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Letitia Carr of Wellington, competing for New Zealand at the 2009 Karate World Games on the back of her wins at the 2008 Oceania Karate Championships becomes New Zealand’s most successful Karate Athlete narrowly losing to Slovakia 6-4 in a thrilling final that until the last 25 seconds she was leading 4-1. Silver in the open kumite event is New Zealand’s first medal at a senior WKF tournament in more than 35 years of trying and we are sure it is just the beginning, at 19 years of age she will be a force to reckon with on the world stage.
PA: Thank you for the opportunity to interview you Letitia. What got you interested in the martial arts and how old were you when you started training?
Letitia Carr: I wanted to learn self-defence, I started when I was 11 years old.
PA: Which style do you study?Letitia Carr: I started off doing Shotokan karate, but now train Goju-Ryu karate.
PA: How long have you been training?Letitia Carr: 8 Years (had 1 year off)
PA: How often do you train and what does your training consist of?Letitia Carr: Average training a week consists of about 7 sessions per week. During the lead up period to major competition there can be up to 9-10 training sessions per week. Training sessions consist of karate, plyometrics, power/strength, agility and fitness training.
PA: Do you supplement your training at the gym or other exercise such as yoga or pilates etc?Letitia Carr: Yes, plyometrics, power/strength, agility and fitness are all trained in the gym.
PA: Do you have a specific diet, and if so what does it consist of?Letitia Carr: Not normally, but when trying to make weight divisions sometimes I have to try and lose weight. I tend to go on a no Carbohydrate diet (however this is only when I’m desperate to lose weight).
PA: When did you become interested in competition and what are your competition goals?Letitia Carr: I became interested in competition when I was 11. My coach encouraged me to compete in a NZ competiton only 3 months into my training. I got through to the finals as a white belt competing against a black belt. I bet her and this is what gave me the starting spark for competitive karate I believe. My competition goal is to become a World Champion. This year’s main goal is to win Senior Worlds. I also want to win World Universities, World Combat Games and Oceania, but in saying this my main peaking point/goal is for Senior Worlds in October.
PA: You participate in a number of national and international competitions, how are you supported financially?Letitia Carr: Initially I was helped entirely with my parent’s pocket, however now that I am a carded player within Karate NZ I have flights and Accommodation paid for and have also received grants from different organisations.
PA: How do you prepare for competition?Letitia Carr: All psychologically including using a lot of imagery, apart from the obvious physical training in the lead up.
PA: What was it like competing at the World Games?Letitia Carr: It was very well organised. After I made it to the final, while waiting to fight it was so noisy. Then the music stopped, the crowd went silent and as both our names got called out we had to walk out onto our mat. I was pumped and so ready! I will admit however it was scary having that much attention on you, as there was only one mat fighting during the finals, so all eyes were on us. It was AMAZING and its not really easy to describe, its kind of like one of those moments where you just have to experience it yourself to know the feeling. If I could, I would definitely do it all again. Just Amazing.
PA: How did it feel to stand on the podium receiving your Silver medal?Letitia Carr: Once again it’s hard to describe but pretty much on top of the world at the time. However, it was a little bit disappointing to say the least knowing how close I was to the GOLD. But would do it all over again.
PA: What did you learn competing at the World Games and will it change your training program looking forward?Letitia Carr: I learnt a lot, I always do. Things such as its not over until its over, be aware of the clock myself, and learning how the rest of the world fights. Yes it will have a positive change to my trainings from now on.
PA: What age is a good age to retire from competition?
Letitia Carr: 35
PA: Would you like to see martial arts represented in the mainstream media such as Sky, TVNZ or a dedicated martial arts channel? [Note: There is little to none martial arts coverage in New Zealand media].Letitia Carr: Yes, for sure. We need more people in NZ to be aware of our sport. We might be a small sport in NZ but its big overseas especially in the European countries. So for NZ to be competing against European champs and bringing medals home from these events its pretty significant. In the big sports like Rugby, Netball, cycling etc the coaches get paid a lot of money but my coach and two Personal Trainers never got paid anything for the build up to last years World Games. They trained me because they enjoy it and wanted to help. If a single NZ cyclist had represented not only NZ but all the Pacific countries at a World Event and won a Silver Medal I’m sure it would have been all over the news. Not saying they don’t deserve it because they certainly do but so do the small sports who are proving successful like Karate. Our coaches, athletes and trainers put in just as much hard work and without all the financial backup the big sports have. I had a write up in the local Upper Hutt paper which was good but would have been nice for my coaches and trainers to have seen the final result and their own efforts recognised more by the national media as well.
PA: What are your favourite techniques?
Letitia Carr: Over the top and counter punching.
PA: Do you prefer kata (set number of moves), kumite (sparring) or kihon (fundamental technique)?Letitia Carr: Definitely Kumite. It’s a massive adrenalin rush!!
PA: What are some of the highlights of your martial arts life so far?Letitia Carr: Winning Silver at the World Games, x2 Bronze at Junior Worlds, x2 Golds World Koi Cups, Wellington Sports Award finalist, and Scholarships along with these results.
PA: How do you balance your training and non-martial arts life?Letitia Carr: Wouldn’t be without my Diary, organisation skills and having great friends and family supporting me.
PA: What are your martial arts goals?Letitia Carr: Become a World Champ and bring home to NZ our first GOLD medal from a Senior Event.
PA: Do you have any plans to become an instructor in your own-right?Letitia Carr: No, not at this point
PA: What do you think the study of the martial arts has done for or given you?Letitia Carr: Self-discipline, body conditioning and confidence
PA: Would you recommend the martial arts to other people, why and what advise would you give to those starting out?Letitia Carr: Yes, because it’s great for self-discipline and body conditioning. For people starting out I’d say anything’s possible.
PA: What advice can you give to other martial artists?Letitia Carr: Believe in your-self , that’s what I’ve learnt through my Karate career. If you believe you can, you can!
PA: Do you have any heroes or role-models?Letitia Carr: Yes, I admire Mahe Drysdale. I think he is a real Champion.
PA: Is there anyone you would like to acknowledge?Letitia Carr: My Coach Leo Donnelly, my trainers (2009) Phil Silverman and Che Todd, the Karate NZ team, all sponsors, my family and friends for all their ongoing support. No athlete can make it on their own and I’m grateful that I’ve always had a great team of people behind me to help me achieve my dream – to be a champion.
Thank you Letitia for your time. Congratulations on your incredible success and all the best for the future.