edge

If You Love Them, CUFF Them Down!


My name is Adam Chin Leung Kam and I am a pioneer for the development of multiple martial arts.

I’ve been all over Trinidad, Grande Riviere to Icacos, and I’m not saying West is better than East, Central or South but I had a wonderful childhood roaming the streets of Woodbrook and the hills of Glencoe. I am cool with being “a West boy”. Certainly never went past the lighthouse. Other than when I went to the airport.

My father Brian was, is, this huge martial arts personality and did extremely well on a world level for Trinidad. He is one of very few eighth-degree shotokan karate black belts in the Western hemisphere! My title was always “Brian Chin Leung’s Son”. His shoes were huge to fill.

I realised [early] I was not a talented martial artist. I was a workhorse. Nobody had to tell me to train every single day after school for four hours. Martial arts was my legacy. That [legacy and my] hard work got me to where I am as a teacher and as an international competitor.

I have a family myself, my son Raiden and my daughter Harleigh. We had tried every single name for our son. And then my ex-wife’s cousin saw the name Raiden in a baby book and my ex-wife liked it. Now my wife had no idea but I well knew Raiden was the main character in the video game Mortal Kombat. I said, “Oh, Raiden a phenomenal name!” Right after I got his name on to the birth certificate, she met a friend, a guy, who asked what our son’s name was. He said, “What? You mean Raiden, like Mortal Kombat Raiden?” And my ex was, like, “What?”

Raiden means “lord of thunder & lightning” and he is an extremely talented martial artist. Much, much, much better than I am. He could even be better than Dad. He just turned 12.

I went to Blackman’s Primary and Fatima College. I coulda been a good student. Depends on your definition of “good”. I was never a troublemaker but I was never the sharpest tool in the academic shed. A B,C student.

I never thought I’d do well enough at A'levels to go to university, so I never applied. But, one day, lo and behold, I got an acceptance letter from York University in the mail! I thought, “How is this even possible?” I was dating a Canadian girl and she wanted me to come to Canada so bad, she applied on my behalf without telling me. My dad was fully supportive, although it cost a pretty penny.

People say a university degree is the most important thing for life and work but I believe my business administration degree was only a lagniappe. Living in Toronto on my own is really what developed me into the business entrepreneur that I am. This relaxed environment I was accustomed to in Trinidad, it was very, very fast-paced in Toronto. My thinking became such. In all my businesses, I’ve always pounded the pavement and hustled. I think that’s what university really taught me.

An education and love are first and foremost in the things you want to give your children, for sure. But, other than that, more than anything else, the ability to defend themselves is huge.

If four men with Glocks hold me up in an alley, am I handing over my wallet? That’s a difficult question to answer. I will always hand over my wallet. I can always earn more money. However, if my gut feeling says these guys are going to kill me, in my mind, I’m going to be calculating everything I can do to get out of that situation, whether it’s running, fighting, whatever. I believe in the instinct given to us by the Almighty.

Religion, politics – and, now, sexual orientation – are such sensitive topics for people. People could argue about these things for years and they’re never, never going to change.

Aged 21, I scoured Toronto for a karate dojo to start training but couldn’t find one that would improve me. My dad suggested doing something different. I went all around the city for days and then, literally a stone’s throw from my door, found this gem of an aikido school! Sensei Ward Jardine was a white Canadian, but you would only know that from his appearance. EVERYTHING he did was authentically Japanese. His dojo was such, as well. I fell in love with aikido and was able to attain my black belt in three years [instead of the usual ten, because of my karate background and workhorse approach].

I followed my father’s path: right after university, I came back to Trinidad and started teaching karate and aikido, which was new to the country. I always thought martial arts would be a side hustle, never my true career. Because martial arts were in the afternoon, I was able to get a day job. I was at BMW for years then managed a shipping company for a couple o’ years. One day, my girlfriend, who eventually became my wife – and then eventually became my ex-wife – saw how passionate I was and said, “Why not go learn something new that might help you to grow?” I found krav maga, the Israeli military system of self-defence.

I brought krav maga back to Trinidad. I went on one TV programme in the old TTT building and did one demonstration. With my aikido and karate students I had at the time and that one interview, krav maga exploded in Trinidad. Exploded! I had hundreds of students.

I had some students who all wanted to compete in MMA [Mixed Martial Arts]. I was ten years older than them at that time, about 30 or so. I coached them for the first couple’ amateur bouts, what they call “smoker fights”, backyard something or the other. I realised how horribly put together the smoker fights were, how they didn’t care about the athletes, my students.

I brought Brazilian jui-jitsu black belt Brandon Quick to Trinidad to give us a seminar in ground fighting. We became hooked. We started to grow as a group of grapplers together but I was always the head coach. I was thinking so much about starting my own league, I had a name for it: CUFF; Caribbean Ultimate Fist Fighting. A friend and I each invested $100K and went full steam ahead.

