Birmingham-born Emily is a PhD student, currently based at Rothamsted Research. She joined Harpenden JKA in September as a new karate student and this is how she’s getting on.

You’ve just started training as a new karate student – how’s that going for you?

I’m enjoying it so much I forget it’s a great workout until the aches set in the next day! The club takes karate very seriously, of course, but there’s lots of time for laughter and having fun while we learn. I train once a week, twice if I can. In the first few weeks as new karate students, we received dedicated instruction, getting to grips with the basics before joining the main class to train alongside higher grades. We’ve started work on the first two katas (Kihon and Heian Shodan) and practised some kumite. I’ve discovered I need to work on my balance, co-ordination and standing on one leg!

What made you choose karate?

I enjoy exercise (I do gymnastics and run when I can) but I needed to get stronger, both mentally and physically. That led me to martial arts which has always interested me. I came across the Harpenden JKA website and liked that the club focuses on the whole karate journey as much as the discipline. I’m studying for my PhD in molecular microbial ecology. My project at Rothamsted Research looks at using and understanding beneficial microbes found in the soil as an alternative to artificial fertiliser to enhance crop growth. It’s quite stressful and I find karate is helping me with my mental health. I can just focus my thoughts on my karate and ignore everything else during my training sessions.

What’s it like being a new karate student?

As karate beginners, we were given thorough training in the basics but Sensei Miranda brought us into the main class, and onto more exciting stuff, as soon as possible. I like that we don’t just focus on getting through our grading. We work on our co-ordination, fitness and quicker reactions. One thing I have learnt, is that when Sensei goes to the karate cupboard, we know we’re in for something different!

Is being part of a club important?

Yes, because you’re practising your own karate but not on your own. It’s also much more fun. I’ve only been training a few months but I was made so welcome that I honestly feel right at home. I was worried about being too old to start karate (I can see Sensei Miranda shaking her head at that comment!). But there are all ages of people training alongside me – beginners and more experienced – so karate is very much for anybody and everybody.

What’s next for you and the club?

The Grading – and the JKAE Open Championships! I’ll let you know how we all get on…

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