Life goes beyond the digits on the scale and your body is capable of so much more. Yahoo’s #Fitspo of the Week series is dedicated to inspirational men and women in Singapore leading healthy and active lifestyles. Have someone to recommend? Hit Cheryl up on Instagram or Facebook.
Name: Peps Goh (@pepsgoh)
Occupation: Actor, Fight Design & Coordinator
Diet: No fast food, no sweet drinks (except isotonic drinks and fruit juices), no shellfish/clams, and no caffeine. Apart from that, no particular control, just the normal three meals a day and the occasional supper, with plenty of meat, fats, veggies and fruits.
Training: On average, three days a week, an hour each, excluding work-related performance and rehearsal exertions. During off-work season, I’m freed up to do some training every day, which is categorised into three broad types:
Technical skill development training – From solo unarmed and weapon martial arts, acrobatics, parkour or fight choreography with the stunt team.
Physical conditioning – In these I focus mainly on explosive plyometric strength increase in the past quarter. Next quarter I’m switching to plyometric endurance. I cycle between them every 3 months.
Prehab and flexibility – As acrobatics and parkour puts a rather heavy load on the joints, I have to actively do preventive exercises for the muscle groups around my joints to keep them healthy and prevent injuries before they occur. Physio exercises, mobility and range-of-motion training help a lot.
Q: How did you get into martial arts?
A: My very healthy father inspired me. He led by example and I watched him do his daily exercises from a young age. When my brother and I showed interest, he started training us. I started at 5 with Sanda (散打), a Chinese form of kickboxing before exploring more forms of martial arts through the years. My father, older brother and I all practise multiple disciplines of martial arts; it’s a family thing I guess.
What are some of the life lessons you learnt from martial arts?
Martial arts is an integral part of my growing up. I feel that knowing martial arts helped me manoeuvre through life with a certain sense of self-assuredness. It’s a kind of shield and healing tool in the face of trauma and bullies in the world.
From school life to national service and even at work, when people try and push you around, sometimes simply knowing intrinsically that if they ever cross a line, I can confidently defend myself; somehow that assurance alone is enough to help me conduct myself in a way that de-escalate conflicts before they ever have the chance to become physical.
Whether it is to stand up for myself or other people, that confidence is one of the biggest gift that martial arts has given me.
When did you get into parkour?
I started practising parkour when I was 15 or 16 years old and it really helped tide me over a bit of a rough emotional patch at the time. Not long after starting, I got scouted to train as a coach in the first parkour academy that was established back then. I delved deeper into the art with the idea that it could potentially be a viable career to come.
Eventually, parkour was what got me into my very first stunt performance on screen in an advert! Parkour has played a big part in my entering of the acting and stunt industry. Even now, having this movement specialisation still helps me in my projects.
Did your foundation in martial arts help you greatly with parkour?
Oh yes it definitely did, the base strength and body coordination that I had developed throughout my childhood helped speed up my learning curve. By the end of my first year of practice, I think I somewhat managed to get to the performance level an average practitioner takes three to four years to achieve.
What is it about parkour that you like so much?
It’s a very convenient discipline. It doesn’t require any equipment except a pair of shoes and you can even do it barefoot if your landing technique is good enough.
I can be quite lazy, but with parkour, we can practise it practically anywhere – a random set of rails, a few walls and even just a flight of stairs. Thus, not having to travel to a specific facility to do the activities definitely appeals to me.
And as much as it’s an art form with roots in community spirit and support, to me ultimately it’s a solitary art, and I like being alone. Not requiring partners or accompanying people to practise with is a big plus. Not having to wait to arrange sessions or worrying about flakey people.
Even in big jams with the whole community around, when you prepare for a jump, the world falls away, and it’s just you and your line, nothing else matters, not your life worries, no drama or politics, just immersing in your personal world of movement and flow. It’s very meditative and therapeutic.
You've competed in parkour before?
Only once. It was in 2016, called the Sydney Jump Off. They host it annually, inviting athletes from worldwide. They had four categories in total and I competed in two of them that year – the speed run and the free running.
The speed run is all about efficiency – everyone runs the exact same line and we are judged based on our final timing. I didn’t do that well for that one oops; I think I placed only somewhere between 15th to 20th out of 40 contestants if I don’t remember wrongly.
As for the free running category, it is judged based on four criteria – creativity, difficulty, style and flow. I’m happy to be able to say that I managed to place third internationally for that one. It is one of my prouder achievements till date!
Your backgrounds in martial arts and parkour help to complement your work as an actor and also as a fight coordinator. How did this opportunity come about?
The first TV drama I acted in was a chase scene, where had required a parkour practitioner to perform it and I got the opportunity to be casted. That was when I got introduced to the stunt director of MediaCorp and begun delving deeper into the stunt industry.
In the five years since, after having opportunities to learn and work under multiple external stunt teams such as Action Horizons, the Hollywood-based stunt team currently running the stunt live shows in Universal Studios, and also two Taiwanese stunt teams when I was working on a feature film in Taichung, I decided to combine all that I was taught over the years and open my own company and provide my own brand of coordination services under the name of Peps Goh Fight Design.
It’s been an uphill battle and there are still a lot for me to learn, but it’s been about three years now since I first started, and our work has only been getting better and better.
Did you ever work for your body or did it come as a result of your sport?
I would say that the majority of it was consequence of my sport. Whenever I want to progress to the next more advanced techniques, and I feel that my body isn’t strong enough to execute it safely, that will be my motivation to do physical conditioning to develop the strength for it.
The attraction of achieving a new flip is a much larger draw than any aesthetic motivation. I think my physique improves alongside my progress in the various movement arts.
Was there a time when you felt the least confident?
Probably when I first opened practice with my company. It’s unavoidable perhaps, the self-doubt if my skills and knowledge was sufficient for the task.
But everyone starts somewhere and it’s a slow gradual growth. Eventually over the span of three years of projects, the grind has given my work process a solid backbone and structure. And in these recent three to four months, I finally felt comfortable enough to openly advertise and push my brand with a sense of pride.
Are you satisfied with your body now?
I think my body has ways to go before it can be considered aesthetically up-to-standard in the commercial sense, so I’ll keep working on it. In terms of skill, I’m also not at the level I hope to be in my prime, so there’s more work to be done.
But as it is now, I’m quite happy with it. Glad that it is healthy and strong enough for me to continue enjoying these physical activities that I love! I’ll continue to train carefully and with longevity in mind, so that I can continue to enjoy it well into my 50s to 60s if I can help it.
Have you ever received any comments about your body?
Not all that much really, especially how it is socially unacceptable to comment on people’s figures these days in fear of perpetuating some sort of body shaming.
The circles I hang out around don’t put a whole lot of importance upon body aesthetics either. The comments we do give and get are more along the lines of, “You should consider strengthening the muscle around your shoulders more, because that technique you are working on puts quite a bit of pressure on them and you don’t want to end up injuring your rotator-cuffs.”