When Sukri S spent most of his time abroad during his foreign service days, he felt the need to pick up a new skill – learning practical self-defence.
Being a diplomat at that time, travelling to many different places sparked his interest in equipping himself with something that gives him confidence and protection when on the streets.
“It was because of all this traveling and going to places, I felt that I needed to learn a bit of self-defence,” said Sukri, adding that he took karate lessons during his youth years but knew that it was not meant for the streets.
He began searching for programmes to enroll in during his posting and it was then he discovered Krav Maga training not far from his office.
The globally known Krav Maga is a self-defence system that was first designed to train military personnel in hand-to-hand combats using instinctive techniques. The training was then introduced to the public in 1995.
“So, I went on training and became an instructor, and I liked it. Largely because it was very practical, and it’s designed for the streets. You can learn within a month or two if you are doing an intensive programme,” said Sukri.
What started off as an addition to his self-development has turned into a business venture that he wanted to share with the Bruneian community.
The former civil servant left his job in 2019 and embarked into the entrepreneurial world full-time in 2020 with the opening of his self-defence centre called ‘Contact Combat Brunei’.
Debut of Contact Combat Brunei
‘Krav Maga’ means contact combat and Sukri finds it as an effective system where anyone can learn in a shorter time span compared to other types of training.
“It is fast learning and to me that was important. When I first started, I only wanted to have a year of training but over that period I started to enjoy it. So, I decided to become an instructor and explore other sectors (of Krav Maga) like law enforcement,” said the owner and director of Contact Combat Brunei.
Talking about why opening Contact Combat Brunei offering Krav Maga, Sukri said that he noticed a gap in the local market for security training.
“Krav Maga is not martial arts but self-defence which is sometimes misunderstood. There is still a lack of knowledge and awareness about Krav Maga in Brunei,” said the business owner.
The internationally certified company offers training to public and private institutions that have a security unit or department within them.
“Taking for example JPMC. They have a security team within their organisation but they do not have the capacity to train them. There are many institutions that are involved with some degree of law enforcement and security, but it is not their bread and butter. So, they would need to source their training to a third party,” shared Sukri.
What is Contact Combat Brunei?
Apart from the shorter time span, what made Sukri fall in love with Krav Maga is the way the curriculum is designed based on individual needs.
“They have the military curriculum, law enforcement curriculum and civilian curriculum. I initially focused on the civilian curriculum because it’s for the streets and for my own self-defence purpose,” said Sukri.
He added: “But over time, I got carried away and find law enforcement is also fun, but it is different from the training for civilians.”
Contact Combat Brunei offers specialised trainings in Law Enforcement, VIP Protection, Military and Civillian with most of their clients from the government and private sectors.
They have previously trained field operatives from the Narcotics Control Bureau (BKN) and Internal Security Department (KDN).
For the civilian curriculum, which is offered for private individuals, the programme is divided into civilian, kids, women and adaptive.
When designing a programme for women, Sukri said that they would base it on a list of common attacks against females and provide solutions.
“For example, raping scenarios which are common against females. So, you’re on the ground, and the guy is on you. What do you do?” he said.
Krav Maga’s techniques, he added, are not to attack and fight but to inflict a certain degree of pain on the perpetrator just enough for one to escape and defend.
“We are not there to fight until you go down and wait for the next person. That is not our training. A lot of our techniques would encourage you to escape, run and create distance. So that’s why we’re not involved in any of those sporting events,” said the entrepreneur.
For Krav Maga, some of the key principles the programme utilises include identifying immediate danger, one’s natural reaction, defend and counterattack, target vulnerable areas when counterattacking and techniques must be effective, among others.
Meanwhile, for the kid’s curriculum, they will be taught on using things available to them in a scenario for self-defence such as their bagpack.
“Children do not have enough force behind those punches and kicks like the adults. So, what can they do?” said Sukri.
He added: “In a kidnapping scenario at school, for example, we would teach them how to use their backpack as a tool for defence. These are the things that were not available in my karate training when I was growing up.”
Awareness of contact combat
Krav Maga may have had a global reputation over the years for its effective self-defence training but there is still a lack of awareness about the craft in the local market.
Although making its debut in 2020, locally accredited and certified by International Krav Maga Federation (IKMF), Contact Combat Brunei needs to have an expansive presence among the community, especially private individuals.
“We are providing a unique service and until now people’s awareness is not there. Some think that we are a sporting company, but we are not like Muay Thai and BJJ clubs which are designed for the ring,” said Sukri.
When Sukri had his first contract with a government institution in Brunei, he reminisced about the time when he was asked ‘when do we start fighting lessons?’
“I told them no it is not about fighting but I am going to teach you how to arrest because essentially law enforcement does not injure or hurt the perpetrator,” added the Krav Maga instructor.
Contact Combat Brunei currently has three instructors with their space located in Unit 3, 2nd Floor, Hassanin Complex, Spg 42 of Kg Delima Satu.
Furthermore, in ensuring quality service and training, the business has been constant with its curriculum, syllabus, accreditation and standards by IKMF.
In 2021, Contact Combat Brunei secured a grant from Darussalam Enterprise (DARe) to further kick-start the business.
With his previous knowledge and experience in Canada for his MBA, Sukri learned how to secure funds from capital investors, giving him the advantage to obtain capital for his own company.
However, for him, the amount of paperwork and processing time could have been lessened to encourage a more proactive entrepreneurial scene in the country.
“I see that there are too many regulations which can hamper growth. Sure, they are meant to protect, but also to link businesses. The unnecessary amount of paperwork on a company that wants to do service and product… A lot of time and resources must be put on admin work too,” added Sukri.
For him, other factors that could help better the business scene between private and public sectors are faster payment and willingness to cooperate.
“Sharing experience with my other business friends, payment needs to be faster. Not only do they want you to offer the cheapest service but slow in payment,” said the entrepreneur.
Touching on willingness, Sukri shared that there must be a positive constructive engagement with the private sector no matter how small a business is.
“You are talking about entrepreneurship to create jobs and we are doing our bit and yet not allowing the space for positive engagement,” said Sukri.
Despite the challenges that he faced during his entrepreneurial journey, the business owner remains steadfast and grateful for the things that he accomplished.
For aspiring businesses, Sukri shared that it is beneficial to connect with the entrepreneurship community such as the Young Entrepreneur Association Brunei (YEAB).
He also said: “As much as I feel regulations need to be streamlined, speak to people from DARe. It is nice to know what kind of services and training and funding they offer.”
Businesses also need to think of a long-term plan to go abroad, grow their network and make Brunei the base.
“If you can think of a product or service that can go abroad, aim for the foreign market, and go outside as quickly as possible. At the end of the day, we are a business trying to make a living, putting shelter over our heads, food on the table and paying our bills,” concluded Sukri.
THE BRUNEIAN | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN