MMU Sport’s karate scholar Amber Sawford has spoken of her pride and passion for karate, but believes that there are many myths around the sport.
The second year Business Management student (above left) has competed at national and European championships, and is currently preparing for the World Championships in Dublin.
However there are many misconceptions about karate that Amber believes are unjust, and she also believes the sport deserves more coverage.
“I don’t think people really understand what goes on in karate,” she said.
“It’s kind of like a myth. When people find out you do karate they usually say can you kill somebody.
“It’s funny when people say it to you but that’s not the truth.
“People who don’t do karate don’t really know what’s going on with it.
“I think it needs a lot more coverage than it had especially World Championship and European Championship wise.”
Amber believes she wouldn’t have been able to have such fantastic opportunities within the sport without Manchester Metropolitan University’s sport scholarship.
“I don’t think I’d be doing these things without uni,” the 20-year-old said.
“It’s just made it that more serious for me, even when I go to training I’m in a completely different mind-set.
“People there constantly ask me what I think I need next to help me work towards my next goal.
“When I look back and think about what I’ve done it’s quite incredible to think what I’ve achieved and the places I’ve been to and the opportunities I’ve been given.
“When you’re at competitions comments that people say to you about how good your stances or how strong your kata was it’s just really amazing.”
Amber competes in pairs and individual kata, which involves intricate choreographed patterns of movement, and won gold in these events at last month’s national championships in Sheffield.
It was there she also received an award in honour of the man who started her journey in karate over a decade ago.
“It was about 11 years ago when I got into it,” she said.
“It was just a local karate club that my mum got me into, she must have just seen it advertised around Sandbach.
“I went and did a few lessons and I really enjoyed it.
“At the nationals I was awarded with the Dave Warburton memorial trophy, he’s who I started out karate with before he got sick, so that was really nice.”
Karate involves a great deal of training to get to the high level in which Amber finds herself competing.
However despite having to also put up with the average troubles of a university student, Amber manages to maintain her fitness levels through a variety of methods.
“I do karate three or four times a week for a couple of hours,” she explained.
“I did go to the gym for strength and conditioning but I had back problems so I had to stop doing that.
“I just try to get out and about really, I try to get into the gym to do some cardio.
“I don’t go out as much as I did in first year at uni because I work a lot more, I work in the week at night.
“Because I’m a waitress I’m up on my feet all the time so I am quite an active person, and that helps.”
Competing at such a high level of sport can pose a variety of different challenges to athletes, whether physical or mental.
In competing in these tournaments all over the world, Amber has a unique problem that she has to face.
“I get really motion sick so I do find it quite hard travelling to places but my mums great and will most of the time take me to them,” she said.
“Obviously the days are very long so they’re really tiring and I think that driving myself would be quite dangerous so I try and get lifts with other people.
“It’s quite expensive so I’m really thankful that uni help me out with financial contributions.
“When I went to Belgium [for the European Championships] it was my first adventure that I was doing on my own so I quite enjoyed it.”
Looking forward to the future, Amber has plans to build on her success so far by continuing to compete for as long as she can.
However she also has some ideas about different ways in which she wants to be involved in the sport.
“I take each year as it comes,” she said.
“After the worlds I want to carry on competing but I am starting to coach more and I’m going for my instructors qualification as well.
“In a couple of years maybe I’ll move into coaching more so than competing as our squad is getting bigger so we do need another coach.
“I don’t want to stop competing anytime soon.
“But when I do, in a very long time, I want to turn into coaching alongside a full time job.”