SEA Games Shiai Team SmilingTeamSG's Judoka (Shiai) to compete in Cambodia 2023. Photo Credit : Singapore Judo Federation


2023 marks the 10th anniversary of Singapore's very 1st Gold medal won in the sport of Judo at the Southeast Asian Games (SEAG). Back in Myanmar 2013, TeamSG judoka Ho Han Boon fought his way to a long-awaited gold medal in the over-100kg category. Han Boon's triumph came almost 25 years after the last gold medal won by the Republic in the 1989 SEA Games, through Edmund Tan and Tang Soon Onn.

Following Han Boon's triumph, TeamSG secured 2 Silver and 4 bronze medals at the biennial Games held in the Lion City in 2015. And over the next 3 SEAG campaigns in Kuala Lumpur, Manila and Hanoi, TeamSG's judo squad claimed 1 Silver and 4 bronze medals. Looking ahead to Cambodia 2023, Singapore's Judo Federation (SJF) is sending a contingent of 12 athletes, comprising 10 judo athletes competing in the Combat (Shiai) event, and 2 athletes namely Benny Tan and Soh Keng Chuan featuring in the Artistic (Kata) event. And as we countdown to the 32nd SEA Games, ActiveSG Circle caught up with the SJF President, a Games debutant and a seasoned Games campaigner, to get their thoughts and hopes of the Games.


image0-4Mr Yeo Chin Seng (President, Singapore Judo Federation). Photo Credit : Yeo Chin Seng


Mr Yeo Chin Seng (President, Singapore Judo Federation)

Q : Can you describe your Team’s preparations for the coming SEA Games ?
Chin Seng : We made a few trips to regional areas for training and competition after the borders were open. We engaged a Japanese coach from Waseda University to help us to prepare our judo team specially for the 32nd SEA Games. And at the present moment, our team of 10 judoka are training in Japan and will return on 5 May, before embarking to Cambodia.

Q : Could you select 2 squad members which Singaporeans should be keeping their eye on and why?
Chin Seng :
We have a few current National & Youth team members and we are grooming them towards the SEA Games in 2029, which will be held in Singapore. So for now, it's too early to highlight any two athletes. Maybe at a later stage.

Q : What are you hoping from our Judo team in Cambodia?
Chin Seng : We hope to achieve better results from the last Games as usual, and strive to win as many medals as possible, so as to help to boost our medals tally for Singapore.

Q : In sending a squad to compete at the SEA Games, are you hoping for a positive impact on the Judo community in Singapore ?
Chin Seng : Definitely, it will create an impact in the judo community as well as Tertiary, National Schools level in Singapore for judoka to look forward to achieve their goal to represent Singapore in Major Games.


Aaron Ng 2Team Singapore Judoka, Aaron Ng. Photo Credit : SJF


Aaron Ng (Judoka, Team Singapore)
Age : 27
No of Years in Team Singapore : 7
No of Years training in Judo : 14

Q : This will be your 3rd SEA Games campaign. How are you feeling ahead of Cambodia 2023?
Aaron : As the Captain and a senior in the National Judo Team, I am thrilled and honored to be able to represent my country together with my beloved teammates. The upcoming SEA Games feel special for me as I will be competing with most of my batch mates(Teammates who joined same time as me). I feel slightly nervous yet excited as the days closes in for SEA Games. The team and I have been training with blood, sweat and tears, and are eager to show South East Asia what we are made of!

Q : Take us through your training preparations for Cambodia 2023?
Aaron : As the Captain, I worked closely with the National coach and High-performance manager for training matters. After identifying the main qualifying competition for SEA Games, the team increased its frequency and the types of training. Judo training, Strength and Conditioning (S & C), and Physical training. The JDF also hired a Japanese Coach in Oct 2022 to facilitate, revamp, and for individual specialized training. 

The officials and I discussed the Strength and conditioning program with Singapore Sports Institute for personalized S&C training. After ramping up in Singapore for our training intensity, we were ready to take on our training camp for 7 weeks in the "land of the rising sun". Judo came from Japan, so it made sense to train where the sport originated from. 

We first went to International Budo University for training which is located near Chiba in the mountains. It felt like the team was having some special ninja training. We then relocated to Wasaeda University, where the Judokas were significantly higher level. The non-stop hustle and bustle with the increasing intensity made it difficult yet fulfilling, as the days went by. The Singapore Judo National Team preparations are ready and we are excited to perform in the upcoming SEA Games!

