Mandy has safely returned from the world championship held in Jakarta. She has written a personal letter of sincere appreciation to everyone who has supported her journey thus far. Knowing she is not alone, in fact the opposite, she aims to continue the path of Karate-do.
All the best for the continuous path and well done for inspiring many people around. Karate-do aims to bring the peace within. Judging the right distance, timing and respect - all are the vital essences for making peace. Hopefully one day, it will also bring family peace.
Below is her words:
Apologies this has taken awhile but just a quick update on the SKIF world championship 2016.
The whole experience was unreal, the sheer size of the event, the atmosphere, the friendship made with athletes from different countries. It was an experience made possible by all of you. I am eternally grateful and count myself very lucky to be part of a world championship.
I had the opportunity to come up against some pretty strong fighters, Switzerland winning 3-0, Brazil losing 3-0 and finishing in the final 8. Also, I was honoured to be chosen for the senior female team kumite event. We came up against Italy and I was the only fighter in my team that won my fight against an Italian, winning 2-1. All in all, I was happy with my performance but a bit disappointed that I did not medalled. I believe I have more to offer. With hard work and dedication in the next few years, I am confident that I will earn my place on the podium next time around.
The whole experince only strengthen my passion for karate. My family constantly tell me that I will live to regret doing what i am doing right now and I should put a stop to it. There is no doubt that my parents only want the best for me. I might one day live to regret but it is an experience that no money can buy. With the increasing pressure from my family, I took the plunge and moved out of home a week after the world championship and currently living in a karate school, very much to their disgust. It will take some getting used to my new place but I am sure I will survive. This will definitely set me back financially, especially now that I am trying to save up to train in Europe in the near future, but in the long term, I believe that it is much heathier mentally and emotionally for both parties.
This sometimes feel like a dream to me. I did not think that following my dream was poosible, I did not think that going to the world championship was possible, I definitely did not think there are people out there supporting my journey. At the beggining of the year when Sensei Natsuko suggested to do a fund raising, I did not take her seriously. In my mind, who would contribute to a want-to-be martial artist that has no proven record on international stage?
All of you that have supported me financially, emotionally and cheering for me have proved me wrong. I am deeply touched by the generosity of everyone. I have a dream and you made it possible. Thank you! I will continue to grow as an athlete and as a martial artist, technically and mentally. I hope one day I would be able to give back to the society by developing the younger generation just like how all my senseis have done with me. Thank you all again for all your support.
We all know the constraints society and family can place on people, because of their gender and/or age. Mandy's story is one of triumph over these constraints.
One of four girls from a conservative Chinese family in Malaysia, Mandy successful dodged ballet classes to begin karate training at 7 years old. She recounts a story of the club sensei considering her too junior to spar. So taking things into her own hands, she attempted some rough play with a friend outside of the dojo. Her resulting blood noses what not enough to deter Mandy, but perhaps triggered what would become a lifelong passion and a desire to learn how to not be hit again.
8 years of Goshin Ryu Karate training led Mandy to achieving her first Black Belt. She developed a capacity for completive karate and began competing at a national level. This was something Mandy could do only by her own initiative. Mandy has been made acutely aware of the daunting pressure that stems from her cultural background, and has been informed that her interests are a mismatch with the behaviour expected of a young lady. For now, watching her compete has so far proved a bridge too far for some close family members.
In 2004 Mandy began studying at Melbourne's Monash University. She was without karate and career focused. Shortly after, she began working for Coca Cola Amatil in the logistics department. 7 years snuck by and Mandy had couldn't help but feel like something was amiss. She was making money, but she was not happy, she was out of shape and melancholy.
In 2011, at the age of 26, Mandy had decided that she knew what she needed to do; she joined a local Shotokan Karate Club (Karyukai) and began again, from white belt. For 2 years she attempted to balance a highly demanding job with her training until a crossroads was reached where a decision needed to be made. Which was to become the priority? Knowing in her heart what she needed to do, Mandy quit her job and flew to Japan for 2 months intensive karate training.
Since then karate has been her main focus, which has put Mandy in a difficult situation financially. Finding work flexible enough to suit her training schedule has meant a considerable drop in her earning capacity. Casual employment has meant that there is no sick leave and when she has to take time for competition, then survival becomes tough. This wasn't a compromise for Mandy as her days of compromise were in the past. Competition life is not long lasting. Now being 30+, she knows if she let it go now, her dream will be over for good.
In 2014 (and 20 kg leaner) Mandy acquired her Shotokan black belt. In the same year she became National Champion for Shotokan Karate International Australia. She won silver in 2015 and reclaimed her title in 2016. She has since been selected to represent Australia for the SKI World Championship in Jakarta this August.
For our club Karayukai, Mandy is an invaluable asset. Her talent and commitment are an inspiration to us all and as a teacher for the children's classes she is an outstanding role model and mentor. Mandy embraces and loves her family, but accepts that there are traditional cultural values that misalign with her own modern trajectory. However, she finds encouragement in the families who come out to support the children she teaches, regardless of their gender or age. Perhaps in some small way, Mandy herself is a role model for young children at the club who can look to her for strength and guidance, and perseverance in spite of social expectations.
Mandy's karate is the journey of defining her own identity. As her Karate teacher, I understand her battles and see similarities with my own path. I was also pursuing a career path which took longer than the norm to establish. The amount of guilt I carried while I was building myself was enormous. For many years, I felt terrible for unable to return debts to my family while I was barely surviving. Family gives guidance with love, but when it does not agree with you or share the same dream, it can lead to an overwhelming sense of insecurity and doubt. We all want to make family happy, return the love they have given and be accepted.
It is also not very easy to establish oneself in the Martial Arts world, which is still predominantly occupied by men. Trusting one's inner voice requires a lot of courage. Mandy continues to walk the path of her own success. I know there are so many people who get inspiration from her. If you feel the same way, please give her support to reach her dream to compete at the coming world championships and to become the best athlete she can be.