by Sensei Neil Prime
December, 1997

Whenever I write an article, no matter what the topic is, I find myself referring to the essence of karate and why we study karate. It is all a part of better ourselves and showing respect to other people. It is such a simple concept, yet in lifes dealings it is so important.

When competing in karate tournaments we as competitors want to show conviction and confidence. When performing kata this is very important because we want the judges to get the impression that what we are doing is for real. When sparring, quite often the aggressor with a sharp kiai (shout) can draw the attention of the judges to their technique.

Being able to turn on intensity and turn it off again is something that we need to strive for. At the end of any match, win or lose, you should be able to look your opponent and the judges directly into the eyes and bow out of respect knowing that you have done your best.

When performing kata you must also show this type of emotion to the judges. Your job is to convince them that you are in control of your actions. This starts by bowing into the ring, announcing your kata with clarity and confidence in your voice (without yelling), performing the kata with total certainty, and waiting for your marks to be presented showing absolute humility.

I don't even look at the scores myself. Let the scorekeepers keep track and if you are fortunate enough at the end of the competition to receive the recognition of placing, then receive that award graciously. If you don't place, then accept it as a positive way of saying the competitors who did place had the right combination of technique and attitude, and you can strive harder for the next tournament.

When sparring you must be in control. Control can mean many different things.

You must control your technique. Most obvious, is so that nobody gets hurt but you must control where it is going. So often I have seen an aggressive karateka throw flurry after flurry of combinations all failing to clearly score. I say clearly because the judges have too see your technique. If it is smothered or short, your not going to get credit.You must deliberately place your technique in the scoring zone before your opponent has a chance to stop them.

Instead of getting frustrated at the yourself or the judges, just work on getting your technique inside the scoring zone.

You must also control your emotions when you have been scored on. Don't look around and wonder what the heck is going on. The judges aren't going to give points away for free so tighten your defence and pick up your offence and get that point back.

One of the hardest to control is if you have been hit, even if it is a hit that could disqualify your opponent (eg. a hit to the head).

It is not done on purpose by your sparring partner so to react without reacting, although this may be difficult, is something you must learn to control.

I remember former World Champion Joe Lewis state an analogy... "You don't see a dog whimper during a fight, he'll simply lick his wounds once it is over".

Mr. Lewis isn't really comparing people to dogs, but what he is saying is that if you show that you have been hurt, you have been beat.

Obviously nobody want to get hurt, but it takes courage to be hurt and not show it.

If you ever get hit and try to make it apparent to the judges that you have been hit just to win the match, then you will learn nothing from karate.

I think most of us know the difference between right and wrong, and the true karate way is to follow the right path.

When approaching a tournament keep in mind what we practice in class. Ask yourself if what you are doing is the best you can do. Not everyone is going to win tournament trophies, but everyone has the potential to feel good about what they are doing.

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