Enter the World Champion - Part 1
My first recollections of Paula Warden were in the early 1980s on the
BKK tournament circuit - a youngster of talent, and what struck me was
that she had a very good and positive attitude. She has developed
within the BKK during the past twenty years and is amongst our best
women fighters - she has a natural talent and a technical aptitude. For
nearly a decade she was involved in womens knockdown nationally and
internationally. As a karateka and indeed an individual I have always
found her forthright and honest and she has a sometimes utopian view of
hos she wishes to she the BKK run which in some ways is not a bad
thing. She is one of the most committed, single-minded and dedicated
women fighters i have met. She possess a sardonic sense of humour and a
vert matured outlook - she is a fine example of a Kyokushin karatka and
one I am sure who will tak a leading role over the next decade in the
Briitish Karate Kyokushinkai.
Paula, you have been out of the scene for a while now - any specific reasons for this?
Yes, I have been out of karate training for approximately 2 years, mainly so that I can have a rest - as since 1980 I have trained 5/6 days a week every week. It was nice to finally not have to go training if you did not feel like it. I have always been involved in training of some sort thought.During the rest period I have been running to keep up my fitness. I also felt that as I have dedicated my life to Karate and achieved my ultimate goals it was time to put the rest of my life in perspective and start living. Thanks to my husband Timmy I have been able to do that. Since the World Tournament I have married, traveled the world (not the karate route but the pleasurable route) and we have also had a son together - Sidney.
Your break from Karate has been very important to you - it seems that life has come together for you - am I right?
Yes, that's correct - I now have the chance to enjoy life, which I will continue to do, and my life (Timmy and Sidney) certainly comes first. It appears that you devote your life to karate but get no thanks in return. However, I am one of the fortunate ones, I don't need thanks, my achievements are thanks enough for me and I would do the same all over again. I feel I am even more privileged to be able to share such a glorious and emotional moment with my husband Timmy as only we know what it was like standing on the podium. What a tale to be able to tell our son.
If I can return to your karate origins - when and where did you begin karate training and why?
I first started Kyokushin at karate at Crayford Dojo in February 1980 - I was 12 at the time and I used to do gymnastics. Karate was being held in the same hall after the gymnastics so I used to watch it. I thought it would be laugh to have a go.
What was training like at Crayford in the 1980s?
Great emphasis was put on basics rather than fighting. I believe that if you have a good grounding in basics then it definitely puts you in good stead as you progress. We used to run the streets barefoot. I was also made to teach often which I hated - but looking back it was good fro my progress and confidence. When did you grade for your shodan and what were your feelings at achieving this?
I first took my shodan on the summer camp in 1984 - I failed. Everyone was shocked as I could do everything that was required and got all the questions right. The reason given to me or failing was that I found it too easy and I only did what was required of me and no more. Obviously at the time I was only 15 and did not really understand but looking back this was the best thing Hanshi could have done for me, as it made me more determined and certainly contributed to building my character. Thanks Hanshi. I went on to pass later that year. I took my nidan in 1986 and my sandan in 1991.
Outside Knockdown what tournaments have you competed in?
In the BKK Kata tournament I came 3rd in 1982 and 2nd in 1983. In clicker tournaments, I came 3rd in 1986 and 1988. I was placed 2nd in 1984, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1990, and 1991 and gained first place in 1992.
What made you want to do knockdown?
I had always trained to fight knockdown after watching the men. I felt you could always be sucessdful in the other forms of fighting, but you were not really taken seriously (particularly by the men) until you fought knockdown. To me to be a knockdown champion was / is the ultimate champion. Participating in knockdown enables your true character to come through. I also felt it wad the only way to get the women on as much of a par with the men as possible. I found knockdown more serious than other methods. You often hear people saying , "just enter, it'd only clicker and is for fun", but when that was all the women had it was very disheartening. I have also learnt you can never enter a knockdown tournament without preparing for it and being physically and mentally fit.
What knockdown tournaments have you fought in and what were the results?
I gained first place at the Belgium Open in 1993, 1994 and 1995. I also won the Welsh open in 1995. As far as the British Open is concerned, I came first over two years in 1995 and 1996 and went on to win the European Knockdown Tournament also in 1995. Then in 1997, at the World Tournament in Moscow I was placed first.
How did you prepare for the tournament?
I have always trained 5 times a week or more for knockdown competitions. But for the World Tournament I began my build up a lot earlier. Unfortunately I had to be very careful how I trained as I had problems with my health. With the help from Sensei Graham we managed to get around these problems using my game plan to pick off my opponent and move around rather than mixing it for too long. I did weight training twice a week, running three times, pad work / fitness training 5 times, also attending squad training when they occurred. My pad work on a Wednesday was more to practice individual techniques.
Monday - Running and Dojo training
Tuesday - Running and Dojo training
Wednesday - Weights and Dojo training
Thursday - Running and Dojo training
Friday - Rest day
Saturday - Weights and target mitts
Sunday - Rest Day / Squad training
Also I would like people to be aware that karate can also help you control your illnesses / ailments or certainly that is my experience. In 1994 I collapsed at a squad training and stopped breathing (this was a week before the British Open and I felt my fittest ever), I later discovered that I had had a heart seizure - needless to say I did not fight that year. Then I had problems at the medical for the Europeans as I had to have heart scans before I was able to fight and they found a heart murmur. I still achieved my goals with the help of Sensei Graham and the members at Bethnal Green. Sensei Graham is also a prime example with his asthma and what he has achieved. I am sure there are others out there with similar problems.
What were yout thoughts on the World Tournament?
It was very well organised and professional. On a personal note my main thought was when I was standing on the podium and the national anthem was playing, I specifically remember thinking this is what I have worked towards all my career and I had finally achieved my goal.
What lessons did you learn from the World Tournament?
You have to believe in yourself and be single minded to win such a title, because you don't always get support from the people you trust and believe in.
What goals have you yet to achieve in your Karate career?
I would like to become aiming the first BKK women 4th Dans and help promote Kyokushin in any way I can. I feel it is now essential to start working together, as Hanshi won't be around forever and if we have any true respect for him we should work out how we can continue the organization as successfully as he has done in the past.
Part two of this interview coming soon...