2002 Champion - Angela Uytingco

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Angela Uytingco is heralded as the 2002 National All Styles (NAS) Champions of Champions. Her achievement sets her amongst the elite martial artists of Australia, in what is truly an all style event. Blitz caught up with the Champion for an exclusive insight into what it takes to win such a prestigeous event.

How old were you when you moved to Australia, and how did you discover martial arts?

Two weeks after I arrived in Australia, I had my twelfth birthday. I came from a small town in the Philippines where I grew up watching a lot of martial art TV shows and films with my older brother. From flying Kung Fu series televised after school and Filipino action movies, to western movies such as Karate Kid, American Ninja and Kickboxer. I've always wanted to study martial arts but we couldn't afford it and I wasn't allowed to do it because "it's for men, not young ladies." When someone approached my brother about karate training at a neighbouring suburb and mum allowed him to go, I naturally insisted on going too. After all, every young lady needs to know self-defence.

How long have you been training in GKR Karate? How has karate affected your life? What do martial arts mean to you?

I started my formal martial arts training with GKR Karate in April 1996. Three months is the longest break I've had from training since. I enjoy training so much because it is the only environment where I feel in full control of myself. I love the challenge of techniques in kata and
kumite. In training I know exactly what I want to accomplish, my goals are clear whether it be faster footwork or stronger kata. I've never trained with the goal of beating my opponent; I always trained to improve myself. Martial arts taught me the importance of balance in
life; and the ability to truly appreciate people. But most importantly, it taught me that it doesn't matter what you have achieved, there's so much more to learn and improve on. I enjoy the hard training, especially when I am rewarded by that elusive "second wind". This taught me that
hard work is not really hard if you have fun while doing it. So while studying for my degree, I pretended that my worst subjects were fun, and because I "liked" to put in the hard work studying for them wasn't so hard after all!

Who has influenced you in the martial arts? How have they influenced you?

At the start, it helped to have my brother training with me. Once we got home we worked on our basics and constructively criticised each other's techniques. We fed off each other's motivation to become better and better. Sensei Nabil Fanous was my teacher for nearly all of my first three years with GKR. Through him I learnt to appreciate the basics, and developed a "never say die" attitude (he's renowned for his combination drills). I don't think I've thanked him enough for it. Glenn Hutchison's advice goes a long way for me. He makes me think and work harder by telling me how much more I need to do. Sometimes it helps to hear the truth that most people are too afraid to say to your face. There are so many mentors in the martial arts scene who have helped me gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a martial artist ? they know who they are.

Can you describe your recent experience of winning the NAS champion of champions?

The entire bout was a blur once I stepped out of the ring, and it still is. I haven't seen the  footage of the finals, I know I threw a couple of reverse punches and attempted to kick, but I cannot remember the specific attack or counter that scored. After the referee stopped the bout and declared me the winner, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I don't remember doing either but I'm pretty sure I had a wide grin on my face. I shook hands and hugged so many people; teammates, martial artists from other states and spectators. They were all very pleased for me and I was delighted to see their smiling faces. But the one thing that truly made me happy wasn't the trophy on my hand, or the attention from the crowd, it was the knowledge that I gave it my best and was rewarded. Glory is only achieved in victory when you've given 100% effort.

Who has been your hardest opponent?

I think my hardest opponent is myself. If I lose to myself before I enter the ring, then I can lose  against anybody. I have won and lost a lot of bouts, but there isn't one person that I always lose  to. Some bouts require a lot of mental effort and stamina, like the match against Tarryn at  the Women's Open Weight division. We were practically swapping points, until she scored the  last point just before the buzzer. Even if I won that match, it still would've been the hardest bout of the Championship.

What is your favourite aspect of competition?

There are numerous lessons learnt in the field of competition. Personal development including improving self-confidence, creation and realisation of goals, ability to concentrate on the task at hand, ability to perform under pressure, are all important lessons. I think the most important lesson of all is facing and overcoming the fear of failure.

What are your career highlights?

