Singapore #FitFind of the Week: Harold Ko

The women have their limelight in Monday's #Fitspo. Now it's the men's turn. The Yahoo #FitFind series is a new weekly feature every Wednesday dedicated to all fit men out there. Know of any who deserve to be featured? Hit me up on and on FacebookTwitter and Instagram (cheryltaysg).

Harold Ko. Photo: Cheryl Tay
Harold Ko. Photo: Cheryl Tay


Harold Ko
Age: 27
Height: 166cm
Weight: 60kg
Occupation: Personal Trainer at The PIT
Status: Single
Diet: Tries not to eat too unhealthy unless he has to watch his weight for competitions; also drinks tons of soda and beer
Training: Brazilian Jiu-jitsu (BJJ) 5 to 6 times a week and lifting 2 to 3 times a week

Did you start martial arts from a young age?
No, I didn’t do any sports growing up. I was actually a little fat and I had a back injury. It was only until I finished National Service that I picked up boxing and Muay Thai to lose weight.

When did you start competing in martial arts?
I competed in boxing first – total of five fights (3-2) – and also in Muay Thai. I’ve also competed in wrestling and BJJ. All in all, I’ve fought in 113 matches across BJJ, submission grappling, wrestling and boxing.

You eventually decided to focus on BJJ. Why?
I tore my retina doing boxing and I always had an interest in MMA. I started out doing No Gi and submission grappling, but quickly progressed to doing proper BJJ with the gi when Gilbert Durinho Burns came to Singapore to teach.

What are some of the misconceptions of BJJ that people have?
Uhhh they think it's pretty gay, but sometimes it just seems like it. They also think it’s karate and like to make karate type of sounds when they ask if I do Jiu-jitsu. For example, “You do Jiu-jitsu? HAI-YAAAA!” and then do a karate chop.

Harold Ko. Photo: Cheryl Tay
Harold Ko. Photo: Cheryl Tay

What are the biggest challenges in competing in BJJ, compared to other sports?
The biggest challenge is financial. Unlike other combat sports, BJJ doesn't pay any money and you can't go "pro". At best, you get paid for seminars or superfights, but these are few and far between and you can even say nonexistent, if you are not a black belt (which takes on average 7 to 10 years or more to achieve).  It can be a pretty ruthless sport if you’re not prepared and you’d be wise to go into this with a back up plan (unless you’re a prodigy).

Why should people take up BJJ anyway?
It's a fun sport and I guess it helps with mobility and flexibility. It's also a pretty decent self defence choice, if you've exhausted kicks to the groin and are on a somewhat soft surface. You also learn pretty sick berimbolos and inverted guard and lapel stuff that’s bound to impress chicks... or so I assume.

What are some of your significant achievements?
To be honest I don't think I've achieved anything significant. There are tons of people better than me. Also, a ton of these wins are just at white and blue belt, and I’ve yet to win double gold in my weight and absolute. So they don’t mean anything, especially when compared to someone who has won competitions at brown or black belt. I’ve been to the toughest tournaments in the world and came back with nothing, so until I win those, I don’t think I have anything to brag about. Once a tournament is over, whatever the results, my focus is always on the next one.

Have you ever been so exhausted that you don't feel like training? How do you overcome that?
All the time. The smart answer is to just rest and take a break, but it's a lot harder than you think. Jiu-jitsu is pretty addictive and I'm always thinking about it. I recently injured my elbow and decided to take one day off.

I ended feeling so restless the whole day and couldn't wait to get back into training the next day. There are other times I'm forced to take a longer break (like three days to a week) and I find that I usually come back really fresh and do pretty well, BUT at the same time I have no cardio and end up getting smashed.

What's the highest point and lowest point in your fighting career so far?
The highest points are all the times I’ve won gold in competition. There is no better feeling than having your hands raised in matches and being first on the podium, and I’ll do whatever it takes for that to happen. It doesn’t happen as often as I like, but that’s competition for you. The lowest points are when white belts beat me up in the gym, and sad to say it happens pretty often. Also, when my gi gets ripped.

What are some of the misconceptions that society has about fitness now?
People think that if you lift weights you're gonna get huge and  if you have muscles you are on steroids.

Are you satisfied with your body now?
Meh, I don’t really care. I’m more concerned about performance in my sport than looking good (that’s just a bonus if it happens).

Did you ever not feel confident about your body before?
Not really, I was always more worried about my face.

What do you look for in a partner? Does she have to be in martial arts too?
Damn, I thought you said this question wasn’t gonna be included.

Harold Ko. Photo: Cheryl Tay
Harold Ko. Photo: Cheryl Tay