Geoff is the Founder and Chair of the Youth Charter, a UK-based international charity and United Nations Non-Governmental Organisation that uses the ethics of sport and artistic excellence to help disaffected and disadvantaged young people and communities globally.
He was the World heavyweight karate champion between 1982 and 1986. In 1995 he was awarded an MBE by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II for his services to sport. Between 2008 to 2014, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Law, Honorary Fellowship, Honorary Doctorate of Education and an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from several universities.
He has worked on assignments for United Nations agencies such as UNESCO, UNICEF, ILO, WHO and the UN Office on Sport for Development and Peace as well as the FIFA, Commonwealth Secretariat and Swiss Agency for Development.
Geoff is also a Deputy Lieutenant (Queen’s representative) for Greater Manchester and has been inducted into the Martial Arts Hall of Fame. Between 2016 and 2019 he was included in the Top 100 BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic) Leaders in Business List, in association with the Sunday Times.
The 24/7 lifestyle and digital age means we are experiencing a significant and increased level of on-line activity and this will be even more apparent during the current pandemic globally. As a result of the COVID-19 epidemic, we will need to see a more balanced and holistic approach in lifestyle behaviours that sees us pursuing a new approach, which I would now like to call ‘physically interactive’.
There are many apps/programs/platforms online that now provide an opportunity to be very engaged with multimedia, digital learning and physical activity. What I believe will happen is that we’ll see a more blended, innovative and ongoing improvement on how we strike a better balance between what we do online with the physical activity and behavior lifestyle tools available to this, and what we do with any actual exercises that we can now undertake at home, in our respective work environment or in our schools, universities and communities.
We are primarily a species of homo sapien (Latin meaning: wise man) innate physical aggression. Aggression has many forms of expression. Passively, overtly, intellectually, intelligently, tactically, or even strategically expressed but ultimately it is our physical forms that allow our bodies to be the hardware to all the software that courses through our bodies, veins, muscles and body mass. Whatever the body type, we are all physical expressions of everything that we feel with the energy reflected in the indomitable human spirit.
When I talked about sport as ‘a tool, a vehicle, a vaccine’, I’m talking about its ability to stimulate us, and allow us to feel the environment around us, and to socially and culturally engage with our environment, the people, the interpersonal relationships and everything that we would see give us a positive mindset and quality of life as a result. From my own karate experiences, it was the ability to acknowledge the younger to be able to engage with a group of diverse backgrounds, lifestyles and experiences that improve my interpersonal skills. The actual techniques that I learned, and the karate behavioral characteristics that I gained have improved my personality, and developed what I called a ‘curriculum for life’. That is a daily ritual, a habit and routine of training and the disciplined and repeated training, that established my confidence, my self-esteem, self-respect and as a result respect for others and my community.
My philosophy is derived from my belief and experience of coaching human behavior and performance over many continents, cultures and intergenerational abilities that ‘99 percent of fitness is between the ears’. That means that your mind-set is developed as a result of a disciplined focus and behavioural-set of rehearsed tasks and actions. The mentality that supports the mind-set is one of the social and cultural environments that has shaped your emotional intelligence. That in turn informs your brain power, which, like software, is consistently uploaded by the cognitive influences of the cerebral cortex. Many people call that the ‘third eye’. This is when millions of images that we receive every day shape the emotional armour and resilience of what we see, feel, touch, taste, smell, and hear. These are all developed to ensure that we survive experiences such as COVID-19 and any life adversity.
The level of excellence is the ability to visualize all the information that is received and translate that into a mission of aims and objectives with the plan. That plan can be then translated into a platform of action and impact. The ‘winning philosophy’ can be applied to real life, study and the work environment. How that can be done is again by making sure that you have a vision, a mission, and a plan. And as a result of that plan you can set yourself a direction, a place where you want to arrive at, you can then identify a timeline.
My five world championship successes were the culmination of a vision, mission and plan expressed and reflected in many hours of repeated behavior, ritual, habit and focused discipline. Young people now live in a far too fast-moving world, information is available to them interactively using their thumbs, which are arguably the most exercised part of their anatomy. However, they are young, bright minds of software, and as a result, they need to be given even more daily rituals, habits and routines of behavioral characteristics of exercise, human interaction and the ability to see them use both the digital age and their mental, physical and the emotional potential in a positive and constructive environment.
The 24/7 global interactive lifestyle is now one of the greatest challenges to the mental, physical and emotional health and wellbeing of society as a whole. Technology is playing a greater part in our everyday physical activity aspirations with more apps and artificial intelligence providing data with machines, gymnasiums and on-line coaching that can give an individual the sense of personal achievement and above all the evidence to benchmark their efforts. However, you cannot replace human social and cultural interaction that develops the individual and collective relationships that are the bedrock of society in all its shapes and forms.
