Armed with a 1st dan black belt, Central Otago teen Aja Tate-Bell has her sights set on knocking down more obstacles on the karate stage.
The 16-year-old Dunstan High School pupil is aiming for the Oceania Karate Championships next year and the Junior World Championships in 2021.
Those goals come on the back of a successful season.
Aja, who is a member of the Shokukai Club, recently competed at nationals in Auckland where she secured a gold medal in kumite and bronze in kata.
She also competed in a secondary schools’ competition at the same time, where she won silver medals in the kata and kumite and bronze in the team kumite.
Kata was a sequence of movements – “the more pretty side of karate”, Aja said.
Kumite was “fighting”, she said.
Aja, who secured her 1st dan black belt at the age of 14, took up karate when she was 7.
She said it was the various components regarding discipline and respect she had enjoyed building on, along with friendships she had made along the way.
Aja said the junior worlds was her ultimate goal, which would be a “huge step up” from the Oceanias.
“[With] juniors, you are competing against some of the best people in their country in that age group.”
Aja, who also enjoys playing netball in the winter, dedicated a “big chunk” of her time to karate.
She trains up to three times a week, working with three coaches – one each in Alexandra, Cromwell and Queenstown, up to two hours at a time.
Aja will compete in an Otago/Southland competition in October in Queenstown, which will be her last event for the season, before it starts again in January.
But, that does not mean she will be taking a break.
“During the six-week holidays [at the end of the year], I’ll be going to train with other clubs around New Zealand, mainly in Auckland,” she said.
four times a week to keep my fitness up.”
That training will stand her in good stead for the New Zealand Open competition in April, which will determine whether or not she secures a place at the Oceanias.
Aja said she had not managed to talk any of her friends into taking up the sport, but encouraged others to give it a go, particularly young children.
Her advice to anyone considering the sport is simple: “I think they should do it”.
“It’s a really good opportunity to learn things you wouldn’t necessarily learn from your family. You learn self-defence, but you also learn self-respect.”