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Sport & Recreation careers

Combat Sports: Boxing, Judo, Muay Thai & Others

Why work in combat sports?

It’s tempting to start off an article on combat sports with a quote from martial arts supremo Bruce Lee. Instead, how about these words of wisdom from Mr Miyagi in The Karate Kid: “Man who catch fly with chopstick accomplish anything.”

Need we say more?

No, I’m joking. Keep reading and we’ll give you an idea of what sort of career you can forge in the combat sports field. You can do loads of stuff, from competing to coaching, and it certainly won’t involve chopsticks or flies.    

How can I advance in this field

As with most sports, there are a few different areas you can look to get into. There’s coaching and training, but most people will initially want to compete in tournaments and, ultimately, on the world stage.

Regardless of what you’re into, whether it’s boxing, judo, muay thai, karate, judo, taekwondo or krav maga, there are plenty clubs around the UK that you can join and learn about the martial arts.

You’ll earn various belts, go up certain grades and if you stick with it, eventually you should become pretty accomplished. It’s then a case of competing against others. To achieve professional status, you might have to venture abroad. Consequently, these careers offer fantastic (and often necessary) opportunities for travel.

OK, so just for a moment, let’s imagine that you don’t make it as a professional. It’s not the end of the world. Seriously, it’s not. There are so many different careers you can pursue, namely the whole coaching and mentoring side of things. The Japanese refer to them as sensei, but in England they are given the dark, mysterious and dangerous title of ‘teacher’!

If you want to become any sort of martial arts instructor, you’ll not only need to know all about the physical side of self-defence, but also be able to teach your pupils about the philosophical and historical side of martial arts too.

You’ll be utilising your own personal expertise and specialist martial arts training to lead classes of children or adults. You might be demonstrating techniques, overseeing sparring sessions and helping your pupils to develop physically, keep fit and advance their knowledge of self-defence principles and laws. Most of the people that work in this area will run their own company. To instruct children, it is likely that you will first need to get  a Disclosure and Barring Service check – formerly known as a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check.

Away from the action side of things, you could work in an events organisation position, arranging martial arts tournaments and competitions. This would involve visiting various venues, checking their size and suitability and hiring them out for combat sports competitions.

Although they are not covered so much in mainstream media, these sports have a large following and have their own magazines and websites devoted to covering results and news from the industry.

If you’re interested in writing, you could perhaps pursue a career as a freelance journalist, specialising in the world of combat sports. You’ll attend events, write about them and gradually get your name out there.

How do I advance as a competitive athlete?

Combat sports are no different to more mainstream sports, in the sense that those who make it to a high level usually start competing at a young age. You have to put in hours, weeks and months of practise before you can start to compete. It’s not easy, but if you have a passion for it and the determination to succeed, there’s no reason why you can’t climb the ladder.

In terms of finding a career as a coach or trainer, it’s the same sort of principle. You’ll usually start by teaching kids or youngsters of fairly limited ability, before working with the next Bruce Lees and Jackie Chans of this world.

If we’ve been taught anything from watching Kung Fu films, it’s that stunt men probably have the coolest job in the world. You’ve got to be pretty damn fearless though, as well as being strong, flexible, passionate and incredibly physically fit with extensive martial arts training. If you’re all of these things, then a career as a stunt man or martial arts expert could be another logical path that you could pursue.

Do you reckon you have the mad martial arts skills demonstrated in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? If so, a career in combat sports may be right up your street…

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