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2022 Winner: BAM! Boxing and Mindfulness

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2022 Finalists
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May 22, 2024

BAM! (boxing and mindfulness) is a London-based innovation that fuses boxing and mindfulness to help young carers and young at-risk individuals get mentally and physically fit. The idea for BAM! was born when its founder, Luke Doherty, was teaching mindfulness in a school, and a student asked, 'How is this really going to help me when I've got the pressure of a gang telling me they want me to stab someone?'. Luke believed in the power of mindfulness but realised that it needed to be delivered in a way more relevant to young people who don't think mindfulness is 'for them' and who face risks that traditional teaching isn't sensitive to. Offering mindfulness in boxing clubs and combining it with physical-strength training seemed the perfect answer.

One in three young carers has a mental health problem, and many are inactive and experience loneliness because of their caring role. Similarly, many young people in the communities that BAM! serves experience high rates of violence, gang involvement, and knife crime as well as school suspensions and exclusions. Cuts to youth centres and sports provision disproportionately impact these groups.

BAM!'s high-energy sessions are conducted in a safe environment and help students release and channel any pent-up energy and emotion they're carrying in their bodies through boxing training and explore the sensations in their bodies through somatic meditation. The programme's mindfulness component is adapted from an MBSR model. And as well as meditation practice and non-contact boxing training, a typical course session involves a discussion of the challenges the participants face and how they may be able to take a mindful approach to overcoming them. BAM! engages students by using language from the world of sports and explaining that top athletes also practise mindfulness.

The judges picked out BAM! as an inspiring example of a user-led innovation designed with the needs of its target audience clearly in mind. And they were impressed by the care and thought that have gone into developing the project. They appreciated the physical dimension of the approach—based on energetic movement and not just body scans and calming exercises—which is unconventional and represents a departure from traditional mindfulness training. The judges considered the business model of working with organisations and athletes to help fund the community work (offered free of charge) a sound strategy for sustainability and growth. They would be interested to see more research on BAM!'s unique methods, which could be shared and help inform others undertaking similar projects.

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