Ben Blain is Head of Year 7 and Teacher of Physical Education at ICHK
“Your battle face is calm, relaxed, fixed, determined. Your battle face is grave and still. It doesn’t show enmity, hostility or struggle, but acceptance. Your battle face understands the task ahead, has imagined it, thought through it, and is resigned to it. Your battle face knows that the only way to the outcome is through the task. The task will not be avoided. Your battle face knows, and so your mind knows, and your body knows. Fix your face. Find your battle face and put it on. Are you ready?”
This speech, these phrases, should by now be intensely familiar to any student in ICHK. ‘Battle face’ is a defining feature of PE classes at our school. It’s something we talk about a lot, something that we demonstrate, teach, coach and even assess. Our students will do fitness tests in which their score ignores how far or fast they run, but judges how they attacked the task, measuring how well they maintained their battle face, their posture, their approach to the starting line.
At ICHK, we want our students to be compassionate and empathetic. We want them to be free and unselfconscious in showing emotion and responding to the feelings of others. We also want them to be tough: to understand that there are times that they can’t allow subjective feelings to control their minds and bodies. That’s what our ‘battle face’ training is all about. Not to produce robots who disregard or smother feelings like uncertainty, anxiety, discomfort, doubt, distraction – but to understand these feelings, address them, and still move forward through their tasks to the goals they have set for themselves.
Naturally, I hope that no student in our school ever has to face an actual battle. I hope that their lives will forever be free from real violence! The ‘battle’ we are preparing them for is within them. It is the struggle between their best hopes, desires and dreams, and the emotions and habits that hold them back or bar their way. If I meet a former student in ten years’ time and they tell me they haven’t touched a rugby ball since the day they left school, but that they still remember their ‘battle face’, I’ll be happy!