World Vegan Day on Saturday 1st November 2014 saw vegan athlete James Southwood become the first British World Champion in Boxe-Francaise Savate - a sport also known as French kickboxing.
"I saw that the finals were scheduled for World Vegan Day,” enthused James, who has been “100% vegan” since the age of 16. “This is my tenth anniversary at international level. Everything just fitted together."
The World Championships in Savate Assaut 2014 saw around 220 athletes from more than 30 nations flock to Rome between 30th October and 1st November. The French team is selected from tens of thousands of practitioners and boasts legions of premier coaches and government funding to boot. Most nations, including Great Britain, represent fewer than several hundred athletes and receive no state funding.
An ex-Vegan Society staff member and a Londoner, James Southwood bucked the trend when he won a gold medal in the men's -80kg category, beating the French fighter in the final, while his team mate James Antill won Silver in the men's -75kg category.
When not competing, James Southwood, 35, runs a Savate club in London and attends to his duties as President of the Great Britain Savate Federation. "My focus this year was on core strength and muscle building, whilst keeping within my weight limit,” says James. “I also work hard on the psychological aspect of my game."
James started fighting in Savate at the age of 20, his entire athletic career having been as a committed vegan. When asked about his day-to-day vegan regimen and keeping fighting fit, he replied: “I need to keep under a weight limit, so I eat a high protein, low carb diet like boxers often do. The bulk of my nourishment comes from oats, nuts, seeds, beans and quinoa, with lots of steamed veg, fresh and dried fruit. I eat very little processed or packaged food.”
Savate is a French fighting sport dating from the early 1800s, combining English boxing and French kicking. It is an elegant, efficient kick-punch style. The word 'Savate' comes from the shoe worn in older times and today the boot is still the Savateur's best weapon. Savate is practised in a 5m x 5m boxing ring, with gloves and boots.
Want to be a vegan champion like James Southwood? Follow his simple, economic meals below.
‘A typical fighter's lunch’
Steamed sweet potatoes, sugar snap peas, broccoli and spinach, with cooked quinoa, chickpeas, sundried tomatoes, pumpkin seeds and beetroot. Add lashings of soy sauce, a few herbs of your choice and some seaweed flakes. Mix well and enjoy.
‘A low fat workout recovery meal’
Make lentil dhal using a scoop or two of dried lentils with curry powder. Bring to the boil. When the cooking finishes and the water is nearly gone, add sweetcorn, garlic and chopped spinach. Season to taste.