Albury's Ava Christie is dreaming of fighting in Japan after taking one step closer to the title of national kyokushin karate champion.
The 15-year-old, who attends Scots School, won middleweight gold in her age group at the NSW championships in Sydney, where she will return for nationals in August.
Christie's triumph was the culmination of months of hard work, just two years after her first ever karate bout.
"It's nuts, it's like adrenaline central," she explained.
"You're nervous to begin with but when you step on the mat and begin the fight, it's total game mode.
"It's like your opponent has no face, they're just someone you are fighting. It's not personal but you're in the zone and everything else is blocked out. It's like you're in a little bubble.
"All thoughts of 'I'm gassing' or 'I'm not strong' leave and you push yourself to your limits.
"When you step off and come down off that adrenaline high, it's crazy. You go all shaky because it's like something else. You're moving so fast and you're exerting yourself so much that it's unlike anything. It's so extreme."
Christie had to give up hockey to pursue karate this year and admitted it hurt walking away from a sport she'd played for 10 years.
But the rewards of martial arts are clearly outweighing the sacrifice.
"They talk about this mongrel inside, this total beast that can come out when you fight," Christie said.
"I really found it hard to find that for a while. But once you get that adrenaline rush and you feel strong, fit and like you can succeed, there's nothing holding you back.
"I feel 'there's no reason I can't give my all at this and I'm just going to make everyone proud. I've worked hard, I deserve this.'
"It's a validating feeling above all else. If I've been able to get on the mat and put myself out there, train that hard for that long, I can handle a stressful assessment at school.
"I used to catastrophize so much but it really brings it down and puts it into perspective."
Christie describes karate as a way of life, with clear parallels between the sport and Christian faith.
So what's the end game?
"I want to go as far as I can," Christie said.
"One of my coaches joked to my Mum that 'soon you'll be going to the main stage to watch her fight,' meaning the internationals, Japan, and it's a dream.
"It would be so intense but it would be such a privilege. I love the sport and I love fighting so much.
"To be able to even be there, let alone have the honour to fight against such warriors of the sport would be... wow, that's the dream."
ALSO IN SPORT:
Christie trains under Sempai Daniel Fitzgerald at Kyokushin Karate Albury's dojo in Lavington.
"Ava shows a lot of potential," Fitzgerald said.
"She's got a great work ethic and she's not scared of a challenge.
"If I put something in front of her, she gives it her best and if I ask her to work on a technique, she goes out of her way and keeps working on it until she's perfected it - and it showed at the state titles.
"If she continues on with that dedication, she can go to the international level, absolutely."
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: