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Exploring South Africa: World Karate Tournament and Reconnecting with Loved Ones

As the summer comes to a close and we head into the fall season, I wanted to share a few summer highlights and lessons from my trip to South Africa.

In July, I was fortunate to represent Team USA at the Kimura Shukokai International World Karate Tournament, where 580 competitors from around the globe competed in Cape Town. Over three days, we competed and gave it our best. The energy was invigorating and electrifying, as everyone rooted for their team members and the country they represented.

I competed in four categories, unison (synchronized) and individual kata (form), and team and individual kumite (fighting). After an exciting few days, I placed third in the Women’s Individual Open Heavyweight Kumite division, and as captain of the Women’s USA A Team, we too placed third in Kumite. Overall, Team USA ranked fourth in medal standings, a very proud moment for all our Senseis (karate instructors) who spent endless hours training and guiding us for this KSI World Tournament.

I was proud of my performance to be able to represent the USA at my 16th international karate tournament. I learned many lessons and received many words of wisdom while training for this tournament and while competing.

You learn to keep going

  • During one of our last training sessions before the tournament, after about three hours of training, I was exhausted and wasn't giving it my all.

  • My instructor looked at me and said “I know you’re tired, but it’s in these moments that you have to give it your best, and push through the tiredness and the pain.”

To keep pushing yourself

  • All of a sudden, those words flowed through my body and gave me a burst of energy, and for the next half hour, I gave it my all, even more than I had for the previous three hours.

Why Mindset matters

  • It’s amazing what a little encouragement and a change in mindset can do; my instructor’s ongoing encouraging words completely changed my energy and ability to keep performing at my best.

To keep improving and trying

  • The highlight of my fights was during a team fighting event, when I was up 5-0, and with 20 seconds left, I scored a two-point spinning back kick. My teammates know I love that kick, and I was beyond excited when it landed, as it’s not an easy kick to execute and score. But as my instructor always says “If you got one in, you’re capable of more. You just have to keep training and trying.”

To be prepared, BOTH mentally and physically

  • With all the hours of training (15+ hours per week for three months), it’s not just about being physically ready but more importantly, being mentally and emotionally prepared. You can lose a fight (before you even step on the mat), if you aren't mentally strong, as it can get the best of you and tear you down.

To push outside your comfort zone

  • Training for hours, especially when you’re exhausted, is not about the physical pain you can endure, but it's in these difficult and uncomfortable moments where you learn to grow and push past your pain and discomfort.

Learn to capture moments

  • Leading up to the tournament, we would often sit with my instructor, at the end of training, and discuss strategy, what we needed to improve on, and techniques that were working for each of us. My karate instructor, Shihan Bill Bressaw, 9th Dan, was always able to impart words of wisdom during these discussions. It was at one of these discussions, that he said to us, “Don’t try to win each bout, but learn to win the moment, one moment at a time - win one point at a time, during each fight.”

Why the lessons matter

  • Those words rang through my head while I competed. All those late-night discussions came in handy, as it was during the critical moments when it felt like he was sitting on my shoulder, like a little birdie, telling me what I needed to do to win, each moment!

Learn to support and lean on your teammates

  • Spending all these hours training, also means you spend numerous hours with your teammates. You build new relationships and solidify existing ones. You learn to lean on one another, because not every training day is great, and as teammates, you pick each other up and push each other to improve, get better, and get through the difficult moments. Your teammates become and are your Karate family.

Following the tournament, a group of various KSI members, stayed on to visit and tour the beautiful Western Cape. Our first adventure began at the oldest winery in South Africa, Groot Constantia. We started with a private wine tasting by a world-renowned, award winning viticulturist. The wines were excellent, especially his award winning, best Sauvignon Blanc in the world. Following the wine tasting, we enjoyed a delicious lunch with traditional South African dishes, paired with just the right wines, in a private room. It was the perfect start to our vacation.

The next day, despite the winds and rain, we first ventured off to see the penguins, along the coastline. They were adorable to see, standing only a few feet away from us, before watching them jump back in the water. As we left the penguins and headed towards Hermanus, a beautiful and popular coastal region, we saw a brightly colored rainbow coming out of the ocean from either side - we had found two pots of gold..:).

After filling our bellies with fresh fish and our hands with shopping bags from Hermanus, we headed off to the famous Aquila Game Reserve in the Klein Karoo (Little Karoo). Upon our arrival, we ventured off on safari where we saw lions, wildebeest (buffalos), rhinos, hippos, zebras, giraffes, gemsbok, springbok (S.A.'s national animal), and lastly ostriches, where we witnessed a male chasing a female, only to eventually give up. It seems, he decided it wasn't worth the chase..:). Not only did we see all this wildlife within feet of us, but we also captured an amazing sunset over the hills of the Klein Karoo. (Check out more safari photos at the end of the blog).

The Western Cape is a beautiful place and I would highly recommend a visit to this amazing country. To end my trip, I headed back up to Johannesburg, where I spent the last few days visiting family and friends, catching up, grabbing hugs, laughing, dancing, and even squeezing in a Pretoria Boys High School Varsity Team Rugby game (Elon Musk went to PBHS as does my first cousin’s son..:)). It was a trip of a lifetime, and I’m beyond thankful and grateful I could travel and partake in my passion, spend time with family and friends, experience the beauty of South Africa, and most importantly, capture special moments.

With the fall season ahead of us, I have resumed booking self-defense speaking engagements and workshops. To learn more about my programs, visit my website, and follow me on my social media pages: Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn, where I will continue to provide valuable self-defense and safety tips, along with motivational and inspirational posts.

As always, remember to stay safe, alert, and be aware.

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