Next to the Champion of Champions title, the second most important highlight of my tournament career is First place in NAS NSW Women's Advanced Continuous Sparring, Round 1 2002. It was the first time I entered the event. I needed to prove to myself that I'm not just a point fighter, that I can do well in continuous if I apply myself. The reason why I didn't enter for the first three years in the team was because I was scared. The competition looked rough. All the girls looked tough, and the general idea I received from people was you have to be big and strong to stand a chance. So I took it on as a challenge, I tested the theory that you don't need to be big or tough to be successful in Continuous Sparring, you just have to be smart with a lot of stamina.

Other important career highlights:

  • 2002 NAS National Champion - Women's Advanced Continuous Sparring
  • 2002 GKR Australasian Champion - Women's Open Kata
  • 2001 GKR Australasian Champion - Women's Open Kata
  • 1999 NAS National Champion - Women's Intermediate Sparring
  • 1999 GKR Australasian Champion - Women's Open Sparring

How do you prepare for the competition?

A) Training

I train hard as usual with more emphasis on technique and control. I try to vary my training and who I attend classes with.

B) Diet

I try to eat healthier than usual, but I don't have a specific diet in preparation for competition. I drink plenty of water and eat lots of carbohydrates for breakfast and lunch. I eat fruit every time I think of chocolates or lollies. I also like to have a banana before, and during the day of competition. It helps to clear my head. To improve stamina for Continuous Sparring I drink three gulps of water every couple of minutes a few hours before the event.

C) Fitness

Most classes require aerobic fitness, so I'm reasonably fit for the majority of the year.

How do you deal with your inner critic and outside distractions?

The ability to be positive about yourself is much harder than finding your faults. I use my inner critic to propel my karate forward as it adds tenacity to my training. When I execute sloppy technique in sparring, I get annoyed at myself for the lack of focus in the application. This tells me I need to concentrate more on the match at hand. I don't have many outside distractions. I like to dance, so I sometimes go clubbing on weekends, but I don't stay out late all the
time. Martial arts training take most nights of my week, I ask friends to book me two weeks in advance for a night out. As for work, I don't let it distract my training; at the same time I don't let training distract my work.

What effect do your teammates have on your training and performance?

The last six months of 2002 was very flat with regard to my point sparring. A lot of people remarked on the difference but continued to give me positive feedback. Most of them believed I could take home the Champion of Champions title. In training, I saw everyone push him or
herself harder and harder. In doing so, they also pushed me to give it my all. It feels good to know your teammates are behind you. Whether they're at the side of the ring cheering you on or they're behind an encouraging voice when you start to tire in class. In the ring I feel like I'm not fighting just for myself, I'm there for my team, my coach and all the friends that supported me along the way.

How important is mental preparation? How do you prepare your mind for competition?

Mental preparation is what made all the difference in last year's championships. Someone noticed at an earlier tournament that I didn't have the desire to win (I was very flat) and asked me to decide whether or not I wanted to be the Champion of Champions. I didn't have a direct answer to give at the time, so the question never left my mind for the last four weeks before the tournament. I had very long chats with experienced people like David North, Alex Pereda and Anthony Ryan. In the end, we all knew it was a decision only I could make. Once I made the decision to give it my very best and make my opponent work hard to get a point in, the difference in my attitude was witnessed by everyone.

On the day, I felt calm inside but at the same time I was itching to get in the ring.

Have you ever been forced to use karate outside of competition?

Apart from training and competition, I never had to use my karate techniques. I've used competition skills to win a very tight game of lawn balls. I've used danger awareness skills to ward off would be attackers, but I haven't thrown a single punch or kick to defend myself or anyone else from a real threat.

How can martial arts be used to improve your daily life?

They say training produces endorphins and endorphins make people happy. But apart from natural chemicals produced by the body, the principles of martial arts alone can improve daily life. The self-discipline practiced in class can be applied to develop a healthier diet. The same focus
used in training can be applied to eliminate distractions when studying or working.

What are your goals for the future?

This year I'd like to keep growing as a martial artist. I want to grade to Ni (2nd) Dan at the end of the year, so I will focus on my kata and stamina. For sparring, I'd like to develop faster footwork. I intend to challenge and apply some martial arts ideas and principles to my training, so I will be doing a lot more reading.