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Interview with Stephanie and Rida Bel-Iahsen

05/12 2015

Team USF Karaté
International Training Center in Karate - Paris France
Coaches :
Rida Bel-Iahsen 5th Dan: World Kumite Champion 2000
Stéphanie Bel-Iahsen Duperret 4th Dan:
National Luxembourg Team Coach, French Kata Cup Champion 2000

Interview with Stephanie Bel-Iahsen Duperret and Rida Bel-Iahsen 

Can you introduce your karate club - Team USF Karate?

Bel-Iahsen Rida: Stephanie and I run this club for 10 years already. The beginning was very hard, because only 50 karate players were in the club without any basis about karate competition and we didn’t train in a dojo. In 2011, we changed the training situation and we share a 400m2 dojo. In this situation, we were able to develop our karate academy. We are now about 230 karate players with different levels and age groups, with kata and kumite courses.
Since the end of 2012, we’ve decided to go further in the preparation of our athletes, participating in more competitions and competitions abroad. The bigger step was last year in creating our Elite Karate Center, where the most motivated children from 7 years until seniors have a complete competition preparation. In this performance academy, there are about 45 karate athletes in 2 groups: the Pre-Team for younger and the Team USF from 16 years old.

Since this strategy:
3 French champions
20 French championship medalists
30 international opens medalists

Your club has reached great karate results, behind them it is certainly a lot of your efforts as coach. But we can see, that in your club there are friendly relations and team atmosphere. How can you build such a good background? Is it also important and motivating for a good result at competitions?

Stephanie Bel-Iahsen Duperret: You're right! Good training and good coaching are not enough to bring lot of athletes to victory, especially with young athletes. You have to build a team spirit. Let's say a family spirit. That's our way of thinking in Team USF. We speak about "the Team USF family". You have to create atmosphere and conditions, so athletes like to come to training, feel good all together because training is so hard and we spend so much time together. Young athletes could feel distract from their sport goal because of difficulties in school, because of adolescence...
Furthermore we are stronger all together...in Karate we need partner to grow and to improve. This Team family spirit helps everybody to reach his own limit. We use this to give more self-confidence, more motivation, more ambition to each of our athletes.
Karate is an individual sport but training is a team matter.
We built this team spirit by creating an Elite training center inside the club with 2 teams: PreTeam for childrens under 14 and Team for cadet and older categories. Each member of this Teams feel to be part of something big. They are proud to be in the center because they passed selection tests. Then Inside the training center, building the team spirit is an everyday matter: speech, specific exercices, competition spirit and extra karate activities together and of course competitions...
Rida and me are very closed to each member of the elite training center: dealing with their school problems, personal problems sometimes...
With this Elite training Center, we aim to make the olympic champions of tomorrow ... this is what we call the "Champions In The Making Project".

Stephanie, you have coached several athletes in junior and senior categories from the national team. Who has achieved good results?

Stephanie Bel-Iahsen Duperret: Yes, before the Team USF was created, I have created the Karate Sport 25 club in Besançon, my native town. There, i've made several big champions: Ayoub Neghliz (World Kata Team Champion and the current French Team Kata Coach), Céline Chevallier (World Kata Team Medalist too), Ahmed Zemouri (current French Team Kata player, Silver Medal at European Championships), Aziz Ouguezzi (who reached 5th place at World Cadet Kumite Championship) and many more winners of French national championships in both kata and kumite. I've started with all these champions to the scratch when they came to me, as they were child.
I trained Rida too for about 3 years both in karate and in physical training.
I reached great results with this first club. But then I got the "Sport Professorat", a professional contest from The French Sport Ministry. I've passed this exam and I've been ranked at the first place in France. Then I moved to the French Karate Federation and trained at Insep (the French Olympic Center). When I stopped with French Federation, Rida and I have decided to open a new club in Paris...Team USF.

Nowdays, we have managed and trained this Team. We have some international athletes, who often come train with us (from Yemen, Emirates, Algeria...). Step by step, Team USF becomes an international Elite Training Center. Some of them are member of the Team. For my part, I'm also the kata coach of the National Team of Luxembourg.
My next goal is to train a national team in kumite. I have so much to give...

Bel-Iahsen Rida, you are multiple Champion in kumite. Can you remember your first match?

Bel-Iahsen Rida: I did my first match in competition when I was 12 or 14. I’m a competitor because I love sport. Combinated to the martial arts spirit learned by my first sensei, I remember I understood the reality of kumite competition: touch the other before the other touches you, like the notion of life and death in martial arts origin. Don’t be afraid of attacking or of defending without thinking when you have the opportunity!!

