Monday, 15 December 2014

I Gave Myself Permission To Have A Break

My Month Of Rest

This was supposed to be my month of rest.  Apart from experiencing a meltdown moment over a Christmas tree last week, practicing a few elbow moves while doing Christmas shopping at the mall, and annoying my creative agency by playing creative director again over a very small project,  I actually had a wee bit of rest.

I gave myself a break from writing MMA-related or Tarot related articles.  When I felt compelled to write, I chose to write softer articles that could inspire my readers to make the right health and fitness choices.    

I was also selective about accepting Tarot reading engagements at corporate events. Last year, I was inundated with so many events and teaching workshops  in December that I hardly spent time with the family on weekends.  This year,  I took on less events and was thankful I did, especially when we had a couple of weddings in the family, my granny’s birthday, and a number of Christmas party invitations.  I would not have had the ability to juggle too many commitments.  Even when it came to my boxing training at the gym, I was thankful for a wee bit of rest when my boxing coach spent a couple of weeks traveling and was called up for reservist training.  I had not stop going to the gym, and instead, focused on strength and conditioning which I badly needed.

Bracing For A Busy 2015 

I believed that this period of rest was needed to get me ready for an extremely busy first quarter of 2015.  Apart from all the projects that I had to focus on at work early next year,  we also had several writing and photography assignments lined up which will see us traveling to Bangkok and Jakarta, and I have got plans for doing a week of intensive Muay Thai training in Phuket thereafter.  Moreover, I am planning some exciting lineup of Numerology workshops in partnership with a few creative souls and am quite excited about it.  Just the thought of meandering through these projects coming up in the first quarter of 2015, was enough to overwhelm me but I will cross the bridge when I come to it.

So what did I do during my break?

Focusing On The Family And Me

  • I took Mom shopping.  We indulged in a spot of Christmas shopping and an extravagant lunch.  It gave us the opportunity to have a mother-daughter chat about everything under the sun, we took countless nauseating selfies and had a bit of a laugh about everything.   I wanted to be able to spend an entire day with Mom without burying my face in my blackberry to respond to the never-ending flood of emails.

  • I participated at a festive pop-up market, the Goddess Marketplace, where I spent the day doing Tarot and Numerology readings for the New Year.  The readings were a hit and  my greatest gratification was the fact that I made new friends in the process.  I wanted to do readings in an environment of like-minded, creative and talented souls who were there to make new friends too, as they created awareness for their craft, and not be pressured by the constraints of time which was often a limitation for me as I rushed from back to back private client readings in person to  skype readings at home on a nightly basis.

  • I had not stop writing. Instead, I wrote only what I wanted to write.  I worked on articles that I felt would inspire and add value to others.  So I wrote articles that focused on the fitness and nutritional regimen of people who were professional athletes as well as recreational fitness enthusiasts.  I wanted to write in a way where I would not be pressured by demands and deadlines of  events and egos of people I had to interview for content.

  • I went out with a few of my colleagues for a nice afternoon away from the office, just enjoying a cup of tea and a girlie conversation.  Instead of arguing with or moaning to these colleagues about the obstacles we were facing in some of our projects, we decided to just enjoy the moment, take it slow, and make our time with each other count towards building a better collegiate environment when we got back to the office after.

  • I attended my cousins’ weddings.  Two of my cousins had decided to get married a few weeks apart from each other.  It gave the family a reason to come together to celebrate these nuptials.  We spent so little time throughout the year catching up with each other because of our busy schedules, yet within a few weeks, we seemed to be seeing more of each other and enjoying conversations with each other as if we had not been apart at all throughout the year.  In fact, we will be seeing each other again soon as Mum will be hosting her pre-Christmas family lunch this Sunday, and I will be hosting the ubiquitous Ash Family Christmas Eve dinner.  

  • I focused on myself for once.  Instead of attending every event that I was invited to, or participating in every activity that I was previously lined up for, I picked and chose the ones I wanted to be at.  Some of my Saturday afternoons were spent  just enjoying a long nap.  I guess it was a way my body and mind was hollering for me to give it a rest.  So I did.

I Gave Myself Permission To Have A Break 

I woke up to something during this break.  Often, my friends and family would ask how I could juggle my time between a full time career as a marketing and PR professional, my intuitive consultancy business, my freelance writing assignments, my travels and my kickboxing training. 

Honestly, how busy I wanted to be is all within my control.  I could choose to slow down on my activities if I wanted to.  If I chose to be extremely  busy multi-tasking on so  many projects, that would be because I enjoyed them tremendously.  And at times like these, I would listen to my mind and body to step back and give myself permission to have a break.

I am enjoying my break till the year end, and I am enjoying it tremendously because I do deserve it.

About The Writer

The writer of this blog post is a Marketing and PR professional for over 20 years.  Due to her love for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), she is also a freelance sports writer on the side, contributing MMA-related articles to several sports media.  She works in partnership with her husband, David Ash, who is an avid sports photographer from  She is passionate about Muay Thai and nurtures a dream to fight competitively one day when her coach stops making fun of her.  She is also a psychic intuitive by birth and runs a consultancy that does tarot and numerology readings under her brand, Sun Goddess Tarot.  This blog is affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" as she is married to one, although she has not yet explained to THE Ang Mo that when translated, he has been labeled  “the bloke with ginger hair”.  

Clowning about with the hubby at my cousin's wedding

Clowning about with Mum while out doing Christmas shopping

Clowning about with granny on her birthday

Clowning about with Team Ash at yet another cousin's wedding

Er....Just Clowns....

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Fighting Fit - My Personal Fitness Journey

This blog post is a reproduction of an article I had written jointly with Aaron  Rolley from IFC | PT and published in Asia Sports Network.  The reason I am reproducing this article here is that many have asked how I reconcile my life as a corporate careerist whilst involved in a sport that seemed "violent".  Firstly, I need to  debunk the misconception that boxing as a sport is violent.  There are rules involved and thankfully, a referee that enforces these rules in the ring.  Moreover, a good coach coupled with dedicated training ensures that we perform in a ring within accepted rules of engagement and in the spirit of sportsmanship.  Secondly, my foray into the sport was the start of an amazing journey that got me towards better health and fitness.

