When Hayley Flynn re-entered the dojo for the first time in five years, she dreamed of becoming a brown belt champion.
Earlier this month, the 21-year-old from Forteau’s dream came true, as she took home top prize in an elite-level national kenpo karate competition.
Flynn won gold in sparring for the women’s brown belt division at the Jean-Guy Angell Top Ten Tournament held in Montreal, April 6.
She participated in the competition as a member of the Rock Athletics dojo, based in Mount Pearl, where she currently trains. She was the only competitor from Labrador.
She credited her teammates, some of them reigning national champions, for pushing her in training and giving her the confidence to win.
“My sensei always says, ‘to be the best, you must train with the best,’ so to have the title of kenpo champion is an honour to share with my teammates from Rock Athletics,” she told The Northern Pen. “I really couldn’t have done it without them.”
The team won 21 medals in all.
Flynn competed against two other women in her division.
In each match, the competitor with the most points, based on the number of kicks and hand strikes, is declared the winner.
The tournament is hosted annually by “Chief” Angell, who is known as the founder of kenpo in Canada.
Flynn won the top prize despite being away from the ring for some time.
She had trained in karate from the age of six to 16, before stepping away for five years.
But a renewed drive to finally get her black belt brought her back to the dojo for training this past September.
“I felt I had to finish the journey I started,” she said.
She’s already seen some improvement. Her flexibility, for example, is something she’s been working on.
“Being so small, I can finally kick to the head and do the splits,” said Flynn.
Meanwhile, one of her biggest strengths she says, is her ability to zone everything else out and focus on the match.
Along with her teammates, Flynn credits the many senseis and instructors she’s had over the years in helping shape her into the martial artist she is today.
She also felt humbled by the support she’s gotten from family and friends after her victory.
“They know how much I love it and all the hard work I put into training this year, so it’s great to see that all my hard work paid off,” she said.
Flynn hopes to be able to attain her black belt by 2020.