Serious Fun: Martial Arts And Nerf Wars Keep This Ex-CSM And His Family Together
STORY: Ng Kai
04 January 2023
For many of us, our childhood involved our parents making us learn a specific skill or two that they promised would help us grow physically and mentally - swimming lessons, anyone?
Well, for one encik - an ex-Company Sergeant Major (CSM) who retired in 2006 after close to 20 years in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) - martial arts was that skill of choice, as it was something he could teach his children and correct them on the spot.
Fast-forward to today, and Mohamad Munir bin Rohani aka "Hosan" (a nickname he acquired in the military, and a portmanteau of "ho", Hokkien for "yes", and "san", a contracted form of "sergeant") has gone from martial arts and, in a way, back to "military missions".
Every week, Thursday to Sunday nights, he gathers his brood of five aged between 13 and 21. They gear up in military garb, arm themselves with cool AF NERF blasters, and head out (mostly to Tampines Quarry but also to various parks and their Pasir Ris neighbourhood) to tackle "operations" using military tactics and formations.
The group, who call themselves G.H.O.S.T., look so much like the real deal that vigilant members of the public have even called the police on them several times, sometimes with comic outcomes.
The main reason behind their unique family activity? Hosan sums it up succinctly with a catchphrase: "A family that plays together, stays together". Suffice to say, this simple philosophy has proven to be a success, as we notice how there's nary a quarrel among the sextet during our interview. Ho seh lah, Hosan!
We speak to the 55-year-old "Team Leader" - now a freelance adult educator who conducts Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications programmes - about navigating through life with valuable skills and useful tactics, and the importance of defence and family.
Your get-up so legit, people called the police on you ah! LOL any memorable encounters with law enforcement?
It was my fault. I geared them up, because I was thinking, you know, people have cosplay, why can’t we wear this? Plus the equipment is for safety, all the way to the vest. But now that my children are grown up, they look very serious (even with the cute blasters!), especially when they gear up with their jungle hats and skeleton masks.
Once, we went to play in Pasir Ris Maze in our gear, and we were having fun. Suddenly, a policewoman outside the maze said, "Can you please come out? It's very difficult to go find you inside this maze." We came out and there were two patrol cars outside. My children took off their hats and masks, and without the gear, they really look like kids. And the police really looked like 😐 - like, "I came here for this?"
So the police apologised and said, "Uh, pakcik, can you display your toy blasters?" And they looked at the toys, and looked at our faces. You could see they were like, "Huh? This is what was complained about?" It was so cute 🤣
The police told us: "Next time, you call us when you want to play here. So if people complain, we can match."
As with every military team, you guys have an impressive code name: G.H.O.S.T. What does it stand for?
Guts and Honour to Overcome Situations Tactfully. Currently, there are terms like "Ghost Recon" - all these sound damn cool lah. So we were thinking, maybe we use the word "ghost" [as an acronym].
The word "Guts": To me, everything is about guts, like stepping into a new job. For my kids, some are about to do national service and some are going to college. All these require some form of guts.
And I told them before: "If you don't know what honour is, you will behave differently." Everything we do is based on honouring yourself or others - that will determine how you talk to somebody and how you give respect.
When we [play as] "G.H.O.S.T.", we do gameplays that require us to think together as one. And if anyone quarrels, then that wouldn't be an honourable way to approach this. That's why the acronym stands for "Guts and Honour to Overcome Situations Tactfully". Whatever we do has to be done tactfully, even when we are right. And when they enter the working world, everything has to be tactful. So why not [practice] it now, right?
How did the idea for G.H.O.S.T. and the whole military get-up come about?
I went for cupping. After I went, I realised, "Hey, got energy ah, let's go hiking!" When we were hiking, that's when I got to see the way [my kids] walked - like they walking in Orchard Road leh. So I told them, I'm gonna appoint one to walk in front, one by the side, and one behind. And what is each person's job? So now, they were not only walking with purpose, but they also each had a job. And from there, it progressed.
I realised as we went through the vegetation, that if I were still in the military, I would know what to do, but now I was moving with family, so [I had to think] about safety equipment.
When we entered Tampines Quarry, we realised it's not safe because we were going through mud and encountering broken trees sticking out from the ground. I thought: "Why don’t we get an anti-stab vest?" And that's when the vest came into the picture.
There were also cobwebs and stuff, so why don’t we also cover our faces? That's how the get-up became what it is today.
Encik, thank you for your service! You've dealt with the notion of "defence" most of your life. Has it meant different things to you, as an SAF regular then, and now as a father of five?
[During my service] defence was about doing whatever I was instructed to do, in the most proficient way that I could that would help our country. Defence to me now is the ability to protect the family from harm. Too much influence nowadays and too many opinions! Defence, to me, is protecting the beliefs and the virtue of family.
