He is Singapore’s first and only world champion in the martial art of Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ).
But Amos Chua is also quiet and reserved like any other 15-year-old — at least until the topic of turning professional comes up.
“Since I started in BJJ, it’s been my dream to be world champion in all belts,” said the white belt holder. “I just wish I can train every day from nine to nine, that’s my dream.”
“Just train full time, just train as my career,” he repeated, animatedly.
Chua took the first step towards his goal after emerging top of his light featherweight, 16-year-old belt category at the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship held in California, U.S. last month.
He was the only Singaporean competing at what is the globe’s foremost BJJ contest.
Standing at 1.7m tall, Chua overcame three taller, larger opponents en route to first place. He weighed in at 58.5kg in a division with an upper limit of 64kg.
This was his third competition — and third gold medal — after the Bangkok Open in late 2012 and the Pan-American Championship earlier this year.
To top it off, Chua was introduced to BJJ only at the start of last year. His coach, Takeo Tani, agreed that he was “special”.
“Amos has a winner’s mindset, regardless of who his opponents are,” said the Brazilian-Japanese, who holds a black belt in BJJ.
Takeo, himself a world champion in 2007, believes his protégé has what it takes to achieve his dream — if placed in the right environment.
“He needs to train often with the best, like (those) at the world championships,” maintained the 27-year-old.
Chua is heeding his mentor’s advice. The grade ten student at The Learning Sanctuary, an American-curriculum private school, hopes to attend university in the States, where he can roll at the highest level of his sport — and then fight professionally.
The younger of two brothers refuses to consider an alternative career to BJJ.
“I’m going to be a pro fighter,” Chua told Yahoo! Singapore. “It’s good to have a backup plan, but I don’t want to be negative. I want to always be positive in my mind… that I’m going to be the best.”
‘Not about the belt’
His father, Rodney Chua, is supportive of his son’s ambitions, provided he completes his studies.
In fact, it was the 50-year-old who signed the youngster up with Evolve Mixed Martial Arts academy two years ago, and helped stoke his passion for combat sport.
The director of an I.T. firm didn’t bat an eyelid when his son dived headfirst into BJJ, taking to the mats to train twice a day.
Chua’s dedication and natural talent quickly impressed his first “professor”, Takeo.
“He was the best at Evolve for his age and level of experience,” observed Takeo, who has since left Evolve, with Chua following suit. “In fact, he did extremely well compared to most adults at his level, and even with some adults at higher belts.”
When asked what hooked him onto the grappling artform, Chua explained: “BJJ is very technical. It’s brain more than brawn… almost like human chess.”
But the sport also seems to have instilled more than just ground fighting smarts in the boy.
Despite having reached the zenith of his entry-level white belt ranking, Chua remains patient about stepping up to a blue belt.
“I will get promoted when the time is right and when my professor says I’m ready,” he said. “It’s not about the belt. A belt is just to hold your gi.”
And yet this is a gi (Japanese for uniform) worn by a teenager still on the cusp of completing puberty. Will everything change in years to come?
Let things take their course, said the father.
Young Amos Chua, on the other hand, swiftly passed from reticence to confidence in a few words: “I will never change my mind about BJJ.”