cross a five lane highway and a river to get there but it was well worth it. Although the fee to get to the roof was astronomical and with the price of a soft drink making my eyes water the view made up for it. You can see most of the island and there are maps detailing what it is exactly you are looking at.
However the weather started to turn and I heard thunder in the distance. I didn’t fancy being sat atop the biggest lightning conductor in view for much longer so decided to retreat down to the nearest MRT station.
With my day drawing to a close I had enough time to make one more stop. Chinatown was on the way back to my hotel and I figured that was as good a place as any. In the 10 minutes I was there I saw a hindu temple, which I thought was weird seeing that we were in Chinatown, I went into the Tintin shop and I ate some delicious but extortionate chicken satay. A good day I think.
With my trip nearing an end all that was left to do was reflect on my stay and think about how impressed I was with both Onyx and Singapore itself. Onyx have a very good gym with lots of dedicated clients who come day in day out to learn the trade and keep in shape. I look forward to meeting Jack and the team again at some point, which I am sure won’t be too far into the future. There will be big news regarding our gyms and the alliance we are forming. So watch this space.