Few years back when I started this blog just to keep myself updated with the martial arts scene, I realised that my article can also be a source of inspiration to others. I am glad that the story I write not only able to help promote combat sports events but also to bring spot lights to talents that needs the exposure.

But I must admit, the people I interview I would always dig deeper and try to ask questions about how they overcome personal challenges, the stories they shared in return inspire me too.
When I learnt about James Shii’s achievement, I was impressed and wanted to know more.
In August this year, Mr. James Shii became the first Malaysian to win a gold medal in a BJJ World Championship. The event was 2018 World Master Jiu-Jitsu Championship. It’s the biggest IBJJF (International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation) tournament of the year.
Held at las Vegas, USA…the 2018 edition was the 7th. It was introduced in 2012 to cater to the growing demand of competitors over the age of 30. Why the age of 30?..well usually when you reach 30, you are either settling down in your career or already have started a family. Commitment to training usually becomes very hard as you need to divide your time between BJJ, wife, kids & work.
So anyone that can still compete at a very high level going into their 30s and beyond surely is someone special. This year itself saw over 4000 participants in a humongous event that runs 4 day on 21 mats, with hundreds of top level athletes & plenty of grappling legends from all over the world in attendance.
pix by Graciemag.com
So now that you understand the scale & how prestigious this event is, this is James’ achievement, he competed in Master 7 category ( above 60 years old ) – Purple Belt. Winning that gold surely is sweet & special…and to win it at an age when most people would be living a retired life sipping coffee in their favourite coffee shop is certainly amazing.

In the month of the World Master, James celebrated his 62th birthday. Born in the capital of Sarawak, Kuching he moved to Malacca in West Malaysia when he was around 12.

He is an Accountant by training and currently work as Group Financial Controller for a group of companies that include a PLC and mid-sized property developer.

Warriors of Borneo talk to James to learn about his  BJJ journey.

How did you got started in BJJ? Have you any martial arts experience prior to BJJ? What other sports do you do? What are the achievements in other sports?
I started BJJ 7 years ago and was introduced to it by a good friend who had started BJJ 2 weeks earlier. Before that I learned Chinese Kung-fu for about 7 years. And years before that I did Tai Chi for 5 years. I have always been interested in martial arts. I did play badminton as a sport many years ago. I have not been all that competitive so I have not had any notable achievements in sports.

What do you like about BJJ? How often do you train?
I like BJJ because it is very applicable and effective and I like the emphasis BJJ place on sparring. I believe sparring is a very key component of learning martial art and in this regards I have high regards for boxing, Muay thai, wrestling etc. I train twice a week and make it a point to be as regular as possible. More recently I have increased my training to 3 times a week.

How often did you compete in BJJ? Will you be competing again soon? tell us your competition record.
2018 World Master BJJ is actually my 1st competition. It is not easy to find opponents at my age category. I have not thought of competing again at the moment. 

In The World Masters, how many matches did you have to go through? Tell us about the whole experience participating in World masters? The people, the venue , food, the competition, etc…
I had one fight at the recent Masters. I contemplated taking part in June and got my IBJJF membership accepted end of July. Due to the heavy work load and reporting deadline in August I almost didn’t register for the competition and only decided to sign up on 8 August on the encouragement of my coach Aaron Goh. So I haven’t really had a lot of preparation and only came up with the game plan a week before I left for Las Vegas. 


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The World Masters is an amazing experience – the ambience of the venue, the BJJ community people from all over the world, the energy on comp days and the many BJJ superstars gracing the event. Las Vegas is of course unbearably hot in summer with temp reaching almost 110F. 

I am impressed how efficient the whole event was run with about 20 mats and 3000 competitors over the 4-day competition. My match was in the afternoon of the last day. 

celebrating with Aaron & team mates after the win in Las Vegas

At your age, besides BJJ, what is your lifestyle to maintain your fitness? What is your diet like?
I do some cardio and light weights for 1 ½ hours once a week and generally eat a healthy diet like brown rice for dinner and cut out sugar where possible. I am usually in bed by 11.30 pm except for the once a week drink session with the guys. I do take multivitamins, glucosamine with chondroitin and fish oil for joints health, and also citrulline and arginine for heart and better recovery.

