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Nigel Smith does not fit the conventional image of a martial arts gym owner. He was a competitive basketballer for a big part of his youth, representing Australia as a youth athlete, and in his home city of Sydney he was a professional player for three years.

Eventually, Nigel traded in his jersey for suits as a legal counsel in the finance industry, leading him to long stints in New York and Singapore. Though the arenas are vastly different, there are uncanny similarities between the fast-paced, high-stakes world of competitive sports and the corporate boardroom. In the realm of business, he often finds himself drawing from the mindset cultivated during his years as an athlete – teamwork, the ability to identify opportunities in adversity, and making critical decisions under pressure.

Now that he’s a father to a 10-year-old girl, these are the values that he hopes to impart to her. He was learning martial arts for a few years when the chance to open his own gym in Singapore came up during the pandemic. Nigel seized it as an opportunity to create a space where not only his daughter but others could learn essential life lessons. Pineapple MMA opened in October 2022.

Confidence & resilience

Why martial arts? While every sport offers benefits for youth development, martial arts, such as Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), serve as a unique path to instil confidence and resilience in children. Beyond physical skills, these disciplines foster cultural values like respect, humility, perseverance, and community participation. They’re also among the fastest-growing sports on the planet.

Nigel’s daughter, Elsie, started learning Muay Thai and BJJ at the age of five. While teaching her self-defence skills is part of his objective, Nigel believes that the confidence derived from martial arts equips a child to tackle challenges like bullying, peer pressure, and stress-induced misjudgements. Confidence empowers them to stand up for themselves and find solutions before situations escalate.

In the digital age, nurturing a child’s self-assurance and identity becomes increasingly vital. Elsie’s experience with martial arts improved her athleticism and significantly boosted her self-confidence and self-awareness.

While some parents might worry that martial arts may lead to aggression or bullying tendencies, Nigel believes nothing could be further from the truth. Learning martial arts encourages responsibility and empathy. Children learn about community and are more inclined to stand up against potential mistreatment due to an enhanced understanding of their capabilities.

Pineapple MMA meticulously structures kids’ classes, emphasising technique, physical coordination, and discipline, all within a safe and nurturing space. Fun warm-up exercises with imaginative names such as “bear crawls” and “spider walks”, and the focus on correct techniques, rather than brute strength, define the classes. BJJ classes include controlled sparring sessions, allowing children to practice self-defence in realistic scenarios.
This combination of striking and grappling not only hones physical abilities but also fosters friendships and a supportive, positive environment.

Lifelong skills

The values of respect, confidence and resilience imbibed through martial arts lay the foundation for a child’s future, enabling them to confront life’s obstacles with strength and grace. Martial arts, with its core principles of discipline, technique, and community, provides an ideal platform for shaping the next generation of empowered and resilient individuals.

For Nigel, Pineapple MMA represents an opportunity to elevate the standard of martial arts in Singapore and the region. The level of teaching is unparalleled for any gym in Asia. Indeed, a central goal for Nigel is to have a world-class athlete come out of Pineapple MMA’s kids programme one day.

Right now, watching his daughter and the other kids thrive and have fun while learning martial arts is a source of immense pride and joy.

Want to try it?
Pineapple MMA is offering all ANZA members an opportunity to experience the many benefits of martial arts.
Kids 5 – 13 years old: Two free trial classes (U.P. $60)
Adults: One free trial class (U.P. $35)
Scan the QR code to book, and type “ANZA” in the message box to redeem the offer.

About Pineapple MMA
Pineapple MMA is the premium training destination in Singapore to learn authentic martial arts from some of the best instructors in the world. Situated in downtown Singapore, the gym offers Muay Thai, Boxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, No Gi Grappling and a kids’ martial arts programme in a clean and safe training environment.

Our instructor team is behind the success of top martial arts athletes in world-renowned organisations including UFC, K1, Glory and ONE Championship.

Find out more at www.pineapplemma.com