When Donaghcloney woman Karla McAviney first walked into a gym back in 2005 she could not have imagined those first tentative steps would lead to Northern Ireland glory.
The 33-year-old kickboxer currently holds a full-contact national belt and was placed third in the 2010 World Championships.
Impressive progress off an initial desire to simply enhance fitness levels.
“I’ve also been interested in sport and first joined to work on the aerobic side,” she said. “A coach suggested I should step up my training and start to think about competitive kickboxing.
“Aside from the wins, the sport has given back so much in terms of building up my confidence and giving me discipline.
“Male or female, no-one likes to get hit but I would never want anyone to avoid trying out the sport just because of that aspect.
“Training and conditioning help you learn how to deal with the physical risks and quality technique is obviously important.
“You get to a point where it is not about getting hit so much as using your skills to protect and defend, so I would recommend kickboxing to anyone.
“I was the first girl in my club to achieve black belt status and am now working on moving to a second grade, plus I enjoy helping train children.”
Karla considers the tools developed by kickboxing as beneficial to her day-to-day commitments.
“I am married to a Tandragee man, we live at the minute in Donaghcloney and I still go back to Cookstown to train, plus my job can involve quite a bit of travel,” she said. “However, making time to fit in the sport has helped me find balance in those other areas.
“People seem interested in the sport and Amir Hamja, for example, is a big fan and always keen on finding out about my progress when I visit Edenderry’s Bengal Tandoori for a treat.
“We have been customers for years and always get a wonderful reception, plus I find it really interesting talking to other people about my sport.”