Competing as World Champion
James has been respected as a leading practitioner of kick-punch sport Savate for many years. The bi-annual World Championships in 2014 saw James become the first British Champion in the French dominated sport, an incredible achievement.
This year he travelled to Varazdin, Croatia to defend his title.
Recent training has been focussed on phychological aspects of competition. “For a while I have had the physical capability to win matches at world level: now it is all about belief, and how to cultivate it” James told us after the tournament. “This year I focused on taking the fight to my opponent and believing in my attacking ability. The confluence of psychological and technical training with some top people has taken my kicking to another level this year. I feel I have solved technical problems that were difficulties for me previously.”
Last year James lost the European final to a French fighter, who he knew would be a big obstacle to his progress. Again the Frenchman stood between James and the title. This time it was at semifinal stage and after beating a Slovenian and a Dutch fighter, James faced him again.
“This win was my goal for the year and I accomplished it” James told us. “I did what I trained for all year – I beat the Frenchman who was my undoing in the 2015 European final. But we met in the semi-final this time.”
In the final James faced an Algerian known for his difficult style. James beat him on the way to his 2014 World Title, but things were different this time, and he lost by a single point.
Taking second place internationally is of course a massive achievement, particularly in a sport which is a minority sport in Britain and received funding and large-scale coaching in other countries.
“I am Vice Champion of the World. Fourth straight year on the podium though, and the second time I have done the impossible and beaten France.”
James prepared for eating vegan in Croatia. “This year, I brought a lot of my own food along, including bean and grain ready meals in sachets which I added to the steamed vegetables that occasionally were available in the sports hall catering. I also found that breaking up a protein bar into plain pasta worked as a good way of refuelling.”
And thankfully we can expect more from the multiple British Champion who has been vegan since teenage and vegetarian all his life.
“They say you either win or you learn. I feel I did both this year. I achieved my stated goal. To have accomplished that and then lose narrowly in the final has put things into amazingly clear relief. I know more about how to be ambitious and how to be technical. My plans are to keep competing with this new knowledge and to keep training in top company. I want to win the European title in Belgium next year.
“I am writing about the psychology of the competitive encounter, which mixes my fight experience with existential psychology (my blog can be found at www.dyingtowin.net”..