Singapore-based Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt heralds rise of grappling sport

Cheryl Tay
Photo by Cheryl Tay
Photo by Cheryl Tay

Passionate about cars and motorsports, Cheryl Tay is a familiar face in prominent local, regional as well as international automotive titles. She is equally enthusiastic about health and fitness and is always on the lookout for the latest workout trends. More of her at CherylTay.sg and on Facebook,  Twitter or Instagram (cheryltay11).

Singapore-based Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) black belt Shane Suzuki is considering a transition into mixed martial arts (MMA) next.

The 22-year-old Japan-born exponent, who has been training and teaching in Singapore for six years, attained the esteemed ranking in August after clocking thousands of hours of experience. Black belts are often referred to as 'Professor', as indication of the level of expertise reached.

“People have been asking me for years to get into MMA, but I wanted to get my black belt first, as there are so many aspects to MMA and I would like to excel in at least one,” said the BJJ head coach at pioneering Singapore gym Fight G.

Photo by Cheryl Tay
Photo by Cheryl Tay

“ONE Fighting Championship (ONE FC) is here in Singapore and I have seen the extent of its influence and potential," Suzuki added.

"There’s only so much exposure you can get in BJJ. As much as I love it and am very passionate about it, I admit it is not as viewer friendly or popular to the public. Thus, I am giving this very serious thought."

He then hinted at the specific individual he would like to do battle with in Asian MMA promotion ONE FC.

“This guy, whom I shall not name, is someone I am a fan of and I have been watching him since Pride FC and Deep FC days."

Photo by Cheryl Tay
Photo by Cheryl Tay

BJJ on the up

Suzuki became an MMA fan at a young age, but it was the grappling aspect of the sport that attracted him to pick up BJJ at 15 after trying out karate and judo in his earlier years.

He then went on to accumulate an impressive portfolio, including the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu Jitsu Championship purple belt title (-70kg) in 2012 and brown belt title (-70kg) this year.

Photo courtesy of Shane Suzuki
Photo courtesy of Shane Suzuki

Suzuki can still recall the first-ever ONE FC event in Singapore back in 2011, and is impressed by how fast MMA is growing as well as grateful for the consequent rise in awareness of BJJ.

When he moved to Singapore in 2008, his blue belt was “considered a scarcity”.

“It was a pretty obscure sport back then, but the popularity of MMA has risen and it has also helped bring up BJJ," Suzuki observed. "From just six white belt students in my class back in 2010, Fight G now has up to 70 BJJ regulars."

Even then, he reckons local perceptions of BJJ still have some way to go.

“The average person may have heard of MMA, or probably refer to it as cage fighting, but many are not aware of what BJJ is," said Suzuki. "If I have to explain to a person who doesn’t know anything, I would say BJJ is like wrestling or judo. To a person with some martial arts knowledge, I would describe it as grappling with no strikes."

“In general, taekwondo and karate still come to mind first when people think of martial arts. I want BJJ and MMA to get to a point where people know how to differentiate martial arts or at least know that grappling is not the same as taekwondo.”

Photo by Cheryl Tay
Photo by Cheryl Tay

Up next for him is the Asian Open Jiu-Jitsu Championship in Japan in November, before the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu Jitsu Championship in April next year.

Between these two major tournaments, Suzuki may yet try his hand at a few amateur MMA fights before making the full leap to MMA.

But for now, the black belt is looking forward to competing against fellow top grapplers around the world.

Photo by Cheryl Tay
Photo by Cheryl Tay