What is the Purpose of Karate Tournaments?
by Sensei Neil Prime
December, 1997

Life is full of competition and the more you are prepared for it the better off you will be.

In virtually every sport and leisure there is also competition weather it be karate, hockey, bowling, darts or playing cards, somewhere along the line you will be keeping score.

In everyday life there is competition whether it be an exam at school, a job interview, bidding on a contract for your employee or yourself, etc...

Competition can bring out the best, and the worst in people. Nobody likes a sore loser and in retrospect, nobody likes to see the gloating of an arrogant winner. If you are really confident in yourself you don't have to tell people how good you are, it will show.

In karate we preach humility and confidence, but how do we get these qualities out of karate?

Like any skill we acquire we need to practice to become proficient. We need to put ourselves into situations that require self-discipline. Self-discipline doesn't happen before we learn discipline. Someone has to tell us what is right and what is wrong. Once we figure out the basics of right and wrong we have to listen to our own judgement.

Don't be afraid to make mistakes along the way. You can learn more by experiencing things yourself rather than have someone else tell you what to do all your life.

These thoughts can be related to karate. You may ask "What benefits do we gain from karate?"

The disciple comes from the instruction... Do this and don't do that. If you had to do 25 push-ups every time you spoke while the Sensei was talking, hopefully you would soon be cured of this habit. When you learn to wait your turn, you can say that self-discipline is now in effect.

In karate tournaments we try to learn sportsmanship (eg. through sparring) and build confidence (eg. through kata).

When sparring, the opponent is very visible... they're standing in front of you. This person however is not always the only opponent. Sometimes it's just the thought of confrontation.

When performing kata, most people fear making a mistake and feel uncomfortable when others are watching.

Weather your fear is in kata or kumite we want to learn to control these fears, and there is no better way than to practice. Get out there and compete.

I can tell you first hand that not winning in a competition can be frustrating. I never won a single competition until I was a Black Belt (about 8 years of competition). When I finally saw a 1st place trophy you would think that I would be jumping up and down for joy, but I actually felt relieved that I never gave up.

I started looking at why it is so important to compete and I started being aware of every class I attended. I wanted to be the first person up from doing push-ups. I thrived on stepping forward and punching faster that the person beside me. I was now determined to kick higher than I ever did before.

Everything became a competition and everything I was doing was better than it was before, but the most important factor of all was that nobody was to know that I was competing. It was like a best kept secret and soon I felt more inspired to work-out and more inspired to teach and I try today to teach with that same enthusiasm that I had found.

I have noticed that when I stop competing I slow down. I go into a slump. It took me a while to put 2 and 2 together but when I know there is a tournament next month, everyone who plans in advance to attend gets better and feels better about what they are doing because they have a goal that they are working towards.

Forget about winning or losing... keep the competition within your own mind and you'll be able to confront the fears that hold you back in everyday life. After all, if there was no purpose to what we were doing we probably wouldn't be doing it, or least of all, we wouldn't be enjoying what we are doing.

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