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Pinehurst School has a Martial Arts world champion in its midst! Local lad Matthew O’Connor recently took out the junior title at the 20th Anniversary 5.0 Fighter World Cup in Las Vegas. The 13-year-old is actually a second time champion, having also won the junior champion title in 2013, and is currently a member of the New Zealand Squad. A competitor from the age of four, Matthew has nearly 10 years' training under his belt; he’s a 2nd degree black belt in Shaolin Kenpo, has his Junior Advanced Black Belt in American 5.0 Kenpo and is half way towards his full adult black belt in American 5.0 Kenpo. Channel Mag had a chat to Matthew after he returned from victory in America...
Courtney Bennett: You’ve just been to the 5.0 Fighter World Cup in Las Vegas, what was that like?
Matthew O’Connor: It was great to catch up with my friends that I made two years before at the same competition in Las Vegas, but there was excitement and tension in the air at the same time.
CB: When did you start doing martial arts?
MO: When I was two my mum and dad noticed me doing martial art type moves around the house, but of course I was too young to start. When I was four my parents found a dojo that would take me in and that’s where my journey started.
CB: What sort of training do you do?
MO: When I am not leading up to a competition I train three times a week. Leading up to World’s my training starts nine months out, working up to training every single day. I make the most of every second I have free by turning the garage at home into a dojo and training there.
CB: What does it take to be a champion in martial arts?
MO: A lot of commitment, dedication and sacrifice.
CB: What’s the best part about representing your country?
MO: When you win a World Title it makes you feel very proud to talk about where you come from, especially given we are such a small country.
CB: What do you do in your spare time?
MO: I enjoy hanging out with my friends, going to the movies and playing basketball.
CB: Do you have a mentor?
MO: Yes, I have been very lucky to some key mentors throughout my years of training. They are Mark Robinson, Simon Low and Kevin Watts.
CB: Favourite sport to watch live?
MO: UFC (United Fighting Championship).
CB: Favourite martial artist and why?
MO: Bruce Lee, definitely. He was a strong role model for me growing up.
CB: What’s the best part about doing martial arts?
MO: The people you meet all over the world and being part of Kenpo 5.0 Worldwide, it’s like my second family. I would be welcome to train with some of the best Kenpo 5.0 martial artists in the world.
CB: In 10 years time...
MO: If Kenpo 5.0 has been accepted into the Olympics (which they are currently trying to achieve), I hope to be competing at this level, representing New Zealand as well as teaching in my own club.
Channel Magazine: Issuu 58 September 2015