Here is my story, told through my strength and conditioning trainer Aaron and myself.

Achieving My Fitness Goals With Specialized Trainers

For years, I have always been active  in sports as I loved the outdoors.   I spent a few years playing rugby for a women’s full contact 7-aside team.  I enjoyed the training sessions that kept me fit and game-ready and I enjoyed the camaraderie amongst my team mates most.  At that time, I was religiously going for my twice-a-week personal training sessions at IFC PT where the trainers had designed a program to condition me for my rugby games.   I also supplemented my fitness regime by training for a few run events subsequently but as time went by, these activities took a toll on my knee, and drove me right into the surgery room of the hospital where I had to have a Tibial Tubular Elevation surgery just 2 years ago.  I woke up with 2 screws ann a part prosthetic knee cap, and the prospect of not being able to do any contact sports or participate in any run events again.

 The aftermath of the surgery saw  a very slow and painful recovery which threw me into depression, particularly when I saw myself losing muscle over-time and putting on an incredible amount of weight throughout the next few months that followed.  I ditched my rehabilitation program at the hospital just one week into the program because I felt that they were not effective enough. 

 Grappling with a sense of worthlessness, my impatience at the slow recovery,   and the post-surgery pain, which also resulted in extreme pain in my left glute and back, I then returned to the gym about 3 weeks after the surgery in spite of the surgeon’s protest that it was too soon, and started training at IFC | PT with a walking aid.  At that time, my weight was already at its peak of 93kg.  I was dangerously overweight, and was hit with high blood pressure as well.  I was terribly unfit and worse, extremely unhappy.

 The surgeon and the physiotherapist at the hospital instructed me to use the crutches for 6 months.  However, I threw them out in 2 weeks and decided to depend on just a cane.  I was determined to do without the cane in 3 months or less and expressed that to my personal trainers at IFC | PT.  We also sat down to evaluate my fitness goals, which I laid out quite clearly to them.  First and foremost, I needed to recover, and I needed to recover faster than usual as I wanted to be able to run again.  Secondly, I wanted to shed at least 20kg of weight to get myself to an optimal level of fitness and health.  The weight-loss goal was in fact, a goal set by my cardiologist who said that my weight gain has put my health in danger, particularly when my high blood pressure was in fact, caused by a congenital heart defect.  Health-wise, I was a walking time-bomb.  Thirdly, I wanted to get back to doing contact sports.  If I could, I would like to be able to play rugby again perhaps.   If I am not properly recovered, I would be a liability to my rugby team mates.

 So Aaron Rolley, who helmed IFC PT, got his team of specialized trainers together to design a fitness and nutritional program that was catered specifically to my needs and my goals.  In doing so, he introduced me to a new sport which quickly became my passion for which I have been working the rest of my life around. 

To do justice to the efforts of the team at IFC PT, I would like to introduce its head trainer, Aaron Rolley who had kindly detailed the steps he took to getting me back on the straight and narrow with regard to my health and fitness.  Over to you, Aaron:


Getting Jo Back On The Straight And Narrow

"Before letting Joanna get back into training, we first consulted her post-op physiotherapist who gave us a break down on training guidelines, Jo followed those rules for about 3 seconds before declaring them boring and demanding that we stopped training her "like a pussy".

 Jo’s training kicked off with a lot of single leg limited ROM movements to get her leg strength up and to keep her knee stable, progressing over time to back squats, lunges, and full dead lifts, coupled with upper body exercises. At this point we were still trying to get Jo’s weight down so she was doing a lot of circuit style training.

I starting advising Jo on what to eat for weight loss in 2005, lots of vegetables, fruit, and lean animal protein, minimise alcohol, and drink lots of water, she started paying attention in 2014, did I mention that she’s stubborn?

Before Jo was introduced to boxing she had always trained hard.  Sure she would complain a lot and dictated what exercises she wanted in a workout, but always gave it everything. Unfortunately we never achieved the desired weight loss.  She thought eating healthy was boring and considered a glass of wine a serving of fruit.

A New Passion

Then we introduced Jo to Dave Macanlalay, a certified kettlebell specialist and a martial arts coach.   Dave got Jo hooked on boxing by the way he broke down the techniques. He  had a traditional approach to martial arts, which, beyond the drills, technique, strength and conditioning work, he had also taught discipline and respect.

Jo was finally ready to fuel her body properly and combined with her ramped up training schedule,  her body began to transform  before our eyes. Inspired, she approached us with a goal to take boxing to a competitive level and she was determined to do it within a year and a half. 

On her own accord, she searched and found a fight academy that could take her boxing to a new level, Juggernaut Fight Club.  Arvind Lalwani, the head coach of Juggernaut Fight Club also assessed Jo's current fitness level as well as her goals before taking her on board.   In Jo's words, " I chose to be trained by Arvind because he is one of the coaches for the national boxing team, and he has been developing champions in the sport."  That's how serious she was about boxing.  As Arvind  worked on building her skills, techniques, form, strength and speed, my team and I at IFC | PT shifted the game-plan by redesigning a regime for Jo that is tailored to her goal to be a fighter.   Jo was so fired up by her new passion that she was not willing to take a break even on weekends. So, she now runs every Saturday morning, to a neighborhood gym, The Right Fit, about 3km away to do some pad work and boxing drills with the trainers there.

Jo's New Fitness Direction

Jo’s training and nutritional requirements have now changed. She now has specialized coaches from IFC | PT,  Juggernaut Fight Club and The Right Fit who work with her on different aspects of her fitness,  At IFC | PT,  Jo works on strength and conditioning, for example hang cleans and push presses, with a specialized weight-training coach, Gregory Pink to develop explosive power. and a movement specialist.  Our movement and corrective exercise specialist, Mark Stentaford,   designed a program to help her with agility and flexibility, and also uses his skills to make sure Jo’s body can handle the rigours of her training schedule.  At Juggernaut Fight Club, Arvind continues  to hone her fighting skills and technique.

