New Zealand Woman’s Weekly
How we get our KICKS
THE FEILDING MOTHER AND TEACHER HAS RAISED A WINNING KARATE KID!
It’s hard to imagine the softly spoken duo, who regularly erupt into warm laughter as they pose for the Weekly’s camera, fiercely fighting their way to the top of the karate world championships. But that’s exactly what this mother and daughter have done.
While most mums actively discourage fighting, Miho Davis has gently guided her daughter Erika Elers (16) down the path of Shito-ryu karate. One of the four major styles of karate in the world, Miho has been coaching her daughter in the discipline since she was a toddler.
“When I was two or three, my mother’s students would video me doing karate punches,” laughs Erika.
Miho adds, “I even made her a really tiny uniform!”
Erika’s talent was soon apparent and, from the age of four, was winning every competition she entered.
“It wasn’t until you were
11, you lost your first match,” recalls Miho. “She’s always calm and doesn’t become very emotional at all. But that time, I could tell she was really upset.”
Placings other than first are a rarity and, over the years, Erika has accumulated numerous medals, championships and accolades, peaking with the Karate World Championship title for 14-16 age group.
Ensuring her daughter remains grounded, Miho is quick to point out, “She’s been doing good, of course, but in my eyes, not always perfect. There’s always some parts that she can improve.”
“It’s easier to get on top but it’s harder to stay there,” agrees Erika. “You don’t want to be like, ‘Oh, I won, I’m sweet, I’ll win my next one,’ because that’s not often the case.”
Winning the championship was a bittersweet moment for Erika after losing the title in 2015. The loss fuelled her determination to succeed at last July’s 11th World Championship in Osaka, Japan.
“I definitely didn’t think I’d win this time,” she tells. “Japan is the hardest tournament because all the Japanese girls are definitely the hardest competition. They train really hard and take it very seriously – a lot of them are just amazing.”
Early into the title fight,
Miho felt relaxed. “She just looked so natural, so right.
I was so satisfied. I thought, ‘Well done, this is awesome,’” she says, adding that from the outset, Erika was the clear winner and won convincingly.
“It’s still a shock. I was really humbled. When you win, it doesn’t sink in for a while,” admits Erika of the win.
Their shared karate journey dates back to when Miho first took up the sport while studying for a PhD in Veterinary Pathology at Massey University.
“I was watching it and thought, ‘Oh, I love it. I’m going to have a go.’ Then I was like this is good for me, the stress is gone. I forget about my research and everything.”
When she fell pregnant with Erika, Miho became adept at avoiding blows from her fellow martial artists “hoping they’d punch the bag and not my belly”.
Achieving success in her own right, Miho retired from competing in 2015, opting to focus on her dojo (karate school) in Feilding. And with her mother’s encouragement, Erika has also taken on a coaching role at the dojo.
“As a martial artist, you can be a bit selfish, but in the long run, teaching is actually better because you pass on what you know and more people learn from it instead of keeping it to yourself,” reveals Erika.
“I’ve taught a lot of students and it’s cool to see them grow. They take what I say seriously because I’ve had so many successes. When they win, I’m super-happy.”
For Miho, having Erika coaching is part of her plan. “It’s
good for her as she learns a lot. If you can teach, you get better yourself. That’s my theory.”
Miho also teaches science and art at her daughter’s high school in Taihape.
“She’s my mum, coach, teacher and even my dean. I know, fun right?” jokes Erika.
With her sights set on successfully defending her title in Perth 2019, Erika is grateful to have her mum in her corner. “The good thing about having her as my coach is, even though you win, you still know there are things I can work on.”
The teen’s success on the world stage was also recognised locally when she was awarded Whanganui International Junior Sportsperson of 2017.
It seems there’s no stopping the dynamic duo.
“Mum says she’ll be proud of me, no matter what. Which isn’t true,” laughs Erika.
Smiling at her daughter, Miho responds, “Just do your best.”