And that's the best part: This is a family. So they talk, they laugh, they joke. And I am happiest seeing my children doing all that. Honestly, I've never seen them quarrel! That means I must be doing something correctly, right? And this togetherness is working. We create discipline and integrity together, not military discipline. No sediya or senang diri. I never approached this like the military. They will tell you I never. No push up, nothing. This is family, you know!
G.H.O.S.T. recently did a showcase for People's Association (PA) and Pertapis. Plus you post many videos on social media. What's the message you want to impart to others?
For Pertapis, it was more of a team integrity session. So we actually taught the girls how to fire the blasters and how to move in formation. Whereas for PA, the Residents' Committee (RC) here initiated it - they realised there were people playing this. I feel it was to calm [the residents] here, you know, don't be so alarmed. So that's why we went and showed off our game plays.
The intention of putting ourselves on social media was not to gain popularity, but to show that this is a family activity. And I'm taking this opportunity to remind all families now that your biggest asset is your children. It's up to you what you want them to be, and there's always a big reward. It may not come now, but years from now.
Play with them, it doesn't matter what game. I see it in my children - this maturity is because we played together. You cannot force a kid to grow up. But when you force them to play together and accept some responsibility, they will start to change.
Get acquainted with G.H.O.S.T. (and their thoughts on their Team Leader)
Mohamad Luqman bin Mohamad Munir, 13
Code name: Shadow
Role: Shadow of Team Leader; communications specialist
"I help with the equipment and sometimes the tech. It's really nice to have such an experienced and cool father. Because you know how when you're young, you have a wild imagination. You can make up a character with a really cool background. And to me, I think that my dad really fits the role of that really cool character. He has all the qualities of the cool character in a show that you really enjoy."
Mohamad Afnan bin Mohamad Munir, 16
Code name: Big Foot
Role: Equipment specialist
"I think [my dad is] very inspiring because he has a lot of experience, with pretty much everything, including family, career and more. Because of his experience and everything he's shared with me, I'm inspired to do what he's done; maybe even do more things!"
Siti Hadijah binte Mohamad Munir, 16
Code name: Titos
Role: Safety Specialist
"I think it's very nice there's someone there to keep us in place, because I feel like the world has its grey areas. It's just nice having someone to keep us in the right direction. Even when he's garang, he has his own reasons, and he always makes sure to love us after that. I'm well-loved lah."
Ahmad Abdullah bin Mohamad Munir, 19
Code name: JagJag
Role: Ops and intel specialist
"I think he's a very special character. Like what Shadow said just now - to have a person that is very inspiring is very important. Especially to me, to have someone I can engage myself with and to see that I want to be like this guy; I want to match up to him. I wanna do what he does because not only is he a good soldier, but he's also a good father. He's also a good teacher.
"He is actually one of the reasons why I wanted to pursue teaching, before I thought about what I wanted to do with my life. He already gave me a lot of exposure to what it’s like to teach, what it's like to support and train others. He also gives me a lot of opportunities to guide people, to teach all kinds of people, and to work with all kinds of people. That's something that I will forever be indebted to.
"And to have a dad that also looks very garang, I think it's a plus. It's like, I wanna be like that one day - not only can I be like, cool, but I also want to uphold myself the same way he does. And to look like someone that knows his stuff. To be able to inspire others."
Mohamad Wira bin Mohamad Munir, 21
Code name: Yamies
Role: Deputy Team Leader
"In the beginning, it was very scary because I'm the first son, and there are big shoes to fill, especially when it comes to topics like masculinity and being a man in this society. In a sense, there's this indirect pressure to follow in the footsteps of your father.
"But I think throughout the years, I've developed an understanding between me and my father: The reason why my dad taught us all these things is for us to be better than him. The life that he had was not easy, and I admire the fact that he's done his best and tried very hard to overcome all these trials and challenges he faced as a child up to adulthood and leaving the service. That is very inspirational to me - because if he can do it, I can do it too. And he definitely wants the best out of his children.
I'm very proud to have my dad as a father figure. He makes me comfortable with who I am. He makes me comfortable about masculinity. Masculinity is not just like, "Oh, suck it up." It's okay to feel and to think the way you think. You just have to remember that there's a job to be done, be it as a son, a brother, or an aspiring father. It's still okay to [show your feelings] sometimes, like when my late grandfather passed away. There were very intense emotions - you just want to cry, you are angry, you are grieving. My dad taught me that it's okay to feel all these things; sometimes you don't have to rationalise why you feel these things. They just happen naturally, and I shouldn't blame myself for things that are out of my control."
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