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Putting it all on the line

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That’s just what exercise and sports science student Mitchell did when he took a few years off from studying his degree to pursue his passion for competitive karate.

Mitchell has been doing karate for as long as he can remember. When he was ten, he became interested in the competitive side of karate, which quickly snowballed into Mitchell travelling both nationally and internationally to compete in championships.

Used to juggling karate and his studies, Mitchell was eager to jump straight into university after he graduated high school. And hence, he signed up to study exercise and sports science here at Curtin.

As a hands-on learner, Mitchell loves studying the practical skills behind sports science and is fascinated by how the theories he learns in class can directly impact the performance of athletes out in the field.

Midway through his degree, Mitchell decided to take a gap year. Though he was enjoying his studies, he needed a break and wanted to spend more time on karate. And so, Mitchell deferred for a year, instead travelling overseas to train with different national karate teams. It was this decision that really opened Mitchell’s eyes to the opportunities available through going full tilt into a professional karate career.

Not wanting to further delay his studies, Mitchell came back to Perth after his year abroad. Initially, Mitchell thought he could find a perfect balance between karate and his degree. First, he tried studying full-time, before dropping down to part-time.

But even then, Mitchell found that his commitment to karate began to overshadow his studies. Not wanting to just “get by” in his degree, Mitchell decided, “Let’s just put it all on the line and go for it.”

As an athlete in his prime competitive years, Mitchell knew that, though his studies could be put on hold, his karate career could not wait. With that in mind, he made the wise decision to defer his studies for the time being so that he could pour his focus into his karate career.

Mitchell intended for his break to last only six months. As time flew by, he realised he needed longer. His degree would always be waiting for him, but karate was where he wanted to be.

But just as he was hitting his stride as a senior karate competitor, COVID hit his training stopped, and tournaments were cancelled. Without karate in his life, Mitchell wasn’t quite sure what to do.

“Karate became my identity… It wasn’t a great time. I lost who I was.”

Though Mitchell struggled across those two years away from karate, he felt supported by his friends and family, who helped him refocus and find the positives in an otherwise dark time in his life.

Mitchell used the time to return to his studies, and now that the world has begun to recover, the flexible option of studying online, along with support from Curtin’s Elite Athlete Program, means that he’s now able to balance both his love of karate and his education.

“What I’ve learnt [in class] reflects quite well on my day-to-day [activities].”

Though the last few years have been tough, Mitchell has come back swinging. Winning a Gold Medal for Australia at the Commonwealth Karate Championships in September 2022 and representing Curtin at the Uni World Championships in Turkey just a few weeks later – we know it’s only onwards and upwards from here.

His advice to everyone, whether you are an athlete or a student?

“Muck around, have a good time, and don’t be so serious.”

Written by creative writing and professional writing student, Abbey Carson.

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