As we move further into the spring competition cycle it’s always good to see everyone pushing themselves and of course being successful. We’ve been in the mix at Scottish competitions now for about three years and it has been a really positive experience for the club and our athletes alike. It’s not always gone our way, nor should it, but we have seen the good, the bad and the ugly.
We started off at the WAKO Scottish Open held in Glasgow 2013 where albeit unexpectedly, we were just about to become club owners due to our lead instructor and previous club owner wanting to leave the club and indeed the world of kickboxing, or so we thought !!! However, the students took this in their stride and just got on with it and our learning curve was about to go into overdrive. We learnt that actually there are a lot of good people out there who wanted to talk to us, encourage our fighters and help them out. We have since gone from strength to strength, we have occasionally over stretched ourselves by entering competitions of too high a standard, or to coin a phrase we tried to ‘run before we could walk’!
We had to sit down and looked at all our students and fighters, which competitions are out there and where we thought we could be in the next five years. The first thing we looked at was putting structures in place within SFEAR to ensure we got ourselves prepared for higher level competitions. We looked at those guys we felt had potential in the short term to compete nationally. Then we looked at the medium term and how we could develop fighters further, whilst understanding how we develop those who were not quite ready yet and how we could progress and get them to medal in the future.
We landed on our feet during this time as SBBA from Elgin run three competitions a year in Elgin and they select only a few clubs by special invite, of which we are one. The competition is great for introducing fighters to the concept of competitions and getting them lots of mat time in that environment. We also engaged with Andy McCracken of WKA Scotland. Andy’s advice and support was crucial to help us create a knowledge base within the club, have a friendly sounding board with ideas and issues we may have and access to WKA Scotland training courses that help us become more able and credible. We were also able to use the experience of Mieke Tate a Black Belt 3rd Dan, former three times WAKO World Champion and club owner, to rewrite our syllabus and get it up to date with current practices.
We continued to allow our senior fighters to enter the National competitions as that is what they wanted to do. It allowed us to look at how these individuals tick and what motivates them and most importantly understand what makes them under-perform! Besides the obvious training level and ability there is the psychology of each individual and how they prepare for competitions. How can a fighter beat everyone in the club, then never get past the first round at a larger competitions? We know they have the ability, so why do they choke?
We are not talking about inexperienced fighters either, we had an issue with a number of senior belts, who when questioned had history of being able to perform, but were no longer able to do so. Like most things it comes down to experiences. One fighter would practically melt down at the mention of continuous sparring in the club, another who could never get beyond the first round as they felt they were there to just make the numbers up and another who just quietly lost! We still had a number of fighters who could perform and did win their categories. So what was the problem ? Prior to our time at the club we learnt that the weaker fighters had been used as live punch bags in the past, they were not given the care to help them develop and in some cases not given the basic skills to fight well. The syllabus of the ‘old club’ did not teach fighters how to defend themselves adequately, which explained why at one competition there had been five knockouts from a team of ten! We also had students with repetitive stress type injuries, but that’s another story for another day!
We now, three years later, have a team that regularly brings home medals at senior events in Scotland; have a happy squad of students who enjoy their sport and develop at a pace that suits them. Everyone is welcome and we train individuals who have some significant challenges in their lives, both physically and mentally, but we help them learn, encourage them to go as far as they can and we now also have a brilliant family of Kickboxing friends around the world! Oh and the three guys I mentioned; the one who hated the thought of continuous fighting has entered their first competition in that discipline and has won a Silver Medal at the Unified World Championships at points, the guy who thought he just makes the numbers up has consistently won Gold at national level competitions in the last year and has now qualified to represent WKA Scotland and the one who just quietly lost, has competed at the Unified World Championships and won a Silver and a Bronze medal.
So what changed?… We Did !! We looked at ourselves and set some achievable goals. This was not about medals, but about being recognised as doing the right thing for all our students and putting them at the heart of our club. We started to understand what motivates each individual and show them what they needed to do to achieve their personal goals within the sport. This has changed over time, for some it has been to gain a Black Belt, for others it’s been to fight at large competitions and for a few it’s been to gain international recognition and to pass on their knowledge to the rest of their team. We have helped and continue to help students of all abilities to do just that. We do not put students in situations that will stretch them too much, challenge them yes, but not to the point of being completely demoralised by the experience. During their journey we continuously encourage them to do their best, explaining that the winning part for us is stepping on the mats and if a medal follows then that’s a bonus !
Friendship, Encouragement and Honesty have to come first, then all the other things come alive and make the club vibrant and enjoyable. It encourages a sound work ethic and having instructors that don’t think they know it all, but actually go out and challenge their own beliefs and abilities that sets the example to the students. Do we get it right all of the time? Absolutely not, but we are not afraid to look at ourselves, challenge each other and continually try to improve what we do.