Samantha entered the 2006 NAS Championships only days before the tournament. She had been suffering from a strained hamstring and had been undecided about her fitness. A greater obstacle, however, and something that would make her victory all the more meaningful, was the recent passing of her sensei, Alan Murdoch, of Shukokai Karate.
Sam has dedicated her win to her sensei. Despite having had a difficult year, she went into the competition with a relaxed mind and the simple determination to do her best, which is something she knows Sensei Alan would have wanted.
Sam began practising martial arts in karate when she was 13 years old and entered competition a year later when she represented the ACT. She then joined Shotokan, competing in the Shotokan World Championships where she placed 5th in kata. By the time she was 18, she had demonstrated enough talent to convince her parents to move with her from Canberra to Melbourne in order for her to train with top level coaches.
"I love martial arts, as it is not just physical exercise. A lot of the time it tests you mentally. So much depends on your ability to focus, strategize and adapt, particularly in competition, all in a very short space of time. I love it because it constantly challenges me and helps to prepare me for everyday life challenges."
In the lead-up to tournaments, Sam follows a disciplined training regime of karate and general fitness training, with a tapering-off period just prior to competition.
In terms of injury, she counts herself lucky to have suffered only a few minor problems. She admits the greater setbacks have been outside the dojo: "It was quite a difficult year for me, as I was completing my studies as a myotherapist and coping with the illness and passing of my coach and the terminal illness of my grandmother, who also passed away just before Christmas. Then there is always the difficulty of combining education, work and training and finding the money to compete at the highest level." The year's hardship and dedication paid off at the NAS, as Sam went on to outscore some excellent competition to win the 2006 Female Champion of Champions.
Sam regards her fighting style as attacking. "I like to pressure my opponent. My favourite technique would be gyaku-tzuki (reverse-punch) and ura-mawashi-geri (another term for hook-kick). I was able to read my opponent's timing and to be the first in with a scoring technique. This helps to build my confidence. Ura-mawashi-geri is a difficult technique to perform in competition, and to be successful it has to be disguised and it must be performed fast, otherwise it can leave you very exposed for your opponent to score on you."
Like Luke, Sam was able to capitalise on her kicking techniques for the extra points. "They are an important part of fighting and it is great that they are now being suitably rewarded under the new points system. They can be difficult moves to carry out in competition so when they do come off it is very rewarding."