Darcina Manuel - New Zealand Olympic Judoka - Q&A

I met Darcina when she was 14 or 15 (I think) and I have watched her grow into such an amazing woman. Whenever I have a chance to catch up with her and I listen to her talk I am always amazed at her strength and her maturity. Darcina’s dedication to her sport is outstanding and I have always looked up to her for inspiration and advice - even though she is 20 years younger than me. She has worked bloody hard to get to where she is today and with everything that she has achieved over the years she has no ego and is incredibly humble. To find out more about Darcina, go to her athlete page. I hope you enjoy this interview that I am sharing with you today and find her just as inspiring.

Also don’t forget to follow me on Facebook at Babes n Belts and on Instagram @babesnbelts - Tess Hunt

How old were you when you started Judo?
I started judo when I was 7, so I've been doing it a while now.

Why did you start?
The main reason I started judo was because my older brother used to do judo and he was very, very talented except it wasn't his dream and I don't think doing judo was ever in his heart so he quit. When I started, my dad didn't let me quit and I'm glad of that.

How old are you now and what keeps you motivated?

Im now 23 and what keeps me motivated is working to better my judo everyday and one day pass it on to the younger generation! The fact that I love Judo and the people I train with are awesome is also what keeps me motivated (and sane lol). Its like my breath of fresh air after a rough day!


Was getting your black belt always a goal of yours or was it something else?
Never been fussed about getting my black belt and now that i have it i still feel the same! But i suppose in some ways its a goal in itself, it shows your dedication to your chosen martial art i guess!!

You must have seen many people come and go throughout the years, what has kept you going?
Haha yeah you can say that again, I've seen more go then stay. I understand Judo is not for everyone, I love Judo it's become a way of life for me and it's been a wild trip I can tell you that. What keeps me going is the toughness and social connection I have in this sport, I love the kick it gives me and the really amazing people I meet throughout my journey, plus once you start it's hard to quit it’s like an addiction and becomes part of the way you live. I incorporate judo in my everyday life.

You must have had days where you just couldn't be bothered, how do you get through that barrier?
I’ve had many of these moments in my life but remembering that your not alone is the first step! Otherwise if its just one of those days I push through because in the end it all pays off, and i love Judo!

The sacrifices, the toll it takes on your body, I've never had so many injuries..... And sometimes I talk to my mum she's is my best friend in helping me understand the hurdles I come across and being my mum she understands me more then anyone else, so she's great to talk to.

You have competed a lot over the years, how many comps have you been in and how have you done?

Well in the last year and a half I’ve been in 14 competitions all over the world, mostly international. Have been trying to qualify for Rio Olympics and currently I’m in the process of finding out whether I’ve qualified! I will find out officially at the end of May.

I like to think I’ve done awesome. To be honest, I’ve lost a lot more of these comps then I’ve won but have picked up experience and medals where its mattered! The level of Judo in Oceania is not the same as in some other continents like Asia, Europe etc but it is improving slowly.


Competing at the Commonwealth Games is a huge deal! What was your training like leading up to it, how did you feel on the day of the competition and how did you feel winning bronze?

Yeah commonwealth games was awesome and the atmosphere was unbelievable! SO MANY athletes. Training was very intense, I did my lead up in Japan and Holland before heading over to Scotland! Training involved 2-3 sessions a day including conditioning, weights and Judo.

Competition day was awesome, full of nerves/adrenaline and wanting to get out there and put it all together! Winning Bronze was amazing, just makes you grateful for everything. Makes everything you work for worth it!! Unfortunately, in sport there is always a winner and a loser........but I suppose its what you take out of the experience that matters most!


What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about competing in either BJJ or Judo?

Remember to enjoy what you do! Take the wins with the losses and understand that you may not win everything. Losing is just as important because from that we learn and can improve! Do your best and kia kaha! (be strong in Maori)


What future competitions are coming up for you?

At the moment, none. I’m just waiting to hear if I’ve qualified for Rio olympics!


What things do you wish someone would have told you before you started?

Not much except what dedication it takes and to expect injuries.


What is your go to move and why?

I assume that is referring to my favourite move?

In Judo my favourite moves are foot sweeps and shoulder throw because I’ve always liked them and have worked on them and they work for me in competition. In BJJ my favourite move is the TRIANGLE! Such an epic technique when pulled off and I catch it in Judo comps sometimes!


What are the highs and lows of Judo?

Injuries are definitely a low but they teach you an important lesson “look after your body and it will look after you”! Seeing people leave due to injury… Highs would be;

  • Winning a competition with a new technique that you have worked on
  • Winning a comp in general
  • Meeting new people
  • Making life friends
  • Becoming a better Judoka
  • Passing on knowledge
  • Training!


Do you have any idols, someone that you look up to or that inspires you?

I have two females that I really look up to! One is an old training partner/Coach by the name of Sae Nakazawa from Japan. She won Silver at the World championships years ago and merely missed out on the Olympics. Training with her was amazing, one of the most humble person I’ve met and such a hard worker. The other Female is my current coach Karina Bryant four time Olympian and Bronze medalist in the London Olympics for Great Britain. She now resides in Perth! She has so much knowledge to give and such a big heart! She is a very passionate player and great coach who I think always has the players best interest at heart! She is a very BIG reason as to why I have come this far in Judo and almost fulfilled my dream of reaching the Olympics! I will always be very grateful to her!! KB u rock!!!


What would you say to someone who was thinking about starting up Judo?

Do it! Judo is awesome. The people are amazing as well. I think the things we learn in Judo (not physically) we can incorporate in everyday life! 


In your opinion what do you think it takes to become successful in Martial Artists?

I think it takes dedication, support and passion. If you love what you do and you dedicate the time and you have a great support team the results will come! Everyone has different goals in what they want to achieve through martial arts. Live it. Love it. Embrace it!


Is there anyone that you would like to thank?

So many People to thank!

MUM and DAD you are amazing as always, sticking by me through thick and thin. Everyone at UWA coaches and all, for your continuous support in my journey but also providing me with opportunities like training in Japan and being mentored by some very gifted Japanese Judoka. Karina Bryant for mentoring me for the past year and a half not only in Judo but many other things as well! For being by my side every step of the way and pushing me to my limits!! Seriously cannot thank you enough! Also to the big fella Peter Swan! This guy has such a big heart and I will be forever grateful to you and your family! All my training partners!!

Lastly to anyone else who has contributed to my journey in Judo, there are so many of you to name! Just know that I am grateful to you all! #Appreciationmaxlevel!!

Last modified: Wednesday, 25 October 2017, 9:07 PM