Which kumite match was for you the hardest and which brought you the best experience?
Bel-Iahsen Rida:
The hardest kumite match in my life was against the Spanish Oscar Vasquez in 2002. It was during the WKF World Championships at semi final of the team competition against Spain team in Spain. I liked very much being the 5th in team to decide and to try the challenge. It was the case. He was in my individual category and I knew him very well, I was World Champion within the French team and Spanish players wanted to become it in their country. So I had almost all the Spanish public against me and above all the referees staff very anxious with this wrestling between the best teams in the world. The match was nervously and emotionally very tough. With all these conditions, unfortunately this day I barely lost my match.

I can’t give you one match bringing me the best experience but I can tell you, training with the best karate players, like my friend Alex Biamonti, was the best experience for me.

During my career, I fighted against numerous big champions: Haldun Alagas, Herrero, Leal, Loria… I won some and I lost others, but all these kumite matches made you another fighter.

Bel-Iahsen Rida: resutts from competitions:
World Champion, French Team Kumite (Munich 2000)
3rd place World Championship (-70 kg, Munich 2000)
1st Mediterraneas Games (-70 kg, Tunis 2001)
3x Vice European Champion, French Team Kumite (Istambul 2000, Sofia 2001, Tallinn 2002)
2x Vice European Champion (-70 kg, Istambul 2000, Tenerife 2005)
6x French Champion (-70 kg, Paris 2000-2008)
3rd place World Championship, French Team Kumite (Madrid 2002)
2x University Champion, French Team Kumite (Kyoto 2000, Puebla 2000, 2002)
University Vice World Champion, Open category (Puebla 2002)
3rd place European Championship (-70 kg, Breme 2003)


Do you think, that kids today have a different approach to training than before? What is the general physical condition and agility of children who come into your club?

Stephanie Bel-Iahsen Duperret: I think the main difficulty is to keep a young athlete motivated until senior category. They are so many distractions and in France it's so difficult to do both school and high level sport.
The balance between train too much and do too much competition and not enough is hard to find and so different from one athlete to another.
Young people are lucky, because now we have so many ways of training, picking ideas to another sports, training both karate and physical condition...and having fun in training.

Bel-Iahsen Rida: For sure, kids have a different approach to training than before. Karate sport and its training techniques have evolved significantly and kids also lived in another society where everything exists, is done or obtained in the moment.

I can give you general physical condition for coming to my club, but I can tell you, that it is not because of your physique you come into my performance karate center. It is above all your motivation and determination in your karate matches. Karate is more mental than physical. We have to keep in mind the karate roots and to focus also on training techniques and strategies. That is my training mix and wherever I go to seminar, in France, Luxembourg, Morocco, Romania, Albania, Dubaï, I insist in this mental dimension. I want to see determination in every action, every step, and every kiaï they do.

The physical and technical dimension evolves with athletic exercises, repetitions, feedbacks and a good coach. You can act in more easily than a fighting spirit quality.

Your son, Ilyane, is also successfully devoted to karate. At what age did he start practicing? It is easier to train your own son than other children?

Stephanie Bel-Iahsen Duperret: He started...since he's born..; We didn't push him to practice but he can't stop playing karate. He started classes at the age of 3 years. But until this year, he did only once a week. This year, he does twice. But he also plays tennis twice a week and ballet class once a week. He's made of sports.
He loves karate more than anything else and he has plan to become an olympic champion in karate. He knows every champion, every result, every match. He loves competitions and he's impatient to do more and more competition. We can't stop him.
For the moment it's not so difficult to train him. When he's in classes, we try to make no difference between him and another student.

To which important competition have you been preparing nowdays?
Bel-Iahsen Rida:
In France, we have 2 competitions between October and December, which are “decisive” for the European Championship for youth. Adidas Open and the French Cup allow karate players to be detected for the February event, that´s why we are preparing with Stephanie and the Team USF for this competitions and with the aim to take part of the French Youth Karate Team in 2016. So the French Cup is the next main competition. To prepare it, we will go the Republic Tcheque in December.

Do you still have a time for other activities? What are your other interests?

Stephanie Bel-Iahsen Duperret: I don't have enough time to do all I'll like but I take time to folllow dance classes because it's my second passion: ballet classes and hip hop classes.
I also take time to go on in learning about coaching. Currently I study in Insep (Olympic center) to get diploma in "physical training for elite athletes".

Bel-Iahsen Rida: Time is precious. It is very difficult to have time for other activities, because I have not been entirely devoted to karate until this year. I worked for one of the best French wrestling club as administrative manager. Now, I can develop more projects around karate, organising karate seminars and events in France and all over the world, developing the Team USF and projecting to be national coach for a foreign country with the ambition to help future champions to lead a big sport career with olympism (I hope)… So I don’t have enough time for me, but I even try to play tennis once a week and try to follow my physical training plan. It is very important for my “stamina” between work, trainings, competitions, … .
I take care of my family sharing time with us in and out the dojo (music concert, “ballet”, cinema, time with friends... ) “I'm lucky to share the same passion with my wife. It is easier for me to be more often with my family.”


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