In our today portrait we are going to introduce you Valentina Zucchetto from Italy. Valentina started Karate at the age of 7. Most of her life has been coined by the art of Shotokan. In our interview she reveals that her passion has not faded. The opposite is the case. She constantly discovers new aspects about Do and still seeks new challenges in Karate. Valentina is on a journey to a deeper understanding of the beautiful art of Shotokan Karate. Join her journey for a bit of time and enjoy this fantastic portrait. Oss!
Portrait of Valentina Zuchetto
Karate since: 2000
Origin and residence: Sicily, Italy
(Kyu/Dan) Rank: 1th Dan
Dojo: Fudoshin Karate Favara
Additional information: Assistant chief instructor of Fudoshin Karate Favara, sports technical assistant of Fudoshin Karate Favara, SKI-I kata and kumite regional and national champion.
What was the reason that you started Shotokan Karate?
I’ve always liked to think that I didn’t choose Shotokan, but that Shotokan chose me first and that I continue to choose it every day. My dad is a karate Master and started teaching karate 25 years ago.
In the 70s he moved to Turin to pursue his dream of becoming a karate teacher and had the opportunity to train with several Japanese Masters who came to Italy to expand Karate-Do like Master Kase, Master Shirai, Master Miura and Master Naito. Once back in Sicily, he opened his dojo. Among his first students was my brother. Thus, at the age of seven, I joined the family myself.
What do you like about Shotokan Karate?
I believe it is a discipline rich in beauty in all its facets. I like that it has such deep roots and that it is an art with meaning in everything. It’s a journey where you never stop learning.
Is there something you do not like? What is it?
Precisely, because I love Shotokan Karate. Among the various reasons: for its long history. I do not like that there is also a practice without foundations or where its principles are totally ignored. Like everything else, Shotokan karate also evolves and the motivations may change over time that lead to its practice. It is a completely natural thing and I am not against it, but the fact remains that one must not easily fly over what makes a Karateka a martial artist.
What has been your greatest and your worst experience so far related to Shotokan Karate?
I have many good experiences. If I had to find the common denominator of the most memorable ones, it would be in the various trips and in training sessions outside the city. On those occasions, I was able to appreciate more and more my karate companions, take our karate skills out of the dojo and get involved as a real team. The worst experience concerns the period in which I attended university because, since it was very far from my home, I trained very little.
What do you do when the training becomes challenging? Where do you get motivation from?
When the training becomes challenging, I try to keep my mind clear. I remind myself that I can do more and that I want to go home satisfied with my performance once I finish the training.
If the mind is clear and has a clear goal, the body will follow. If the body is not able to follow, it must be trained and put in step with the mind. I draw motivation from the multitude of Karatekas who have honed their technique through constant practice.
How has Shotokan Karate changed you as a person?
As I said, I started practicing karate as if it were something natural: my dad is my Sensei, my brother is a training partner and my mom also practiced karate for a while. More than changing me, I believe that Shotokan has formed me. It is something I always refer to. The twenty principles of karate written by Gichin Funakoshi are the constant reminder of what kind of person I want to become, it is a great challenge.
How has Shotokan Karate influenced your life? Has it helped you overcome or deal with difficult situations in your life? Is it helping you on a daily basis with the challenges of life?
Karate continually conditions my life. It influences my decisions in a personal context and helps me to face the challenges of everyday more decisively. Also, I am Sempai in my dojo and I must be an example for the younger students. It is not always easy but remembering that I am a karateka and that it is more the years that I lived practicing karate than those I lived without practicing it, has developed in me a sense of belonging to something really big. Therefore, I must apply it in my everyday life with courage and humility.
How has your Shotokan Karate changed over time?
On a physical level, I noticed substantial changes. When I was little, I exercised consistently but I didn’t understand many things, such as the applications of katas, or the correct way to perform them. I thought I was doing well. But when I started competing, I noticed that something was wrong.
What I understood through constant training was that karate is practiced with the whole body, that arms and legs move in reaction to the center of the body and that everything should be done with harmony and awareness of one’s movements. It took me a long time to really understand it and, even if I see myself improved, I know that there is still a long way to go. And that’s okay.
What are your personal Shotokan Karate short- and long-term goals?
My short-term goal is to continue practicing karate, hoping to never have impediments in doing it. As for the long-term goals, I’ve always dreamed of training in Japan and study karate with great masters, similarly to how my dad did.
How should Shotokan Karate evolve in the future?
I think there is a fundamental element that should never be missing in the dojo and that should never be lost, and it is the humility of the soul. I have always found a great source of inspiration in a serious, confident attitude, always open to dialogue and rich of humility of a karateka, regardless of the color of the belt or the grade.
This must start from the dojos. Every Master should maintain a pure mental attitude, free from pride and always respectful towards his students. Only in this way a student can understand the importance of the Do. I have competed several times and I am also sports technical assistant. But, even if competitions are something sporty, they are very useful for the promotion of karate and for understanding how we react towards pressure and judgments.
Paraphrasing Funakoshi, each participant should show how the mental attitude, the spirit, comes before the technique. I hope that this aspect will develop more and more and that karate will have more and more admirable representatives.
Would you recommend Shotokan Karate to your female friends? Why?
Of course, I would recommend it! I grew up in a dojo with a low number of female karatekas and, unlike how a non-practitioner might think, it is a place where you don’t make big differences in age or gender. The only yardstick is the color of the belt. I often see girls fighting only among themselves and I find it a great loss because boys can learn from girls and girls can learn from boys. All you need is to be open-minded and ready to learn a beautiful art without prejudice and without comparing yourself with anyone.