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Kick-start to the top of the world

speed and timing are everything in kickboxing and, two weeks after becoming the new British women's champion, Amie Weaver is already training to take on the best in the world next month.

The 19-year-old student at Sandwell College in West Midlands is to compete in the kickboxing competition at the World Traditional Karate Association's martial arts championships in Italy.

Amie, from Walsall, started kickboxing just four years ago. "I've always been a bit of a tomboy," she says. "I've never been much of a girly girl. I always hung around with the lads.

"To be honest, it was just a natural thing to get involved in this. I already did a lot of sports: played football and rugby, did athletics. I had a letter come through the door about kickboxing training and just wanted to do it."

She began to combine training under coach Rick Dubidat four days a week running, sparring, building strength and fitness with studying for a Btec in sports development and fitness.

"When I first started and I was throwing punches and doing kicks, my coach could see I had quite a lot of power. He saw something in me that he wanted to bring out," she says. "The person who teaches you, you look up to. He started off in my position and built his way up, so he's a role model to me."

Amie is also putting knowledge from her course, which covers nutrition to psychology, into practice by coaching children at the gym where she trains.

To compete in the British championship, she first had to win enough bouts to be selected for the title fight by the sport's governing association.

Fights are scored on points, with different amounts awarded for blows to the body, head or sweeps to the legs. "It's all to do with speed and timing," Amie says.

The championship fight seemed to take place so rapidly that now it all seems a bit of a blur, she says, but she took a quick lead in the two-round bout.

Her lecturer, Jim Stott, says: "When she came in the day after she won the championship, she brought in her trophy. There were a few jokes around the classroom that nobody will mess with her now or they'll get a swift kick!"

Mr Stott says Amie is a model student and praises her work with young people. On visits to local schools, where college students practise coaching children, they had been left "open-mouthed" by displays of her kickboxing skills, he says.

In the middle of next month Amie will fight for the world title at Marina di Carrara, a northern Italian seaside town at the foot of the Alps. Competitors from more than 50 countries will compete in karate, kickboxing and mixed-style martial arts at the championships.

In the meantime, she and other martial arts competitors at the Rick Dubidat Black Belt Academy are trying to earn enough cash to pay their fare by washing cars and holding fundraisers. Amie also has a part-time job looking after children before and after school.

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