It's hard to believe that Lachlan Carr was once a small, skinny kid hiding in a tree in his backyard, declaring he was "never coming down" as a result of being bullied at primary school.
It was with a knock at the door by a Go-Kan-Ryu (GKR) karate representative, the same week of his tree protest, that kicked off Carr's martial arts journey. Now 20 years old and hardly someone to pick on, Carr has made his mark at the NAS Championship for the second year in a row.
Carr had a busy year competing in NAS, GKR tournaments and the like. The highlights of his year were a two-week trip overseas to partake in a Japanese tournament, and the NAS Championship. Competition is what makes Carr tick. He entered his first tournament at nine and was hooked.
"Competing is the only way to find out where you stand amongst other people. You can hold this high standard in your head of yourself, but until you actually compete, you'll never really know," the Black-belt muses.
Carr's burning desire to become Champion of Champions stems back to 1999 when he entered NAS for the first time and saw his instructor, Sensei Alex Pereda, win. "I didn't really know what Champion of Champions was until that tournament and it blew me away, and I knew I wanted to win one day," he recalls.
Having achieved just that for the first time in 2007, this time around was different. "My instructor Glenn Hutchinson was telling me that it's easy to win when no-one knows who you are and this year you're going to be tested because you're a target now," Carr says.
Motivated by the challenge ahead, he spent eight months preparing for the tournament — train hard, fight easy, as the saying goes — and his training was equal parts physical and mental. Carr trained six days a week, beginning on Mondays with a personal training session focusing on cardio and weights. Tuesdays and Wednesdays began with a gym session of weights and cardio, followed by karate training. On Thursdays, he would fit in a gym session prior to teaching karate. Saturday was a day of rest and on Sundays it was time for tournament training.
Carr emphasises the importance of doing each training session with intensity and continuously striving to push oneself harder and harder, whether it involves constantly increasing reps on each muscle group or having shorter breaks between reps.
"I'm glad I have built myself up to this level of intensity, because when it comes to the crunch, I know I have done all I need to do. I am revved and can just go all day," says the champ.
Carr is known for his lightning speed and his ability to be light on his feet, which he attributes to his plyometric training. "Plyometric training is very important when you are working on the fast-twitch fibres in your muscles," he explains. "It's all about your feet — you can be really quick with your hands but if you can't get in there, what's the point? I work on staying light on the ground and exploding from the mark to where I want to get to."
Carr repeatedly does a dynamic and challenging plyometric exercise called the 'box drill', which promotes explosive speed and power. He also focuses on footwork, bouncing back and forth and then attacking from the forward position. The idea, he says, is to make your feet as fast as your hands; if you spring from your feet, the hands will follow.
"In the ring it's all about speed but you've got distance as well. You have to time the distance, time the execution of the technique and that adds to the speed of the whole technique. A good fighter is somebody who understands their body well, knows how to move it and how to use it in the most productive way," Carr explains.
Any aspiring competitor is interested in finding out how fighters prepare themselves mentally for a fight. For Carr, the mental preparation process is a challenge, but integral to his success. "It's all about visualisation. I am a big believer in the universe, the laws of attraction — you have to believe that you can achieve," he says.
Carr uses a system where he writes down his set of goals in large writing and places it on wall where he can see it every day. He believes it's imperative that the overall goal is something that you believe you can achieve. Next, you must identify all the smaller goals that need to be executed in order to achieve the overall goal.
"When you have done all the work and you're at the tournament, you know that you deserve to win. It feels right because you know you've done all the work to win. If it doesn't happen, you have to look back and see how far you've come and take all that on board and add it into the next year," says Carr.
Carr entered the tournament nervous but focused. "I was focused on who was in front of me, what [event] I had next and made sure that I was applying myself 110 per cent every chance I got," reveals the all-rounder.
Carr placed second in kata (forms or patterns) and also took first place in the continuous-sparring division — a favourite of his because it allows takedowns, sweeps and side-kicks, and is "a great fitness test". He proceeded to win the open-weight and middleweight finals, taking on a fellow GKR student in the latter.
Next, Carr faced and beat lightweight finalist Ben Cunningham, also a GKR team-mate and the 2005 Champion of Champions. Then it was time to fight heavyweight finalist David Auty, who he had previously beaten in the open-weight final. "I was aware that he would be used to the way that I fight and may come in with a different strategy, so I had to be careful. But I kept reminding myself that I am used to the way he fights also," Carr explains. "I was thinking, 'I could do this all day'. I was ready for anything." The ensuing battle was a crowd-pleaser, coming down to 'sudden-death' — where the first to score in overtime wins.
It was a fantastic weekend for the karateka, who didn't lose a single fight and achieved his goal of winning back-to-back titles.
"I always wanted to forget the year before. If you let it get to your head, it can affect the way that you train and how you compete. I just wanted to accept that it happened; be proud of it, but not hold onto it," the GKR star reveals.
Carr's speed, his signature lunge-punch, mental focus and strong support network all contributed to his success. He is a strategist and good at adapting his style as needed. He attributes his success to his best friend and training partner, Ashley, who constantly raises the bar and pushes him; his sister Hayley who "always knows exactly what to say"; and his mentors and trainers Senseis Anthony Ryan, Glenn Hutchinson, Alex Pereda and David North, and Shihan Stacey Karetsian, GKR's assistant chief instructor.
What advice does Carr give to any aspiring Champion of Champions? "Set the goal, believe it and never back down from it!"