What motivates you to train? I believe you train with mostly people younger than you right? Tell us about your gym, your coaches & your training partner.
I do BJJ mainly for the health and self-defence purpose. The people I train with are mostly much younger than me. I am lucky to join one of the oldest and best BJJ gym (Leverage BJJ) in Malaysia and there are many very talented training partners who smashed me week in week out. Thankfully they also don’t go as hard with me. 

My coach is Aaron Goh who is a brown belt. I have very high regards for his knowledge of BJJ and am continuously amazed by the techniques he comes up with every week. Aaron is also really good at breaking down the finer details of the techniques that demonstrates his understand of BJJ.

At your age, you must have seen a lot, be it career wise, family & social life. What is your message for the younger generations of Malaysian.
The younger generation as we know spend way too much time on the internet and their smart phones. I would encourage them to take up sport-related activities that bring them out to the outdoor, promote health and cultivate social skills. I really enjoy the social interactions and comradeship at our gym and I think it is one of the things I look forward to at every class.

Training for 2018 World Masters


James train at Leverage BJJ under coach Aaron Goh.

Aaron first met James 7 years ago and was impress at how a guy at James age was very open minded. Aaron explained that at that time the BJJ community was very small and mostly made up of younger guys, and being the oldest in the group he was impress that James was very willing to learn.
On James competing in World Masters. Aaron explained that as a coach he encourage all his students to compete.
” It’s not about the win or the lose, but because it will make you a better person. The entire process of preparing for a competition will make you a better person. There’s no downside to it, win or lost. I’ve never have a student that compete come to me and say arghhh… Aaron! 
I wish I didn’t compete.”
Aaron said it was he himself that actually trained for World Masters, in a conversation one night he suggested to James to come along as he believe James have a chance as it’s an even playing field for his age bracket. In the World Masters, with the amount of people competiting James would have competitors in his age group compare to competition in Asia where older age group is very rare & participation there usually will ended in James competing in a category with exponents half his age or younger.
As a coach, Aaron says he see potential in everyone whatever their age is. Aaron said James, during training is very technical and one of the most dedicated member of his gym.
In the small knit group that Aaron coach, Aaron believe James is the oldest active BJJ practitioner and even the oldest Purple Belt in Malaysia. Aaron said he don’t really take it easy on him, he expect the same technical proficiency from James.
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In that sense, as a coach usually Aaron will not pair him up with a hungry younger person whom wanna make his mark in competition, as this will easily leads to injury which at James age takes longer to heal. He would pair James with someone that can push him enough and at the same time both learn from each other.

On this story about James, I couldn’t get James to commit in the beginning as he politely decline.
Aaron felt that James deserve this coverage.
” He is rather humble and in a way shy and does not felt that the win is a big deal, but at his age and becoming a World Champion is definitely a damn BIG DEAL! “
” He has been one of my strongest supporter since I started my gym and have been very helpful not just to me but also to other fellow team members…for example when we sometimes bring in special Black Belt guest to teach in a seminar, when there’s a team member that couldn’t afford the fees, Uncle James usually is the first one to step up and offer to pay for him to let him be able to learn and benefit from the seminar. “
Personality wise he finds James as a person with good character, humble and kind, but he doesn’t like standing next to him…

” Well because Uncle James is so tall that standing next to him for picture makes me look like a midget! hahaha. 


Damon Soo (middle)


I will end this story with quotes from James’s team mate, Damon Soo- MIMMA two division champion.
“James is actually my cousin in law. I met him when I joined Leverage and he was already a blue belt then. He has been one of my idols since then because despite his age he was and still is very fit and aggressive.
Before the World Masters a number of times I met my uncles and aunties and they would always ask me about James as they know we train in the same gym, they would ask if James really trains BJJ and does it seriously.

I could tell from their questions and remarks that they didn’t believe that he actually trains hard and spars/rolls hard even after I told them he did and that he gives all the younger guys a hard time during sparring/rolling.

He definitely defy the physical limit of people his age. Hence why he is one of my idols and my goal is to be like him when I am at his age.”

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