Let’s get this out of the way, Brazilian Ju Jitsu is kind of intimidating because if your only knowledge about the sport comes from “Never Back Down” or “Choke” then boy, you’re probably gonna have some form of trepidation.
While this writer has gone for a BJJ class before (FYI: no soothing voices or Yoga like cheers here), it’s almost akin to a cerebral sport. One that’s similar to chess — you have to be present both mentally and physically while thinking two steps ahead of whoever you’re romping on the mat with.
But don’t take advice from a person who gets tired just from getting out of bed. Here, some solid advice from the Lim Brothers from EVOLVE MMA instead.
P.S.: Noah (the younger brother) is pictured on the left and Paul (the older one) is pictured on the right.
Holy crap! You guys look alike!
Paul: Actually, people will sometimes mistake us for one another. There were a couple of times after sparring at EVOLVE MMA, someone would come shake my hand and say “thank you for the roll, it was very good”, when I didn’t roll with the person.
Noah: Some people call me Paul sometimes, but for the most part I think we look quite different. Paul’s bigger so we don’t really look like twins.
Were you boys always interested in sports? How did you guys get into BJJ?
Paul: I’ve always been interested in sports! I played football for my secondary school between the age of 13 to 16. Besides Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I like skiing and swimming leisurely.
I had a couple of friends from ACS who were already at EVOLVE MMA and sometimes during recess, we would stay back in the classroom and grapple, and they would use what they learnt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class on us.
It was really fun and actually helped sparked my curiosity for the sport. After ‘O’ levels, I joined my friends at EVOLVE MMA. I did both Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai.
My friends were a lot better at me in Muay Thai but I was better at Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and could beat them there, so I started to focus more on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Noah: Yes I have always loved sports! I used to be a school team swimmer and played soccer with my friends. I was always fascinated when I watched martial arts movies like Karate Kid or Bruce Lee and loved it when the underdog/smaller guy could beat up bigger guys with super cool techniques.
As a kid, I used to think I knew how to “fight” from what I watched in movies and would start doing “kung fu” on my friends and siblings. That was until my first Muay Thai class at EVOLVE MMA where I realised all my stand-up techniques were nonsense.
I then decided to do Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at EVOLVE MMA instead and instantly fell in love with it.
Has BJJ taught you both anything besides how to chokehold someone?
Paul: I’m quite confident Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu will help you win in a 1-1 altercation and it has been proven multiple times. It made me more analytical because there are a lot of strategies involved. It also made me more disciplined and competitive! This applies to my everyday life because I wake up earlier to do work and get the more important stuff out of the way in the mornings.
Prior to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I was less disciplined but with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu being an individual sport, I knew that I had to hold myself accountable and go for training, supplement it with strength, conditioning and cardio to do well at competitions. I managed to find a sport I can excel in. Being a sub-par footballer, I’m happy that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu came naturally to me, it’s the “right fit” for me.
I was very eager to compete since white belt! I would watch friends compete and visualise how I would win if I was the one competing instead.
I would recommend girls to do Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu because it makes them feel more confident and it’s a fun sport! My girlfriend does it too and she really enjoys it.
Besides being more confident, it’s a really engaging sport with a good community. My girlfriend and I like to “date” by going for fitness classes. I eventually encouraged her to do Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and she thought it was a cool sport!
Being a competitive person, she enjoyed the sparring aspect of it and the adrenaline.
The adrenaline actually kicks in before the sparring starts, when you’re staring at your partner waiting for coach to start the timer and say “go”.
Noah: Honestly, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has really shaped my perspective on challenges and life in general. I feel like you must be really open-minded to new ideas and not have an ego when you train.
I mean, it’s difficult to be egoistic in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu after getting wrecked continuously by everyone but it reframes challenges for me in that I now genuinely see every loss/challenge as a learning opportunity. That’s what I love about training — everyone is there to learn, have fun, share ideas and grow together.
Most of the egoistic people end up quitting.
Also I’m kinda nerdy — I really love reading philosophical/psychological books and I do nerdy things like play chess and piano and I’m quite obsessive with studying things that interest me. I really liked that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu engages both my mind and body simultaneously!
I feel like to be a good competitor, you always have to think a few steps ahead and analyse positions like crazy to understand it better than the other person (which is also something you also do a lot in chess).
I just love it so much that knowledge, instead of physical strength alone, is often a major factor in competition success.
I learnt to be passionate and it taught me to chase what I love.
You have to create a sentence with 10 words to convince someone to take up BJJ. Go!
Paul: A sport that works both the mind and body.
Noah: It’s like playing video games but you also learn cool self-defence!
Are there any misconceptions about BJJ that you’d like to address?
Paul: People sometimes say it looks boring compared to a sport like Muay Thai and Boxing, but it’s a lot of fun once you do it. There’s definitely some adrenaline.
It’s actually one of the few sports where you don’t have to be athletic to be good. You can’t say the same for football.
Anyone can compete if they have a good strategy. Don’t think of it as a fight, it’s just a game.
That way, it’s not as stressful.
Noah: People may think it’s violent and requires a lot of physical strength, but the truth is: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is super technical and often times the nerdy guys who are obsessed with studying different techniques are the ones who destroy everyone on the mats.
Pictured in the middle with the Lim brothers from EVOLVE MMA is Teco Shinzato aka an EVOLVE MMA instructor aka a two times BJJ world champion and also, the coach to the Singapore national jiu-jitsu team.
What do you boys do when you’re not doing BJJ?
Paul: When I’m not doing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I have to focus on school work and projects especially since school just started. I enjoy going to the gym, beach and reading occasionally. I also love to eat.
Noah: I like to skate with friends to explore different places, chill at the beach and just observe the beautiful world.
I also spend a lot of my free time reading psychology (I think understanding how your mind works helps in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and life in general) and autobiographies of people I admire (right now it’s mainly quantum physicists like Richard Feynman and Schrodinger) and I also like doing gymnastics like handstands, flips, pull ups, etc.
Who is your BJJ hero?
Paul: Keenan Cornelius. He’s a very intelligent grappler and has a great personality. He’s always making jokes and inventing new tricks to beat physically stronger opponents without using brute force.
I’ve learnt a lot of techniques from him. He’s also very chill which I like.
Noah: Levi Jones Leary. I really respect that he came up as an unknown kid from Australia and went on to beat World Champions. He has this attitude that he doesn’t really attach to the outcome, but rather enjoys the process and doesn’t take himself too seriously.
He always says that he’s “a world champion in his mind” (though he has not won yet) and I find that interesting and oddly inspiring. He also meditates and visualises a lot (which I do too) and we have very similar styles.
I always study his matches because our games are so similar.
Each of you have won $10,000 in a tournament, what would you spend it on?
Paul: Theoretically, I’d probably invest it and bring my family out for dinner.
Noah: I am honestly not the kind of guy that buys anything. I don’t go shopping often, I’m not into luxury brands or cool shoes and usually just wear whatever my mom buys but I think maybe a watch would be nice.
Other than that, I’ll just buy food, massages and more books!
Lastly, out of sheer curiosity, what is your post-fight meal?
Paul: Hot pot is nice!