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Fit & Fab: Retiree picked up Brazilian jiu-jitsu at 55 and earned his black belt at 67

Fit & Fab: Retiree picked up Brazilian jiu-jitsu at 55 and earned his black belt at 67

Published on

18 Jan 2022

Published by

The Straits Times


SINGAPORE - Before Mr Richard Wee retired in 2009 at age 55, he had been a senior regional executive in multinational companies, including Apple and supply chain management business Havi Global Solutions.

 

He often went on work trips, had poor sleep and led an unhealthy lifestyle, where drinking and eating to excess were part of his business meetings.

 

Mr Wee, who is married and has three children aged 35, 34 and 30, was overweight and had hypertension. But after his retirement, he decided to lead an active lifestyle and joined martial arts academy Evolve MMA.

 

"I had tried weightlifting and jogging, so I was looking for something I had never done before," says the 67-year-old.

 

He started with muay thai before progressing to boxing and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

 

"Each session is cardio- and resistance-intensive, and challenges my reflexes and mental alertness," he adds.

 

His efforts to keep up an active lifestyle paid off. In about a year, his waist size shrank from 105cm to 81cm.

 

The best news he has received, however, was when he went for a medical check-up last year. His hypertension is well under control and he is no longer overweight.

 

He also earned his black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu in November at the age of 67.

 

"I spar with partners much younger than me and they are surprised when they learn my age," says Mr Wee, who goes for Brazilian jiu-jitsu training five times a week.

 

"Now that I have spent 12 years doing something I have never done before, I am very glad I made the decision to try martial arts. I wake up each morning eager to challenge myself with every training session."

 

What is your secret to looking fabulous?

 

For me, it would be training in martial arts 10 hours a week, being eager to learn and constantly learning with every passing year, as well as volunteering at several children's organisations.

 

Has there ever been a time when you were not fit and fab?

 

Before my retirement in 2009, I was overweight and had hypertension.

 

What is your diet like?

 

I prefer fish and vegetables, and usually eat till I am 70 per cent full. I also drink a lot of water to hydrate myself throughout the day.

 

What are your indulgences?

 

I know it is common for people to have regular cheat days. But for me, at my age, I have tried all that I have wanted to eat.

 

I used to like wine, beef and cigars, but have not indulged in them after I retired.

 

Now, I focus on giving back to the community and helping others. One way I do so is through the FunFit programme which I started in 2009 with a team of volunteers, to help underprivileged children get fit in a fun way.

 

What are the three most important things in your life?

 

Family - their welfare, health and happiness; my personal fitness and health; and time - the use of precious limited resources.

 

What's your favourite and least favourite part of your body?

 

My favourite is my mind. It is constantly being challenged during martial arts training and while helping children during FunFit programmes. I do not have a least favourite body part.

 

What are your must-dos before and after a workout?

 

Stretching is a must before and after a workout. Every session of martial arts training begins with stretching and warming up.

 

During training, I also make sure my ego is in check so that I do not end up overexerting myself beyond what I or my grappling partner can handle in a bout.

 

How important is it for you to keep up with your fitness routine?

 

To me, it is important to have a schedule for training. I usually have my training first thing in the morning and it consists of two one-hour classes. This is a daily habit.

 

However, I do not like a routine in training. This is where martial arts differs from a gym workout. You learn something new in every martial arts class, and as you do drills in your newly learnt skill, you are challenged to apply it.

 

So, there is nothing routine about martial arts. Every grappling partner offers a new dimension in learning.

 

How are you keeping fit during this period?

 

We were able to train at home over Zoom sessions organised by martial arts academy Evolve MMA during the circuit breaker in 2020. When we were allowed to train on-site under strict social distancing rules, our grappling partners were 40kg dummies.

 

Now, we can train in groups of five, so we are drilling, sparring and learning martial arts as usual.

 

During the day, I walk in the park, skip and use the suspension trainer to maintain my fitness level.

 

How has your active lifestyle influenced your family and friends?

 

My wife and I go walking in parks. My younger daughter, 30, trains with me at Evolve MMA. Other family members swim and skip too.

 

We are all careful with our diets.

 

My friends ask about my fitness regimen and martial arts training. There is also a close-knit community at Evolve MMA and we motivate one another.

 

What is one small health tweak that has led to big results?

 

It was about being open to trying new things and eventually finding something that I love to do every day, and that is martial arts.

 

Practising martial arts has not only helped me keep fit physically, but also challenges me mentally with the escalating intensity and complexity of the sport.

 

It has allowed me to remain consistent in my training and always keeps me going back for more.

 

Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.


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