Teacher and wrestling athlete, possessed of Braun and brain, Don Eu is a template of positive masculinity that August men should aspire to
Modern western culture often tends to stereotype Warriors and Poets as belonging to distinct, and opposing groups: Warriors are portrayed as alpha males while poets are essentially culturally refined nerds.
Yet, the advent of oral history paints a different story, one where poetry and war are complementary pursuits. Honour and virtue are on display wherever men are in peril. Experiencing brutality of man makes one contemplative, in fact, history often tells the stories of great generals who devote their spare time to philosophy, wondering what it all means.
In this, there is no doubt that Don Eu is an exemplar. In streetwear garb, his quiet demeanour and muscular physique speaks to nothing more than his warrior-persona. Serving his National Service as a military platoon sergeant, his many accolades, first as a Specialist trainee and later as the Best Instructor in Basic Military Training School, set him on the path to becoming a teacher.
As a teacher, Eu is responsible for shaping next generation minds and even then, self-reflection of his conduct would guide the evolution of his professional career. Teaching turned out to be very different from being an NS instructor. Think like Rambo and every solution can be found in greater discipline and firepower.
But when you’re truly a Warrior-Poet, think King David, or the fearless Pashtun Khushal Khan Khattak, the Great Warrior of Afghanistan (or more recently Ip Man), then patience and empathy become invaluable virtues in training our teens to harness and embrace mankind’s physicality and intellect during the most crucial stage of their development.
Racing triathlons for six years, Eu realised it was an insular pursuit that didn’t allow him to benefit anyone else but himself and so he decided to study Krav Maga, an Israeli fighting system known for its focus on real-world situations and its extreme efficiency. Derived from a combination of aikido, boxing, wrestling, judo, and karate, this multi-disciplinary technique functions as an allegory to Eu’s own evolution as brute and gentleman.
In Biblical scholarship, “Blessed are the Meek” is often mistranslated to mean “submissive”, however, the Septuagint Greek refers to πραεῖς or praus, as quite literally “a warhorse that has been broken in”: A warhorse that has been meeked is one that controls its skill and strength until its master orders the unleashing of power.
In the words of Professor Jordan Peterson, “there’s no value in someone who is submissive but when you’re a gentleman who can harness his aggression for the good of others, then you’re a force to be reckoned with.” Training himself to the competency of being an instructor to empower other with knowledge of self-defence had always been at the core of his own martial explorations.
Pre-Covid, Eu mentored underprivileged teens at his school to provide them with an outlet to develop their mental strength, values and confidence through martial arts.
Eventually, his own journey into competitive wrestling representing Singapore was also happenstance.
Competing in combat sports to test his own self-defence techniques against motivated, athletic, and skilled opponents, he was not only able to impart more realistic and tested techniques with observed evidence and experiences, his relative success in the arenas of Mixed Martial Arts, Brazilian Ju Jitsu and Muay Thai led him to a wrestling competition by circumstance.
Defeated by strong athletic wrestlers, he took his shock loss like a gentleman and was hooked — convinced that wrestling was the toughest of all combat sports. On his rare defeat, Eu tells August Man, “I was exhausted. Nothing worked. I was very intrigued as I had never been so tired and outclassed before. I had done well in other combat sports, but I knew there was nothing to do but lose since I was the underdog, so I went all out.”
It is with this uncommon fighting spirit and indefatigable attitude, that we find ourselves drawn to this svelte titan and in him, we discovered that it was not so much that we lost our faith in human greatness as much as in the “Rise of Skywalker” era of flawless heroes who can do everything and fail at nothing that we altered our cultural notion of what greatness is, losing sight that our journey is a path of continuous learning.
Indeed, true power is one where strength is matched with enlightened wisdom, very much like the Buffalo in Native American symbolism.
In shaping the next generations’ minds, what are some of the lessons and attributes you hope to impart and why?
I hope to impart critical thinking skills so they can navigate the increasingly complex world. In addition, I feel that this generation isn’t as resilient and able to overcome setbacks. So I hope to impart the virtues of resilience so that they can learn to fail in small controlled situations so as to achieve big successes in life.
What drew you to combat sports?
I believe that “true courage is like a muscle. We must regularly exercise it.” Also, combat sports exposes and develops character as you must fight past extreme physical pain to achieve your goals.
I understand that you consider yourself a student of humanist philosophy as well, what do you believe are some of the most pressing social issues of our time?
As a student of philosophy, the most pressing social issue to me is the promotion of scientific trust. In the Covid-19 era, we see much progress and lives be compromised by conspiracy theories, a lack of critical thinking and distrust in scientific evidence and advice. We need to improve scientific trust and literacy so that we can act upon more informed decisions to solve pressing global issues such as pandemics and global warming.
A warrior and a scholar, is this the model that all men should follow and why?
Being an athlete and a scholar is indeed a life that all should work hard to achieve. Because our mind and body are perhaps the only two things that we truly own so we should develop these two faculties to the best that we can achieve.
What would the Don Eu today tell the Don who was growing up?
The “Don” of the past often found himself bored and unsure of meaningful things to do. So the “Don” of today would advise him to reflect and decide on a meaningful activity. The “Don” of the past would also have to learn to embrace structure in order to apply himself accordingly. The “Don” of today would also try to guide the “Don” of the past to develop his mental strength and tenacity. Looking back, I often lacked this and did not push myself sufficiently in challenging situations.
(Photos: Allen Tan; Styling: Amos Chin)