Q : How does Judo differ from the other martial arts disciplines at the SEA Games, such as Karate and Taekwondo?
Aaron : Judo is a Grappling Olympic sport, unarmed modern Japanese martial art which consists of jacket wrestling competed internationally. The objective of competitive judo is to throw an opponent, immobilize them with a pin, force an opponent to submit with a joint lock or a choke. There is a point system for every throw, pin, choke, and joint lock to win the game.

Karate and Taekwondo is a striking Martial art, using strikes instead of throws and locks. The point system varies when one strikes the opponent with various punches and kicks. In Judo, you are not allowed to to strike your opponent.

IMG-20230424-WA0003TeamSG's Aaron Ng at a Training session. Photo Credit : Aaron Ng


Q : How important is this SEA Games campaign and which countries will pose a serious medal-challenge for you?
Aaron : I feel that every SEA Games Campaign is important and special to every individual. To me, this is an opportunity for me to fight for my country and make a difference in the sport. I am truly honoured to have supportive friends, colleagues and an NSA that supports.

The big 3 countries that'll pose a medal challenge will be Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand in that order. In the last SEA Games in Hanoi, I fought with Indonesia in a very close duel for the bronze medal. Indonesia finally won in the Golden score match with a technical foul. 

In Manila 2019, I fought Thailand in my first match. I scored 1 throw which translated into a half score, but Thailand got it back by getting a full score that ended the round. Meanwhile, I am excited to meet these countries on the mat, as I feel that I'm better prepared than ever.

Q : As a former SEA Games bronze medallist from Manila 2019, what are you hoping to achieve in Cambodia?
Aaron : As the saying goes, "Third time's a Charm". So, I'm hoping to achieve a gold medal in the  coming SEA Games in Cambodia.

Q : What’s next for you in Judo for the rest of 2023?
Aaron : The Asian Games is happening in September 2023 in Hangzhou. And there might be a few competitions that Singapore Judo might be able to qualify. I hope that the team and I will have the opportunity to compete at the Asian level judo scene.

Aaron Ng 3Team Singapore Judoka, Aaron Ng. Photo Credit : SJF


Q : What is your Pre-fight ritual (if any)?
Aaron : Just before my fight, I will slap my arms, legs and my face to have a quick adrenaline rush and get into the fight zone to get ready. Normally if a coach is present he will assist to slap the back, arms, and legs. Before I go onto the mats, I take a ritual full squat to let myself stretch and know that I am ready.

Q : Do you have a favorite go-to song before the start of a match?
Aaron : I normally listen to our national anthem, Majulah Singapura! 

Q : Do you have a pre-fight meal, snack, or drink before a match?
Aaron : Yes, I normally will indulge in the small little bottle of Energy Vitamin drink, YOUC1000 lemon/apple flavor. If that is not available, Ribena strawberry shall suffice. If none of these are available, a sweet drink will be enough.

AaronNg momento
Aaron Ng's custom-made Judo belt. Photo Credit : Aaron Ng


Q : Your favorite Judoka in the world and why?
Aaron : Shohei Ono! He is considered one of the most dominant fighters in the -73kg category. He has won every major championship since 2015. He has won 3 world championships and 2 Olympic gold medals. I like his Judo style, his throws are very fancy and is unstoppable whenever he attacks. I aspire to be able to compete at such a high level of Judo.

Q : Do you have a favourite personal momento/souvenir from your 14 years in Judo?
Aaron :
I joined the Judo National Team in 2015 and started my competitive journey then. In 2019, before the Manila SEA Games, I went to Japan for training. I bought a custom-made Judo black belt and told myself - I can only wear this once I'd reached Judo at a high level, where I can be self-sustaining and good enough to coach the juniors (see photo above).


Joelle Ho 3Team Singapore Judoka, Joelle Ho. Photo Credit : SJF


Joelle Ho (Judoka, Team Singapore)
Age : 19
No of Years in Team Singapore : 2
No of Years training in Judo : 6

Q : This will be your debut SEA Games campaign. How are you feeling ahead of the Cambodia Games?
Joelle : As we draw closer to the Cambodia Games, I cannot help but to feel a growing pressure to perform, to improve as much as possible and to meet or surpass the expectations of the people around me. However, I also feel rather excited to step on this bigger stage to showcase my passion for Judo to the world. I honestly did not think that I would be able to make my debut this SEA Games as there were countless obstacles in my journey. But finally being at the doorstep of the Games makes me feel that it was all truly worth my efforts.

