By Matt Wiley
Overcoming injuries can be a daunting task. Overcoming an injury and becoming world champion in a sport is another thing altogether.
Lexington Oaks resident Carla Souza, 41, knows this well, after becoming the American Taekwondo Association’s (ATA) Class AAA world champion in combat weapons and finishing second in sparring on July 12 in Little Rock, AK, during the ATA World Championships.
Souza, an information technology technician for Verizon Data Services, says that bouncing back after tearing a hamstring and pinching a nerve in January was tough, but with the help of physical therapy and Hugo Torres at Life Skills Martial Arts (located in the Tampa Palms Professional Center), she was able to heal and perform well in the annual tournament.
“I was worried about taking so much time off,” Souza says. “I thought I’d be rusty. The hardest part is not being able to do what you love to do, especially during stressful times, but I listened to my physical therapist. I’m not good at sitting still.”
To make it to the ATA World Championships, Souza had to perform well in other tournaments to earn points since June 2012, including the Southeast District Championship that recently was held on June 8 in Atlanta. The tournament included competitors from seven states. Souza competed well enough to be named District Champion in both sparring and combat weapons sparring.
Although combat weapons sparring sounds dangerous, Souza explains that it’s not as scary as it sounds.
“You have quite a bit of protective gear on, so its not quite like MMA fighting,” she says. “But, it’s a whole lot of fun.”
A California State University kinesiology graduate, Souza says that her current hobby had its roots planted in college, where she took both taekwondo and judo as classes for her major. However, as life went on, she moved away from those activities.
“I turned 38 and was working in corporate America,” Souza explains. “I had played sports all my life and had really gotten away from exercise. I needed a stress reliever from work, so I joined (Life Skills Martial Arts) in 2010. I had done some martial arts in college, so I just went back at it.
The rest is history.
“Everybody (at Life Skills) is very proud of her,” says Hugo Torres, Souza’s trainer. “(Winning at the world championships) was something that she’s worked very hard toward. It’s been tough for her because she was injured, but she trained hard and succeeded.”
For more information about Life Skills Martial Arts, please call 972-5425.