The 4 X Karate World Champion, and NABBA Fitness Bikini competitor dishes on her training, the MoniqueFit Movement and her close-knit family.
1.Where did you grow up and what is your sporting history?
I was originally born in South Africa, but moved to Mozambique at the age of 4. We lived there for 6 years. Spoilt with beautiful surroundings and always being outdoors, active and free. It was there where I found my passion for karate. It actually happened by accident. Every Tuesday and Thursday, I used to go home with my cousins after school and found myself sitting and watching, not really interested at first until one day, the class had an odd number of students and the Sensei had asked if I wanted to hold the punching bag for the odd student. When it was time to swop – it was my turn… It literally took ONE PUNCH to fall in love. Two weeks after that, I entered the Mozambique National Championship, love the thrill of competing and being in the ring and losing myself to the art of the sport – won and boom. Karate became my life.
From there it was just karate, championship after championship. I was even invited to SA championships every year and winning many titles. In 2004, we moved back to South Africa and naturally – karate continued. It was the only thing I knew. It saved me from feeling any sort of trauma that a big move to a new country, new school and having to make new friends and barely knowing the language would bring. I was even selected to represent Mozambique and South Africa in the 2004 KSI Karate World Championships. Mom forced me to choose Mozambique, because it was only fair. At the age of 10 – I became World Champion for Kumite (fighting). The moment was so surreal, I don’t even think I knew what it meant. I was just happy, in my element and I had a huge trophy to take home.
It didn’t stop there. I entered another 5 world championships all over the world (this time representing SA). I got to do what I loved most, I got to see the world, bond with my mom (she went EVERYWHERE – she was and still is MY LUCKY CHARM), and I got to push myself beyond any limitations. I went to FINLAND, SWITZERLAND, PORTUGAL and even NEW YORK. I have been world champion 4 times now, but it wasn’t about that anymore – it was just about being me and doing what made me feel so free and powerful.
Although Karate was my life, I enjoyed and excelled in school sports too – specifically Athletics, cross-country and swimming. I was living the life. It taught me discipline, strength, determination, perseverance and it taught me to ALWAYS AIM HIGH. All this and still maintaining an “A” in academics too. Everything I did, touched, thought of – I gave it my all.
When varsity started – I was forced to move to Pretoria. It made things difficult to continue training. More so, because I refused to training with any other coach but my own. He was my role model. I wanted to be just like him. It was then where I found the GYM. Being the GOAL DRIVEN and OVERACHIEVER that I am… It wasn’t long before I found fitness and the stage.
- Did you grow up in a household where there was a big focus on nutrition and fitness?
Yes and no. I come from a family where both parents also excelled in sports. My dad was a really great sprinter and my mom was a gymnast. Although they never forced me to do anything – they always jumped at every opportunity to support and encourage me to do my best and follow my passion. We lived in a beautiful country and spent most of the time outdoors, by the ocean, ridding motorbikes – we were always active and seldom stayed indoors.
On the nutrition side of things, my parents were never “fast-food” eaters. Although no specific regimes were followed, things were always kept fairly healthy. I used to be bribed with fruits – I LOVE FRUIT.
Being healthy and active was always important though – that I do remember.
And I was strange too. I loved vegetables, salads and healthy food in general and I loved exercising too – all before I learned the actual importance of it. It was natural to me. I was the kid that asked for tuna salad at school.
3, Do you enjoy training with family members and if so, why?
Yes! Especially my mom! Nothing fills your heart with so much happiness like doing something you love with someone you love. My mom and I share an incredible bond. We’re more than just mother and daughter.
It’s magical actually. We support, encourage and push each other. We know each others strengths and weakness – we just work.
- Why karate and why did you choose to pursue it as an elite competitor?
Like I said above… It happened by accident. The sport found me and I became obsessed. I competed because I am so goal driven – I thrive off setting , working towards and achieving goals. I started with small competitions and then they just got bigger and bigger as my goals and dreams grew too.
4.You’ve expanded as an athlete outside of karate tell us a bit about this
I found the gym when I started varsity. I actually started with crossfit (as it was an off-season thing we had to do before athletics and I just fell in love too), and on weekends I came home to Johannesburg and I went to gym with my dad.
I don’t drink, and I do not enjoy the party scene – so you can imagine how “lonely” varsity was because I was pretty much the only student who didn’t do all of that and just wanted to rest and eat well for the next day’s workout.
I started to see changes in my body – I was always sporty and more muscular than most girls but, I was loving how I was feeling and how I was looking. I loved the muscles. I loved looking and feeling strong. A personal trainer approached me and asked me when I was competing… I obviously had no idea what this meant back then – but when he explain … I LOVED WHAT I WAS HEARING. 4 weeks later, I was in a bikini, in heels and on a stage. The feeling was exhilarating and so magical. I wanted MORE! I wanted to improve, I wanted more goals – and yes… you guessed it – I became obsessed. I found a community with like minded people and it was so easy to just be me.
- What are your hobbies outside of the gym?
Does Switch count as outside of the gym??? Hahahaha I love it there!
But my hobbies include walking on the beach and collecting shells. I also love cooking different and healthy foods with my mom and I love love love being around family and in the outdoors.
- Give us a short paragraph on your weekly training split and why you choose to train that way?
I do not have an exact training split because I like to change things up a lot – I seldom repeat workouts and I am quite spontaneous when I train.
It’s what I love and it’s my escape. I feel free when I just go with my own flow. I do focus on what needs work etc – but I never really follow something set in stone.
I go to Switch 3-4 times per week – it’s the best for weekends.
Monday: Gluteus and Hamstrings with hiit cardio I the morning
Tuesday: Shoulders and triceps with Steady state cardio in the morning
Wednesday: Back and biceps with Steady state cardio in the morning AND SWITCH in the evening
Thursday: Legs and with morning cardio
Friday: I like to do a METCON workout with Steady state cardio in the morning
Saturday: SWITCH and Shoulders
Sunday: SWITCH and “rest day” hahahaha
- You’ve started The Monique Fit Movement, what made you want to do this?
I love empowering people, making people feel good about themselves and I love making people happy. Also, I found that I influenced young girls by being me and doing what I love everyday and they always seemed to seek advice, motivation and help from me and I loved doing that all. I wanted to spread the message of a healthy lifestyle and I wanted to specifically target young girls finishing school, in varsity – when they are most vulnerable to the world. I wanted to teach these girls that loving yourself is so important and that being fit and healthy brings improvements in every aspect of their lives. I wanted to create a movement of positivity, good vibes, healthy eating, exercising, kindness, happiness, strength etc… and then MONIQUEFIT MOVEMENT happened. It’s added so much value to my life knowing that I have added value to the lives of my minions. A little love and support goes a long way and it truly is amazing to be a part of someone’s journey and witness their shine.
- How do you motivate your “Monique Minions”?
This is a toughy… I’m just me. I’m silly, I’m energetic and I chat to them all the time (we have our very own super secret MoniqueFit chat group). I send motivational messages, random workouts and recipes and I am open and honest with my own struggles and successes and most IMPORTANTLY – I LISTEN TO THEM. I make sure I know their goals and I hold them accountable to them. We also have check ins and activities and we just have fun I guess. I’m also lucky that I get ladies who are so incredible, loving and so supportive of each other too.I motivate them and they do the EXACT same for me. I’m also spontaneous and like to keep things exciting – there is always something to look forward to when you are a MoniqueFit MINION.
- What is your favorite motivating motto?
“Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game” – I first heard this in a movie loooooooong ago, A Cinderella Story.
By Charelle Johnson