I deeply treasure this opportunity to represent my country on a larger stage and I cannot wait to showcase my judo skills to the world and bring glory to the nation. As a debutant, I do not fully know what to expect. While this unknown ahead of me does incite some fear, my passion and desire to achieve greatly outweighs that fear and prepares me to charge straight on into the upcoming Games.

Q : Take us through your training preparations for Cambodia 2023?
Joelle : The journey to Cambodia 2023 started off with preparations for the qualifying regional competitions. I increased my frequency of trainings closer to the competitions and worked closer with my coaches to determine the best suited programmes for me in Judo as well as in strength and conditioning. Thankfully, I performed at the qualifying competitions, allowing me to feature for Cambodia 2023. However, before knowing the result of my qualification, I took a leap of faith and went on a 3-month long solo training camp in Korea, training in the top Korean girls high school for judo. I saw a great leap of improvement as I had never trained at such a high level for such a long period of time. To say that it was eye-opening is barely sufficient to express my amazement.

After which, when the SEA Games team had been selected, our federation sent us on a 2-month long training camp in Japan, where we trained in several universities. Japan, where judo originated from, was just a whole different level. Their skills are incredible, it was an honour training alongside these high-level athletes. I observed and recorded down as well, posed many questions to our newly hired Japanese coach, as well as to the Japanese athletes to learn and absorb as much as I could, to make the most of this training camp. Other than the Judo skills aspect, our team works closely with our Strength and Conditioning coach for personalised gym and rehabilitation programmes. And I often did my own physical and judo trainings during my free time, to push myself to be the best I can be!

Q : How does Judo differ from the other martial arts disciplines at the SEA Games, such as Brazilian Ju-jitsu and Pencak Silat?
Joelle : Firstly, at one glance I believe the most noticeable difference would be the uniform. In international Shiai(combat) Judo matches, one athlete wears a white Judo Gi while the other wears a Blue Judo Gi. This is so as to clearly distinguish the two athletes so that the judges can award the points accurately. As for Kata (performance) Judo, the attire for both athletes is a white Judo Gi. In contrast, Brazilian jiu-jitsu Gis have a wider range of colours including black and Pencak Silat athletes are usually dressed in black.

Secondly, Judo is a grappling martial art that includes throws, pins, chokes and armlocks. There is no striking unlike in Pencak Silat and the standing portion of the fight is usually more focused on as compared to in BJJ, likely due to the point system. Judo matches end when one side scores an Ippon (full point) or 2 Wazaris (Half points). A full point is earned either by a throw where the opponent lands on their full back, a 20-second pin, or if the opponent taps out of a choke or an armlock. A half point is earned when the opponent is thrown but lands on their side or a 10-second pin. If the score is equal at the end of four minutes and neither has won an ippon, the match proceeds into golden score where it acts as a sudden death, any score will end the game. Therefore, Judo tends to be extremely fast paced and athletes tend to concentrate on the standing throws portion as it is easier to score an Ippon.

IMG-20230424-WA0004TeamSG's Joelle Ho at a Training session. Photo Credit : Joelle Ho


Q : How important is this SEA Games campaign and which countries will pose a serious medal-challenge for you?
Joelle : I read in the news that Singapore is sending a large contingent this year to the Games. Hence, I believe that it is an extremely important campaign, especially after Covid, where international competitions were stopped or conducted to a limited extent. It's time for this contingent to bring glory to the nation and restore the declining vigour and spirit due to the pandemic. This SEA Games campaign is also a significant one for the Judo community as we are sending one of our biggest squads in many years. My teammates and I have made many sacrifices, worked through blood, sweat and tears, hoping to achieve the best that we can be. I hope that this team will perform well and act as an example for the public to take in interest in Judo as well as future generations of Judokas to be inspired to follow in our footsteps and represent the nation. 

In the Southeast Asian Judo community, it is well known that Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand Judo athletes are the favourites on the podium. Recently athletes from Malaysia and Phillippines have also become more promising medallists. However, I believe that Singapore will be the underdog this time round. I believe in my team and myself, we have truly come a long way, I believe that we can fight on par with these seasoned athletes and clinch victories for Singapore. 

