Karate tournaments are a great way to test your skills and development against other karate practitioners from other Dojos. It is a place for respect and camaraderie among fellow martial artists. We get to witness high level katas and championship sparring. We see young kids who have worked hours and hours on constantly correcting their mistakes pointed out by their instructors. The result is amazing, dedication pays off for these students, for their form ( Kata ) is demonstrated close to perfection. These dedicated practitioners are rewarded at tournaments with a medal or trophy fort their efforts.
There are other winners at tournaments. Kids who are competing against people outside their Dojo for first time. Commonly they might be unmatched at their own dojo, but soon find out that there are other students who have been competing who have more experience and knowledge. This is humbling lesson and a great way to spark a new dedication into training and re-evaluating your efforts.
There even more winners in the fact that some kids have anxiety, and just stepping on to the matt and going forward to compete is a huge undertaking. I recently took my son to a big karate tournament in Queens NY. He had kept telling me how excited he was up until we got there, there were hundreds of people. I watched my son withdraw and begin telling me his stomach hurt and felt he shouldn’t compete.
As a dad and his sensei it was tough, told him that backing out was not an option for him, we had payed for it and spent a lot of time training for it. Right before he was going to spar, he vomited all over the arena floor. As my wife and I frantically cleaned up, I look at my son and he said “Dad my stomach feels better now”. Although we were embarrassed and were still cleaning up, my focus went to getting him in that ring.
I cleaned him up and told him he was ready. He squared off with his competitor and got hit right in the mouth, he started to cry and said he wanted to leave. It took several minutes but he got back in the ring. After a few minutes he got the point back! It ended in a tie where the judges had to decide, and they gave it to the other challenger. My son lost and was really upset, he couldn’t understand why he lost.
In our eyes he hadn’t. He had won something more valuable than any trophy, It’s called GRIT. He navigated through two huge hurdles and got to the other side, he didn’t quit. Even though it was tempting to let him quit, where would be the lesson in that? Every time something gets scary and overwhelming we back out? No, we lean in, and do our best. That is the real battle, how one handles adversity. Next time will be slightly easier for him. One day he will look at a young kid who is so scared at his first tournament and he will say “It’s okay, my first time I puked, and I am still here.” In martial arts the winners are the ones who keep showing up and never give up.