Our first show at Spalkers, the old Coconuts nightclub, was packed out. No seats, everyone standing and no space between audience and cage. The energy was so high. We threw a second, third. At the fourth, we had upwards of 1,600 people at Pier 1. I knew we had something then.

The last CUFF event was about two-and-a-half years ago. We lost a year-and-a-half because of Covid. We had planned four events in 2020 instead of the usual one per year. Two in Trinidad, one in Guyana and one in Toronto. The brand and company are still there, just inactive at the moment. Once we get over Covid, I think we can do something again.

CUFF is the only Caribbean MMA promotion that has had athletes go to the biggest MMA stage in the world. About six of our athletes are now active in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. That was a tremendous, tremendous feeling. But, by the time I became proficient in grappling, I was already 35 years old. An OLD man in that sport. To be a promoter, a coach and an athlete at that age was way too much at the time.

I get in the cage at our ultimate fighting events. But only as the announcer.

When you go into cage-fighting, you understand there’s the possibility of a lot of bruises, tearing of tendons, breaking something, an arm, a joint, a nose. Bleeding is definitely part of the sport. However, the LONG-TERM effects of the sport are way, way, way, way safer than boxing, with the constant headshots and the ten seconds to recover and go again. In MMA, if you’re struggling or get hit hard enough, they stop the fight.

I can see why BC Pires might think saying boxing is worse than MMA is like saying dropping a hammer on your toe is not as bad as dropping a sledgehammer on your toe but I don’t see it that way. There is a lot of grappling involved in MMA which gives the opportunity to “tap out”. There’s no real damage done to them when they lose by tap out.

Tattoos are part of me, like my gi. Tattoos have always been very beautiful to me. I got my first one when I was about 19. It was more a rebellious move than anything else. But tattoos are very infectious as well, too. When you get one, you want to get more. It became so much part of my identity, people tell me they don’t even see my tattoos any more. It just looks like me.

To me, a Trini is a free spirit who lives a life of relaxation. Regardless of what position we are put in, we always believe things will be okay.

Trinidad & Tobago is my home, yes, but, to me, it’s a paradise. Put aside the couple o’ bad things, we have so many wonderful things. Not just the landscape, the beaches, the beautiful vegetation. The multicultural side of our people, the different blend of personalities [is like the blend of different spices in our cooking].

If You Love Them, CUFF Them Down!


My name is Adam Chin Leung Kam and I am a pioneer for the development of multiple martial arts.

I’ve been all over Trinidad, Grande Riviere to Icacos, and I’m not saying West is better than East, Central or South but I had a wonderful childhood roaming the streets of Woodbrook and the hills of Glencoe. I am cool with being “a West boy”. Certainly never went past the lighthouse. Other than when I went to the airport.

My father Brian was, is, this huge martial arts personality and did extremely well on a world level for Trinidad. He is one of very few eighth-degree shotokan karate black belts in the Western hemisphere! My title was always “Brian Chin Leung’s Son”. His shoes were huge to fill.

I realised [early] I was not a talented martial artist. I was a workhorse. Nobody had to tell me to train every single day after school for four hours. Martial arts was my legacy. That [legacy and my] hard work got me to where I am as a teacher and as an international competitor.

I have a family myself, my son Raiden and my daughter Harleigh. We had tried every single name for our son. And then my ex-wife’s cousin saw the name Raiden in a baby book and my ex-wife liked it. Now my wife had no idea but I well knew Raiden was the main character in the video game Mortal Kombat. I said, “Oh, Raiden a phenomenal name!” Right after I got his name on to the birth certificate, she met a friend, a guy, who asked what our son’s name was. He said, “What? You mean Raiden, like Mortal Kombat Raiden?” And my ex was, like, “What?”

Raiden means “lord of thunder & lightning” and he is an extremely talented martial artist. Much, much, much better than I am. He could even be better than Dad. He just turned 12.

I went to Blackman’s Primary and Fatima College. I coulda been a good student. Depends on your definition of “good”. I was never a troublemaker but I was never the sharpest tool in the academic shed. A B,C student.

I never thought I’d do well enough at A'levels to go to university, so I never applied. But, one day, lo and behold, I got an acceptance letter from York University in the mail! I thought, “How is this even possible?” I was dating a Canadian girl and she wanted me to come to Canada so bad, she applied on my behalf without telling me. My dad was fully supportive, although it cost a pretty penny.

People say a university degree is the most important thing for life and work but I believe my business administration degree was only a lagniappe. Living in Toronto on my own is really what developed me into the business entrepreneur that I am. This relaxed environment I was accustomed to in Trinidad, it was very, very fast-paced in Toronto. My thinking became such. In all my businesses, I’ve always pounded the pavement and hustled. I think that’s what university really taught me.

