Annika Gets Her Black Belt

How long have you been doing karate?

I have been doing karate since I was 7 years old, so six years.

What inspired you to take up karate?

Growing up, I often looked up to my older brother. Everything he did, I wanted to do as well. So, while I started off doing dance when the studio closed, my parents sent me to karate with my brother. I slowly fell in love with the sport and watching and training with my brother I became quite good. So, my brother played a big part in the start of my journey.

How long did it take you to get your black belt?

It has taken me six years to get to this point and reach my black belt goal. However, from my last belt (brown with two black stripes), it took me just under six months to go for black.

What was involved in getting your black belt?

There are months of training and work to be done before being assessed for your black belt. This meant intense training, lots of feedback from my senseis (teachers) and pushing my body to its limits, especially on my grading (assessment) day. On the day, you cover the three aspects of karate. Combinations, Kata and Kumite. Combinations consist of short sequences of movement eg punch, punch, kick. Then you do Kata, which are longer sequences of around 30-50 moves. There are multiples of these, and as you go up the belt ranks, the more you have (I had eight total). The final part is Kumite, the fighting aspect. There were four to five warm-up rounds and four to five proper rounds. I pushed my body to its absolute limits, so fighting the senseis felt impossible. Finally, I finished the four and a half hours of grading with nine other students, all male.

What’s the hardest thing you’ve had to overcome in karate?

Karate is such an intense sport as you can compete with others but are always competing with yourself. From a young age, I learned how to take feedback, push my body and my mind. But that was never easy, and it will continue to challenge me. The hardest thing I had to overcome wasn’t the physical pain from training too hard, getting hit, the bruises and the scratches, although that is never easy, but the mental challenges. The challenge to overcome the fear of failure, what people think, self-doubt and what I think of myself.  I still find this challenging to overcome my thoughts, but now having done my black belt grading, I have more confidence, and it will continue to grow.

What do you love most about karate?

I love many things about karate, but the part I love the most is the people and what I have learned. I have met and continue to meet incredible people who are not just friends but are becoming a family. I have also learned many values I will continue to hold throughout my life, such as respect and what it truly means, the value of trust, confidence, and kindness. Being a female doing karate has given me a sense of empowerment, and I hope as I go further in my karate journey and begin to teach others this sport, I can empower other young females as well. That is what I love the most.

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