Black belt beauties

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Two Queenstown women are the first female black belts in a karate style that’s been taught locally for 11 years. 

Kelly Blair and Liz Simpson, both 30, were graded by world-rated karate instructor, Paul Mitchell of Melbourne after five years of Shukokai training. 

Mitchell awarded black belts to two other Queenstowners, Warren McGregor, 40, and Bruno Shirley, 17. It’s the first Shukokai grading that’s occurred in New Zealand. 

Shirley’s father Geoff was awarded a black belt last year. 

Instructor Pat Quaid: “Geoff was the first black belt I trained to get through. To get these four very soon after, it’s great, and especially the two girls.” 

Quaid says Blair, who initially trained in the Gojuryu style in Australia, before moving to Queenstown, is “very good, stylistically. She’s a bit more natural”. 

“Liz has had to work harder at it, but she’s definitely got it in her head that she can do this.” 

As much as it’s a physical discipline, the women say it’s even more a mental challenge. 

“The grading was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” Simpson says. 

To make the grade, they had to demonstrate knowledge of 40 different combinations in full-contact fight sequences. 

Quaid says the test pushes them to the “edge of what they can do”. 

The four students travel to Melbourne in November for their next test. 

The NZ Samurai Karate Championships, featuring the Shukokai style, is at the Queenstown Events Centre on May 16. Last year’s event attracted 140 competitors.