There is a unique magic to the world of sports. The flow of emotion mixed with competition is almost unlike anything else in this world. Whether it be a team effort or a solo event, you know that at the end of the match there will be a winner and a loser. This is where the hours, days, months and years of preparation factor into who takes the victory in the end. Damon Sansum can tell you all about the importance of preparation and how it is a never-ending cycle.
Blessed with good size, great balance and powerful leg strength, Damon began learning how to kick box at the age of eleven after he went to live with his father. Lee Sansum was a military police officer, who not only worked as a high-profile bodyguard for celebrities such as Sylvester Stallone to the late Princess Diana, but also owns and runs an award winning martial arts academy. These days, Damon continues to push his body to the limit in hopes of securing a spot in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. “I currently have two training sessions per day. A tactical session, where I am doing kicks in the morning and then a strength and conditioning session in the afternoon.” The various training sessions and tournaments he has been a part of have taken him to Mexico, South Korea, Thailand and Russia (among other places.)
Over the course of the last year, Damon has added an important new aspect to his training. “I also do one or two psychology meetings per week where I develop Taekwondo Brain.” The inclusion of psychology is something that has been in athletic competition for decades, but has only recently become common throughout the sports world. “I value psychology a lot because it helps me get in the right mindset to perform better. I meet with a sports psychologist (Dr. Steve Peters) and we work on what is called The Chimp Model.” This process is a scientific breakdown of how the brain learns, divided into three parts; The Human, which describes where you live in your head; The Computer, which is where all of the information you receive is processed; and The Chimp, where all of your emotions are processed. “All of this training is more important than the kicks to me. I believe that controlled aggression is good, but if I go into the ring angry and trying to hurt my opponent, I don’t do as well because I will be overly emotional and lose focus.”
Unfortunately, injuries are something that almost every athlete will face at some point in their career. After twelve years of kick boxing and multiple major titles, Damon was forced to make a switch in martial arts nearly four years ago. “I suffered an injury after years of training and tough matches. My shoulder kept dislocating and that made it very difficult to punch. At that time I saw where Taekwondo had opened it’s doors to anyone for the first time. Where my strength had always been head kicks and Taekwondo utilizes more kicks than punches, it was almost perfect for me. There was an initiative by UK Sport called Fighting Chance, that was created to find talent from other martial arts. I applied, went through the trials and made the team.”
Damon has not been alone during his impressive rise through the ranks of the Taekwondo world. Accompanying him from his pre-season Olympic ranking of #8 to his current position of #5, is one of the best maintained and manicured beards in the entire sports world. “I have been growing my beard for around two years and I love the sort of brotherhood that their is among people with beards. I really enjoy the acknowledgement of other bearded people in public.”
Keep an eye on Damon Sansum and his march towards the Olympics on Twitter and the Great Britain Taekwondo website.