Jo now trains 6 days a week religiously and sticks to a very healthy and balanced diet.  I have personally seen Jo getting stronger and fitter.  Since post surgery till today, she has lost a total of 17kg through sheer hard work and commitment to her health.  Jo's perspective on health and fitness has changed.  In the past, she trained hard with that one thought to look good. Today, she trains hard just to get stronger, fitter and faster.  The  entire team of trainers watching her grow in her fitness journey, cannot be more proud of her.  

Her fitness journey is proof that multiple trainers from across different specialized gyms can work together to help a client to attain her fitness goals."


No Egos, No Barriers, No Limits


I have learnt throughout this journey to better health and fitness that when there is no ego, there would not be barriers. When there are no barriers, then there are no limits. My fitness journey is on-going. If anything, the best thing I got behind a healthier and fitter me, is my renewed passion for life which has enabled me to balance the demands of a career as a marketing and public relations professional, a hobby as a freelance sportswriter and my training schedule.


For more information about the trainers responsible for getting me back on track towards better health and fitness, do visit:


IFC | PT -

Juggernaut Fight Club –

The Right Fit –

This post was written jointly by Aaron Rolley from IFC | PT and myself, and was recently published in Asia Sports Network at

About The Writer

The writer of this blog post is a Marketing and PR professional for over 20 years.  Due to her love for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), she is also a freelance sports writer on the side, contributing MMA-related articles to several sports media.  She works in partnership with her husband, David Ash, who is an avid sports photographer from  She is passionate about Muay Thai and nurtures a dream to fight competitively one day when her coach stops making fun of her.  She is also a psychic intuitive by birth and runs a consultancy that does tarot and numerology readings under her brand, Sun Goddess Tarot.  This blog is affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" as she is married to one, although she has not yet explained to THE Ang Mo that when translated, he has been labeled  “the bloke with ginger hair”.  

Monday, 8 December 2014

Our Perfect Christmas Tree

The Year-End Break

I had been on a writing break and was planning to be so till the New Year.  However, I was compelled to write this post after a stressful weekend of Christmas tree-hunting had led to my reassessment of why I took a break to focus on the family and plan for the  year-end festivities.  

Bah Humbug 

The impending year-end merry-making draws a myriad of reaction from my friends.  Most tell me that the year-end festivities would usually bring home the importance of family and the special memories they shared with loved ones during the ubiquitious Christmas dinner.  Some friends would tell me how disillusioned they were about the air of commercialism wafting through the malls at Christmas, with harried parents thronging Toys R’ Us in the hope of buying the latest Lego sets or yet another Princess Elsa doll.  I even have friends who would buy the first flight out of Singapore, just to avoid the rainy season and the annoying throngs of shoppers crowding the malls and jamming the train lines. 

My Magical Christmas Last Year

For me, the year-end festive season is always a celebration of family.  Last year, as Dad was hit with a devastating Stroke  just a week before Christmas, I learnt that the true magic of Christmas for me then was the power of prayers and the heartwarming love and support that surrounded my family and I at that very painful time.  It was magic indeed because in spite of the Doctor’s earlier suggestion that Dad might be spending 2 weeks at the hospital, he actually managed to recover in time to be discharged on Christmas eve.  I had the best Christmas Eve dinner then with Dad and the rest of the family surrounding him.  Amazingly, he even managed a glass of merlot, held in his very frail hand, which he had used to wash his pills down with. 

Reunion At Christmas Eve

This year,  I had been planning a big Christmas Eve dinner for the family.  My annual Christmas Eve dinner was always a gathering of  family members who would come together to enjoy the yuletide feast.  This year, it would be a reunion of sorts because my Aunt and Uncles who had been living overseas, in the US, Canada and Australia, are now back in Singapore to spend Christmas together as a family.  This was a big deal for us.  Moreover, this Christmas would mark one year of slow but steady recovery of my Dad from his Stroke.  He may still be frail but he is mentally still quite alert and looks like he would be enjoying yet another glass or two of merlot at my Christmas Eve dinner.  

A Perfect Christmas

I undertook to personally plan every detail of my Christmas Eve dinner.  Everything had to be perfect including the food, the home, the decoration, and the tree.  That became a problem.  The perfectionist in me was turning this Christmas Eve dinner into a major headache for David and Joel.  David wanted to roast the turkey and cook most of the dinner.  I did not allow this because David’s culinary skills, beyond baking bread and making tea, was not that reliable.  Joel volunteered to gather the Christmas playlist, but I refused to risk suicide attempts at our dinner party with Michael Buble crooning over the speakers.  

Then came the Christmas tree.  A beautiful noble fir was supposed to be the piece-de-resistance of my Christmas party.

The family spent the weekend criss-crossing the island just to look for a noble fir but the trees were sold out at every garden centre.  Not even a pine needle could be found throughout the island.  I went into near “melt-down” at the garden centre, revivable only with a cake and coffee over which David had a chat with me about my need to get a grip on my perfectionist mindset. He was right. Our Christmas Eve dinner need not be perfect. It was going to be wonderfully quirky, much like the Ash family. 

First and foremost, it was a dinner party that celebrated life and resilience. We had imperfect moments when Dad's health caused us immense worry or when Granny could not remember what she ate an hour ago.  However, Dad and Granny, in spite of their frailty, would not let recovery from stroke, or a touch of dementia stop them from celebrating family. They will be there to enjoy dinner with us and possibly more wine than they should. They might frown at  my roast turkey, parsnips, brussel sprouts and potatoes and would possibly prefer  a Chicken curry and stir fried noodles but I know they would be feeling so blessed just to be there, surrounded with family.  I know Dad and Granny would feel even more blessed because it would be their cheat day, like it would be for me, and we are all going to have cake!

Secondly, it was a dinner that celebrated a united nations of cultures and races amongst  family members who come from different countries like Scotland, America and China.  It is not a perfect family. However, this  eclectic mix of cultures and races, in our Singaporean home made for much livelier conversations.

