By Hannah Phillips
A karate champion who has uses her skills to break up bar fights after becoming the UK’s youngest black belt has swapped martial arts for a pageant sash.
Tamsin Grainger, 20, began learning the sport aged just four and became the youngest female in the UK to achieve black belt status at the tender age of 10.
Since then, the beauty queen and second year university student said she has been forced to use her skills to defend herself against school bullies and rowdy customers in her role as a barmaid.
But Tamsin, from Winchcombe, Gloucs, has now swapped her traditional white suit – known as a karategi – for a ballgown and tiara as she is set to compete in Miss England later this month.
She said: “So many times when I’ve been working in bars, I’ve had to use my karate skills when I’ve felt like I’ve needed to – mainly to dodge punches or use pressure points if someone has grabbed me.
“It makes me feel more confident and I think my dad had that in mind when he got me into it as a kid.
“When I was at school I was bullied for being dyslexic and having really bad eczema – they used to call me ‘ugly’, ‘diseased’ and ‘stupid’.
“My trainers would say I couldn’t use my karate skills because I wasn’t allowed to outside of training, but I’d be like ‘actually, I can’.
“People were forever telling me I would never be able to reach my black belt but that’s only egged me on because I wanted to prove them wrong.
“It changed my life, you learn discipline, Japanese culture and the language.”
Aged 10, Tamsin and her dad, Ashley, set up their own karate club and have been teaching the sport to people aged six to 60 ever since.
But now, 2019’s Miss Gloucester has traded in her uniform for ballgowns and bikinis as she competes in Miss England for a second time.
And tomboy Tamsin has revealed she first applied for the Miss England competition after going through a break up.
Despite the stigma surrounding beauty pageants, she defends the contest – which she claims has changed her life.
And despite her skin condition, which covers 80 per cent of her body and has left her hospitalised on several occasions, Tamsin proudly claims that it is part of what makes her beautiful.
She said: “I thought I probably wouldn’t get anywhere with the contest but I’d give it a go anyway, it looked like a challenge.
“I never thought I’d be confident enough to get pictured in a bikini and get up on stage and talk to people.
“I would never say I’m beautiful – I had a lot of stick when I became Miss Gloucester, people saying I’m not beautiful and I’m not a size six but that isn’t what it’s about.
“It’s life changing but you do get the stigma. Whatever you do in life you’re going to get hate for it, so I think it’s prepared me for that.”
Tamsin will compete in the next stages of the competition in Newcastle on 31st July and 1st August and is the first ever Miss Gloucester to compete twice.