How long have you been practising karate Rebecca?
I have been participating in karate for 14 years now, I started when I was 6 years old. Seems like a lifetime away now!
Why did you choose to take up karate?
I actually started karate because of my Dad. He practised it when he was younger but gave up for a few years. When he decided to start back I said I wanted to give it a go and it all started from there. I haven’t looked back, I fell in love with it and it’s always been something I’ve looked forward to going to. We now teach and train together on a regular basis and we have even competed together. We are now exploring the world together, I compete with the best from around the world and my dad is now a world referee.
Are there different forms of karate? What type do you practise?
Yes, there are 2 forms within karate. There is Kata and Kumite (fighting). The Kata side is a series of defensive and attacking moves. I do both of these, but I prefer to fight as when I first started Karate this is all I used to do. In Karate there are also different styles, some of these are, Shito Ryu (this is what I do), Shukokai, Shotokan, Goju Ryu and Wado.
When was your first competition and how many competitions have you competed in?
I have been competing for 5 years and my first competition was back in 2013. I won bronze in my first competition and in my second I actually managed to become National Champion!
From here I carried on competing, working hard and luckily I’ve been able to continue with the wins. If I don’t come away with a medal or a win I learn from what happened. I have lost count with how many competitions I have participated in now but they never get easier, you get better and the work gets harder. People who aren’t committed and dedicated or don’t want to put the work in won’t take off and eventually they end up giving it up, which is a shame. But like any sport, karate is hard and requires support and dedication.
How many hours per week do you put in and what is your pre-competition training regime?
I train 3 to 4 times in a normal training week as well as going to the gym a few times a week. Before I big competition I will up this to 5 times a week as well as some private lessons to make sure I am at my highest standard.
Tell me about your recent competitions. How did the World and European competitions come about?
The World and European competitions came about when I started at SSKA England Karate Club, I was selected to be part of the elite team and my coach trained me to be good enough to compete at this level.
In 2015, I was selected to be part of the England Squad with my dad, and while I didn’t medal at this one I came in the top 6. With that being my first World Championships it only made me want a medal even more so I started training more and upping the seriousness of competing at this level. There has been several World and European Championships since.
In 2017 we had a European Championships where I placed 2nd and amazed myself by having a European title! Then in 2017, I was selected again to be part of the England Squad and we went off to Italy. I competed in Kata where I placed 4th but I also competed in fighting, this is where I gained my first world title as I won 2nd place. As I said earlier, we don’t always win like when we went to Dundee for the World Championships and I placed 4th. But this only makes you hungrier for the wins. So as soon as we got back, we training started as normal and preparation for the European Championships in Malta started. This is the Championships I have just got back from where I placed 2nd, just missing out on the Gold by seconds.
Aside from the big Championships, there are obviously many national competitions throughout the year at various locations, including: Sheffield, Birmingham, Manchester, London, Liverpool, Essex and Wales. These are all good opportunities to see which areas need improving and measure how well I’m doing leading up towards the big championships.
What’s been your latest karate challenge?
I competed at the English Championships which took place on 18th November. It was a really tough competition and I’m proud to have won the gold for Kata (pictured), which means I’m the reigning England Kata Champion! I also won the bronze in Kumite. I’m now starting preparations for the World Championships in Bratislava, Slovakia which is being held at the end of June 2019.
Do you have any specialist moves or combinations?
In Kata it is a specific set of moves which have to be learnt and performed correctly. In fighting I have quite a fast Gyaku-zuki (which is a punch to the stomach). I would say this is usually my go-to, in fighting.
Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to start karate?
Don’t be too scared to try something new. We were all a beginner at one point and we only get better by practicing and putting the work in. We all have to start somewhere to so whether it is someone age 10 or someone age 30, it is the getting up and coming to the class that counts.
People may be scared of starting a new class on their own but in a dojo we accept each other regardless of background. I would encourage anyone to give it a go and it could turn out to be one of the best decisions they make!
The number of friends you gain through this sport is amazing and they are all there to help and support you.
Even when competing, the people you compete against actually become your friends too, so you’re never really alone in this sport.
Do you think karate helps you in other areas of your life, like in the workplace?
Definitely. When I started karate, I was a shy 6-year-old girl who wouldn’t say boo to anyone and if someone had mentioned a competition to me at that age, I would have run a mile! But after years of being around loud, supportive, amazing people, instructors and coaches, my confidence started to grow.
Eventually my old instructor mentioned a competition and got me on that mat, since then my confidence has grown and grown. This has helped so much in life as I can now speak to people I don’t know and have a good conversation. Karate has also taught me to work hard for what I want and to be dedicated. It’s also taught me respect and discipline which has helped in life. No matter who the person is, you treat them with respect.
Without karate I don’t think I would be the strong, confident person I am now. If I’d have given up karate when it got hard, then I wouldn’t be where I am today. The same applies at work and in life – if something gets hard you don’t just give up, you work at it until eventually it becomes second nature.