In 1964, television series The Samurai — the first foreign TV sensation from Japan — left an indelible impression on children in Australia.

Mr Peter Robertson was one of them.

He was captivated by the action and the beautifully choreographed fight scenes. This motivated him to learn martial arts when he was six.

Now 49, he is a martial arts instructor and owner of local mixed martial arts school Zen Do Ka Elite Karate and Kickboxing (ZDK Elite).

Classes are by appointment only and the locations are flexible. Venues include Physique 360 Gym at Bukit Timah Road and The Wrestling Federation Singapore Gym at Aljunied Road.

He used to work with people with physical disabilities. Despite being an avid practitioner all this while, he only decided to start a martial arts school when he moved to Singapore three years ago when he married a Singaporean.

He says: “Having always had the desire to teach and to help people improve themselves, I decided I would introduce the art of Zen Do Ka to Singaporeans for free.”

His first free kickboxing class was publicised through a local martial arts forum. From just two participants, his classes gradually grew to more than 15 students per session.

Encouraged by the response from the participants, he decided to make this his full-time occupation after he obtained his permanent residency in Singapore.

With the help of his wife Veronica Zuzarte, a public relations director, he set up ZDK Elite in September 2009.

The art of Zen Do Ka

Zen Do Ka (ZDK) is a martial arts style he developed over many years and is a mix of freestyle karate, kickboxing and mixed martial arts.

“ZDK is a real-world mixed martial art with a karate-style colour belt system,” he says.

“It utilises self-defence techniques adopted in military tactics and embraces elements of Jeet Kune Do (a style developed by Bruce Lee), karate, taekwondo, judo, Muay Thai and several other fighting styles.”

Having studied 16 different styles of martial arts, what he likes about mixed martial arts is that it embraces individuals’ talents and physical limitations while imparting a certain discipline.

He feels that the beauty of this particular art is that it incorporates various styles of body combat and allows the practitioner flexibility in executing his moves.

Ever eager to improve his skills and to refine ZDK with new techniques, he is currently learning wrestling.

“Other than keeping myself fit, I want to constantly learn, improve myself and do what I think enriches not just my life, but the lives of my students,” he adds.

His classes typically have 10 to 15 students. He also teaches at three other public gyms as well as at private clubs and international schools.

He also teaches children martial arts. The youngest student in his Karate Kidz class is a four-year-old boy.

“I personally love teaching children. You get to be creative in the way you impart the moves but there is more,” says Mr Robertson, a father of two.

“I have seen shy kids coming out of their shell, weak ones becoming strong, angry ones becoming calm, clumsy ones becoming more co-ordinated and that is extremely rewarding.”

In the beginning

Mr Robertson recalled that when he started the school, there was hostility from martial art traditionalists who felt threatened by the rise in popularity of modern mixed martial arts.

“ZDK is unique here. While it fills a gap in the market and appeals to modernist martial artists, no one had heard of or taught freestyle martial arts locally before my school started,” he says.

It took him a while to understand how things work in Singapore. Today, people have also come to accept what he does.

He represents Singapore in The World Kickboxing Federation, The World Karate and Kickboxing Council and is the founder of The World Zen Do Ka Karate and Kickboxing Association.

For the future, he hopes to groom flexible and progressive martial artists as ZDK instructors, to open more gyms and to further establish freestyle martial arts in Singapore.