BODYCOMBAT is 100! To celebrate this milestone, Creative Leads Rachael Newsham and Vili Fifita, alongside Creative Director Mark Nu’u-Steele, reveal exactly how a new release is created.

Read on to discover:

  • Who’s in the BODYCOMBAT™ Creative Team
  • How a release comes together
  • How the music is chosen
  • What’s special about BODYCOMBAT 100
  • Vili Fifita’s journey with BODYCOMBAT

There’s been a shift in recent years to creative teams working on programs, rather than just one or two Program Directors. Why this change?

VILI: This is something we’ve done across lots of the programs to ensure we’re creating classes that appeal to as many people as possible. It’s about diversity of thought and bringing fresh perspectives to the programs.

MARK: LES MILLS GRIT™ and LES MILLS CORE™ were the first programs to have a creative team working on them, and Jackie and Diana saw the benefits of this collaborative approach. We now have teams working across most of the programs. For example, in BODYPUMP™ it’s now Glen [Ostergaard], Ben [Main], Vili and Kaylah-Blayr [Fitzsimons-Nu’u]. We’ve found that bringing lots of creative brains together — having a big melting pot of ideas — ultimately makes the end workout stronger.

Who’s in the creative team for BODYCOMBAT?

RACH: This is a fluid thing that changes from round to round. For BODYCOMBAT 100 it was myself, Dan, Tash [Vincent], Taine [Phillips], Vili and Meno [Thomas]. For Release 101 it will be me, Dan, Vili, Taine, Meno, and Kaylah-Blayr. Mark is our Creative Director, which means he oversees all the different elements of the release.

What are the benefits of having a creative team for BODYCOMBAT?

RACH: It’s great because we have lots of different ideas coming to the table.

MARK: Everyone brings something different. For example, Meno’s ideas are very outside of the box. He will suggest some fresh moves, and sometimes they’re a bit wild, which is great! We want him to stay wild and then we can edit them to make them more applicable and user-friendly. Taine Phillips comes from a martial arts background, so he’ll suggest lots of martial arts moves and concepts.

VILI: It brings this intergenerational thought. You know, we have Millennials in the group as well as Gen Z, and Gen Z suggest things we never would have thought of. They bring in ideas that might be unorthodox, and this keeps the program fresh and innovative.

How is a release put together?

VILI: The team comes up with the initial choreography, which we test in live classes, and then it goes through a process of edits. These edits might be something like — pulling back on the combinations so they’re easier for people to follow in class. Making sure there’s a good balance between new ideas and familiar moves so we’re not overloading people with too much complexity. We want to appeal to the biggest audience possible and ensure everyone feels successful.

Once the edits are complete, we all get into a room together and run a full class with Mark, Jackie [Mills] and Diana [Archer Mills] to get their feedback. They might think a song is too fast, or too slow. Maybe some of the moves don’t feel great together as a whole. We then make the final changes, and the release is signed off for filming.

RACH: We also have a team of physiotherapists who sit with us, listen to and watch our concepts, and tell us what they believe is safe for us to test in class. They want to help us and it feels really supportive.

What's the music process?

RACH: Dan and I suggest songs onto a google doc that we would like to have considered for the class, but we aren’t part of the final playlist selection. When some songs from the final list are denied by the labels, we are included in the problem solving of suggesting an alternate when we are further down the creation journey and class design has begun.

MARK: We have an entire music team at Les Mills who are dedicated to sourcing music for all our programs. Some of the creatives — like Meno and G [Gandalf Archer Mills] — work with that team as well to suggest new sounds.

The team will suggest over 200 songs that they feel could work for BODYCOMBAT, and then I’ll work with Vili to pick the top 10 songs we feel are the best. We’ll also have a list of ‘back-up’ songs, in case we can’t get the license for our first picks.

