fighter vegetarian from birth
James Southwood is an expert instructor and champion fighter in Savate. Savate (pronounced "Suh-vat") is a dynamic sport that combines movements from English boxing and French kicking. He is a multiple Great British Champion, 2008 World Bronze Medallist, European Silver Medallist (twice), 2016 World Vice-Champion, and 2014 World Champion.
James is a senior instructor at the London Savate club he founded.
Savate is a popular sport in France, where there is an abundance of trainers, a strong network of clubs and plenty of funding. At international tournaments it is often the French competitors who are expected to do well. This makes James’ achievements all the more impressive. He is the first British fighter to have won the World title.
- 2014 World Champion
- European Silver medallist (three times)
- Lifelong vegetarian and over 20 years vegan
After beating several fighters to reach the final against a French former World Champion his mental preparation was key to his fight. James won to become World Champion; you can read more about this here. As the World Championships are every two years, James defended his title in the 2016 competition and lost in the final, becoming World Vice Champion (read more here).
Following his World title, James was nominated as a finalist in Vegan Athlete of the Year 2014. In 2017 he took another bronze in the European Championships (read more here), and in January 2018 he entered the Budapest Open and took Gold (read more here). In 2019 he won the British title, and after his 40th birthday took his third European silver (more here).
James has always been vegetarian and at age 16 he became vegan. “As a teenager,” he told us “the motivation was a simple wish to respect animal rights.”
Travelling to international tournaments he continues eating vegan, with plenty of nutritious ingredients. “I eat a lot of kale, sweet potatoes, beans, nuts, seeds and dried fruit.” This helps him to fuel a demanding training regime which enables him to stay on top of his sport.
“I train in some way pretty much every day. It can be just shadowboxing and a few bodyweight exercises. Or a 90 minute workout with runs, weights, bagwork and skipping. I also train in boxing and teach Savate 4-5 times per week.”
Unsurprisingly, as a world champion he rarely attracts concern relating to his diet. “It is very rare for someone in my sport to question my diet. My fitness and physique speak for themselves. Occasionally it will pique someone, but I leave them to their own troubles with it.”
Having secured so many domestic and international honours, James has a deep commitment to the sport, and he’s thankful for his involvement in it. “Aside from my world title, the greatest achievement in sport – as in anything – is what is shared between human beings. A small joke, a reunion, a nod, seeing an old friend or making a new one. Being part of something is the highest achievement.”
“I plan to become a coach of coaches, to defend my world title and to train young athletes to start in this amazing sport. Savate as a whole is also working towards Olympic recognition and supporting Paris as the hosts of the 2024 Olympic Games.”
James (white gloves) sparring with a double world champion