Thirdly, it was a dinner party that celebrated new entrants into the family.  2 of my cousins got married recently so I have gained 2 rather handsome cousins-in-law.  Ok, they are still wet behind the ears and have not been inducted into the family rules that the Eldest cousin is the "quasi-matriarch-empress-dowager" of the family and needs to be placated regularly with cake. They will learn.

Finally, our tree is not perfect.  However, it really is a reflection of us – a quirky family, not too large, but not too small, weird in all sense of the word, but fun, easy-going and welcoming.  

So this is my tree, the Ash family's Christmas tree for 2014.  It is definitely us isn't it?

About The Writer

The writer of this blog post is a Marketing and PR professional for over 20 years.  Due to her love for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), she is also a freelance sports writer on the side, contributing MMA-related articles to several sports media.  She works in partnership with her husband, David Ash, who is an avid sports photographer from  She is passionate about Muay Thai and nurtures a dream to fight competitively one day when her coach stops making fun of her.  She is also a psychic intuitive by birth and runs a consultancy that does tarot and numerology readings under her brand, Sun Goddess Tarot.  This blog is affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" as she is married to one, although she has not yet explained to THE Ang Mo that when translated, he has been labeled  “the bloke with ginger hair”.  

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Conquer Your Mountain With Tenacity

All of us engaged in our respective work, passions, businesses, family commitments and other priorities are really not that different from one another, are we?  Every day we face our individual mountains, trying to find ways to get around it, climb it, burrow underneath it or chip away through it.  Nonetheless, these mountains are there before us no matter how we think about it.
 I watched a program aired on BBC Knowledge called How  We Made Our Millions, hosted by Peter Jones  of the Dragon Den’s fame, who was on a mission to uncover the secrets of success of self-made millionaire entrepreneurs.  In the program, Jones  interviewed  Chris Dawson and the Constantines, owners of famous UK brands The Range and Lush respectively.  The program fascinated me, not because these entrepreneurs had the business savvy to identify the right opportunities to deliver products that consumers need.  What fascinated me most was their tenacity and grit in spite of the hurdles they had to face both personal and outside where the competition was rife and consumer preferences were fickle.

Chris Dawson - Managing The Range Like Everyday Was A Recession

 Chris Dawson, who owns The Range, a chain of stores in the UK,  selling home, garden and leisure products,  used to be an open air market trader.    He was  dyslexic and  dropped out of school as a boy.  He could not read or write at an age where many kids in school were pouring through stories from Enid Blyton and Dr Suess. Yet Dawson’s unwavering determination spurred him to become a billionaire who at 62, still works from dawn to dusk, giving himself a treat of a full English fry-up only when he had  successfully clinched a deal.  Apparently he detests any waste of time and watches his expenditure very closely.  During an interview with Michael Ribbeck, the editor of South West Business, Dawson underscored his business ethos with this comment, “The recession is tough for everyone including us.  The difference is I have always run my business as though we are in a recession.”

The Constantines - Adhering To Principles Of Social Responsibility Through Lush

 The Constantines’ story was  even more interesting.  I am a fan of Lush, the company that produced delicious-smelling bath products and cosmetics because they adhere to the philosophy of  no animal testing.  Lush also produced “Charity Pot” a hand and body lotion where 100% of sales proceeds would go to the charities that Lush supported .  Lush became a big supplier to The Body Shop as Anita Roddick at that time, had shared the Constantines’ business vision.  However, in time, seeing that The Body Shop was heavily reliant on the Constantines as their biggest supplier, they bought the Constantines’ out for £6M.  The Constantines ploughed the money into their online retail store Cosmetics To Go.  However Cosmetics To Go went bust and the Constantines had decided to return to their former business model of hand-making bath and body products, this time, successfully growing Lush into a £130M business.   In 2001 when the Constantines offered to buy The Body Shop, Roddick purportedly called it the biggest “April Fool’s joke”.  However, the joke was on The Body Shop, because they were eventually bought by L’Oreal which was owned by Nestle, one of the biggest companies in the world that had seen a lot of attacks for animal testing.  The Constantines’ story was particularly riveting.  They saw a marketplace that was big enough for friendly competition which bred good business sense, great products and better value for consumers.  They even spotted a way to feed into the value that The Body Shop brought by supplying their hand-made products to the latter.  However, when Roddick referred The Constantines’ bid to buy The Body Shop as a joke, it smacked of the “big boy arrogance” in business which was truly unnecessary.

He Rongfeng - Gratitude As Heavy As A Mountain

  Another story that moved me, was that about Chinese millionaire He Rongfeng. He was a homeless teenager at 17 years old when he met a noodle store owner by the name of Dai Xingfen while begging on the streets.  The latter invited He home, offering him temporary reprieve from the cold outdoors, gave him food and some money, and urged him to set a good example and grow up to be a good person.  As elaborated in the story published by the Stomp team in Singapore on 11 October 2014,  when He turned 38 and became a successful businessman, he tracked Dai down in the hope of repaying that “debt” by giving her one million yuan but Dai upon reuniting with He, turned down the cash offer.  So He had decided instead to present her with a huge plaque that read, when translated, “ Gratitude As Heavy As A Mountain”.   

These stories fascinated me because I learnt that it was reasonable to expect to climb even the highest and most death-defying mountains through pure tenacity,  grit and authenticity of purpose.  These entrepreneurs did, and have proven that even in the face of nay-sayers, skeptics and the cynical laughter of the “bigger boys”, they could compete, find opportunities within the market place, develop products that add value to consumers and achieve tremendous success in the process.   None of these had old money.  None of these had wealthy backers.  There was no special secret to their success.  What drove them was pure hard work, determination, and simply, authenticity of purpose.  

