The Story of a Z Decader called Daniel a.k.a. Bobby
Bobby (Daniel Thio ) and his first days at Z in 2003, and being knighted in 2005.
“My name is FLAME!” the young boy looks up at me and says with a big cheeky triumphant grin, “and you are Maestro Ace!!” This small boy caught my attention for his feisty personality in the class, and someone whom I would interact with on and off over the next 10 years.
Better known today as Danny a.k.a. Bobby, this boy is 18 this year, and has been with Z for over 10 years! He was just 7 plus when he joined Z Fencing. Through the years, we have been fortunate to be part of his development, with a growing admiration of “FLAME” and the person he is turning out to be.
You see, in those earlier years, all our children were encouraged to adopt a nickname, a sort of alter ego, because many of them came to fencing after reading or watching their favourite superheroes swashbuckling away.
As such, mine was Ace (as leader of the club), and Bobby’s was Flame! Viking is Maestro James (the veteran fighter not afraid of anything except the heat!), Autumn Leaf is Ms. Teo (the superwoman and key pillar of strength for Z). And Mak, our fourth co-founder is Ice (the always cool leftie unfazed by any sort of challenges).
We at Z were creating another world for them, where they could safely duel away as their favourite superhero!
This in reality, was not far from the truth, as we had always believed that our mission at Z Fencing was to inspire heroes of their time - by nurturing men and women of honour, grace and chivalry through the noble art of fencing.
We were unlike perhaps a typical fencing club, as we celebrated these values with as much reverence as any results our fencers had achieved. This together with the personal mastery values of focus, discipline and determination, was what Z stood for. And the annual Z Gala was a time when we presented our “Value Awards” to those of our fencers who exemplified these values – as a tangible reminder of what we believed in and valued above all else.
Through the years, I have had a chance to speak with many of our fencers’ parents, and they all tell me that this is what they find most special about Z, and what they most valued.
And so, as we begin the countdown to our 2014 Z Gala in September, we turn back our attention to why we started Z in the first place, with a special emphasis on recognizing all those whom we have had an opportunity to grow together for the past 10 years. And that brings us back to Bobby the Flame....
十年磨一剑 (Shí nián mó yī jiàn – 10 years to forge a sword)
Bobby (top left), Nicole (middle)
As young FLAME grew, he sometimes struggled in fencing, due to his inability to control his finer motor skills because of his larger physique, being beaten sometimes in practice by the girls who had an early maturation advantage and better coordination (several future national fencers being some of his classmates!). It must be have been humbling to say the least.
As he approached his teenage years, seeing some of his more talented friends make it to the junior national team must have not been easy either. Bobby was a good fencer, but he was not a natural athlete. He had to work hard, and it was tough to go home each time with either a top 16 or top 8 ranking, missing the podium and the medal many a times. But he kept coming to the club and he kept training. (He did win the U14 Team Gold Medal at the Minimes for the record!)
His love for fencing, and his determination to persevere, saw him sticking to it. His mum Annie once told me, “Bobby loves fencing and his aim is to make it to the national team.” But they never once got nervous, nor jumped in to intervene. They always gave him the space to “do his thing” with fencing – it was his world “to deal with and to grow in.” Their support, as far as I could observe, was unconditional (except perhaps as long as his academics kept up!!!)
At Z, our coaches Joseph and James, also never gave up on him, and slowly but surely Bobby grew into a physically fit and mentally strong fencer. He had the support of all his teammates and TEAM Z.
In the 2011/12 fencing season, nine years after he had started learning to fence, Bobby finally made it to the national team roster.
Part of Team Z Lighthouse with Coaches James (left most) and Coach Joseph (right most)
As my former coach had said to me “It takes 10 years to forge a sword” – referring to how long it takes to groom a champion. Our work takes over a decade to see results. In the interim, it’s about building that “capacity” - the “engine of character” - that will eventually reveal a strong person and “fire up” his true potential. For those who go through a tougher journey, they will reap the rewards of becoming stronger than others, who perhaps had it easier.
Nothing is more gratifying when we have had the opportunity to be with a student and fencer for over a decade. It’s a chance to see some of the fruits of our labour and their hard work all come together. For this we are thankful for the trust, believe and support of the parents.
(A birthday cake that showed just how much Z was a part of Bobby’s life)
Last year we celebrated Z’s 20th birthday. This year we would like to bring the focus back to what’s most important at Z, and that of course is our students, and acknowledge those fencers and their families for giving us the trust to be a part of their lives and their most important formative years – a toast to our loyal Z Decaders!
Our Loyal Z Decaders!
Daniel Thio ‘2004
Nicole Wong ‘2004
Kyle Saw '2004
Graeme Saw '2004
Ariel Lim '2004
Chan Wei Yu '2004
Gordon Koh '2004
Guo Jing Yee '2004
Issac Chu '2004
Mark Loh '2004
(Each of them has a story to tell and we hope to tell them someday soon )
- We will be holding a ceremony to honour our Z Decaders -
Due to his O Levels, Bobby again had to take a step back from fencing, and lost his ranking on the national team. But as he tackles his A Levels this year, I overheard that Bobby was already plotting again what he wanted to be in the National Service, so that he would get a chance to train more and make it back to the national team, this time the senior team! At this time, he is within top 10 of the Senior Ranks and needs a top 8 ranking to join the national team roster. This is the Bobby or Flame as we have come to respect. His flame for fencing never dies!
I have always taken an interest in Bobby cause of my belief that “will surmounts talent.” I knew he would have a more challenging time given his coordination issues, given his size and given his athletic abilities. But I had faith Bobby would surprise us all, because of his love and passion for fencing, and that fiery spirit deep within him which would “carry him” through any seemingly insurmountable challenges.
You know, I believe we all never stray very far from our “alter ego” that we imagined for ourselves when younger. Somehow it leaves an imprint on us and stays deep in us. I have always said, our work is to unearth the hero in each, so they can go on to make their mark.
Our Z Lighthouse Team growing into fine young men and women
To Bobby, I know his “FLAME” will continue to burn brightly within him. He is well loved by all his teammates and has their respect. He may not be the best fencer we have (yet!), but in our eyes, he is more than that. He is someone who inspires the best from us.
That is the true mark of a hero and of a leader – to inspire and help others be the best that they can be. I believe without a doubt, Bobby will blaze a trail in his career and life. I am looking forward 20-30 years from now when he, and many others of Z, become heroes of their time. They will certainly make their mark in whatever they do for themselves, for their families, and for society. Flame on Bobby a.k.a. Daniel!
Please help share Bobby’s story with your child. I feel we can all be inspired by it. If you have a story to share about your child’s development at Z, or any feedback to Bobby’s story, I would love to hear from you as always. (email@example.com)
Wong Toon King “TK” (aka ACE)
On behalf of the Maestros of Z Fencing
Coming up later this week will be Part 2 of the Founders Message - The Nomination List of the Value Award Winners. Stay tuned!
**Thanks again especially to the group of parents from our older batch of fencers for gifting us that wonderful birthday cake and the Z-logo muffins, and to Suen for singing the inspiring song “When You Believe” at our grand finale!
Our 20th anniversary birthday cake!