Overall zipped up, goggles checked, safety mask on, Vitrox 99 refilled, spray gun holstered & ready to shoot….let’s go bust some virus!  We have our very own Covid Buster here in Johor Bahru and his name is Kim Lee Tan.

Since Malaysian government has allowed gym and fitness center to open but must adhere to strict Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), many gyms were prepping themselves to start operating again, and part of the crucial need is to make sure the gym is clean and free from coronavirus.

Kim himself owns two gyms in Johor Bahru, REPS Studio Martial Art Training Centre andREPS Plus Fitness Centre, so he knows very well on the hygiene and cleanliness requirement of gyms. Being an action orientated guy Kim does not like to sit around doing nothing during the lockdown. So he took those time to deeply research and learn more on disinfection.

He bought some equipment and chemicals and started to disinfect his own gym, armed with this knowledge and the materials he has bought, Kim decided to share his know-how and help the fitness industry to get back on its feet by doing free disinfecting services in gyms & fitness centers around Johor Bahru.

His community service was certainly highly needed service at this time to give confidence to gym members and ensure the fitness industry have high compliance to the SOP that our government has set.

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Let’s get to know more about Kim the Covid Buster

Looking at his burly physique, you may not believe Kim is 50 years young. Hailing from Manila, Philippines, he is of Chinese descent and is a very familiar face in Malaysian combat sports scene.

You may have seen him before refereeing MMA bouts in MIMMA, Ultimate Beatdown & Octagon Fighting Championship.

Kim being part of the referees in MIMMA

Martial arts was very much part of Kim’s life from young. He took up Tae Kwon-Do in Manila and did very well and became a national athlete representing Philippines. The peak of his Tae Kwon-Do career was winning the bronze medal in S.E.A Games.

He left Philippines to studied preparatory medicine and psychology in UK, but being a sports person, he decided to pursue a career as a fitness instructor when he went back to Manila. He worked for a gym in the international airport. His dedication & passion caught the attention of an owner of a big chain of gyms in the region.

“I was doing everything, I was the instructor, manning the reception, cleaning the toilet, and basically I was doing everything.”

The gym owner offered him a job managing a hotel gym in Bangkok. Kim may not have management experience that time, but he was a determined man. A quick research on the aspect of management in the library was all he needed to make that life changing decision and off he flew to Bangkok to a start of his life overseas. After 2.5 years he was transferred to Beijing for 3 years. Then back to Bangkok again for 1 year.

Indonesia was the next the location as the gym expanded over there and Kim was sent there to set up the whole place in Surabaya. Next stop was Yangoon. After everything was up and running in Myanmar. Management ask him where does he wants to go next. Kim decides to head back to Indonesia.

That was the time he met the owner of Gudang Garam, one of the giant corporates company in Indonesia, famous for making kretek (clove cigarettes).

Kim didn’t realise who that was.

“I was telling him stories during training, sharing about my experience & just being myself taking care of a client. Two months later I got a call from his G.M and he offered me a job to set up gym in a high end condominium.

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The offer was fantastic and he jump on it. 4 years on as everything was smoothly running, Kim felt bored and was eager for new challenges. Again a job was offered to him in a big chain of hotel in Jakarta. He was happy again to be involved in setting up and overlooking development of projects. Kim’s reputation in the field of gym management precedes him, and again an offer came along. This time it is for a job in Dubai. This time the job role is much wider. He had to manage a community center with facilities such as fitness gym, tennis, kids’ center, squash, basketball, swimming pool, café, beauty saloon, etc.

Next job offer from Hilton group in Singapore came just in time, as again, Kim was feeling bored as the work in Dubai has become smooth and uneventful for him.

Kim’s martial arts journey continued as he travel from city to city for his work. In Bangkok, he train & fought Muaythai. Even though he never won a single match but it was an unforgettable experience to be able to step up & fight with the Thais that practically eat and sleep Muaythai.

“I remember kicking those Thais in the shin, holy $#!t that hurts! but the guy was just standing there without any expression on his face!”

In Indonesia, he signed up for a couple of MMA bouts.

“My first fight was refereed by Yuji Shimada. My Kickboxing coach was an Ambonese and I trained grappling in Synergy.”

In Singapore Kim train in Evolve. He was training for Martial Combat MMA bout and he popped his knee. Ruptured his cruciate ligaments. After surgery Kim went through the recovery & rehab work while he was still working, it was a tough time for him & he sunk into depression.

He went to a doctor for his condition and got tons of medication. It wrecked his sleep patterns and he was feeling awful all the time. Finally he made the decision to call his brother in Manila. His brother asks him to come home to rest.