Erik Weihenmayer - No Barriers

On that note, I would like to introduce the work of a very inspiring man, Erik Wehenmayer, the only blind mountaineer who has ever reached the top of the Everest in 2001.   When Wehenmayer was younger, he suffered from retinoschesis and was gradually going blind. He fought against using canes and wanted to just live life as normally as he could.  He turned to wrestling and represented Connecticut in the National Junior Freestyle Wrestling Championship in Iowa.  When he could hardly see anything, he started using a guide dog.  He then turned his passion towards rock climbing and realized he was very good at it. In 2004, he led 6 blind Tibetan teenagers and completed the climb up the north side of the Everest at 21,500 feet, higher than any group of blind people have ever stood.  There you go, even a blind man can make his way up a mountain with 6 blind kids, so what is stopping the rest of us with our respective dreams and goals from achieving them.

Ezzy Wang - Inspiring Lives

 Closer to home, let me introduce you to my colleague Ezzy Wang.  When I see Ezzy hobbling across the office with 1 leg and a crutch, I would try to hide the pain I feel in my knee after a strenuous workout at the gym.   Ezzy handcycles 4 times a week, averaging about 180km each week and swims 20 laps in an Olympic-sized pool about 3 times a week.  He champions the cancer cause as the ambassador for the run event called Run For Hope.   Ezzy lost his right hip to a rare pelvic cancer many years ago, then subsequently lost his entire right leg when he suffered a relapse.  Today, he looks fitter and stronger than some of  my friends who fight professionally, and he is a testament to how anyone, and I MEAN ANYONE, can handle a mountain no matter how difficult a climb it may be.

 So whatever your mountain may be, whether in business, work life or personal life, don’t ever let it beat you.  Conquer it with a strong belief in your own capabilities, your will and your own strength.

About The Writer

The writer of this blog post is a Marketing and PR professional for over 20 years.  Due to her love for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), she is also a freelance sports writer on the side, contributing MMA-related articles to several sports media.  She works in partnership with her husband, David Ash, who is an avid sports photographer from  She is passionate about Muay Thai and nurtures a dream to fight competitively one day when her coach stops making fun of her.  She is also a psychic intuitive by birth and runs a consultancy that does tarot and numerology readings under her brand, Sun Goddess Tarot.  This blog is affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" as she is married to one, although she has not yet explained to THE Ang Mo that when translated, he has been labeled  “the bloke with ginger hair”.  

My colleague Ezzy Wang continues to inspire lives in our office everyday.

Chris Dawson, the billionaire who owns The Range.  Photo credit: South Western Business UK

Mo Constantine, millionaire owner of Lush Cosmetics. Photo credit: The Independent, UK

Erik Weihenmayer, first blind mountaineer to conquer the highest peak of the Everest seen here climbing the Ben Nevis in the UK.  Photo was taken off this site.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Fighting To Keep My Passion For Writing

I love writing. I love writing my blog, I love writing about the woo-woo spiritual stuff that the other side  of me writes about regularly, and  I love writing about sports – Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) in particular.  

Yes I do have a clandestine love affair for the sport and secretly wished I was 25 years younger so that I could take down the trash-talkers I write about most of the time.  However, that is of course just a dream and my husband's nightmare.  The Universe is so perfectly clever, knowing that my brash and callous nature would cause me to lose a kneecap in the cage that it had decided to get me to concentrate on my day job, run my business and just for the fun of it, get my ass into the gym to pretend to fight like Cris Cyborg or Connor McGregor while I write about fighters who try very hard to be Cris Cyborg and Connor McGregor.

Lately however, I have been getting slightly dispassionate, uninspired and disillusioned.  You see, in the course of writing about my favorite sport, I keep reading the same stuff about fighters, how they train, what they eat, how they cut weight, and how they want to "beat the crap out of their opponent" in their upcoming fights. And horrors, i discovered myself writing the same thing too.  My passion gradually waned when my articles were written from interviews that are orchestrated like the script of a governmental speech.  The articles began to look similar and read like it was the manual of a new  kitchen appliance.  I started to question my journalistic integrity and wondered if I could have written that piece a little differently.

I was trained in creative journalism.  No, it is not about the skill of sensationalizing an event as mundane as the opening of a new jar of candy that is expected in most tabloids.  It is about creatively thinking of unique story angles that a reader would find valuable to read.  In this world of combat sports, I am bored of the same repetitions about being trained by world champions when my readers want to get to know the true human being behind the gloves. I am looking for authenticity. I am looking for truly interesting stories that define the fighters as regular people with substance on top of the guts and skills they display within the cage.

Some of these genuine stories are far and few in between.  

I got excited by the story of a fighter whose family had left his ancestral home when he was just a wee boy, relocating to a foreign land far away, only to make an emotional return many years later to fight for the first time back at his ancestral homeland.  That story had given me a glimpse of the experience of his past that had shaped his character and attitude as an athlete and a fighter.  After publishing that story, I witnessed him losing a fight after being accidentally stomped on by his opponent, yet he accepted that defeat with graciousness, joked about it and moved on, like a champion.  As the writer of that story, I connected the dots of this display of sportsmanship with his childhood experience. 

I was enthused by conversations with fighters who were authentic. One of them was a professional chef who juggled between his day job and  his training efforts as a professional fighter. I knew that interview with him was going to be a lot more fun, the minute he opened our conversation with a joke,” If it all goes pear-shaped, at least I can cook!”  

Even a 16 year old amateur fighter triggered much interest in me because I saw a boy display a lot of humility in spite of his excellent performance in the cage and his winning streak as an amateur fighter. You see, he made me wonder how someone exposed to an industry like this at such a young age, could still hold his own and display that humility so lacking amongst the many that I have encountered. 

When I got to meet my favourite female fighter who was a former Strikeforce Women’s featherweight champion and current Invicta world champion in the featherweight category, I really did not care about how far she had come and what she had done to become a formidable female fighter that is worthy of putting a lousey fighter in her place even at a weight category of 135pounds. And she responded to my yearning for that story with a bit more substance when she spoke about her difficult childhood, and her insecurities.  She even shared that her greatest challenge was dealing with the public's misconceived perceptions about her when they do not know the real person behind her fight persona. She was not afraid to allow me to uncover her vulnerability and I respected her for it.  

