01 July 2024

Kanzen Karate stars get fighting fit at Abertay ahead of world championships in Mexico

Kanzen Karate stars are being trained up for the World Championships in Abertay’s sports laboratories

Kanzen Karate's Cerys Hawes smiles as she trains on a bike in the Abertay University sports labs

Abertay sports scientists are helping prepare three local athletes for one of the biggest events in the karate world.

Staff and students at the university’s School of Applied Sciences have been working with Kanzen Karate martial artists Cerys Hawes, and mother-and-daughter pair Nicola and Allanah Denny, to get them fighting fit ahead of the WUKF World Championships in Monterrey, Mexico, in July.

Focusing on conditioning and recovery, Dr John Babraj, lecturer in Exercise Physiology, created a training block tailored to the specific needs of karate.

On top of their hard work in the Kanzen dojo, the athletes have been getting put through their paces using Lode Excalibur and Monark arm ergometers in the Abertay sports laboratories twice-weekly in the build-up to the championships.

Dr John Babraj and Kanzen Karate's Allanah Denny in the Abertay sports lab
Dr John Babraj and Kanzen Karate's Allanah Denny in the Abertay sports lab

The university training sessions are sprint-based, centred on conditioning and developing endurance. Recovery time is reduced between intense bursts of exercise which forces the body to work harder to try and maintain power, leading to improved athlete endurance.

John said:

“Karate is a very fast-paced sport. The athletes need to be able to attack, defend and go again with very little recovery time. Everyone thinks that combat sports are all about strength but they’re not. They’re about speed and movement - and whether you can recover from doing that movement. That’s why this type of training is really useful for them. We’re now embedded within the Kanzen Karate performance squad and any time there’s a championship, we put in a block of this type of training to bring the athletes up to the fitness levels they need to be to compete at the top level – against top athletes from other nations.” 

Mother-and-daughter Kanzen athletes Nicola and Allanah, from Newbigging in Angus say they are both reaping the benefits of the Abertay lab sessions.

Nicola, 40, said:

“I’ve found the Abertay programme really beneficial to my overall fitness, and in my ability to get through fights without feeling that I’m dropping energy quickly.  I feel like the strength has increased in my legs which has benefitted both my kumite and kata. I absolutely feel it has helped in the lead up to Mexico. I definitely feel in a stronger, fitter place than I was prior to the world championships in Dundee last year. I won a silver medal last year so I’m hopeful the Abertay input has set me up to better that in Mexico.”
Nicola (right) and Allanah (left), a mother-daughter pair heading to the WUKF World Championships to compete with Kanzen Karate

The tattoo artist, who runs Martial Art Ink tattoo studio in Arbroath, added:

I first signed Allanah and her sister up for karate just to do some fitness and she got really good - good enough to start attending the World Championships. And I thought that it looked fun so I gave it a go myself. We train together. It keeps you fit and healthy and it’s good fun. It's one thing to watch your daughter take part in a World Championships, but to have the opportunity to compete alongside her is so special for me as a mum, and for the family as a whole.
Kanzen Karate's Allanah Denny

 Allanah, 17, said:

It’s very cool to be going out to Mexico together with my mum. The training input from Abertay has been extremely beneficial to my overall performances and training.  It has quickly built my fitness up and has helped to reduce how much recovery time I need. Overall, I have noticed a difference in how long I can fight before becoming fatigued and in how much longer I can go on for while fatigued. I have also noticed my recovery time between matches is much shorter, meaning I am able to prepare sooner for my next match and fight better. I think this training will aid my performance in Mexico as it has increased my fitness and decreased my recovery time, therefore bettering how I perform.

Cerys, 22, current WUKF European champion, is going to Mexico with the goal of being named the WUKF World Champion in the 21-35 years Shobu Ippon Kumite under-65kg (sparring) category.

The Dundonian added:

Abertay’s sports lab helped me tremendously leading up to the WUKF European Championships in Antibes, where I won gold, last year. John and the team have been fantastic in supporting me and my fellow athletes. Coming into the lab every week is helping with my training and preparations for the forthcoming World Championships. Visiting the lab also allows me to gain a deeper understanding of sport science and how it impacts on my performance. I’m really looking forward to travelling to Monterrey. It is a real pleasure and privilege to represent Kanzen and Scotland at this major event.
Cerys Hawes, 22, current WUKF European champion.

Roy O’Kane, chief officer at Kanzen Karate, said:

We are delighted to be working with Abertay once again. The research and application of sprint training allows our athletes to showcase their karate skills within international competition and compete at the highest level. There is also significant value in this being an educational pathway, with young people learning about sports science and being introduced to a university setting for the first time.

Kanzen Karate and Abertay are building upon a partnership first forged in 2019, and which reaped major rewards when Dundee hosted the WUKF World Championships in 2023. It was the city club’s most successful world championship to date.

The university also worked with the Kanzen squad that won nine gold medals at the 2023 WUKF European Karate Championships.

Fourth year BSc (Hons) Strength and Conditioning graduate Jony Garden, who has assisted John implementing the Kanzen programme at Abertay, said:

“I’ve been involved with karate for quite a few years now and I was keen on getting involved in some way in sports research.  When I saw that Abertay University was involved with Kanzen Karate doing conditioning work, I contacted John. Ever since I’ve been in the lab twice a week, every week, getting experience of what’s involved actually in the field, applying conditioning training to high-performance athletes. It has helped me with my learning and has given me great experience of what I possibly could end up doing as a career post-university.”

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