Kim and Rick Cefai recently celebrated their fifth anniversary in lockdown together at their home in Clarence, an area that has in just the last few years seen fire, flood and snow. For the couple and their children, they take it in their stride because when push comes to shove, Rick and Kim are experts at the game.
Rick Cefai has been practicing martial arts for 30 years and in 2010 was voted as the head trainer at the club where he teaches and is Second Dan in Japanese Jiu jitsu.
As these things go, Rick and Kim first met as casual acquaintances, with Rick's daughter from a previous relationship getting piano lessons from Kim's sister and Rick was doing a handyman job at the house.
Kim remembers the day they met vividly. "I remember the first day he came to do the job. I was actually sick with the flu," Kim said.
"And as you do when you're sick, you're in your daggy clothes. I didn't know anyone was coming to the house. And I was sitting there looking like hell. And that was the first memory I have with him, you know, of who he was."
Kim made a coffee for Rick that, as they both admit, 'tasted like crap'.
Rick was already deep in the martial arts world, and keen to spread the good word encouraged some of Kim's family to come along and see what it was all about. Kim took Rick up on his offer and was immediately hooked, but love was not in the air yet. It was not until a few years later that Rick and Kim's friendship and eventual relationship blossomed.
Blocking it out
Kim said it was a platform on which she and Rick found common ground.
"I wouldn't say it [martial arts] is the thing... we have in common, I think it was more the setting for us to talk and understand how we looked at things was very similar. So I would say it's almost like a platform for when you get to meet people and make friendships and then they grow from there," Kim said.
"The good thing about martial arts is, regardless of what style you choose to train in, as soon as you walk into their classroom or dojo, nothing in the outside world can touch you. It's your own little sanctuary," Rick said. "So whatever stress you've got, during the day from work, or from family or from anything, you walk in there and everything is about your martial arts.
"The dojo was my way of blocking everything out. The outside world didn't matter and we had time just to talk - we should have been training - but we were talking a lot."
With 19 years between them, Rick and Kim know that might raise eyebrows. "The old joke is that when I started my martial arts career, Kimmy was six months old," Rick laughed. "I must admit, Kimmy is pretty good when it comes to old school stuff."
"A quote that stuck with me, a soccer coach when I was about 14 or 15 actually said to me: 'You weren't born in the 90s. You're an old soul. You should have been born in the 70s, Kim.' And I've had a lot of people say that to me, which is quite funny," Kim said.
The right stuff
Being on common ground for Rick and Kim expands beyond their feelings, but what they love about each other as well.
"She's easy to talk to. She'd listen. She's non judgmental, especially at the time when my marriage fell apart, a lot of people basically turned their back on me - and she stayed very neutral. I think the martial arts scene kept us sane," Rick said.
"Actually I must admit, for a long time, you get those little, I guess you could call it the butterflies, but I didn't sound nervous or I didn't sound you know, smitten...," Kim said. "But it's almost like before my heart said, 'You really, really love or like this person', my brain and body was sort of reacting in a way when I'd seen him or talk to him - It's one of those things, sometimes words and things can't explain it but you just physically start to feel excited."
Rick and Kim fought against innuendo and rumours about their relationship in those early days, but knew that if they stuck together, things would work out. "I remember one of the lines I used not long after she [Kim] got back from overseas. I said, 'Have you heard this rumour that people are talking about?' and Kimmy said, 'Yeah', I said, 'Well, how about now we put some truth to it and we start going out?'," Rick said.
Rick and Kim were married at the Carrington Hotel in Katoomba on April 24, 2016, in what they say was a perfect day for both of them and their guests, half of which Rick predicts were part of his martial arts family. "It does play a big part in our lives. And even today, even though we can't travel... I still get phone calls from the students and the fellow instructors just checking up on things and seeing how things are going," Rick said.
Rick has plans to open his own dojo on his property in Clarence while Kim continues to teach. They're managing lockdown together well.
"I know we're a lot luckier than other people," Kim said. "Thank God for teachers - I've got a job no matter what happens. I can get on a computer and I can work. So I know, we're pretty lucky. It's not ideal. But a lot of other people have it worse than us, I think."