Taking self-defence on the road through a travel safety app
EVEN a self-defence business is no defence against Covid and so when the pandemic shut down its physical classes, Qin Yunquan, CEO/co-founder of Singapore-based Kapap Academy, realised it had to create a pandemic-proof business and scale what it does with tech.
She and her partners took up coding classes during the circuit breaker in Singapore and they are now in the process of launching an app called Angel Wings, which will help women stay safe on the road. “We developed an MVP within two months and I am now taking courses in AI. Angel Wings will augment what Kapap does.”
A former Singapore national wrestler, Qin is dedicated to the mission of arming people with self-defence skills and techniques “to save lives”. The Kapap Academy’s classes are based on the company’s proprietary system, Modern Street Combatives. This system is unique in that unlike most combat sports which emphasize physical techniques in self defence, Modern Street Combatives harnesses psychology to detect predatory behaviour and if possibly de-escalate or move away from danger (Ring 1); and principles from body guarding to escape or evade (Ring 2). Physical self defence is only at the last resort, when all else fails (Ring 3).
“It’s focus is about prevention – how to detect danger, de-escalate, or get away from a potentially dangerous situation. The use of physical techniques in self defence is always only as a last resort. We coined this approach, the 3 Rings of Defence,” she said.
there are several personal safety apps in the market today, Angel Wings is also
unique in its two dual strategies in ‘empowering and educating’ its users. Not
only does Angel Wings ‘empowers’ its users with the latest mobile technology to
call for help from its circle of Angels (preselected network of 4 to 5
friends), it also continuously ‘educates’ its users with useful, simple to
learn safety tips. Several key target segments Angel Wings will be
catering to include: executives who are travelling on business or living
abroad; solo travellers who are traveling for self discovery or adventure; and
young people who are intending to pursue their education abroad.
The Kapap Academy was set up by Qin and her mentor to
teach self-defence to residents in Singapore, particularly women and children
against both domestic violence and dangers on the road.
“His brother was killed in Johore Bahru in a senseless act
of street violence and he wanted to help Singaporeans be safe when they
travel,” said Qin, who came into the academy in 2009 and ramped up its classes
for women and children.
While you might think that teaching self-defence in a safe place like Singapore is counter-intuitive, Qin said it found that people who live in safe places “assume the world is like that and can be very unprepared for what’s out there”.
Qin, who received a Queen’s Young Leaders Award in 2017 in
recognition of her work, said Angel Wings would be self-funded initially from
the Kapap Academy’s business but “eventually we will seek private financing”.
“Even though we are a social enterprise, we cannot see
profit as a dirty word. You need money, it’s what you do with it that counts.”
Qin herself battled with anorexia when she was 17, going
from 60kg in weight to 37kg at her lowest point. “I was on a self destructive
path and the root of it was severe lack of self esteem. Then I met my mentor
and he opened my eyes to self-defence. He asked me to join him because he
wanted to expand his classes to women and children.”
For the past decade Qin has been growing the Academy’s outreach within Singapore, as well as beyond. It trains more than 8,000 students a year – with ages ranging from five to 85 – and more than 80% of customers in Singapore are women. It’s seen a surge in students during this time since Singaporeans cannot travel abroad. It also runs workshops across Asia and as a social enterprise, reaches out to poorer communities to empower women and children by raising their self esteem through self-defence training.
• All images credit: Kapap Academy