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Interview with Elisa Au Fonseca

05/10 2015

Elisa Au Fonseca was born in Honolulu, Hawai, currently lives in Chicago, USA. She holds 4th DAN with the organization IKF. Elisa Au Fonseca and her husband John Fonseca are owners and head instructors at Fonseca Martial Arts.

A three-time World Champion, Sensei Au Fonseca is the only American female to win the world championship in karate and the only person to win multiple world titles at a single world karate championship event.

Can you introduce your karate club?
My husband, John Fonseca and I have our own karate club, Fonseca Martial Arts in Chicago, USA. I have been living in Chicago for 10 years and we currently have three studios in the Chicago land area. Originally, I am from Honolulu, Hawaii where I trained under Chuzo Kotaka in shito-ryu. I am still a member of the organization even though I live in Chicago now.

Which trainers are at your club?
John and I are the head instructors at our club. We have also had numerous national team members train at our club over the years. Currently, we have Jovanni Martinez of Venezuela at our club. He won the Pan American Games silver medal to world champion Douglas Brose this year. We also have Sensei Eduardo Salgado, who is a WKF referee.

Let´s talk about you. Three-time World Champion. Is there any match in your kumite career you can mention and tell as more about it?
I have had many memorable experiences throughout my career. My favorite match would be my semi-final match with Lawrence Fisher (France) in 2004. I have a tremendous amount of respect for her and our match was extremely close. We eventually tied and went into enchosen where I won the tie-breaking point. She hit me very hard in the face but it did not hurt at all because of the tremendous adrenaline rush of winning the match and going to the finals. I remember that this was the second day in a row that I was competing. The day before, I had many tough matches in Open to win that event. My body was tired by the time I started +60kg but my mind was sharp and ready to win. The entire experience from the 2004 WKF World Championships is very surreal to me, almost like a dream.

Which medal is the most important for you?
It is hard to say but perhaps the 2004 Open World Championship gold medal was most prestigious for me. The Open is the best of the best, so I am most proud of that medal. I also had to compete against the reigning WC at that time as well as European Champions.


What is your favourite karate technique?
I used to specialize in gyakuzuki counter. I love this technique because you have to be fearless in order to do it well. It is the essence of the budo. The big techniques that athletes do today are impressive and showcase great athleticism, but my training growing up was more traditional in nature.

As karate instructor do you see any young talented athlete at your club, maybe future world Champion?
I see a lot of talent in my club and in my country. It is difficult in the USA to compete with other big sports that offer university scholarships or professional careers. It is my hope that we will be included in the 2020 Olympic Games and beyond so that these young kids that I see so much potential in can realize their dreams.

Lots of parents all over the world look for the best sport for their children. As karate trainer will you recommend karate as a sport for children?
I think karate is a fantastic sport for all children. My 3-year old daughter is already training. It develops a foundation for athletics by building strength, coordination, balance and a strong spirit. With proper teaching, karate builds good character for life.

What are your leisure time activities?
I like to do silks and trapeze (I used to do gymnastics as a child) and I also like to run and do yoga. But I spend most of my time being a mom and chasing my 3-year old daughter and 1-year old son.

Which type of music do you like to listen?
I’ll listen to a variety of things depending on my mood, but Pop, Reggae and Hawaiian music always make me happy.

What is your favourite meal? Which cuisine do you prefer?
I am a total foodie so I will eat almost anything. I really can’t decide if my favorite cuisine is Italian or Japanese. I don’t think I could live without either one! I love trying new restaurants everywhere I go but I also love to cook at home.

You were born in Hawaii. Can you mention some nice Hawaiian proverb that you like?
As young children growing up in Hawaii, we learn a lot about the Hawaiian culture and its values. I don’t remember many of the proverbs I was taught, but the state motto is Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ʻĀina i ka Pono, which is translated as “the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness”. I think that is the essence of Hawaii and its people. The land is really important to everyone and it is cherished.

What is your life motto?
My favorite quote is, “Be so good they can’t ignore you,” by Jerry Dunn. That was always my mentality as an athlete and something I thought about throughout my training and in competitions.

Can you tell as about Fonseca Cup 2015? And about the history of this competition?

We started the Fonseca Cup in 2011 after I had retired from competition. John and I felt that there were not enough high quality competitions in the USA for our athletes. We wanted to host a tournament that brought in quality competition from other countries, while making the event the best possible experience for the athletes. Every year, the Fonseca Cup tournament inspires our young students because they are able to watch athletes who compete in the top WKF events right here in Chicago. I think it is an amazing opportunity for any young, aspiring karate athlete.

What are other club activities (seminar,…)?
I am honored to do many seminars throughout the year, but none more than the one hosted by Wayne Otto in the UK. Wayne brings in the best trainers, as well and Alexandre Biamonti (France) and me to teach a weekend long bootcamp for serious competitors. I am always amazed by the talent of these young athletes and humbled to be asked by Wayne Otto to be a part of his vision. As for our dojo in Chicago, we do many events in our club throughout the year, most of which are locally based. Our club has a very family-friendly vibe, so families feel comfortable spending a lot of time around the dojo with their friends. Our competition team is a small but important part of our club and many of those athletes have dreams to be world and olympic champions. It is my hope that I can help them realize those dreams.

Thank you very much for the interview. We wish you all the best in the future.
Karate Live