Gary Beckley CMIOSH, director, SHE Management (UK)
Thursday 9th March 2017
From the archive: Just so you know, this article is more than 3 years old.
Kickboxing is a contact sport. It combines boxing and martial arts techniques, and uses your legs and arms and other parts of your body. When I was in the military years ago, I did a bit of boxing, but I hadn't done anything similar to kickboxing, so when I started it was all relatively new to me.
I go to the club three times a week for about an hour and I thoroughly enjoy it. It has completely changed my health and I've lost quite a bit of weight -- around two stone. My fitness has improved dramatically and I sleep better. It's been brilliant.
After I left the army, I didn't do very much -- I wasn't especially flexible and I had various old sporting injuries. But the more I learned kickboxing and the more I trained, the more my stamina and flexibility increased. The harder you work, the better you become. As well as the training, we do competitions.
Apart from the fitness side, what I enjoy most are the people I've met through the sport. Even though we do spar and fight each other, everyone gets on. Perhaps because it's a martial art as well, the people are helpful and friendly. No one is there to hurt anyone; it's all about discipline and friendship.
The age range is broad. There are a few of us older guys. Four of us are either approaching 50 or in our 50s already, and one is close to his 60th birthday. When you see him train he is phenomenal and an inspiration. There is a cadet division for children, where you can start at around five years old. Then at around 16 or 17 you transfer to the senior group. There is a grading system and if you're fit enough to grade you can do it at any age. Most classes are mixed -- men and women -- although there are some classes for women only. My daughter started kickboxing around a year after I did and she is doing well. We often train together.
The benefits to how I feel have been the most surprising outcome. When I joined, I could do perhaps only five or six press-ups before I started getting pain in my shoulders. Now I find doing 50 or 60 is fairly straightforward and my aches and pains have gone away. In fact, when I go on holiday, take some rest and don't train for a couple of weeks, I find they start to come back.
Life doesn't have zero risks, and I don't think we should aim for zero risk
I have two more gradings to go before I get to black belt. The grading system is good because there is always a target to reach; you are continually striving to achieve. Last year I was awarded student of the year, probably more through determination than skill but it was nice to get that.
I run my own business, and what is good about kickboxing is that you can't think about anything else when you're doing it, so it really gives you a break from work. As a health and safety adviser, people are often surprised that I do something they might see as dangerous. But the risks in kickboxing are well controlled. It is a choice, I suppose. Life doesn't have zero risks, and I don't think we should aim for zero risk. Risk management is key. I try always to advocate sensible, proportionate risk management.
Martial arts are good for anyone, particularly children, because of the disciplined approach. It is about control. I would recommend kickboxing to anyone, at any age -- anyone can gain something from it.
In 2007, I had my eyes lasered. A little while later I was watching the Olympics and I looked at the shooting and wondered: “Have I still got it – could I still be good?” So I went to a shooting range and that’s how I got started again. I went round a few clubs and ended up at Wigan. I got all the kit – I bought a pistol and shooting glasses – and I’ve become quite good. The technique had died off a bit. The first time I lifted a pistol I raised it and my arm swung to the side. In an hour, though, it had all come flooding back.
Iaido, pronounced ee-eye-do, is a Samurai sword art. The idea is to instantly draw and cut using a sword (known as a katana). As a martial art, it is more about mental and physical discipline: the emphasis is on technique and training focuses on kata, which are set forms. The sword I practise with is 77 cm long and razor sharp. We wear hakama (loose, pleated trousers) and a keiko gi (a training jacket).
I went to Poole, where the initial training takes place, and was taught the basics, such as navigation and casualty care. Then it was back to the lifeboat station, where I went out on the boat with an instructor for an assessment.After you passed this, you were given a [telephone] pager to respond to calls. These days, the training is much more structured.
He died nine years ago, and I inherited his cowboy gear and his horse. I’ve continued on with it. Every year, in his memory, a few of us get together to have a ride-out from the Chaparral in Convoy. The ride-out is in the summer, and the proceeds go to a local charity, the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP).
My wife’s mother had a place in Tarifa, in Spain, at the time – around ten years ago – and the area is a Mecca for kite sports. I went out there and saw kitesurfing on the water and decided to have a go. I had some training and became semi-proficient and found that it’s the most addictive thing.To be able to kitesurf you need several things to align: the tide must be in and you need the right wind. It’s not like running or cycling; you can’t just go out and do it whatever the conditions.
I’ve always enjoyed teaching and my day job has crossed over a lot with what I do outside work. After starting my career as a chef, I moved to training young chefs at college, specifically in wild food and butchery. I made the move to safety and health via food safety.I’ve been running the bushcraft courses for five years. I used to bore people about it at tea breaks and sometimes they would come and walk with me. So I ran a couple of forage walks for chefs and it went from there.
I’m not great when it comes to going to the gym. I find it fairly repetitive and tedious, so I’ve always done classes to keep fit. A couple of years ago, the teacher who took most of the classes went on maternity leave so someone suggested we try going to an aerial studio.
My first experience of the Pennine Fells was at junior school. A group of us went on a camping trip to Hathersage in the Peak District: we tried potholing, climbing and abseiling. It was my first ‘outdoors’ experience.