The persistent martial artist

LAST year has been a good one for national wushu athlete Yeap Wai Kin.

The Penang-born athlete usurped his teammate Wong Weng Son to finally win his first gold medal in the 2017 SEA Games after four years of participation.

The 24-year-old also managed to snag a bronze medal in the World Wushu Championships held in Kazan, Russia. Like most wushu athletes, Yeap trained for it from a young age – eight years old, to be precise.

It hasn't been an easy journey, but it's a big help when one is in love with the sport, like Yeap is. We spoke to him to find out more about what inspired him to learn wushu, as well as what prompted him to stay on.

At what age did you first find out about wushu, and what made you want to learn it?

I first found out about wushu at the age of six, and started learning it at the age of eight. I was inspired to learn wushu thanks to my father. Growing up, I would watch him practise wushu and lion dance. It made me want to learn it too.

Did you find it difficult when you first started learning wushu? After all, you were only eight years old.

It was my uncle who asked me if I wanted to join one of the kids’ wushu classes in town, and I decided to give it a try. It was difficult when I first started, as wushu requires a lot of flexibility, strength, and stamina. I also had to memorise moves that can be pretty complicated. To maintain my stamina, I need to train six times a week.

What is the daily training like for a wushu athlete?

Of course, there’s the basic wushu techniques, jumping skills, and wushu routines that we need to practise on. But other than that, we also need to hit the gym for strength training sessions.

Despite the tough training, how did you find it in yourself to persist throughout the years?

I’m very driven to practise wushu – it has been my favourite thing to do since I was a child. Besides, I have consistent support from my friends and family. That alone keeps me motivated.

When you were younger, did you ever imagine that you would be able to be a national athlete especially in wushu?

I actually never imagined that when I was younger. Wushu was my hobby, and my only aim was to become better at it. But I feel proud now, to be able to represent Malaysia on an international level for wushu. Malaysian wushu athletes are strong and competitive on an international level – I’m proud to be one of them.

We’re pretty sure that learning wushu is not just about physical endurance – did you learn anything else through your wushu training as well?

Yes. I learned to never give up, and also to never fear failure.

If you meet your martial arts idol (Jet Li), what would you say to him?

I would love to show my appreciation to him for bringing out the best of wushu in his movies, and letting so many people know about the world of wushu. I would also love for him to teach me his famous move: “no shadow leg” from the 1991 movie Wong Fei Hung.

Are there any other martial arts that you would love to learn?

I’d like to try out boxing. It’s one of the historical and technical martial arts as well, except that it originated from ancient Greece and not Asia.

Being a national athlete, you’ll definitely be an inspiration to a lot of younger, aspiring athletes out there. What advice do you have for those who want to be a wushu athlete?

I would tell them that wushu is not an easy sport – in fact, it can even be rather boring. It’s a sport that requires a lot of patience, discipline, and determination. They would need to practise that one same technique in order to achieve outstanding results and elevate their standards.