2000 Champion - Erin Forrest

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Utopia for Erin Forrest is in the karate ring. After winning her fourth NAS national championship, this teenager is ready to take on the karate world.

It is the competition part of martial arts that Erin can't get enough of. Although her style, Rensei Karate, is very focussed on the traditional, it is the love of competition that has inspired her talent.

"For a martial artist it is unusual that I'm not really interested in the kata side and the traditional aspects, but being on the mat in the ring is what really spurs me on."

A competitor at the NAS nationals for the past five years, Erin mentions that her motivation and energy levels this year were a little depleted. Walking around and talking to everyone before the fight, she was a little unfocussed.

"It all worked out all right, but there was a bit of pressure on me to win again. A few people said jokingly are you going to be on the cover again and I was like, 'I might, I don't know.' I didn't really know if I was going to win or not, but I had the attitude that I was going to."

After going out in the second round of the women's open weight (exactly what happened last year), she was a little disappointed and on a bit of a downer. Quickly refocussing an hour later she went into the heavy weight division with the attitude she had to prove herself and got into the final and won.

"At the end of the day I just really liked to win, it's a great feeling and I suppose when you lose or don't perform as well as you would like to, over time you improve and finally get the edge over the person you have lost to."

Erin admits that over the past few years other competitors have started to notice her style of fighting. She was doing a lot of single kicks and single techniques without actually setting them up, but because Erin was faster and had a higher skill level than her competitors she was winning. Now she has included double hand combinations then comes up with a kick and sets her moves up with a punch, rather than just single techniques.

To help increase her motivation this year Erin has also included cardio and weight training into her program. Running and swimming a few nights a week has dramatically increased her energy.

"I did this to be a bit more explosive off the line. Sometimes in my first or second fight I am a bit flat and I'm not fired up enough, the cardio training is really working."

For the girl who first stepped into the ring as an eleven-year-old red belt, the constant learning aspect and the chance to fight keeps her enthused.

"I love going to classes every week and building on my knowledge. The stripes on the belt don't really worry me, they are a symbol of what you know and sometimes I don't think this is true because there are a lot of people with dans who don't know that much. Even if I did have more, I don't think I would even put them on my belt," she says.

The NAS competitions are a big part of Erin's life and with every year the competitors and styles keep growing. In the middle of studying Sports Administration she has little time left after study, training and competing.

"It's a great course, sometimes it is hard to fit it in with my training but it all works out. Eventually I would love to do personal training, fitness and self-defence for women. I wouldn't mind being a martial arts trainer, like a personal trainer, and I believe it is pretty important that women know self defence."

Erin is keeping her sights sets on 2004 and she hopes it will be a demonstration sport in the Athens Olympics. By this time she will be 23 and at the perfect age to compete in a tournament such as this.

"Once karate is accepted into the Olympics it will grow dramatically. If you look at the number of people practising Taekwondo after it became an Olympic sport the percentage rates would have been higher," she says."

Training at the level of an elite athlete, Erin believes a lot of martial artists will be able to dedicate more time to their sport once karate becomes a part of the Olympics.

"Karate doesn't have any funding that I know of. In terms of sponsorship, grants and assistance with coaching, this will all happen when it is accepted."

A natural champion in the ring, Erin has made a name for herself in Australia. Now she is ready to take on the world.