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Health and wellness

How meditation empowers Hong Kong MMA great Alain Ngalani, gentle giant who can knock a rival out in 11 seconds

Four-time Muay Thai heavyweight world champion Alain Ngalani on keeping a clear head, staying positive and treating a cage fight as fun – ‘like going to dance with action’

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 January, 2018, 6:17pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 January, 2018, 7:32pm

It is hard to imagine the 103kg fighter Alain Ngalani was once a victim of bullying, but that is how he originally hooked into martial arts.

At the age of five, the Cameroon native was getting beaten up, so his mother encouraged him to take up judo, an experience that morphed into a lifetime love of contact sports.

He is a specialist in a number of martial-arts – including Kyokushin, Shotokan and Muay Thai. Winning four African kick boxing championship titles fired up his ambition to become world champion, which eventually led him to Hong Kong in 2001.

Since then, he has established Impakt MMA and fitness centres in the city, and competed in mixed martial arts (MMA) fights to become world champion.

“The Panther” is known for pummelling opponents quickly into submission judging from his ONE Championship fights, including a bout in 2013 with Mahmoud Hassan that lasted just 31 seconds, and famously annihilating Japan’s Hideki Sekine in 11 seconds in September in Jakarta.

That fight set a record that went viral on social media, partly because viewers didn’t expect such skill or speed in heavyweight bouts.

Outside the cage, Ngalani defies stereotypes, particularly regarding his age, 42 years, and his demeanour. Ngalani says a martial artist need not be a mean-spirited bully, and that he “turned into a much calmer, better person”.

Hong Kong fighter Alain ‘The Panther’ Ngalani makes One Championship history with brutal 11-second knockout

He got into trouble not for hurting others, but for defending them. “Having experienced bullying, it made me understand and want to stop other people being bullied.”

Describe your daily fitness regime.

I’m constantly exercising. I’m never really off. My philosophy is: if you eat every day, you should exercise every day. I’m in my off season and festive season, too, so my training is lighter.

My daily training routine is on, even when I travel. Even if am stuck in a hotel room, I will exercise. Even if you lock me in a bathroom, I will exercise. I’ll start on the spot: squats, sit-ups, plank, sit-ups again, plank again. I can do 30 sit-ups then one-minute plank and all again three or four times.

How does your typical day begin?

Meditation is part of my awakening habit. Before I sleep, I take the time to be grateful for the day and do a short calm prayer. When I wake up, I sit on the edge of the bed and focus on the calm and quiet surroundings. I perform some breathing exercises to allow my body and mind to sync and prepare myself for the rest of the day.

I meditate every morning for 15 minutes. I feel empowered, refreshed and light afterwards. I started this a few years ago … it doesn’t have to take place in an extraordinary position or environment, it can be done anywhere. I’d do it before an exam or competition [to focus my mind].

What do you usually eat?

I eat six meals a day – mostly three big meals and three small meals in between, adding up to around 5,000 calories. A typical meal would be rice with spinach and chicken breast.

I don’t promote extreme diets. I’m relaxed about eating any type of food so long as I cut down on sugar. Good fat is acceptable. Drink lots of water and exercise daily.

I love a good curry, chicken or mushroom soup, and a plate of boiled or fried vegetables with spices. My motto is: if you eat, sleep, and go to the toilet daily, you should exercise daily as well.

Conor McGregor is a top UFC fighter at 29. Ronda Rousey’s MMA prime was throughout her 20s and she retired in her late 20s. Boxer Floyd Mayweather retired at 40. Your career is sizzling in your 40s. Do you train harder to beat younger opponents?

I’m not old. But I’m older, older than yesterday and the day before but I don’t feel old. I feel older than yesterday but nothing has really changed.

Yesterday I could do 100 push ups, today I could do 100 push ups, tomorrow, I will still do 100 push ups. Yesterday I ran 10km, today I ran 10km, and tomorrow I will do the same thing.

‘I don’t feel my age, so don’t tell me,’ says history-making 42-year-old MMA knockout king Alain Ngalani

The age thing, people throw it in my face but I don’t really see it, and psychologically it would affect me if I doubted myself. The fact is, I’m still doing the exact same thing, if not doing better than what I was doing when I was young.

You learned judo because you were being bullied at school. How did it help?

Martial arts is about learning confidence. I learned to defend myself, confidence, and to look at people and inspire that confidence so you don’t get abused and you stand up for yourself.

Bullying is part of a kid’s life because of your size or colour, or one reason or another. You need to empower yourself and get through it. It was not just about martial arts, but how you want to portray yourself in your entire life.

Stop looking for excuses. Put 110 per cent in and you will do it. It’s all about how bad you want it.
Alain Ngalani

How do you portray yourself?

As someone joyful, helpful and loving, who likes to focus on the good [rather] than the bad. I like to make any situation acceptable.

How do you ramp up your intensity from Mr Nice Guy to a beast in the cage ready to annihilate your competitor?

It’s a state of mind. I take it easy and say to myself, ‘I want to have fun’, so I try not to stress myself. When in the cage, I’m having fun. It’s like going to dance with action. You switch off, dance and do your thing.

Have you any advice for potential MMA fighters?

Look at me, I had family resistance. I had a lot of obstacles in my life. But guess what? I did it and became world champion. I have a business, too. I made it.

It comes back to what my parents said to me early on: if you want to do something, put 110 per cent of all you got into it. Stop looking for excuses. Put 110 per cent in and you will do it.

It’s all about how bad you want it. I had nothing, no money. I didn’t even know how to get to the next destination, but eventually did. I got there because I wanted it.

‘Burmese Python’ Aung La Nsang stops Alain ‘The Panther’ Ngalani

Do you plan to make Hong Kong your home?

Hong Kong is already my home. I represent Hong Kong and love my city. My kids were born here.