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"I think every sport can be practiced by women"

Catalina Rivera
Amazing Catalina – it seems that abroad she is more popular than at home. Despite the fact that she started to do it late, she worthily represents Costa Rica in the international arena. She told us about her way, about training and whether Kyokushin is suitable for women.
At what age did you start Kyokushin? Who brought you to the dojo?
— Unfortunately, I didn't start so young. I began when I was 26 years old. Since I was a kid, I wanted to practice martial arts, but Costa Rica is a very conservative country. At the time, it was very unusual for a girl to practice martial arts. I practiced ballet for 3 years and I always wanted to try the karate class next door.

In 2009 I began my relationship with my husband and shihan, Mauricio Alvarado. At the time, I saw the opportunity to make my dream come true and asked him to teach me. That's where I began.
Mauricio Alvarado Kyokushin
How many people are involved in Kyokushin in Costa Rica? Do children often choose this martial art?
— Probably 800 people practice Kyokushin in Costa Rica in several dojos from different organizations.

Kyokushin Karate hasn't been around for so many years in Costa Rica. I think it was brought in the early 80's. Kids usually practice soccer, ballet or swimming. I think it has grown recently because people want children to become physically and psychologically stronger. The practice of martial arts has become highly recommended by psychologists to counteract problems of coordination, behavior, self-esteem and empowerment of children.
Who is your coach?
— My gym and weight trainer is Evaristo Cortés, very well known Costa Rican bodybuilder and high performance athlete. My shihan, is my husband Mauricio Alvarado. He has been training and promoting Kyokushin karate for 30 years and he's a Kyokushin World Federation Board Member.
Evaristo Cortés
What does your usual training consist of? How much time do you spend in the gym?
— I usually train 6 days per week. From Monday to Friday at 5 a.m., I begin with weight training for 45–50 minutes. Then I do 20 to 30 minutes of cardiovascular work, HITT (High Intensity Interval Training) and I focus everything on useful moves for kumite.

At night, after work, Monday, Wednesday and Friday I train karate for 1.5 hours at the dojo. Tuesdays and Thursdays I teach beginners class at the dojo.
How do you conduct your workouts? How many disciples do you have?
— I teach the beginners class, with 15 students. I adjust trainings according to things they need to improve. The main focus is kihon, ido geiko, kata and kumite. My main goal is to improve the beginners technique.
Did your achievements make you popular at home outside of the sport?
— Not really. I'm known for practicing Kyokushin karate and I think I am the woman in Costa Rica who has fought the most international tournaments and even the first person who has competed abroad in kata. I'm recognized but I'm not a very popular person in Costa Rica.
Did you encounter the opinion that Kyokushin is not a female sport? How do you react to this?
— Not directly, but Costa Rica is a country with many conservative people who don't think women should practice a full contact sport, because "it's for men only". I think every sport can be practiced by women and girls. Women have different abilities than men, but we have the same capabilities to practice any sport. Practicing Kyokushin is not an exception.
Kyokushin competition
What other sports do you like?
— I like soccer, basketball and tennis. I also like swimming. I practiced all those sports when I was in high school. I used to compete in swimming.
In the final of the Champions League you had been supporting Real Madrid. How long ago and why are you root for the Madrid club?
— I love soccer. At high school I was part of the girls team. I've been a Real Madrid fan since 20 years ago.
What achievement can you say is the main thing in your career?
— My main achievement is to have participated in 4 World Tournaments. On my first one, I was one of the top 8 fighters and I have had excellent fights with highly skilled elite Kyokushin women.
What do you plan to do after the end of sports career?
— I'll never quit karate. I'd like to help women train for fighting and kata.
I'm a lawyer and I work in one of Costa Rica's top law firms, so I'll keep focusing on my job too.
Short questions:
What is the point of defeat?
There is none, it's learning.
Kyokushin taught me...
To be persistent in life. Discipline is the bridge to success.
The best place on Earth?
My home.
It seems to me that Kyokushin in 10 years...
It'll keep growing, unifying karatekas around the world. The female fighters will match the amount of male.
We hope that in the near future on the world stage we will see more karatekas from Costa Rica and, most likely, most of them will be students of Catalina. OSU!
Photo: Courtesy of Catalina Rivera