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Meet the Angus mum and daughter getting a kick out of training together for Mexico world karate championships

Nicola and Allanah Denny from Newbigging are two of the three Kanzen Karate athletes bound for this month's WUKF event.

Allanah and Nicola Denny are ready for Monterrey in Mexico. Image: Abertay University
Allanah and Nicola Denny are ready for Monterrey in Mexico. Image: Abertay University

An Angus mum and daughter are in training to take on the best at next month’s world karate championships in Mexico.

Nicola and Allanah Denny will be joined by Kanzen Karate clubmate Cerys Hawes on the plane to Monterrey for the WUKF showdown from July 11 to 14.

And the Tayside athletes have enlisted the help of Abertay University sports scientists to prepare for a tilt at the world title.

Staff and students at the university’s School of Applied Sciences have been working with the trio to get them in peak condition for the challenge.

2023 WUKF silver success

Nicola, from Newbigging, says training together with 17-year-old Alannah is great fun.

And the 40-year-old, who runs Martial Art Ink tattoo studio in Arbroath, has a very definite Mexico goal.

She was just one step away from gold when Dundee hosted the WUKF gathering last summer.

“I definitely feel in a stronger, fitter place than I was prior to the world championships in Dundee last year,” said Nicola.

Angus karate mum bound for world championships.
Nicola during one of her Abertay training sessions. Image: Abertay University

“I won a silver medal last year so I’m hopeful the Abertay input has set me up to better that in Mexico.

She 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.”

Fitness boost

Nicola added: “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.”

Teenager Allanah 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.

“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.

Angus teenager Allanah Denny in training for WUKF world karate championships.
Allanah Denny and Dr John Babraj monitor training performance. Image: Abertay University

“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.”

Meanwhile Cerys, 22, the current WUKF European champion, heads to Mexico eyeing the world title in the 21-35 years Shobu Ippon Kumite under-65kg (sparring) category.

The Dundonian said: “Abertay’s sports lab helped me tremendously leading up to the WUKF European Championships in Antibes, where I won gold, last year.”

Tailored training at Abertay

The Kanzen trio have been under the guidance of exercise physiology lecturer Dr John Babraj, who created a training block tailored to the specific needs of karate.

“John and the team have been fantastic in supporting me and my fellow athletes,” added Cerys.

“Coming into the lab every week is helping with my training and preparations.

Kanzen karate martial artist Cerys Hawes
Cerys Hawes is the reigning WUKF European champion. Image: Abertay University

“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.”

On top of their hard work in the Kanzen dojo, the athletes have been getting put through their paces in the Abertay sports laboratories.

The university training sessions are sprint-based, centred on conditioning and developing endurance.

Speed not strength

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.

Abertay University training Kanzen Karate athletes for world championships.
Dr John Babraj of Abertay with Kanzen Karate athletes Cerys Hawes and Allanah and Nicola Denny. Image: Abertay University

“We’re now embedded within the Kanzen Karate performance squad.

“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.”

Kanzen praise partnership

Roy O’Kane, chief officer at Kanzen Karate, said: “We are delighted to be working with Abertay once again.

“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.”

The partnership was forged in 2019.

It helped the Kanzen squad to nine gold medals last year, the city squad’s most successful world championships to date.