Women can protect themselves: Yunquan of Kapap Academy

qin yunquan

We interview Qin Yunquan, the LadyBoss at Kapap Academy who is also a Singapore national wrestler and Nominee for the Singapore Woman Award in 2014. A tough cookie you probably don’t want to mess around with.

Yunquan is one of the well respected female fighters who specialises in ladies and children self defense, where she teaches the use of specially selected bio-mechanics and principles of engagement critical for a smaller person to defend against larger opponents.

When Yunquan was practising Wushu in school, she often pondered about a woman’s vulnerability. “How do I possibly get out of an attack – in a sexual assault attempt where my opponent is significantly stronger than me?” She realised that martial arts involves having a compliant partner with rules to follow – which makes it less effective in a street attack where there could be weapons or multiple attackers involved.

Soon she gravitated towards Kapap, a combat system of defensive tactics employed by the Israeli Defense Forces. She was trained by Master Teo Yew Chye, who had founded Kapap academy in memory of his brother who died from a street attack as well as his conviction in empowering people with self-defence skills.


yunquan wrestling

Yunquan in the National Wrestling Team

Overcoming Anorexia

Claiming to be a ‘chubby kid’ in school, she felt an overwhelming social pressure of needing to be “thin” as she recalled running around the field when she had to participate in the Trim and Fit (TAF) weight-loss programme, while her other classmates were allowed to play other sports during Physical Education lessons.

At 17, she developed anorexia and went on a crash diet – weighing her lightest at 37kg. She was obsessed about her weight, counting calories and micro-nutrients, clocking up 4 hours of exercise daily while only having eaten a slice of bread and half a glass of milk for the entire day.

The doctor told her that if she had lost another 2 more kg, the body functions might stop and she would have died. There were times when she had gone running and lost sensation in her legs. She recalled times where she had made her parents worry when her skin turned yellow, she was losing hair and felt lethargic and cold most of the time.

It was then she felt scared and decided that she was too young to die. When she started eating, she struggled with guilt and had to reassure that the weight gain “was okay”. It’s hard to imagine a scrawny, anorexic girl learning self-defense. Under Master Teo’s training, she has come a long way to overcome her eating disorder and regain her self-esteem with her new skill mastery.

Be Relentless in Pursuing Your Dreams
Coming from a traditional Asian family, Yunquan was brought up to obediently listen to her parents’ wishes and behave in a demure, girly manner as they expected her to. However, deep down she felt that that was not her identity. She did not want to fit in the society’s ideal for a woman to dress and behave in a certain way. She knew she was serious about Kapap and wanted to chase her dreams.

When she told her parents she wanted to become a self-defense instructor, her parents were furious and objected strongly: “What’s so bad about having a 9 to 5 job and just be a ‘normal girl’?”

It was then she had to make one of the toughest decisions: to follow her parents wishes or have the courage her own dreams?

She was initially discouraged and doubted her own skills. While Yunquan admits she certainly wasn’t the best student then – she was definitely the most relentless. She trained hard and very quickly, picked up Brazilian Jiujitsu, catch wrestling and to even becoming a national wrestler. She even went overseas to United States to train at the Gracie academy. Yunquan is now a Jiujitsu and Kapap instructor and a certified Executive Bodyguard.


qin yunquan gracie jiujitsu
Yunquan graduating from Gracie Academy in Brazil


Juggling Training and Business
While people remember her for her tough fighting skills, they tend to forget she also has to juggle managing business while being a young entrepreneur and LadyBoss at Kapap Academy. The learning curve was very steep and she had to pick them all up within a very short period of time.

“There were times I almost lost faith and nearly wanted to give up, but I remember these words that Master Teo said to me:”


If you wanna be good, you take one step at a time. One day, you will get there. Don’t ask yourself how difficult it is – ask if it is worth it or not?


Thanks to her master’s support and encouragement, she persevered and focused on training to become a practitioner and instructor. By the time she was 23, Master Teo could sense her conviction and entrusted her to step up to head the business. Under his guidance, she plucked up the courage to handle the various aspects of managing sales, marketing, administration and management.

Currently, she manages 4 full time staff and a dozen of part-time instructors at their dojo. Kapap Academy has trained over 200 organisations and was voted as one of the top 5 martial arts schools in Singapore by Yahoo! Sports. She shares that 70% of the students are females.


yunquan demonstrating

Yunquan demonstrating how to take down an attacker

Resilience is Key to Being an Entrepreneur
When asked how she manages her staff, she would assign them tasks by leveraging their strengths and weaknesses. She selectively chooses to work with are people who share the same vision and what the academy stands for – to her, it is important that the instructors are passionate about teaching and helping others.

One of her biggest obstacles, she mentioned, was learning to overcome self-doubt – especially when she put a lot of pressure on herself when it came to becoming a leader.

On her advise for other LadyBosses in business, she believes resilience is key. Being an entrepreneur means taking risks and sometimes, there will be setbacks. The key is to accepting and learning from failure, rectifying mistakes and not giving up.


What Kapap Academy stands for
The company’s mission is to empower ordinary people with realistic self defence skills, especially people who are easily targeted for assaults – children, elderly and ladies. Yunquan also teaches personal protection skills regularly at ladies’ groups e.g. AWARE and the Girls’ Brigade.

Yunquan stresses that self defence is not like your typical martial arts like muay thai or taekwondo. It is not strenuous or cardio-intensive, does not make one more masculine, and it’s an important skill that can protect yourself and your loved ones.


yunquan teaching

The author trying her hand at a self defence technique


“Master Teo’s vision of Kapap Academy is something I strongly believe in. We want to help more people protect themselves and de-escalate attacks by learning appropriate strategies that are non-strength based. It’s a noble mission and I wanted to do my part to help and dedicate my life to the empowerment of women and children.”

“I see the positive change Kapap has created in my life and the lives of people I teach. To me, it’s the most fulfilling job I could ever have.”

It Really Works

In fact, one of her students used what she learnt in an incident in Singapore where she stood up against a bully who was threatening other passengers in a MRT. The bully started walking towards her aggressively after she told him off and she unleashed a forearm strike to his throat, stunning him and stopping him momentarily. While it didn’t stop him completely, it bought enough time for the train to arrive at the next station where security personnel took over.

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