Eager to improve their fight-craft, four combat sports are uniting to share insights and experience with the aim of better securing excellence in performance.
British Fencing brought together coaching counterparts from GB and England Boxing, British Wrestling and British Judo and convened their first bout of fighting talk at the National Judo Centre in Walsall, part of the Wolverhampton University Campus, on Saturday 23rd September 2023.
The mats of the dojo fell silent. No sounds from the throws of judo, or the shouts of the fencer as the touch is scored; no punches, knockouts or slams from the boxing and wrestling rings. But the walls of the Combat Club still resonated. The grunts of physical contest were replaced by the animated discussion of inquisitive minds; the buzz of ideas substituted the ring of the bell. And this fusion of knowledge and experience culminated into the Cry of the Spirit – the fundamental echo of what makes us want to fight for sport.
Exchanging practice on how to coach movement, fencers, judokas, boxers and wrestlers talked of provocation and intimidation. Executing deep dives into how to coach motivation, the conversations grappled with how spheres of influence work and what factors make combat athletes tick.
For the fighting strategists, this inaugural convention was as much about thought as about action, and there materialised the creative magic. Establishing connections about how to manipulate the field of play or how to cascade different perspectives into competition preparation, the judo dojo came alive as a nerve centre of interaction and re-invention.
England Boxing Pathway Coach, Carl Ellis, talked of having brought his own keenness to learn, with the payoff of being able to carry away a bit of treasure.
“I’ve observed a training drill from judo, put a boxing twist on it and I am going to use it. This day is not about taking and duplicating but more about gaining insights by touching and feeling the way other combat disciplines approach their sport. It’s like mining for gold.”
British Fencing Coach, Lorraine Rose, chose analogies from her background as a biologist to pinpoint the core strength of the room.
“I’d say that coming together, sharing ideas and practice, is like the activity of neurons. We’re connecting one with another and sending signals that dictate function and controls. It feels very special and the kind of process that cannot fail but to lay down new neural pathways and engineer fresh approaches.”
The focus on physical movement was consolidated by a presentation from Consultant Sports Psychologist, Dr Jonathan Katz on mental wellbeing while GB Boxing’s Chris Porter led discussion groups on some of the challenges faced by coaches and athletes in how they create environments which encourage higher levels of confidence and motivation for all.
Feedback was resoundingly positive with participants placing value on being offered an opportunity to converge and converse in the open and egoless setting of Combat Club, with no doubt that everybody is speaking the same language. The interconnection of coaching styles so different in both creed and character, yet which all share a common purpose, turns up the volume on the Combat Club’s battle cry – a verbal vibration of a gut instinct to treat fighting as an ever-evolving art form. It is the reverberation of how we can grow and work together, transforming combat practice in Britain from better to best and from good to great.
Combat Club originator, Dusty Miller, who holds dual roles as Head of People and Culture at British Fencing and as a Performance Coaching Consultant at The United Kingdom Sports Institute, said how heartened he was to see such a positive and collaborative learning space emerge so rapidly and organically.
“Combat Club has got started. The rapport is already solid and our curiosity muscles are at full flex. Now we can work out our next moves.”
Written by Siân Hughes Pollitt
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