Some of the principles of martial arts include respect, discipline, courage, integrity and indominable spirit. To be a woman in martial arts truly mirrors these principles.
When I started karate back in 2001, I was just four years old, and I was one of the only girls in class. The thought of being one of the only girls never crossed my mind while I was there. I loved every moment of karate; I was obsessed! Even as I got higher up in the ranks, I noticed that I could keep up with all the boys (even the older ones) in class.
I will never forget this boy in karate who thought he could be better than me simply because he was a boy. From a very young age I knew that I could be good, if not the best at something if I believed in myself.
When I started attending tournaments in 2004, I fell in love with competing in the weapons division. I chose the nunchucks as my weapon of choice. My instructor Matt Emig “was” and is still the best there ever was at nunchucks. He along with my other sport karate instructor, Daniel Sterling became my role models who I would aspire to be every day.
I quickly noticed that even in NASKA (when underbelt competitors were put together whether you were a girl or boy) there weren’t a lot of girls competing alongside me. I didn’t let the thought of being one of the only girls intimidate me, instead it motivated me more to beat them and be the best in the division.
The motivation inspired me so much that I began to work on my tricking (martial arts acrobatic movements) ability which was also dominated more so by males. Anatomically it is easier for males to be able to trick given their body composition, however, once again I didn’t let that stop me. I would study tricking samplers day after day and learn the tricks all by myself with a crashmat nearby. I became known as one of the best female trickers in sport karate. In fact, people would tell me I “trick like a boy” and I would take that compliment with a huge grin. Setting the new standards is part of who I am.
In the current time, I continue to teach private lessons to my students who live all over the country. I find it as part of my duty in the journey of martial arts that I contribute back into the sport that has shaped my life forever. One of my current students, Riley Claire Carlisle aka “RC” is someone to keep your eye out for. She has already made tremendous waves in the sport karate scene and is nowhere near done. Riley is a girl who is surely intense as ever.
She competes with three different weapons (including nunchucks) and can compete in both extreme divisions as well as the traditional styled divisions. She reminds me of myself when I was starting up; fierce and determined.
Determined to make an impact and let everyone know who she is. My other female student, Bella Nicoli who is a teammate of mine (on team Paul Mitchell) is another superstar. It’s a cool feeling to be able to leave your legacy through your students especially when you they get invited to represent the same team as you. Bella who is also a fellow “nunchucker” is the top ranked female in many of her divisions. She has gone through years of competition where she has been unbeatable.
Bella is also another female competitor who brings the fire when she steps in to the ring. Throughout my martial arts journey I’ve been the little girl to look up to great martial arts athletes. I’ve also transformed from being the “up and coming competitor” to being “the competitor to watch” to then inspiring others to achieve greatness within themselves.
I’m glad in a “male dominated sport” I can be the role model for young female athletes to show them that it is more than possible for females to be great within the sport. To all the young athletes who may be reading this, believe in yourself and you can open all those doors that are already set for you!