VILI: Their job is to ensure that we have a wide range of sounds that sit within the essence of BODYCOMBAT. It’s important to have music that works with the choreography in terms of striking the right BPMs [beats per minute], as well as appealing across different generations. They’ll think about what’s normal in BODYCOMBAT now, and what can we explore that may work for the program next year, or the year after that? It’s their responsibility to ensure we’re at the forefront of sounds.

Fresh music means we can reach new ears, as well as inspiring our current ears. Collaborating in this space has been our biggest win! We want to ensure that BODYCOMBAT can go on for another 100 releases, and that’s why we need to stay on top of the music. Sometimes the team come up with songs that we never would have thought of for the program, but that just work so well!

What’s new and exciting about BODYCOMBAT 100?

RACH: We have two new kicks in track 4 that are super cool! The Axe Kick and One Step Side Kick.

Dan and I care very much about this program and we had dreamed about what this release would be for many years. We wanted to make sure BODYCOMBAT 100 was a celebration for everyone that had been involved in caretaking this special program through the years. We want the success over the past 25 years to ensure BODYCOMBAT is around for a further 100 releases, and springboard us into the future as a reliable and successful trustworthy brand. We hope Instructors and members love this very special release.

VILI: This release has 15 tracks — as well as the standard tracks, you’ve got two track 6’s, two 7’s, and two 8’s. This means Instructors can keep teaching the release for longer, because those additional tracks keep it fresh. I think this is the most exciting thing for teachers, because it gives you such variety.

There’s a massive presenting team on the release, because Jackie’s vision for BODYCOMBAT 100 was a celebration of all our Trainers and Instructors around the world. This release marks the beginning of a new exciting chapter for the program, and I know Phillip Mills is super excited about this reinvigoration.

Why do you think it's important to have a team working on the workouts?

VILI: If you think about any top athlete, or any top sports team, they have a team around them. If you think about a UFC fighter, he has an MMA coach, a conditioning coach, a therapist, a nutritionist, a physiotherapist, a doctor, his family… he might also have a swimming coach. All those people blend into what makes a professional athlete. Every single team has a team around them.

The beautiful thing about collaboration with BODYCOMBAT is that we have an even broader team looking at the workout than ever before, and it's only serving to make the program stronger. To be number one, we need a strong team to ensure it goes on for the next 100 releases, and the next 100, and the next 100.

Overall, our job is to create workouts that empower people, make them feel good about exercise and have fun while doing so. We want everyone to feel healthy, successful, strong, free and inspired — both our participants and Instructors.


“I first tried BODYCOMBAT back in 2012. Khiran [Huston, Vili’s wife], used to always do the class on Sundays, and one day she persuaded me to go with her. I loved it and knew that one day I wanted to teach it. Once I’d mastered my first two programs, BODYPUMP™ and LES MILLS GRIT™, I attended Initial Training in 2014.

From being certified, I became a Presenter on the Les Mills New Zealand TAP [Trainer, Assessor, Presenter] Team, and then the Head Program Coach for BODYCOMBAT in New Zealand. I first filmed on Masterclass for BODYCOMBAT 84, and I joined the creative team on BODYCOMBAT 97. As well as being part of the BODYCOMBAT team, I’m also part of the creative team for BODYPUMP, and the Lead Creative for LES MILLS CONQUER™ which is a boxing conditioning workout.

Outside of teaching, I do a lot of boxing. A few years ago, I joined a fight club. I’d train there four times a week and stay for two hours at a time because I wanted to get my coach’s certificate in boxing. I got heavily into sparring and I still go there every week because it’s just the best feeling. You spar all ages, some are still in school, and man, they are quick! I’m like the old guy, sparring these young guys, and they’re not afraid to hit you either. It forces me to move fast. For me, if you want to move really fast, you've got to train with people faster than you. Guys in my weight class are slow, hahaha!

Now, me and the other BODYCOMBAT creatives have regular training sessions with a coach at City Kickboxing who trains professional fighters, and we use those sessions as inspiration. We might be doing slips, feints, pivots, rolling… and we can then take those movements back to the program. Only if it works for the choreography though. It's fun!”