‘Without Karate, I don’t know who I’d be’

A childhood love for Karate shaped StreetGames Doorstep Sport Advisor Reisha Hull’s life. As she returns from representing England at the World Karate Championship in Dubai, we spoke to her about the experience of fighting on the world stage and the importance of sport for young people.

When Reisha Hull’s dad took her along to her first Karate class 23 years ago, neither of them could have predicted the path she was about to set out on.

“Dad wanted me to be able to look after myself, I think he was worried about me being a bit soft! He took me to my first class so I could learn self-defence, but it was the sporting side of Karate that I fell in love with almost straight away.”

More than two decades on, Karate has given Reisha more than a just a hobby. It’s changed her life and given her opportunities she would never have had without it. Through years of hard work and determination, Reisha has been forging an international career as a professional martial arts competitor. This month, Reisha had the honour of representing England at the World Karate Championships in Dubai – the latest chapter in the story of a real life Karate Kid.

“I was first selected to compete for England when I was 16” Reisha explains, “so I’ve been competing at a high level for quite a while now. I took time out at points to do my degrees and to travel, but Karate is something that has always been a huge presence in my life. I don’t know who I’d be without it.”

Reisha’s competitive highlights so far include a gold medal win at the Commonwealth Games, and she has ambitions to win a world medal. Following this month’s tournament in Dubai, she finds herself ranking in the top 16 Karate competitors in the world at her weight.

A true enthusiast of the sport, Reisha was disappointed to see Karate disappear from the Olympic programme for 2024 after finally getting a moment in the spotlight in Tokyo this year. Compared to some other sports, Karate is not well funded and this can be an added challenge for competitors.

While Karate has opened many doors for Reisha, she’s keen to stress the difference that sport can make to people’s lives whether they want to compete professionally or not. Karate gave her the opportunity to get out, make new friends and develop her skills and confidence, and she believes sport can play that role for other young people too.

“For me, Karate was a hugely positive outlet when I was growing up. The area I grew up in wasn’t always the nicest or the safest and a lot of young people I knew were just hanging around and getting into trouble. Having somewhere to go and something to do made a massive difference, it gave me purpose and I’ve made friends and memories for life doing it.”

It was that early lesson about the difference sport and physical activity can make to young people that has helped steer Reisha to her current role with StreetGames. As a StreetGames Doorstep Sport Advisor, Reisha is supporting community organisations to deliver sport in some of the most underserved communities in London and the South East. Having previously completed her PhD on the impact of the This Girl Can programme, her combination of real passion for sport and an understanding of how best to engage young people is helping StreetGames to transform young lives across the capital and beyond.

After her strong showing at this year’s World Championships, we’re excited to see what Reisha achieves next in her martial arts journey. For now, we’re glad to have her back supporting StreetGames’ mission to ensure every young person has the chance to enjoy the life changing power of sport.

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