By: BY FIQRIE DAHARI
Who knew a huge fight outside his school that left him with a swollen face and bruises at 16 could change Joseph Lee Mun Kien’s life?
“I was really tall and awkward then,” recalls Lee, now 24.
The “frail and skinny kid” knew something had to be done. He didn’t want things to continue this way.
His first step? Signing up for Muay Thai classes.
“It’s really funny how the boy that beat me back then ended up becoming one of my good friends today!” he laughs. Lee’s stint in martial arts took a different direction when a year after Muay Thai, he enrolled himself in mixed martial arts that was considered “hip” to him – Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
His first class when he was 19 was also a memorable experience. He was “tapped out” (a term used while sparring through the action of slapping your hand on your training partner two or three times for any reason, mostly to prevent injuries) by someone half his height and weight. By this time Lee was bulking up and building muscles from Muay Thai, weighing around 110kg.
“It made me realise jiu-jitsu is all about being equal. You don’t need to be huge to win a fight, you need skills. It doesn’t matter how big or small you are. Skills matter most.”
Four years down the line, he now holds a purple belt, which made him eligible to teach basic classes for the same academy that taught him – Leverage Combat Academy – located in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur.
So far, Lee has represented Malaysia in the Bangkok Open, one of the biggest jiu-jitsu tournaments in Asia. Citing it was more of a “group achievement”, the humble lad and his team won Best Overall Team while he made a personal mark by winning gold and bronze for the No-Gi and Gi categories.
Blessed with good looks and charm, with an above average height (190cm), Lee has also found himself bitten by the modelling bug. He was nominated as one of Cleo’s Eligible Bachelors last year, follow-ed by Men’s Health Cover Guy 2015.
“Last year saw me competing in all sort of events, opening doors I never thought was possible!”
His diet for the Men’s Health contest was a challenging one. But being a jiu-jitsu professional has its perks, keeping him in great shape.
“I spend 30% of my day training jiu-jitsu and lifting weights, and made it a point to train every single day.”
Realising eating right is the pivotal factor in keeping fit, Lee and his brother (who studied culinary arts) have recently started a fitness meal service provider called The Food Bro. Collaborating with nutrition coaches, their mission is to provide clients with their daily macronutrients intake.
“Every meal is customised for different clients,” explains Lee. Meals are based on calculations of one’s need for daily fats, carbohydrates and fibre. The meal service, currently in its trial period, already has clients from all over the Klang Valley.
“We don’t want to take more than 10 clients each time, as we want to give that sense of exclusivity in ensuring our clients hit the target macros at the end of their sessions.”
Each session takes around two weeks with three meals each day. All are cooked with organic brown rice and fresh vegetables and made from scratch.
What’s next for Lee?
“I’m actually going to try acting. I’ve been taking vocal classes for the past few months to prepare for auditions of any upcoming musicals.
“Besides that, I would like to expand operations for The Food Bro and eventually set up a personal training studio and kitchen space.”