I’ve explained where the “plant powered” element of this blog comes from suppose I should give a bit of an explanation for the martial artist side too. It all started at the end of 2003/start of 2004 (don’t worry there are some fast forwarding parts) when my great friend Rebekah Alexander took me along to her Taekwon-Do (TKD) class and I loved it! Unfortunately my mum’s “taxi” service only had time to go as far as Alton Sports Centre and not all the way to Farnham where Rebekah trained. But luckily Alton Sports Centre also had a TKD club – the UKTC South. There wasn’t a kid’s class when I started and I was only 14, but they let me join in anyway. At the time I was still doing gymnastics so kicking people in the head was easy, but I looked more like I was dancing than sparring! But I loved it and was soon training at almost every session I could make. Which thanks to the kind members and offers of lifts was often pretty much almost every day of the week!
My first grading was on the 7th Feb 2004 and whizzy forward to the 9th April 2006 I was taking my black belt grading and then on the 26th July 2006 I was out in Sofia, Bulgaria representing ITF England at the Junior World Championships. Now going to a World Championships as my first black belt competition might not sound like the best idea but it’s certainty one of the best I ever made. As it led me to what is still one of my proudest achievements. It didn’t all go to plan though. Sparring (fighting) was my favourite part of competing and I was/still am always filled with nervous excitement before going onto the mats. However walking out onto a raised platform at the worlds for my individual sparring proved a bit too much. I didn’t quite freeze, but I certainly didn’t spar how I was capable of and got beaten in the first round. As all tournaments are a knock out style, it meant I was out of the competition. I’m highly competitive and hate losing so was upset but mainly cross with myself for letting everyone down. So I guess that’s why when it came to team sparring and we had drawn the Korean’s in the first round (TKD in Korean is the equivalent of rugby in New Zealand or football in Spain – they invented it and they live, eat and sleep it) I didn’t think I had anything to lose. I kept my nerves under control and sparred to be best of my abilities. We had to win 3 out of the 5 fights to get through to round two. We lost the first, but then got a win when one of the Koreans was disqualified for almost knocking out one of my team mates. Then it was my turn and after 2 minutes of hard work I had won! Unfortunately we didn’t win another round so were out of the competition but I don’t think I stopped smiling for quite a while!
I continued to regularly compete in National and International competitions until I went to University in 2008.
For the first year I joined the Aston University TKD team and competed for them, but due to the time and cost of getting back to Bisham Abbey for squad training and the Uni workload my TKD training started to trail off and I started taking up long distance running instead. I’m definitely a countryside girl and think running for miles and miles down the canals in Birmingham was my way to escape the city, see greenery and try to keep my sanity. Though I’m sure how well that worked when it resulted in me signing up for and running a marathon!
Fast forward the summer of 2012 and I was between having finished Uni and about to start my graduate job. I had saved up from working in all my holidays and on a bit of a last minute whim booked two weeks in Thailand to go and live and train at Tiger Muay Thai. My mum’s parting advice at the airport was, “Now remember you haven’t done this in years so just have fun and no fighting!” After the first three hour Muay Thai session in the heat, my love for martial arts was back. I trained every session that was available (about 7 hours a day) and it was the best holiday ever. At the end of each month they held a BBQ beatdown event where you could sign up to fight. A girl who I had met out there and become great friends with, said she wanted to sign up but would only do it if I did. So I did and thought they were unlikely to find a match for me as there weren’t that many girls, let alone girls my size signing up. However as I’m sure you can guess they did, and well, I just hoped it all went well so that I wouldn’t have to have my mum say “I told you so” when I got home. As it’s not often I don’t follow her advice. But in a way I did follow her advice as I had great fun, oh and won the fight.
I also got moved to the expert class for the next day’s training session – where I then did get beaten up! I’ve always bruised easily but the guys in the expert class didn’t hold back at all with their kicks, probably because neither did I, so maybe my own fault. I would have loved to have stayed longer but even the short stay and a painful plane ride home with my bruised hip meant I knew when I moved to Reading for work I wanted to find a martial arts club.
TKD competing is kicking and punching, whereas Muay Thai adds clinching, knees and elbows. So when I came to research Reading clubs it’s maybe not surprising I choose a mixed martial arts (MMA) club – Gods of War. This involved all martial arts and learning a ground game as well as a stand-up game. To start with I just went to the kickboxing classes, but pretty soon my competitive nature kicked in and I wanted to compete in MMA which meant having to learn the ju-jitsu (ground game) side of things. I did learn a lot but it certainly didn’t come naturally, like kicking and punching did! I know I bruise easily but the nickname “peach” almost stuck as my arms were not good with this being grabbed and pulled about malarkey!
However I worked hard at it, got taught how to weight cut and on the 9th Nov 2013, I competed in a flyweight bout on a great show called Shock n Awe in Portsmouth against a very talented opponent Molly “Meatball” McCann. I didn’t win the fight but we had three rounds of a war and got awarded “fight of the night.” Which as an amateur undercard fight on a top show is another achievement I’m proud of. It made me eager to get back to work in the gym and just get better. There were loads of pictures taken by the amazing Little Red Creative, however thought this one summed it up best, and yes she really did have an extremely powerful overhand right!
Fast forward about 6 months and a combination of the day job getting extremely busy and stressful and still not loving learning the ground game made my passion for training fade and heading to training felt like a chore, rather than the best part of my day. I took a well needed break and had to really question what I wanted to do. I loved the kickboxing and missed the TKD, so once I came through the stressful fog at the end of 2014 I knew I wanted to go back to TKD. After almost 6 years off, I was scared though and could barely remember any of my patterns. Luckily they were hiding somewhere in the very back of my memory and soon started to piece together again. Due to having the amazing instructors and students at Thames Valley TKD club (http://www.thamesvalleytaekwondo.com/) including Master Whitely (who had coached me as a junior competing for ITF England) to train with. They were all quick to try and whip me back into TKD shape and I managed to bring home a few medals at the English Open a few weekends ago. I still have a LOT to work on, however three weeks from today I will be on a plane heading out to Italy to represent ITF England again at the European Championships. So that’s the story so far and I think a reoccurring pattern through all of it is I’m good at throwing myself in the deep end, but maybe that’s just in my nature!