James Southwood has returned to competition and seems to be enjoying the challenges he faces.
The British vegan has fought in Savate for many years and taken the world title as well as European honours. At 42 he comes out of the Covid-forced suspension of competition two years older. He’s also interrupted the ongoing competition he maintained. Many might think that the dynamic sport, combining elegant techniques with boxing, might be unsuitable for all but the young. James might cause them to think again.
James continues to teach at his London club and has retained his British title. We’ve lost count of how many titles he’s won now, but the win shows the effect that commitment and love of the sport has. It also shows experience.
He’s also taken a team to the Viking Cup in Helsinki where they won. James has competed in Bulgaria at the World Open. There he faced other fighters in his weight category fighting twice before winning the final. An exhibition fight was also arranged. This drew a crowd of partisan supporters eager to see their local fighter win and James’ reception was unusually unwelcoming. This isn’t typical for what is generally a sport where supporters and participants welcome and support each other.
“I got booed. So I realised I needed to shut the crowd up” James said. “I did that and won the fight.”
Meanwhile his thoughts are focussed on the World Championships in September – as he turns 43.
While teaching is something he clearly brings a lot to, James’ own training is largely done away from the club. He runs, he competes and employs mental techniques. The last of these is key and something he practices with some discipline. Preparing responses and organising for situations which will or may occur during a fight are part of the psychological process which enables James to compete so effectively.
“Thanks to Google maps I can also visit a gym in another country and mentally prepare for entering the venue” he says. “It makes a difference to my mental state.”
James has been vegetarian from birth and turned vegan as a teenager. That’s over half his life and hundreds of Savate fights ago.
He feels that in doing so he’s contributed to an understanding that vegans can compete at the highest level.
“Savate does favour the physiology of the younger man” he says. “I am still competing against fighters 20 years younger than me. I use experience.“
“But being vegan has played some part, in whatever way, in my longevity as a sportsperson.”
As the return from COVID conditions progresses towards the World Championships, James remains unbeaten this year. He’s also reflecting on an 80% win rate in international competition over a 164 fight career. Included in this are 57 fights at Euro or World level, of which 39 (68%) were wins.
Continuing to enjoy and succeed as a competitor has required a level of health which he has maintained as a vegan. He’s looking forward to the future tests at the World Championships and relishing the challenges they’ll bring.