“I went back, got in my room & must have slept for 4 days non-stop,.. the maid was slipping food through the door.” 

Home was good for his spirit. He was able to recover well physically too. His adventure spirit came back & he wanted to start work again. He sent in his resume online and got a job with Clark Hatch gym in Johor.

After the stint in Johor, opportunity came knocking again to travel. A job was offered to him base in Canberra Australia. He again jump on it as he wanted the new experience. But life in Canberra was so different for him as he was so used to the work life in Asia where he regularly clocks in 12-14 hours a day. His Australian boss saw him late at work one day.

Aussie boss: “Kim, what time did you came in?”

Kim: “9am“

Aussie boss: “What time is it now?”

Kim: “It’s 7pm.”

Aussie boss: “You working too much, get out of here & go get a life.”

Kim was thinking to himself, ‘What am I gonna do? Everything here close so early. He end up frequenting the pubs often to pass his time.

But at work too Kim felt not right, perhaps it’s time for a change again. This time the change will be entirely for a different reason. He picked up his Blackberry and call his girlfriend in Singapore. “Honey let’s get married!”

So again he packs his beg and move again. This time his life partner was his motivation. He planned to get married & start his own business after working for other people for so long. But the cost of doing business in Singapore was exorbitant, so Johor became his best choice because of the close proximity as his wife still goes to Singapore on and off for work.

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He opened REPS Fitness and also contributed to growing the MMA scene in Johor. Those were the early days of MMA in Malaysia around 10 years ago. Pioneered by Melvin Yeoh of Ultimate MMA Academy.

Melvin founded Ultimate Beatdown (UB) in 2013 and from the early days, Kim has been refereeing for UB for many years. In 2013 also he refereed in MIMMA season 1 and Legend Fighting Championship 11.  From then on MIMMA season 3 & 5 and also in Full Metal Dojo.  To further his knowledge in a more formal way, in 2014, Kim flew to California to take up a referee course from the well-known UFC referee Herb Dean. This invaluable experience eventually landed him judging work for ONE Championship in many events around Asia.

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Kim also has been refereeing for Octagon Fighting Championship in recent years. His vast experience enabled him to conduct certification course for aspiring referee & judge. This is part of his contribution to the growth of MMA in Malaysia.

Conducting referee & judges certification course
Presentation of certificate grace by MASMMAA president Rashid Salleh

To keep up with the MMA fighters in the cage Kim works out hard in REPS. Fitness has always been part of his life, but 3 years ago, the unexpected happened. While trekking up Mt Kinabalu in Sabah, he was extremely exhausted.

Coming back to Johor he went back to his usual routine. After a couple of months, he felt that, he gets tired easily with chest pain. One day after a tiring day in the gym, he went back for a nap, woke up for dinner and that’s when the heart attack hits him. Fortunately, Kim was still able to drive himself to the hospital as he wife was in Singapore.

After the surgery, he was put on a regime of many many pills a day. The pills made him dizzy whole day and he hates the way it made his pee stinks! Depression sunk in again for the 2nd time in his life. But thankfully Kim snapped out of it through sheer determination and work out.

Exercise improve his strength & spirit. It was like a healing medicine. He also changed his diets, he used to have very high caloric diet. He ate steaks daily combine with plenty of eggs and protein shakes. Nowadays he does not indulge so much and added abundant amount of greens to his meals.

Another unique activities he does to keep his mind active is Cosplay. It started with the 1st Captain American and Avengers movies. He bought a Ducati bike and he had this thought of – wouldn’t it be cool to be Captain America riding on the bike. He put the thoughts into action and instantly it became viral everywhere in social media and caught the attention of news media. He was invited to talk-show, events & he frequently dress up in superhero costume in movie premier too. He likes the buzz it gives him and ever since that he has continued these activities by doing Cosplay for other non-superhero characters.

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At 50 this year, Kim said he is giving himself another 5-6 years to be involve in the fitness industry & MMA here in Malaysia. His long term plan is to move to Russia, his wife’s homeland. He plans to take up a culinary course and dream of operating a food truck business in Moscow. Being a Chinese Filipino with experience in many cities around Asia, he wants to use these experiences to create a fusion Asian Russian food recipe.

Meanwhile he has started back operating REPS Fitness as Malaysian government has allowed gyms to be back in business after the Covid19 lockdown. The closing of his business for 3 months does affect his income & also stresses him out mentally, but fitness is always his go to solution. To ease the stress he wakes up early daily to hit the bags & complete his circuit training.

This Covid Buster community service, also helps Kim shift his mind away from his own problems. His contribution to help other gyms to get back to their feet gives Kim great satisfaction that he can be part of the solution to this pandemic.