Singaporeans Vivian Chan and Natalie Soh, both 25, co-founded the Encore Gym in 2016, an all-female gym that incorporates Muay Thai into fitness.
Located in the heart of Joo Chiat, Encore began as a gym for women and men, but Chan and Soh converted the place to make some of the ladies feel more “at ease”.
“We wanted to use Muay Thai to help women build themselves up in a more comfortable environment. They do not have to bother about the guys when they train,” Chan said in an interview, according to Vulcan Post.
If for any reason gym members need pain relief therapy for general and sports injuries, they can head over next door to Instant Pain Relief Singapore Clinic, which is also run by Chan.
Chan and Soh met through mutual friends at an event and instantly became BFFs.
“Both of us had common interests (Muay Thai) and spend some time knowing each other’s past,” Soh recalled.
“Eventually, bringing our passion together to start something humble that can help ladies out there to gain confidence through working out.”
She got into Thai boxing about five years ago at Hilltop Muay Thai as a way to stay fit, but now wants to improve herself by participating in matches.
“The glory earned after every intense training makes me want to fight for more things in life,” Soh said. “Muay Thai is not as fearful as others think.”
Chan started learning Muay Thai much earlier at her late uncle’s gym at 17 when he felt that her petite frame would grab the attention of bullies.
She found it hard at first, but emerged the victor at a Sanda boxing match three months later.
“I love how the art of eight limbs can actually make someone so petite like me strong and nimble. The discipline to mastering the art attracts me the most. Partly because I’m half-Thai too?” Chan said.
While she no longer competes due to injuries that left her immobilized for a year, her participation in the combat sport made her realize that others suffer from chronic pain everyday.
“I have the ability to heal them through my therapy [and] that’s how Instant Pain Relief Singapore came about,” she explained.
When Chan isn’t tending to patients during the day, she coaches others, and handles marketing and articles on Muay Thai, as well as shoots videos at home.
She’s grateful for her PA’s help and for having such supportive parents.
“Thankfully, my parents support me a lot and my mum will always cook my favorite food for me to pack to the gym!” Chan said.
Soh doesn’t work at the clinic, but her side projects include making mouth-watering Sio Bingbing raindrop cakes and Thai Milk Tea Bingsu.
The desserts are no longer sold in stores, but she revealed that she “still runs road shows and am bringing it back to the market with more food to come!”
Together the duo have made it their mission to break gender stereotypes in the future of the martial arts scene.
“Muay Thai isn’t only for males or the fit, it’s for anyone who wants to protect themselves and their loved ones. Females aren’t necessarily weak just because they are smaller.”