Guest blog by Nina Portolan, para karate athlete from Belgrade, Serbia. She won the bronze medal at the recent Karate and Para karate European Championship.
I practice karate, or para karate as it is called, since 2016. I started practicing it only as a challenge to myself but it improved my life tremendously. Thanks to karate, I gained a lot of personal confidence, formed strong friendships, grew as a person, and acquired a sense of belonging.
Many moments marked me and changed me, but my most recent one is definitively the strongest so far. At the European Karate and Para karate championships in Croatia, in May, I won the bronze medal. Receiving it was an unforgettable feeling, but even more impactful to me was the hug I shared with the other women in my category. On the tatami we are opponents, but the minute we step off it we are each other’s biggest supporters, we help each other and laugh together, no matter where we came from or who won.
That said, karate is still not fully inclusive. There are encouraging signs: disabled and able-bodied athletes can practice together, and the Continental and World Championships are held as one event. However, there are still tournaments that do not accept disabled people, and the World Karate Federation rulebook is still not inclusive of all types of disabilities.
If you want to start Karate, I advise you to believe in yourself. You should also find a good sensei and trust them. They are called “the one who walked the path before” for a reason.