Making her way to gold: Uliana's story
Lakeside grade 7 student Uliana K recently won the gold medal in the Karate-do Union of Singapore’s National Kata Championships. We caught up with her to find out about her journey to the top.
Hi Uliana, congratulations on winning gold! How long have you been practising karate?
Uliana: I started learning karate in 2015 when I was six years old, which means I've been practising karate for half of my life! When I first started, we were working on basics and strength. Thereafter came kumite, which is basically what people think karate is all about: fighting. When my coaches were satisfied with both my basics and strength, we started learning kata one step at a time.
How did your interest in karate begin?
Uliana: I wanted to learn a type of martial arts because I found fighting really fascinating. My mom found a karate dojo near our house and helped me enroll. At first I thought karate only involved kumite (fighting), but I soon learned about kata. This is a choreographed pattern of movements that are made to be practised alone. From there, I grew to really enjoy kata.
How often do you practise kata?
Uliana: I have lessons three times a week, each lasting 60 to 90 minutes. I also practise in between lessons. I have to start every practice with a warm-up in order to ‘wake up’ my muscles. Then I do a quick run-through of a few kata moves I have chosen for that session. I try to repeat them with as much power as I can. When I am satisfied with my kata routines, I do a quick cool-down and end with a stretch so that my muscles don't ache the next day.
What lessons has kata taught you?
Uliana: Kata has taught me that however high you are, you can always keep going. Whenever I finish learning a high-level kata routine, I always know that there is a more challenging kata move to learn and master. Kata has also taught me perseverance, to be focused on what I want to achieve and do everything I can to reach this goal.
Is there any teamwork involved in kata or is it a solitary sport?
Uliana: Even though kata itself is a solitary sport, I have coaches who helped me along the way. I have Sensei Lawrence, a coach from Goju Ryu Karate Association Singapore (GRKAS), who I train with in a dojo, and Sensei Veronika from Kaliningrad, Russia, who I train with online.
How did you feel about entering the national championships?
Uliana: I was very worried, because prior to the nationals, we had an online competition where I placed third. So I was quite nervous to perform my kata moves on the actual day. I was hoping to improve and get second place, and I didn’t expect to get first place and gold.
Was training for the national championships a challenging process?
Uliana: Every time I trained with my coach, we were working on my accuracy and power in my moves. I had to choose three kata routines I was most confident in, to make every single move perfect and flow smoothly. It was quite difficult to always try and make every attempt better than the last.
How did you feel upon winning the gold medal?
Uliana: My strongest feelings were relief and pride as I genuinely did not expect to win gold.
How has CIS helped you in kata?
Uliana: Even though preparing for the competition took a lot of teamwork with my coaches, CIS has taught me independence and self-management skills to be able to rely on myself and be focused on my task and really work hard towards what I want to achieve.
What's next for you and kata?
Uliana: My next goal is to become more organised with both my schoolwork and social life. Being organised would really help me attain even better results in the future and reach my highest potential. I would love to participate in a world championship one day. It will take a lot of work to get there, but I will try my best. Even though participating in the world championships would be an achievement in itself, I would love to be in the top three.
Do you have any advice for others who may be interested in pursuing karate?
Uliana: Never give up and keep on going no matter what challenges are up ahead. Be confident and take pride in the sport you play.
Thank you for sharing your story and offering advice, Uliana! We hope to see you in the world championship soon.