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How William Yoong Became a Homegrown Ninja Warrior in Singapore

Athletes in extreme sports face huge challenges, and William Yoong is one of them. This obstacle course racer accomplishes feats that seem humanly impossible. William Yoong is a Malaysian National Athlete who won a silver medal in the SEA (Southeast Asian) Games in 2019 in the obstacle course racing category and he has also qualified to represent Malaysia for international stages of Ninja Warrior-style competitions.

We have invited William Yoong to our MOA Sports Night 2 Livestreaming show in August for an interview as well as to introduce him to our excited audiences.

William was featured in MOA Sport Night 2 live streaming show to share his journey.

William started off his journey with rock climbing and inline-skating and along his journey, he explored a lot of other different crafts, such as parkour, movement culture, calisthenics and gymnastics. He came to discover and appreciate that these practices all have a common denominator- Movement.

Whether you're in the gym lifting weights, or pressing up to a handstand, or just plain ‘working out’, you will be exploring forms of Movement with your own body. Almost as if to make a picture of all these different odd puzzle pieces, William has taken inspiration from the different kinds of influences to train himself for obstacles.

This is how he has managed to accomplish feats in obstacle course racing in the form of Ninja Warrior Competitions, SEA Games events, or even just exploring Movement flows in the neighborhood, whilst there is no cookie-cutter training regiment existing just yet for Ninja Competitions or Obstacle Course Races.

William won the many obstacle course races with his Malaysia’s teammates

“I guess the journey is like finding odd pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and realizing that they fit together”. - William Yong

Cultivating Extraordinary Movements

This pioneering individual has had humble beginnings. As with most kids, a younger William played in his neighborhood with friends. Via play, one can learn the boundaries on what can and cannot be done (yet). The fine line between safe and unsafe Movements and exercises lies in how consistently and progressively we train our bodies to handle the goals we aim for.

William also says that there are no bad Movements, only Movements which our bodies are prepared enough to do, or not prepared enough for. A dip is generally considered dangerous for someone who has shoulder injuries and is avoided for a lack of better understanding. However William works closely with his partnered physiotherapists to prepare students to push in different ways and planes of Movement. This helps even students with shoulder injuries to increase the Movements which they may do pain-free.

William has painstakingly revised a lot by himself without any sport-specific coach in the emerging sport of ObstacleCourse Racing but has managed to create quite the track record for himself. To an extent, he develops skills in a very structured, controlled manner, taking tips from rock climbing which has safety protocols and risk management processes. Constant Movement exploration with trial and error in a safe manner has helped him develop skill sets with stunning applications. He can display insane feats such as bounding over balance beams with ease or climbing rock walls without his feet, just to name a couple.

Why should you train to do Movement? It’s because you will discover more than a great workout. It is an unconstrained philosophy of increasing one’s Movement vocabulary rather than just conventional fitness training. By doing what isn’t comfortable, is where we discover our potential. In his words, William also playfully quips that “if you’re clumsy and trip over random stuff a lot just like me, you should learn some parkour to land safely when you do need to break a fall safely”.

“In parkour, we don't just jump off any shelters we see, but to learn how to do the basics well… learn how to land safely, instead of finding the most extreme scenarios to put yourself through.’’ -William Yoong

The most Memorable Race

“The most memorable part for me was during the team relay category in the SEA Games, versus the OCR team of the Philippines. Everyone in the crowd was cheering for team Philippines who were leading us by maybe 20-30 meters. However, once I started running and closed up the gap between our teams, the crowd went quiet for the first time since Day 1.”

William was no stranger in OCR and Ninja Warrior style competitions in South East Asia and Australia regions.

Training Routine

William almost exclusively does skills-specific training. He shared that if he wants to juggle, learn a one arm pull up or even learn to balance well, he will work on the skills and Movements necessary instead of the conventional way of training isolated muscle groups like chest or legs for example. He does bodyweight strength skills training 2 to 3 times a week with some mobility and skill-specific training to maintain a baseline of fitness whilst he progresses with his goals at the same time.

Personal Injuries

William shared in guilt that when he was younger, he was quite reckless, he slipped from a 3 metres high lache and broke his left arm when he was 14 years old. He also fell from a 10 meters height wall during his lead climbing due to human error from his belayer and broke both of his ankles before. There are also incidents where he almost dislocated his left shoulder.

Turning Point

One of William’s major injuries that took him a long time to recover was his slip disc which was triggered during a three times bodyweight deadlift. This is also the reason he wanted to go full on into Movement practice. He realized that aiming for heavier and heavier weights was not sustainable for sports or health applications and would increase chances of injury. As we age, the only way to work out is not to keep lifting weights and to aim to just aim to keep increasing intensity that way, but to preserve and diversify the Movement patterns our body can accomplish.

To paraphrase him, “In the gym, people recommend going heavy on your compound exercises, which are exercises that work multiple muscle groups and can help you burn more calories. But let's say you have reached a plateau on that, or you have achieved your goals of getting moderately fit. What's the next goal? to lift heavier? I think the answer that I've arrived at (myself) is to find out more things that I can do with my fitness, rather than how much heavier I can lift, to make myself fit.” He emphasized,“Lifting heavier, to get fitter to get to lift heavier (or look better) is never ending, so I just want to explore what other things I can do using my fitness to keep fit and have fun.”

Motivation - Thinking out of the Box

“We think of the gym as somewhere where we workout only and you only do those specific things. For example, this studio is for Zumba, you only do Zumba. That studio is for calisthenics, you do calisthenics. In the gym, I lift weights. When you start to blur the lines and go to the gym to do calisthenics, you get funny looks sometimes. If you go outdoors and you do dancing, people will give you those weird looks,” he continues. “I love that movement practice makes people do things which seem out of place. People start doing spinal waves, they will squat in different ways, they will crawl, they will do pull ups in different places. You'll even see them climbing on playgrounds sometimes. This is very interesting because it puts people in an out-of-the-norm situation. But to me, all these are just different ways of exploring Movement in the environment. It's about putting yourself in different situations and relearning to play with your environment and what you have on hand like a child again.”

William aims to help people learn the movements which they never thought possible of themselves

Movement Coach and Practitioner

Being a Practitioner and Movement Coach himself, William conducted movement practice classes in different areas in Singapore. He does not only focus on strength and mobility but also explores the range of movement of his clients through different exercises, as well as coaching them to apply strength in different situations and learn new skills.

“Movement practice is interesting to me because it's about breaking the mould of mindsets many times, to rethink and question the idea of simply working out” - William Yoong


William envisions starting his own studio in the future with all the elements which served to inspire him e.g. rock climbing, ninja warrior obstacles and parkour. In collaboration with his partners in Singapore Movement Practice and Little Ninja Academy, he wants to start a facility like that to train people, whether they are young or old, to explore different forms of movement.

“Body image is important. But what's more important is about having fun and exploring what is fun to you.” - William Yoong

To find out more on the full sharing of William Yoong and his demonstration, you can watch our video live streaming show here:

Written by : Evelyn Chew & William Yoong

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