Q : As a SEA Games debutant, what are you hoping to achieve in Cambodia?
Joelle : All athletes would definitely want the Gold, but since it is my first time, I would like to manage my expectations so that any result would not make me overly emotional and affect my future in the sport. I believe that at 19 years of age, I still have a long way to go in my career as a Judoka, I do not want 1 SEA Games to burn me out or be my final goal, I believe that it is a stepping stone, a learning experience. I am definitely gunning for a medal, of course, I do hope it is of a colour which rhymes with the word “coal”, but I have been mentally preparing myself for any outcome. I just hope to meet the expectations of the people around me, to perform my best to live up to the support I have been receiving from all my friends, family, teammates, coaches and more. 

Q : What’s next for you in Judo for the rest of 2023?
Joelle : I wish that one day I can stand on the olympic stage. As for now though, I will work one step at a time towards that dream. Hence, after SEA Games, I hope to be able to compete in the upcoming Asian level competitions as well as other higher level competitions available. However, this does depend strongly on my performance at the Cambodia Games, I would have to assess my judo level to see what competitions would be more suited for my skill level. Furthermore, every competition is a learning experience. I would be able to see my shortcomings firsthand during the Cambodia Games. I would like to make use of the rest of 2023 to close up these gaps and hopefully go for another overseas training camp to further my judo and better prepare for any future games. 

JoelleHo-2Team Singapore Judoka, Joelle Ho. Photo Credit : SJF


Q : What is your Pre-fight ritual (if any)?
Joelle : Before any competition, I tend to keep my phone away from me and I would sit down and just stare blankly into space and empty my mind. I find that this helps me keep calm and allows me to focus before I fight. Just before I step onto the mat, I will shut my eyes tight and then open them quickly with an upward glare, like something you would see out of an anime protagonist. I will also slap my face twice to get an adrenaline rush. Once I step onto the mat, I have a habit of always do a slight jump and raise my arms before bringing them down to a fighting position. Then, the fight will begin. 

Q : Do you have a favourite go-to song before the start of a match?
Joelle : Unfortunately I do not have a habit of listening to music before a match. I strongly prefer to listen to the sounds of the arena as I feel that it keeps me alert and aware of my surroundings. 

Q : Do you have a pre-fight meal, snack or drink before a match?
Joelle : I used to dislike eating in the mornings and would feel nauseated if I took my breakfast. I do however, make an exception for a McDonald's breakfast item (before a fight for Singapore competition)  ie the Breakfast Wrap Chicken Sausage! I would always eat this before a match in Singapore. However, international competitions are unpredictable so my go-to breakfast on a competition day would always consist of a glass of milk and a piece of bread. 

Joelle Ho momentoJoelle, as a yellow belt Judoka, in her earlier days of training. Photo Credit : Joelle Ho


Q : Your favourite Judoka in the world and why?
Joelle : This will sound rather narcissistic, but my favourite Judo combatant is actually myself. I do not have a habit of watching videos of famous Judoka athletes or big Judo competitions so I am not well versed with the popular Judokas. Why I say that I am my own favourite is because, I feel so much joy fighting in my style of Judo. I feel that my throws, my style of Judo just fits me perfectly and I truly enjoy the feeling of entering my throws during a fight. Not that my style is the best, or that it is perfect, but it brings me an incredible amount of joy and wonder. I love to explore new things to do, how to improve on certain aspects, making me my favourite Judo combatant in the world. 

Q : Do you have a favourite personal momento/souvenir from your 6 years in Judo? 
Joelle : My favourite personal momento is my yellow belt. It may seem strange that even now that I am a black belt, my favourite momento is still my yellow belt, which is only the 2nd colour in the sequence (white, yellow, orange, green, blue, brown, black). For some strange reason, I am incredibly attached to this belt and I still use it when I accidentally leave my black belt elsewhere. I think it is because this was the period where I discovered my love for the sport and when I improved immensely. My yellow belt is still hanging on the door of my room to remind me of my humble origins and my passion for the sport. This simple object always makes me feel comforted and reassures me that I am on the right path, having improved so much from back then a young judoka in a yellow belt (see photo above).

SEAGames Shiai Team Formal(Left to Right) TeamSG's Judo squad comprising Shaldon Ng, Aaron Ng, Zhou Yujie, Tang Jingfang, Joelle Ho, Valerie Teo, Zhen Yuxuan, Pang Jia Cheng, Ryan Goh and Koh Yu Ze. Photo Credit : Singapore Judo Federation


The Judo competition in Cambodia 2023 will commence from 13 May onwards in Phnom Penh.

Watch the Games LIVE on Singtel TV, Singtel TV GO, Singtel CAST and meWATCH.

For the latest on our TeamSG athletes, visit