×

Dublin girl fights through diabetes to earn MMA black belt

  • Emma Carpenter of Dublin overcame Type 1 diabetes and earned her black belt in mixed martial arts as an eighth-grader. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Emma Carpenter of Dublin overcame Type 1 diabetes and earned her black belt in mixed martial arts as an eighth-grader. Courtesy photo—

  • Emma Carpenter of Dublin overcame Type 1 diabetes and earned her black belt in mixed martial arts as an eighth-grader. Courtesy photo—



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Wednesday, August 01, 2018 2:45PM

In the martial arts world, earning a black belt something many attempt, but only a few succeed. Not only did Emma Carpenter of Dublin pull off that feat before she even entered high school – she did it despite battling Type 1 diabetes. 

“I knew that I wanted it,” Carpenter said, “and I wasn’t going to stop.”

Carpenter, an 8th-grader, started on her path to a black belt about eight-and-a-half years ago.

“I liked it because I got to be active,” Carpenter said, “and I liked it because I was a girl and I could do this stuff, it’s not just boys. A lot of people think martial arts is just a boys’ sport.”

She forged ahead in the mixed martial arts world, advancing through the belt system and sticking with it as her classmates at the Keene YMCA dropped out, slowly moving up the ranks. Five years into her journey, she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

“When I first got diagnosed, I lost a lot of my confidence,” Carpenter said. “I was kind of scared.”

For all her desire, the side effects of the diabetes sidelined her, as her blood sugar dipped dangerously low from time to time, forcing her to sit out certain drills, watching as others competed. But, she learned to manage it and kept fighting; and, she said, she never gave up on her dream of a black belt.

“There were no excuses,” Carpenter said. “There was no chance I was going to give up.”

Two years ago, Carpenter had an insulin pump implanted in her arm, affording her much more control over her dosage. The annual Swing Into Spring fundraiser donated their proceeds to her cause last year to help with the costs, and after that, it’s been smoother sailing.

In June, with her eighth-grade graduation looming, Carpenter finally achieved her goal, completing the final techniques needed to earn a black belt. She celebrated her milestone, of course, but she said it wasn’t just about her.

“There’s another little girl in my class that has Type 1, and I didn’t want her to think I couldn’t do it, because I wanted her to believe that she could do it as well.”