Yoseikan Karate tournament: Round 1

So I had my first karate tournament today. I entered the "Men’s Novice Kumite", for over 18 persons ranked 10th kyu (white belt) to 5th kyu (halfway to black belt). There were 8 people in that division including myself, which meant I would need to win three consecutive fights to get first place, or two fights to come second or third. The basic way to win is by scoring. 1 point for punches, 2 points for a successful kick to the body, 3 points for a kick to the head (non-contact- this means you either ‘skin touch’ or stop just short of contact, but still be able to  follow through if you wanted to), or striking an opponent while they’re on the ground (either from falling or being thrown/swept). Whoever has the most points at the end of 2 minutes (or whoever gets either an 8 point lead, or totals 12 points) wins. Points are awarded to your opponent for foul play, stepping out of the ring, lack of control etc.

My total score? I was knocked out in the first round, score 1-0.

Sensei says that competition is a game. You have to play the game and follow its rules to win. I had thought it would be easy, particularly in the novice division. Three or four kicks to the head to succeed to the next round- no problem. But it was very different to how I pictured. I keep forgetting that people can block in karate, and that it’s easy to stop a kick. Although I landed a few hits, they didn’t score any points because there wasn’t enough power in them to be considered a "killing blow". I copped one in the eye, and while I didn’t like the pain, it made me angry. I wanted to just start  throwing attacks wildly (which would have probably connected), anything to score and put myself in front. Some of the other competitors turned red with fury, and it barely helped them. It was harder to kiai with a mouthguard in so it was harder to show the power of a strike. Competitions are also a lot messier, with technique sacrificed for speed, distance and the desire to just connect a hit in the hope it might score.

Overall I’m disappointed. It’s a sensation I’m feeling with unpleasant regularity. In my head, I’m undefeatable, untouchable, fast and strong enough to take on anyone. But the reality is apparently proving somewhat different. The difference between the real and the ideal is causing me to doubt myself, something I don’t do very often. Confidence makes a person better at what they’re doing, but even with all that self-assurance (I don’t think I’d call it arrogance), I’m still able to lose. It’s unthinkable, but it’s happening, and it’s not pleasant to process.

And worst of all, I don’t know why I’m losing. My reaction to the disappointment is to train harder- to iron out my flaws and become even stronger. But that is a blind path for poor reason. If I wish to improve, I know I need to return to my roots as a martial artist and work from ground up. But I do need to train, just for the right reasons. Rather than "to never lose again", I should aim "to correct my mistakes". Subtle difference, but an important one that makes all the difference. I am quite sore about my defeat today, but I’ll get back on the horse and try again. Meanwhile I need to acquire a punching bag, or preferrably one of those giant rubber dummies to practice on. I think I saw one at Rebel sport for like,  $200+ dollars. I think it’s kinda worth it. So that’s my next investment, right after a GPS system and presents for various events.

Thanks especially to Bethwyn for driving me there and taking lots of photos. Ja ne!

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