Slovenian karateka Tjaša Ristič is the current vice-champion from the last European Championships edition, European Olympic Games vice-champion, double European bronze medalist (from 2011 and 2018) and golden at the Mediterranean Games. It will be excited to see Tjaša fighting in the -61kg category in Poreč but before that, we got to know her a little better.
Born in a karate family, Tjaša was introduced to karate very early: “My father is a karate coach, my brother used to compete in kata and my mother…well she is just the biggest supporter. I fell in love with karate from the very beginning. My father took me to train when I was very little because we did not have any babysitters.”
Slowly, from shomen geri, gyaku zuki and her favourite mawashi geri chudan, Tjaša competed in her first Kumite competition at the Slovenian national championship in 2004. and already showed talent there – she took the silver medal: “I was very aggressive and hungry for victories from the beginning since I was a child.”
A lesser-known thing is that she used to train kata: “I knew even before I started to practice karate that I would do Kumite and not kata. I competed in kata (Uechi-ryu) as well until seniors but only because I had to. I did not really enjoy it. Nevertheless, I loved fighting.”
Luckily, she was so determined to train Kumite because she’s achieving tremendous results. In the last couple of years (just before Covid pandemics) she had excellent seasons winning European bronze and silver, gold at Mediterranean Games and silver at European Olympic Games. It is hard for her to single out a favourite among those: “Actually, memories differ one from another. Each competition has some special memories and different circumstances. The only common thing for all of them was the feeling of happiness and satisfaction when you stand on the podium. Priceless.”
Is standing on the podium again her goal for #karateporec2021?
“I expect myself to do my best, to show the best performance and beautiful karate on the tatami. Of course, I want to defend my title, but the main goal is to enjoy it. It was a huge pause from competitions and great training due to the pandemic situation. We had very strict regulations in Slovenia, therefore my training program was disrupted, but we managed to pull out of this situation the best we could. My training week includes on average 2-3 fitness sessions and 5 karate training sessions. Once a month I have sessions with my sports psychologist. However, everything depends on the competition cycle and my needs. But I guess that is granted.”
Some of the greatest values Tjaša learned thanks to karate are respect, discipline, perseverance, time management and especially staying calm and focused in stressful environments. Those help her in life but before every fight, too: “My dreams and my goals motivates me to do my best. The best way to fully achieve my routine is to isolate my emotions and to think only in the present.”
When talking about emotions, karate surely brought her both good and bad: “My happiest moments in karate and the biggest achievement is my silver medal on European Championship 2019. There were also rough times and by that, I especially mean my performance at the World Championship in Bremen 2016 when I crashed due to pressures. I was well prepared and everybody expected me to take a medal. Even I put the resulting pressure on myself. Back then, I did not have any sports psychologist. I wasn’t taught how to handle all those pressures. Consequently, I step on tatami and forget everything I know. I froze. I lost in the first round.”
With karate debuting at the Olympic Games in Tokyo a lot changed for karatekas. The Olympics are Tjaša’s highest goal she is working hard to qualify: “In my opinion, it is very important for the development of every sport. It is easier to become a professional athlete, coach or something else. It is also very important for the public picture and visibility of the sport. For me, this means a lot. I got a job in the police (athletes department) because we became an Olympic sport (of course with my results). My results would mean nothing in this case if we would not be an Olympic sport. They mean a lot to me, but I could get only a very low sports scholarship… not a job. It is easier for athletes if their sport is an Olympic sport. They can dedicate everything to the sport then. Otherwise, it is very hard to compete on that level. In the end, Olympic Games are my highest goal and I’m working hard to qualify!”