My Tournament Journey Part one - Ataxia UK

My Tournament Journey Part one 

Post Published: December 9, 2022
Helen McKnight takes her ataxia to a karate tournament!


I began my karate journey with preparation and nutrition. I eat nutritious foods. To build up my muscles, I need to eat healthy and balanced meals. Ostrich fillet is an excellent option because it is much stronger than steak and very high in protein. My diet is high in protein, especially a week before a tournament. Having a slow system means I have to eat right to maintain my health – my energy allows me to fight well. Water, water, water! There is no way to overemphasize the importance of water. I used to add juice to my water, but I discovered that juice isn’t as effective as water, so I stopped doing that. Currently, I’m sourcing my water from Wales – I have a niece in Wales, and she advised me on how to source spring water, which tastes lovely and is very healthy! 

I began my day on 12 March by eating a banana around 6 a.m. It makes me feel more energetic. I don’t eat anything until after the tournament. My friend Alex picked me up around 7 am so that I would arrive at the tournament venue in Sheffield for 8am. to take me to Sheffield – where the tournament was held. As soon as we reached the venue, I changed my clothes, but I chose not to warm up; instead, I cheered for my fellow competitors. There was so much noise that I was unable to hear the judge, who tapped my shoulder and told me that it was my turn. I received a bronze medal for kata and kumite. The three women in my division who participated all had disabilities and we were all inspiring – we all held each other up and supported each other. I felt proud and accomplished – I had more success than at my last tournament. Following the judge’s comments on a technique that sparked my interest in kumite for my next tournament, I felt more confident to move on to the next level, which is kumite! I plan on joining another tournament, but this time I want to go to the next level and compete in kata and kumite for a silver medal! The preparations for my next tournament have already begun, and I have even purchased a taekwondo helmet! Although I don’t do kumite, I do have a taekwondo helmet, as I intend to do it when I feel that my balance and core muscles are stronger. I have given myself a two-year plan. 

For me, karate is a worthwhile activity that I go to great lengths to achieve. In the week before, I was in a wheelchair and wanted to practice out of it, and my instructor said I should use it (JUST IN CASE I NEEDED IT). The fact that I didn’t use my wheelchair at the tournament proved everyone wrong – so believe in yourself! Put on your ‘CAN DO ATTITUDE’, because I know I’m capable of it, and so are you! Let THAT be your mentality. It’s all up to you and your willpower, so don’t be held back by the word “cannot.” There are times when you can fall from a mountain and if you have belief in your ability, you climb back up – that’s what I do!   

Ataxia does not rule my life. I have it, but it does not own me! I had to drag it to the tournament; it had no choice but to come with me! Without ataxia, I would not be me, I wouldn’t know who I would be. This is the story of me and my silly best friend (ataxia)! 

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