TRAVELLING the world for her sport has opened the eyes of south-west karate sensei Sarah Irving.
The Warrnambool Funakoshi Karate instructor was one of 19 Australian Martial Arts Championships National squad members representing Australia over the Queen's Birthday long weekend in Japan at the All Japan Martial Arts Championships/Shidokan Yokohama International Karate Tournament.
Before that the South West Healthcare community nurse travelled to Portugal to compete in the All Styles World Championships.
Her two gold trophies and bronze in Portugal and one bronze in Japan boosted her confidence in her own abilities but it was the trip to Europe which helped forge a new passion.
"I recently I did a training session in Portugal and trained with a sensei in her 70s who told us about her past experiences with violence and domestic violence," the 46-year-old said.
"It highlighted that people who do self defence courses and use the skills effectively are ones that practice them over and over again."
The revelation was the initial push Irving needed to start her own self defence class for women, which runs every Tuesday from 6.30pm at the Warrnambool Funakoshi Karate dojo.
"My karate class is about doing the traditional syllabus but also introducing the self defence techniques," she said. "Which helps to get the women in the class to become proficient in self defence skills and also help empower and give them confidence."
Besides discovering a new passion, Irving also found her recent travels to international karate tournaments had done wonders for her overall skills as a fighter and a teacher.
"It's been huge for my confidence and our dojo instructor (Frank McKenzie) says to push out of our comfort zone to improve," the mother-of-two said.
"That's what I'm finding is working recently because when I push out of my comfort zone I'm able to achieve things I didn't expect, which has been huge in improving my confidence.
"It also changes how I teach karate. I found out last night that when I was looking at the kids in my class when they were sparing I was able to give them different advice to last week before I left."
Irving, who started the sport when she, her son and husband first joined 13 years ago, will now look to prepare for another international challenge with the AMAC squad later this year.
Her training is now focused towards preparing to represent Australia in a tournament in New Zealand on October 25.
The training includes seven hours at the Warrnambool dojo and five classes of Spartan MMA a week.
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