Do not get me wrong.  I enjoy talking to real fighters. However, the key word here is REAL.  I crave for authenticity and I think, I can write much better and with a little more passion when I can get to know the real people behind their gloves.  

The photo accompanying this blog post was taken by David Ash,

About The Writer

The writer of this blog post is a Marketing and PR professional for over 20 years.  Due to her love for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), she is also a freelance sports writer on the side, contributing MMA-related articles to several sports media.  She works in partnership with her husband, David Ash, who is an avid sports photographer from  She is passionate about Muay Thai and nurtures a dream to fight competitively one day when her coach stops making fun of her.  She is also a psychic intuitive by birth and runs a consultancy that does tarot and numerology readings under her brand, Sun Goddess Tarot.  This blog is affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" as she is married to one, although she has not yet explained to THE Ang Mo that when translated, he has been labeled  “the bloke with ginger hair”.  

Sunday, 24 August 2014

A 16 Year Old Amateur MMA Fighter Can Teach Us So Much About Sportsmanship

I recently filed a story about one of ours, a 16 year old Singaporean schoolboy who is fast making a name for himself in the world of amateur Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).  I am truly proud of him obviously because I am a Singaporean, and I want to give the boy some recognition even when MMA as a sport is sadly lacking much- needed  support and funding from the establishment.

Sim Kai Xiong is fairly new to the amateur MMA scene.  He fought on the amateur card  at Full Metal Dojo 2 on Saturday, 23rd August in Phuket.  Full Metal Dojo is Phuket's first professional mixed martial arts (MMA) event, put together by its CEO Jon Nutt, to build awareness for the sport in Thailand and provide a platform for an exchange of mixed martial arts skills and experiences amongst professional MMA fighters from all over the world.

Kai Xiong, is a 16 year old Nanyang Junior College student, who is an MMA and boxing protégé currently being trained by head coach Arvind Lalwani and Emalo Urratia at Juggernaut Fight Club in Singapore.    He is a national youth champion, and an amateur MMA prospect who had been training at Juggernaut Fight Club only for the last 7 months.

His last fight was at Rebel Fighting Championship in Singapore where he impressively dominated his opponent and beat him through a submission by an armbar.  At Full Metal Dojo 2, Kai Xiong was the only foreign fighter on the amateur card and his was a difficult fight as his 22 year old Thai opponent put up a series of vicious attacks with his round house kicks.  The fight had to be stopped a few times when the amateur fighters violated the amateur rules with some elbow shots.  Kai Xiong clearly dominated the cage with a very strong ground game though, a strategic move knowing that Muay Thai could potentially be his achilles' heel against his Thai opponent.   He finally won in the 3rd round by the judges' unanimous decision.  

Having watched the young protégé train during my kickboxing training sessions at Juggernaut Fight Club, I had observed this boy's strengths in boxing and grappling. However, beyond his skills, I felt an air of quiet maturity about him.   His maturity as a fighter in spite of his youth, is an edge as he approaches his fights with a lot of composure, determined to always be in control by timing his chances.  When he had to face an older and significantly more experienced Muay Thai expert, I did not see any hint of fear in his eyes.  Although he was cornered by his very experienced coach Emalo Urratia who had won his fight against Seiha Pich at Full Metal Dojo 1 in June this year, Kai Xiong did not display any hint of over-confidence.  In fact, at the Full Metal Dojo 2 weigh-in event, it was obvious that he just wanted to get the show on the road, win this, and then fly back home in time to make it for school on Monday.  When I asked him if he was ready for his fight, he said very confidently, “The team at Juggernaut Fight Club had been working on my overall game. Thanks to them, I am ready for anything."

I liked his quiet confidence founded on his training mantra of No Ego.  While I have come across true sportsmen in professional sports, I wished more athletes and even some professional MMA fighters could have that same quiet confidence and humility as this boy.  

Kai Xiong told me that he detests arrogance in sports.  Like Kai Xiong, I detest arrogance and inauthenticity in sportsmanship.  I have absolutely no respect for "Manufactured Sportsmanship". 

I know of sports organizations which "manufacture" top-tier athletes who obviously turn an event into a biggest pay-per-view just because they manipulate decisions from who should be on the judging panel to who the opponents should be.   

I get annoyed when I hear of sports organizations who pre-select a weaker opponent to be fed to a stronger fighter just because they want to garner positive media interest around the latter.   

I dislike athletes who spent a long time nurturing a base of young fans who watched everything they had said or done in awe, promising to inspire a genuine love for fitness, respect for discipline and determination in sports, only to turn around to tell the world that they want to be the biggest box office hit in Hollywood.   

Most of all, I dislike professional MMA fighters who  talk about the sport of MMA being one that is not about the glitz and glamour, yet turn up at the cage with  pomp and pageantry of a Mardi Gras.

So yes, I am extremely proud of Sim Kai Xiong.  At his tender age of 16, he had started off on the right foot with the right training and the right attitude worthy of a sportsman.  Singapore should indeed be proud of him.  

I have  immense respect for true sportsmanship and an ardent love for MMA, so  I would definitely have my eyes glued on Sim Kai Xiong whom I know will be making it as an excellent MMA fighter in the professional circuit in no time.

The photo accompanying this blog post was taken by David Ash,

About The Writer

The writer of this blog post is a Marketing and PR professional for over 20 years.  Due to her love for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), she is also a freelance sports writer on the side, contributing MMA-related articles to several sports media.  She works in partnership with her husband, David Ash, who is an avid sports photographer from  She is passionate about Muay Thai and nurtures a dream to fight competitively one day when her coach stops making fun of her.  She is also a psychic intuitive by birth and runs a consultancy that does tarot and numerology readings under her brand, Sun Goddess Tarot.  This blog is affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" as she is married to one, although she has not yet explained to THE Ang Mo that when translated, he has been labeled  “the bloke with ginger hair”.  

