I was going to include this in the British Juggling Convention 2014 review but I felt like it deserved its own feature.

If you haven’t heard of fight nights or juggling “combat” before, it’s like one-on-one gladiators (which involves any number of people in a royal rumble style bout) where the aim is to stop the other person from juggling while maintaining your own juggling pattern (even if that involves stealing your competitor’s club(s)).

Thirty-two competitors entered the BJC competition and were whittled down to just 12 after a round-robin qualifying round. The next stage was a knockout competition with the seeded competitors (decided from the number of wins in qualification) entering in later rounds. All the rounds were exciting but the action really started in the semi-finals where the winner was the first to five points. Brook Roberts battled Dave Leahy, both competitors are tall and have a great reach but it was Dave that won out in the end (you can see their fight 4 minutes into the video below).

The semi-final between Luke and Iver Tronstad was the most thrilling of the competition and, arguably, should have been the final. Iver started very strongly and took a three-nil lead. Luke clawed it back to three-all before losing the fourth point to an over-zealous high throw that forced him to step out of the ring. A beautifully accurate smash took a club from Iver’s pattern leaving him no chance and the scores were level again, each at match point. Huge cheers from the crowd encouraged both competitors as they started the battle for the winning point. The two soon clashed and became entangled. Several throws were completed – somehow – in the mess of jugglers and clubs before Luke’s clubs started to hit the ground. Unbelievably, Iver surfaced from the tangle with his cascade intact and the crowd went wild!

The third place play-off between Luke and Brook was a first to three points affair with Luke taking the bronze after a close fight. This bout can be seen from 6 minutes 30 seconds into the video below.

Final time! Iver Tronstad, who had never entered a Fight Night before the BJC and was, so far, undefeated, faced Dave Leahy, a veteran of three tournaments and already ranking highly in the world standings. The first point went to Iver after another tangled mess of a struggle that no one expected either competitor to come out of juggling. Dave levelled things up with a well-timed smash but Iver quickly regained his lead as Dave backed into him, switching left and right. Iver ignored the pressure and side steps and simply plucked one of Dave clubs from the air above him. The next clash saw Iver steal one of Dave’s clubs leaving Dave with too little time to recover and giving Iver a 3-1 lead. A simple defensive side swipe was sufficient to disrupt Iver’s juggling as Dave eroded Iver's lead. Another tightly fought clash saw both players on the offensive but a strike from behind, coming down in front of Dave’s face, gave Iver match point at 4-2. While not quite unforced, a brief skirmish ended with Dave missing a catch that, although difficult, after all we’d seen you might have expected to be no problem.

Here’s a video of all the points scored in the semis and small and grand finals.

Iver now enters the world rankings at number 7 and remains undefeated.

Apart from the fights themselves I loved the sportsmanship shown throughout the night. Players were honest if they stepped out of the ring, people purposely dropped if their competitor made an unforced error and there were nothing but smiles, handshakes, club taps and hugs on display from the fighters.

I also enjoyed the change in attitude from some of the audience who moaned that “juggling isn’t a sport” before things kicked off but were soon caught up in the excitement of it all. Juggling isn’t a sport at heart but, in my opinion, there’s no harm in introducing competitive elements. For a more in depth discussion of this sort of thing, check out this article.

For more information on Fight Nights and world rankings, head over to this website. And a big up to Luke Burrage for organising the BJC Fight Night and maintaining the website and rankings.