From Fighter to Mentor: Eugene Ng

Join POONG QI TAO as he interviews 3-time National Sanda Champion, Eugene Ng, on his martial arts journey from a professional fighter to coach.



Poong Qi Tao
Hype Deputy Editor

Hype Issue #59

Published on
May 31, 2024

Fancy picking up martial arts? Here’s a piece of advice from Eugene Ng, 32, a martial artist of 25 years and counting.

“Think properly. This sport isn’t as easy as you think. It may seem easy watching [it] on YouTube, but it’s a very tough journey,” Eugene says. “Coaches out there may give you false hope, but me myself, I’ll tell you it’s a very difficult journey.”

Still interested? Great! Let’s hop on Eugene’s journey.

Where it all started

“It began with my grandfather [who] passed [it] down to my dad, and he started training me [in Sanda] when I was seven,” he recounts. 

Eugene’s dad has taught Sanda for 35 years and is currently the coach for the Singapore National Sanda Team, a role he has been in for 25 years and counting. 

What’s Sanda you may ask? It’s known as Chinese mixed martial arts or Chinese kickboxing. Besides kickboxing, the martial art involves grappling techniques, throws and sweeps.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai are other martial arts Eugene learnt later on. 

He trained for 5 years before he had his “very first small fight”, which was only a one- minute round, at the age of 13. Eugene then embarked on his professional career at 16. 

Fast-forward 14 years, and Eugene has participated in 76 professional fights, 10 international tournaments, and impressively, has only faced 3 losses.

Pet Sitter

Eugene (right) competing for the Singapore National Sanda Team in the 2016 Asian WuShu Championships. Photo courtesy of Eugene.

Using only 3 words to describe his fighting style, Eugene replied cheekily with a grin on his face.

 “I am fast.”

National Glory

At 18, Eugene made his debut for the Singapore Sanda National Team in 2010, at the World WuShu Junior Championships.

“I lost to a Russian guy by KO [Knockout],” he says. The Sanda fighter remembers the loss as a “very painful and tragic memory”.

Eugene has since represented Singapore on multiple occasions on the global stage up till 2021, when he finally retired from competition. He was also the captain of the national team.

“Helping members of the team win their first international fight” is an achievement Eugene is proud of during his time with the national team. With fights only being held once a year, Eugene is all the more proud of his achievement.

In 2019, Eugene represented the Singapore National Sanda team in Shanghai for the World Wushu Championships. 

The result? He was ranked the fifth best Sanda fighter in the world for his weight class (60kg); an incredible feat.

Lion Dancing

Eugene (centre) with his teammates at the 2019 World Wushu Championships. Photo courtesy of Eugene.

“That one is my favourite.” Eugene recalls that competition with a slight smirk on his face. He claims that is the best achievement and moment in his career.


Battles & Scars

Not every sportspersons’ career is a smooth one, and Eugene’s has so far been no exception.

“I’ve [had] both of my shoulders broken,” Eugene points to his shoulders and continues. “A spinal cord degeneration, [tendons] on my left leg torn. I’ve had my right hip bone protruding [out] before and a fractured right elbow.”

Eugene removed his glasses, pointed at his nose and says, “Last but not least, I’ve a broken nose.”

I initially found his response a bit amusing as it felt like he was listing all of his injuries like achievements. However, I’ve massive respect for professional fighters like Eugene, who’ve gone through countless major and potentially career-ending injuries. 

They don’t give up and choose to continue fighting. 

The Fighter becomes the Mentor

When Eugene officially hung up his gloves in 2021, he decided to fulfil his dream of building his own gym. Thus, in the same year, Genie Martial Arts was born. And with it, he now has a place to share his passions of Sanda and Muay Thai with the next generation.

Prior to starting Genie Martial Arts, Eugene already had significant coaching experience from teaching at schools, gyms, and studios over the years. “I was teaching every single day, for 9 hours, even on weekends,” he says. 

Lion Dancing

Eugene wants everyone in his gym to feel like a “family” together. Photo taken by Poong Qi Tao.

Eugene says the transition from a professional fighter to coach was very easy. He no longer had to slog to meet weight requirements for fights, which can be a painful process for fighters. Additionally, he didn’t have to “train for 9 hours a day” anymore. 

However, hanging up his gloves was “a tough decision” for the seasoned fighter. Eugene cited his age as the main factor behind it. “I do enjoy the fight, but because of my age, I’ve to transit [my career] to [being] a coach,” the 32-year-old says.

Eugene currently coaches thrice a week, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays.

Imparting knowledge to the next generation

Every coach has his or her own unique coaching philosophy and style. Eugene’s is “much more towards letting students feel at home” and his style “caters to their own advantage”.

“So if they like [using] their hands, I’d rather teach them boxing. If they like [using] their legs, I’ll teach them more towards the legs,” he says. The Sanda and Muay Thai coach also expects attitude and consistency from all students.  

Lion Dancing

Eugene (centre) handing out instructions to his class. Photo taken by Poong Qi Tao.

Hovan Cheng, 21, a Muay Thai student under Eugene for 2 years, finds his teaching style intriguing as he feels it’s “a combination of tough love and nurturing”.

“What I like about Coach Eugene’s teaching style is that he’s always ready to help his students whenever they need it,” Hovan says. “His personality and training style will always make me want to come back for more.”

Eugene is a firm believer that martial arts play a role beyond physical fitness, in personal growth, and development in life too. He believes the discipline learnt from martial arts is “one of the most important in [terms of] personal growth”.

Lion Dancing

Eugene believes martial arts helps one’s personal development in life while forging close bonds with friends. Photo taken from Genie Martial Arts on Instagram.

“Last but not least, is the leadership that you bring [to] the gym and towards your companions and friends, because [that] is the most important thing in life,” he adds.

Discipline, humility, and “knowing what you want in your career” are the qualities Eugene feels make up a successful martial artist.

In the coming years, Eugene wishes to expand his school. “One of my goals is to have the chance to have a bigger gym so I can take on more students,” he says. “More dates and more time.”