An education and love are first and foremost in the things you want to give your children, for sure. But, other than that, more than anything else, the ability to defend themselves is huge.

If four men with Glocks hold me up in an alley, am I handing over my wallet? That’s a difficult question to answer. I will always hand over my wallet. I can always earn more money. However, if my gut feeling says these guys are going to kill me, in my mind, I’m going to be calculating everything I can do to get out of that situation, whether it’s running, fighting, whatever. I believe in the instinct given to us by the Almighty.

Religion, politics – and, now, sexual orientation – are such sensitive topics for people. People could argue about these things for years and they’re never, never going to change.

Aged 21, I scoured Toronto for a karate dojo to start training but couldn’t find one that would improve me. My dad suggested doing something different. I went all around the city for days and then, literally a stone’s throw from my door, found this gem of an aikido school! Sensei Ward Jardine was a white Canadian, but you would only know that from his appearance. EVERYTHING he did was authentically Japanese. His dojo was such, as well. I fell in love with aikido and was able to attain my black belt in three years [instead of the usual ten, because of my karate background and workhorse approach].

I followed my father’s path: right after university, I came back to Trinidad and started teaching karate and aikido, which was new to the country. I always thought martial arts would be a side hustle, never my true career. Because martial arts were in the afternoon, I was able to get a day job. I was at BMW for years then managed a shipping company for a couple o’ years. One day, my girlfriend, who eventually became my wife – and then eventually became my ex-wife – saw how passionate I was and said, “Why not go learn something new that might help you to grow?” I found krav maga, the Israeli military system of self-defence.

I brought krav maga back to Trinidad. I went on one TV programme in the old TTT building and did one demonstration. With my aikido and karate students I had at the time and that one interview, krav maga exploded in Trinidad. Exploded! I had hundreds of students.

I had some students who all wanted to compete in MMA [Mixed Martial Arts]. I was ten years older than them at that time, about 30 or so. I coached them for the first couple’ amateur bouts, what they call “smoker fights”, backyard something or the other. I realised how horribly put together the smoker fights were, how they didn’t care about the athletes, my students.

I brought Brazilian jui-jitsu black belt Brandon Quick to Trinidad to give us a seminar in ground fighting. We became hooked. We started to grow as a group of grapplers together but I was always the head coach. I was thinking so much about starting my own league, I had a name for it: CUFF; Caribbean Ultimate Fist Fighting. A friend and I each invested $100K and went full steam ahead.

Our first show at Spalkers, the old Coconuts nightclub, was packed out. No seats, everyone standing and no space between audience and cage. The energy was so high. We threw a second, third. At the fourth, we had upwards of 1,600 people at Pier 1. I knew we had something then.

The last CUFF event was about two-and-a-half years ago. We lost a year-and-a-half because of Covid. We had planned four events in 2020 instead of the usual one per year. Two in Trinidad, one in Guyana and one in Toronto. The brand and company are still there, just inactive at the moment. Once we get over Covid, I think we can do something again.

CUFF is the only Caribbean MMA promotion that has had athletes go to the biggest MMA stage in the world. About six of our athletes are now active in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. That was a tremendous, tremendous feeling. But, by the time I became proficient in grappling, I was already 35 years old. An OLD man in that sport. To be a promoter, a coach and an athlete at that age was way too much at the time.

I get in the cage at our ultimate fighting events. But only as the announcer.

When you go into cage-fighting, you understand there’s the possibility of a lot of bruises, tearing of tendons, breaking something, an arm, a joint, a nose. Bleeding is definitely part of the sport. However, the LONG-TERM effects of the sport are way, way, way, way safer than boxing, with the constant headshots and the ten seconds to recover and go again. In MMA, if you’re struggling or get hit hard enough, they stop the fight.

I can see why BC Pires might think saying boxing is worse than MMA is like saying dropping a hammer on your toe is not as bad as dropping a sledgehammer on your toe but I don’t see it that way. There is a lot of grappling involved in MMA which gives the opportunity to “tap out”. There’s no real damage done to them when they lose by tap out.

Tattoos are part of me, like my gi. Tattoos have always been very beautiful to me. I got my first one when I was about 19. It was more a rebellious move than anything else. But tattoos are very infectious as well, too. When you get one, you want to get more. It became so much part of my identity, people tell me they don’t even see my tattoos any more. It just looks like me.

To me, a Trini is a free spirit who lives a life of relaxation. Regardless of what position we are put in, we always believe things will be okay.

Trinidad & Tobago is my home, yes, but, to me, it’s a paradise. Put aside the couple o’ bad things, we have so many wonderful things. Not just the landscape, the beaches, the beautiful vegetation. The multicultural side of our people, the different blend of personalities [is like the blend of different spices in our cooking].