It was a dream come true for Camilla Barker, and she has the bruises to prove it.
The Ballarat karate practitioner returned to Australia last week after placing second runner-up in the Shinkyokushin 1st Asia full-contact Karate tournament.
The 38-year-old was the oldest competitor in the women's light heavyweight division and mixed it up with athletes half her age to walk away with silverware.
Barker said it was surreal to think about.
"There is a lot of build-up when you commit to doing something like this," she said.
"It's not just the training because when you put your hand up for something like this and say 'this is my goal' and you get the opportunity to go, you've then got to do it.
"It's doing the training and making the sacrifice, then it's getting on the plane and making it happen."
After drawing a bye in the first round, Barker won her first fight to advance to the semi-final of the tournament in impressive fashion. Honing in on her opponent's leg, Barker wore down her adversary to win the bout in extended time.
"You throw a flurry of techniques in the hope you'll do damage, and when you see the leg start to twitch and fold in, you know you've hurt them," she said.
"They're trying to knock you out and you want to knock them out.
"They're hitting you with everything they have and picking a target on your body in the hope you will crumble."
With a grand final berth at stake, Barker knew she had her work cut out for her in the semi-final. Squaring up against a former world champion from Kazakhstan, Barker threw all she had at her bigger opponent but was unable to come away with the win.
"You're fighting champions from all over the world, but this one in particular I had my eye on," she said.
"The first minute I felt even with her, but she had more steam in the end.
"She was taller and managed to keep me at a distance and out of my comfort zone."
The third-place finish marked a culmination of years of work for Barker who took up the sport eight years ago. She told The Courier the result proved that her dedication to the sport was paying off.
"It proves that I'm right up there. To come against a former world champ and go the distance with them was what I was there for," she said.
"I was in the best shape I could possibly be in, I was in the right frame of mind and I wanted it."
Having done what she set out to achieve, Barker will now step away from competitive competition. She said she had no regrets.
"When I started karate I didn't think I'd be a fighter and I've proved to myself that I can do it. There is nowhere else to go," she said.