I am currently working on a program called ‘Healthwise’. There is firstly a Skills element, which is to develop a routine of exercises, drawn from a very diverse and broad suite of physical skill-based movement related activity, that can suit any body type, any fitness level or any interest or suitability of exercise. Then the second element is how that is translated from skills into an Actual Activity of Choice. So for example, mine would always be the martial arts and karate in particular, at 62 years of age, I was planning to compete on April 12 with the current generation of karate athletes. So I then went to the skill level and tested myself in the skills and the training that would see me assessed as to whether I could meet that challenge. And then the Application, the plan, the test, a competition, a marathon and what would be other opportunities to be able to test the healthwise approach. A goal of some description that could help you get that recognition reward and respect of a job well done.
This has been developed over many years and provides a range of ‘interactively active’ fitness schedules that have been devised to specifically meet the lifestyle demands of the everyday student, professional or wider community enthusiast. With this system, you can stay in exceptionally good mental, physical and emotional health. I believe that it could also re-engage and re-establish the all-important relationships that would need to resolved once this pandemic has ended.
I believe that sport is education, the truest form of education for it establishes behavioural characteristics and it turns good citizens into great global citizens with rights and responsibilities. It could be attainment and performance in the classroom, in the playground or campuses or beyond into the society as a whole. There was an example once when I was in Africa with a school, which had no classroom learning, no pens or pencils and quite frankly, just had a shell of a building. We were part of a UK trade mission, where sport was being used to engage the wider community in providing cultural elements to Britain’s trade aspirations and intentions. We came up with a program of learning to use a ball, and with the martial arts I just needed the space, all I had to do was to perform. But we were able to deliver literacy, geography, history, a whole curriculum of learning through sport. And it very much inspired what I believe to be sport as an educational opportunity in developing a well-rounded global citizen.
Young people are a social, cultural and economic investment and the Youth Charter philosophy and mission aim is to: engage young people with sport, culture, art and digital activity, equip them with mental, physical and emotional life-skills and resilience and empower them with the aspiration of further and higher education, employability and entrepreneurship. The additional benefits are realized through the global citizenship of rights and responsibilities, and in contributing their gifts and talents of potential in the ongoing betterment and improvement of themselves, their families, their communities and society as a whole, both locally and globally.
I believe that what is practiced in western countries would be applicable to China as well as Chinese practices being applicable to western countries. I’d like to use Tai Chi as a wonderful example. Tai Chi is one of those activities that is of intergenerational and exceptional benefit to mental, physical and emotional health well-being and safeguarding. It is one of the cultural activities that is becoming globally introduced to many societies and into general lifestyles. That’s the example of what China is giving the world, and I believe that sport and the arts are a universal language and when a diversity of cultures come together, you see global citizenship at its greatest level of building bridges for hope and opportunity for all. So, I believe that China is helping as many nations to provide and present cultural activity that is transferable and build bridges of peace and tolerance.
XJTLU sport will aim to develop and deliver good health and well-being, providing academic programs, research and innovation, business enterprise, community development and excellence as a world leading institution locally and globally. These strategic themes will also be delivered within the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
A holistic sporting ecosystem will also aim to take forward the newly developed XJTLU leadership agenda eco-system and symbiosis themed centre of excellence:
These policy implementation themes are delivered within the vision and mission strategy process platforms and cultural mechanisms of a connected digital AI robotics leadership service within an XJTLU SIP and TC campus. This sporting ecosystem has been developed as a community campus model, cultural framework and research impact metrics that can provide imperial outputs and outcomes of quantitative and qualitative social, cultural and economic data, which I believe is a very valuable currency in 21st century learning, innovation, development and research.
The benefits to both the institution and the community are reflected in the mental, physical and emotional health, well-being and safeguarding of the staff, students and wider community. An example of this is the Youth Charter Social Coach Leadership Program. This would see students and staff as social coaches contributing a minimum of 2 hours a week to wider community and civic engagement providing sporting, cultural, artistic and digital activity both on and beyond the campus. The hours contributed and collectively delivered is a great currency that develops that wonderful resilience we are seeking to re-establish, re-connect and re-position once COVID-19 is consigned to history. Social coaches with strong emotional intelligence are able to provide a story that inspires hope and opportunity. They bring common sense, wisdom and life experience lived. That is why they form a very central part of what I believe would be a significant offer for staff and students for the community, by the community, and with the community.
More information about Youth Charter on: https://youthcharter.co.uk/