…. Focus on your training, do the best you can do, never think you are better than anybody else, we are all born equal and it is up to each of us to make the best of it. If you want to be the best in the world, give it all you have….Peter Chong
A long time practitioner of Kyokushin Karate, Peter Chong has helped with the promotion of this style of Karate in Southeastern Asia and the Middle East.
Born Chong Seh Jam, Peter Chong was born in Singapore in 1941. His father was a chef and a part-time Kung Fu instructor, who taught Southern China Boxing.
As a child, Chong was frequently bullied due to his small size. At the age of 14, he began training under his father. His father taught a group of boys from the village.
However, by 1956, due to his devout Roman Catholic faith, Chong’s father stopped teaching Kung Fu. Due to his faith, he adopted a non-violence philosophy.
Chong’s uncle took over his training. However, he seen grew tired of the endless repetition of kata and techniques he had to do. At school, he also practised Boxing and Judo.
In the 1950s Karate was still fairly new in Singapore. Chong had managed to acquire a few Karate books and was drawn to the new martial art. He was particularly interested in the fighting aspects of Karate.
After leaving school Chong worked as a salesman. It was while in this job he met a Japanese tourist who told him about the exploits of a Karate master named Mas Oyama. The tourist gave Chong Oyama’s address in Japan.
Chong managed to find a copy of Oyama’s book, ‘This is Karate‘ and was impressed by what he saw. He wrote a letter to Oyama, asking if he could train with him. He was pleasantly surprised when Oyama excepted him as a student, to train in Japan.
In 1965 Chong sailed from Singapore to Japan, to train with Oyama. He had saved enough money from his job, for a two-year stay in Japan. By this time he was married with a 15-month-old son.
Chong had not informed his wife or his father of his decision to travel to Japan. His father had lived through the brutality of the Japanese during World War II and was worried that his son would be killed if he ever travelled to the country.
Oyama’s Kyokushin Hombu was located in the Ikebukuro district of Tokyo. It was at this dojo that Chong started training.
Training at Oyama’s dojo was extremely tough. There were four classes a week with each training session lasting 3 – 4 hours. Sparring sessions were intense and violent and lasted over an hour. Injuries were no excuse for not training. Many students came and left, finding the training too tough.
The first few weeks at the dojo were extremely tough for Chong. Because of a language barrier, some students mistook his silence for rudeness. They would take it out on him, during sparring sessions. There were times when he missed his family and wondered why he had left Singapore for the training hardships he was facing. However, it was soon realised that he was a foreigner, and many of the students took the time to help him. His seniors at the dojo included Shigeru Oyama, Yasuhiko Oyama, Tadashi Nakamura, and Hideyuki Ashihara.
By 1966 Chong’s training was going well. However, he received a telegram stating that his father was seriously ill. He rushed back to Singapore by plane. Unfortunately, by the time he got home, his father had died from pneumonia and had been buried. Racked by grief, he spent the whole night at his fathers grave, mourning his loss.
Three months after his father’s death, Chong returned to Japan to resume his Kyokushin training. It should be noted that he had a very understanding wife, who was left to care for their son.
In Japan, Chong faced financial difficulties. He had several jobs. He worked at a restaurant and also taught English. He also fought in kickboxing matches for money.
By 1968 Chong had been awarded his 3rd Dan by Oyama. The following year he was asked by Oyama to attempt the 100-Man Kumite Challenge. The gruelling challenge took place at the beach, during a summer training camp held in Chiba. Fighting in the heat and on the sandy beach proved difficult. He was only able to complete 30 fights.
In 1969 Chong returned to Singapore. He opened his first dojo, where he trained his students in the same tough way he had been taught in Japan.
Gogen Yamaguchi, a master of Goju-Ryu Karate, visited Singapore in 1971. Oyama had been one of the students. Sean was shown was given the responsibility of looking after him, during his stay in Singapore.
In 1972 Chong travelled to Japan on a three-month visit to train with Oyama. During this time he was awarded his 4th Dan. Oyama appointed him the Chairman and Chief Examiner for Southeastern Asia and the Middle East.
It was around 1972 that Chong started teaching Karate and its self-defence aspects to the Special Constabulary, in Singapore. He also taught the Police Reserve Unit; the Police Radio Unit; the Singapore Armed Forces Reservist’s Association; and the 2nd Singapore Infantry Regiment.
In 1973 Chong starred in the Singaporean film, ‘Ring of Fury‘. Thought to be Singapore’s first and only martial arts film, it was inspired by Bruce Lee’s ‘Fist of Fury‘. The film was based on a real-life incident that happened in the 1960s. It tells the story of a noodle seller who learns Kung Fu, to avenge his family again some local criminals.
‘Ring of Fury‘ was rejected by Singapore’s censors. Singapore was in the process of cleaning its national image. The censors did not like the portrayal of gangsterism and vigilantism shown in the film. It was not until 2005 before the film was shown at a local film festival. The film was finally restored and shown at the 2017 Asian film archive, which celebrates the best in Asian cinema. The film is also available to watch on YouTube.
Between 8-9 March 1975, the 1st World Open Karate Tournament was held at the Budokan in Tokyo, Japan. There were competitors from 41 countries taking part. In a memorable tournament, Katsuaki Sato defeated Hatsuo Royama in the final to become champion. Joko Ninomiya finished in third place. Chong was one of the tournament’s judges.
On 5-7 July 1983, Chong travelled to Myanmar, where he taught instructors and students how to train effectively in Kyokushin. He returned to the country in June 1989, where he visited various dojos to teach.
At the 3rd World Tournament, held in Japan, Chong was invited to give a demonstration at the event.
In 1988 Chong was awarded the Pingat Bakti Masyarakat (Public Service Medal) for services to martial arts. He received the award from Ong Teng Cheong, the Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore.
As Chairman of Southeastern Asia, Chong spent much of his time promoting Karate in the region during the 1980s and 1990s. He did this through courses, seminars, and tournaments. This included visits to Myanmar, India, and other various countries in the region.
In 1992 Chong helped organise the first Singapore International Tournament. It was held at the National Stadium.
On 26 April 1994, Mas Oyama, the founder of Kyokushin Karate, died. Shokei Matsui was named as the new head of the International Karate Organisation (IKO). However, politics eventually lead to several splits in the IKO.
Matsui established the IKO International Committee (IKO IC). The committee was established to supervise the many international areas of the Kyokushin world. Chong was appointed to sit on the IKO IC Board of Directors.
1995 saw the 1st Karate Convention hosted in Singapore. The convention saw Matsui meeting with the IKO Branch Chiefs.
By 2018, Chong had become the face of Southeast Asia Kyokushin Karate. A prominent member of the IKO International Committee, he helped organise many major international tournaments. This included the All Asia Open Karate Championships, a bi-annual tournament. He also helped organise the 1st Middle East Championships, held in Kuwait in February 2000.
After many years with the IKO, Chong resigned from the organisation, on 18 September 2018. He wanted to return to the ideals of Kyokushin Karate, as taught by Mas Oyama. A week after leaving that IKO he established the International Karate Alliance Kyokushinryu. Chong was named Chairman, with Ryuko Take being named Vice-Chairman. The Alliance has many students around the world.
In April 2019 Chong was promoted to 9th Dan.
Peter Chong is the father of three children and several grandchildren. His sons, Jackie and James, are highly ranked Kyokushin practitioners. Chong has helped promote Kyokushin Karate in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. He has done this through courses and tournaments. He still travels the world with his sons conducting seminars and courses.
Away from Karate, Chong was an Assistant Superintendent with the Singapore Police Force.