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Rolling With Clark Gracie In Sunny Singapore

David's photography adventures had taken me places and exposed me to the 
adrenaline-charged intensity of contact sports in the last couple of years. This had led me to  a clandestine love affair that I have had with Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), and an undying passion for Kickboxing.  

During my Kickboxing training at Juggernaut Fight Club,  the guys would be having their Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) training session alongside me.  I always had fun watching them roll about in a twisted heap, some caught in a head lock, some in a rear choke and others in the midst of a takedown.  While my age had not stopped me from embracing Kickboxing as a passion, I certainly felt that the art of  BJJ should be left to those within the age bracket where they could still get an occasional pre-pubescent breakout of pimples. 

My erroneous perception was put to rest one Sunday afternoon by none other than Clark Gracie, the grandson of Carlos Gracie, the Grand Master and founder of the world famous Gracie Jiu-Jitsu academy.  

Some 15 Jiu-Jitsu enthusiasts of differing ages that spanned from under 10 years old to over 50, turned up for a seminar conducted by Clark Gracie last Sunday, at the Singapore Judo Federation. I was more awed by the vast age span of this group of Jiu-Jitsu students than I was with the different colour belts they had on their gi.

Noticing my inquisitive stare at the little girl warming up at a corner of the mat, Gracie told me that having to deal with this vast age span at the seminar was no different from the training environment he managed back home.   He was particularly adamant that Jiu-Jitsu students who started their training as children should make it a priority to have fun with the sport.  His advice to Jiu-Jitsu coaches training young children, was to always keep their students motivated by appealing to their sense of curiosity and play.   Once the priority scales tipped towards the pressure to win, the training would become a chore and it might take the fun out of the sport.  This advice was applicable even to adult students of Jiu-Jitsu.  Gracie encouraged all Jiu-Jitsu students to allow their body and mind to explore the sport freely and look to increase their knowledge and education of the sport constantly.

As a child, Clark Gracie was asked, "Do u enjoy Jiu-Jitsu?"  He had to think hard before answering the question because he came from a Jiu-Jitsu family.  It was a "family business" and he was, as part of the family, very much a part of it since he was a child.  However, he was brought up with the notion that only when he had fun with Jiu-Jitsu during training and embraced the sport with genuine passion, he could excel in the sport and the will to win would then come easily.

When asked if someone older would find age to be a barrier in his performance as a Jiu-Jitsu student, Gracie said that back home, he had personally known a student who had attained a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu at the age of 70. This student had started training in Jiu-Jitsu in his 50s.   Gracie never believed in age barriers. To him, the only barrier that could possibly limit one from achieving his of her goals as a Jiu-Jitsu student, was ego.

Clark Gracie won me at that point.  He was right on the button with the very mantra I led my Kickboxing training with - No Ego, No Barriers.

The photos accompanying this blog post were taken by David Ash,

About The Writer

The writer of this blog post is a Marketing and PR professional by trade and a psychic intuitive by accident who balances her corporate career with running a consultancy providing Tarot and Numerology readings.  She is also passionate about Kickboxing and has no qualms landing a kick to readjust the jewels of anyone who lacks integrity.  She enjoys supporting her husband and avid sports photographer, David Ash from on his trips around the world as he takes photos at sports events while she does the write-ups  for the various sports media.  This blog is affectionately named "The Crazy AngMo" as she is married to one, although she has not yet explained to THE Ang Mo that when translated, he has been labeled  “the bloke with ginger hair”.  Together, they create a home made up with more nuts than a fruitcake but filled with plenty of love.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

No Barriers, No Fear, No Ego - The Juggernaut Fight Club Way

Falling In Love With Kickboxing

If you have been following my blog, you would know that health and fitness ranked very high on my list of priorities.  Many have told me that time constraints and conflicting priorities prevent them from doing more to get healthier and fitter.  I felt otherwise.  Having to juggle a very fast-paced life as a marketeer at a financial MNC, running a business in between, and managing the demands of family,  were the very reasons I gave 200% to my health and fitness.  I had to be fit and healthy enough to juggle these priorities as effectively as possible.

A big part of my fitness regime was kickboxing which I had fallen in love with when I was introduced to the sport a few months ago after my knee made full recovery post surgery.    I was so fuelled with passion for the sport that I even enrolled at a Muay Thai gym in Phuket to undergo training with a pro-fighter and Muay Thai coach in June this year.  I have also lined up plans to go visit my Thai coach for intensive training sessions  in Phuket every 2 months.  Having survived my first training in Phuket, with nothing more than a bruised elbow and a sprained foot, I fell irretrievably in  love with the sport enough to want to be better at it.  I came back to Singapore with a conviction to lift my fitness level with a 5-day-a-week work-out routine that combined strength conditioning, cardio-fitness and kickboxing training, and I briefed my personal trainers to design a regime that focused on helping me become a better kickboxer.

Juggernaut Fight Club

David and I talked a lot about my interest in kickboxing and the support I needed to sustain my interest and better myself in the sport. He was naturally worried and his concern centered on the fact that I was older. I developed my interest in the sport at an age when most were careful about long term impact to their bodies. Having had numerous health issues and a knee surgery 2 years ago did not help my cause.  So he called his contacts in the industry for whom he did a lot of sports photography work to get advice while I did my research to find out more about some of the specialized gyms in Singapore that offered functional training in kickboxing and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).  That was when I chanced upon Juggernaut Fight Club. If I had the courage to walk into a Muay Thai training regime in Phuket with my eyes opened,   I was not going to allow the more intensive training and the younger, fitter folks who had pro-fight experience under their belts at Juggernaut Fight Club intimidate me.
Before signing up with Juggernaut Fight Club, I read the reviews on it and checked out their videos on YouTube.  What was important for me, was that I picked a coach who was focused on my interest, my development and my safety.  That was why I picked Arvind Lalwani.  Okay, I could not lie but his instagram profile was reassuring too.  It described him as “ Head coach at the best fight gym in Singapore…national wrestler, loves cake and produce fighters.”  That won me over.   I then contacted Arvind to prepare him for the  heart attack of potentially having in his hands, a much older and crazy woman with a plastic knee who wanted to be trained to fight like Ronda Rousey in one year.  I swore, when Arvind met me for the first time, my psychic mind saw a huge question mark in his head that read, “How did I end up with this fruitcake?”  However, he was so reassuring and took the time to understand what my fitness goals were and what I had been doing so far to get there.

