“When you step onto that mat and it’s just you and one other person it feels like the rest of the world fades away.
“All you see is the colour on the other person’s head or chest shield and nothing else matters.
Port Kembla taekwondo expert Kate McAdam is describing what it’s like to fight an opponent in her chosen martial art.
The 22 year old is part of the Australian Taekwondo Team, competing in the female +73kg division.
“Your heart’s racing, you’re trying to anticipate what the other person’s trying to do and planning your next move.
“It’s just you and the other person and it’s not something you can explain until you’re in the ring yourself.”
For most people it’s a domain they’d prefer to avoid – three, two minute rounds of explosive kicking where you’re warned if you don’t attack often.
But for a four year old Kate, it was a captivating world of fast-paced competition, spurred on by her love for those anthropomorphic crime-fighting heroes of the 1990s, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
She says it was the kicking and punching that appealed to her, and after trying out judo, she started taekwondo when she was 10.
“I knew there was as competition aspect and I knew I always wanted to compete and do well at the sport and once people [at school] found out I did taekwondo no one wanted to mess with me.”
She’s now progressed through the sport to become a six-time New South Wales champion and two-time national champion.
Next month she’ll travel to Mexico for the World Taekwondo Championships – an event ranked alongside the Olympics within the taekwondo community.
But the ultimate goal is the Rio De Janeiro Olympic Games in 2016 – a long and exhausting journey that will see her cover thousands of kilometres.
And when she’s not throwing kicks and punches, she’s most commonly found working or driving.
“Living in Port Kembla I travel to Sydney six days a week – I work in Auburn and train in Liverpool,” she said.
“I’m up most mornings to do a gym session before going to work.
“If it wasn’t for taekwondo I don’t know where I’d be, but good things come to those who wait and put in the hard work.”
She needs to work such a tireless routine to pay her way for most of her professional sporting career.
Taekwondo athletes receive little to no support from their governing body, and expenses like airfares, accommodation and Australian team wear are all self-funded.
She says her work and training schedule will be worth it even if she doesn’t make the Rio Olympics.
“There’s definitely risks involved but I feel like I’m trying to enjoy the journey,” she said.
“I’ve had so many wonderful experiences so far by having this goal and doing this sport, and if I don’t get to the Olympics, at least I know I’ve given it my all and I’ll have no regrets.
“The experience I’ve had already, you can’t put a price on that.”