Arvind The Juggernaut

Through my research, I found out that Arvind was a highly decorated fighter. He was the first Singaporean to snag a gold medal  in an international wrestling competition, and he competed in the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) as well as the MMA arenas. He fought professionally in 2010 in the Mettle games and had also headed the national boxing team. When he established Juggernaut Fight Club, he produced winning fighters who represented club and country at the One Fighting Championships  (OneFC) and Pacific X-treme Combat (PXC). He was constantly training his fighters for competitions.  As I wrote this, one of his fighters just returned from the OneFC fight in Taipei and more were getting trained for the upcoming Rebel Fighting Championship on 1 August.

His list of achievements was enough to make me sprint out of that door, the very first day I visited his gym. To make matters worse, when I glanced around the gym for the first time, I realized this was for real.  It was a serious fighters’ gym.  Training was in session then. The young blokes who were rolling around the floor, while throwing punches at each other, were all in “fight-prep” mode.  I wanted to turn and run but Arvind’s frame was blocking the doorway.   A little voice of in-confidence within me crept up to whisper a disconcerting question, “What are you doing here, Jo?  This place is not for you.  You are old, unfit, soft and completely not suited for the sport. Go downstairs for a beer.”

I looked around for girls, hoping that maybe with another female nearby who looked equally like a deer in the headlights, I might have felt quite at home.  However, everyone there at that time were blokes and the gym was not a regular gym with “pussy stationery bikes and half-assed cross- trainers”,  it was a functional training gym focused on fight training and well-equipped with everything that a pro-fighter needed to get fight-ready. 

After speaking to Arvind, I connected enough with him to understand his training style, and I caught a glimpse of his rapport with the guys he had been training at the gym.  That was the rapport and trust I was looking for.  And he said to me very firmly, "At Juggernaut, there are no Egos."   So, I summoned the nerve to commit myself to serious kickboxing training at Juggernaut Fight Club and I have not looked back since.

Training with Arvind had been such a breath of fresh air.  Every minute of it was about perfecting the technique, right from the start of getting me into the right fight stance.  We went back to the basics of every kickboxing move in spite of the fact that I had been training for a few months prior.  He made me re-learn everything ...his way.  He explained each move with precision and stressed that the importance of getting the technique right was to prevent the potential of my getting injured while delivering a powerful blow. He was unrelenting.  When I was near frustration or thoroughly exhausted in between drills, he continued to egg me on and challenged me to push past my pain barriers.  He would not accept anything less than full commitment to a training session and he made it very clear that he was with me all the way no matter how difficult it got.

My Fitness Goals

"So what are my fitness goals?", Arvind and everyone who mattered asked me.  

When I started out playing rugby in my younger days, everyone told me that a prop forward could never and should never attempt to score a try.  I should stick to my role as a prop forward and clear the way for the back row to score that try.   I proved them wrong and I did score tries after all at tournaments.

When I came out of a knee surgery with everyone telling me that I would never be able to run again, I proved them wrong and completed my half marathon last year.  When my knee made full recovery and everyone told me that I should just stick to doing safe exercises like swimming and basic gym work, I proved them wrong and picked up kickboxing.  

When I picked up kickboxing, everyone told me I was crazy as I had a less than perfect knee, and I was too old and not fit or fast enough.  I know for a fact that I am too old for amateur boxing competitions perhaps but I told Arvind that he had to get me into a ring one day, no matter what it took, even if it was just white collar boxing or exhibition fights.  I wanted to prove to everyone that nobody should be limited by barriers, by fear or by ego.  I am not afraid of pain, I am not afraid of taking hits from anyone, I am not afraid of falling and I am definitely not afraid of working hard towards my goals.

I felt the Universe had  guided me into Juggernaut Fight Club, smacked me with a bit of a shock when I realized what I was in for, and then salved me with the assurance that Arvind was the man who was going to get me to my goal.  I believed that I could not have picked a better coach.  Arvind produced fighters.  He ran a serious fight gym.  Yet, he gave me his time and commitment, and he made me feel that I deserved to be a good  kickboxer one day.   I truly respected Arvind for what he had done for the sport and was proud to have him as my coach.  However, the biggest reason that I committed myself to Juggernaut Fight Club and his training was that like me, he had so much determination, a never-say-never attitude, and was always ready for a challenge no matter how big or small it was.  If he could commit his time and effort to me as someone so new to the sport who was completely way past her prime, then I was committed to ensuring I gave 200% to my training with him.

I am a firm believer that in life, there are definitely NO BARRIERS.

I will leave you with an article I read that inspired me to follow my dreams and work towards my goal regardless of age, fitness level, injury and other limitations:

You can find out more about Arvind Lalwani and Juggernaut Fight Club at

The photos accompanying this blog post was taken by my very talented best friend, husband and sports photographer extraordinaire, David Ash.  You can find out more about his photography work at

About The Writer

The writer of this blog post is a 44 year old mother of one, who spreads her time between her day job as a marketing professional at a financial institution, her hobby as a certified professional tarot reader and numerologist, her passion for kickboxing and her family which includes a 20 year old son and 3 dogs with personality disorders.  She's married to a Scot who has been affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" which when translated, has labeled him one with “ginger hair”.  And you know what we all thought of gingers right?  He thinks he is blonde, but in a certain light, I think he is more a ginger.  Together, we create a home made up with more nuts than a fruitcake but filled with plenty of love.

I hate push-ups but I was told they were good for me.

Trying to avoid dislodging my coach's nipple.

My coach Arvind, and I.  Today, he is in a good mood.

Training with that nuisance of a band on.

Making that elbow work harder