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Benefits of Tournament Participation

By Doug Walsh Not everyone who trains Karate wants to and/or likes to participate in tournaments. And there is nothing at all wrong with that. Competition should never be the exclusive reason for training in Karate. However, why some that may not want to is for a few possible reasons. Some of these may include not feeling that one is “good enough,” or “not ready,” or “only a beginner” and certainly other reasons. Let’s look at these aforementioned, understandable reasons.

“Not good enough” - What is actually “good enough?” And who decides when one is “good enough?”

Asai Sensei, Enoeda Sensei, Yaguchi Sensei, Kanazawa Sensei
Asai Sensei, Enoeda Sensei, Yaguchi Sensei, Kanazawa Sensei

Of course, if for example trying out for a national or regional team, one has to be up to a certain standard, and selected to be on that team. However, for individual events (especially open tournaments and goodwill tournaments), they are open to all levels, from beginner through advanced. Being “not good enough” should never be a deterrent to participation, as it is oneself who decides if they are “good enough.” And not being “good” should never be a deterrent to participation, as the decision is ultimately an individual one. One’s self evaluation as to what skill level they are is personal, and should not be not be influenced by others’ nor with the exclusive goal of tournament participation being, “victory.” Results should come naturally and are not a determination of whether participation in a tournament was “worth it.”

Stan Schmidt Sensei
Stan Schmidt Sensei

“Not ready” - Again, this is a personal and individual evaluation. One will not be “ready” without daily, serious, and dedicated daily training. However, how is “ready” defined? Ready physically? Ready mentally? Ready in terms of preparation? Ready as in ready to attain victory and accepting nothing less?

Ready as in accepting that one may not do as well as others, not do as well as one had hoped, as well as having the maturity and proper spirit to accept this reality, yet being happy for the accomplishments of others? Therefore, being “ready” is much more than simply being ready in terms of skill level. “Only a beginner” - This reason implies that one must be a certain rank to compete. While a student with less than 3 months of training and does not know the first Kata they learn in their training will not certainly not be qualified for tournament participation, for anyone who does indeed know the first Kata that they learn in their training, there is no reason for them to feel that they cannot enter the Kata division of their level. And participating in Kata only is perfectly fine, especially when one has not had enough Kumite experience, nor feels comfortable with it. The point here being that there are different divisions for certain levels and age groups.

As for not liking tournament participation, there could be a few possible reasons, and certainly others. Let’s look at a few of these possible reasons: Not wanting to display their Karate with others (peers, family, strangers, instructor) watching - This is very understandable and is somewhat common. Yet, doing so can be a great way to help develop confidence, and to help one feel more confident and comfortable in any other situation that requires one to be seen and/or listened to in different settings and situations in life. The total opposite of this reason is having the desire to show off and impress others. This is nothing more than a display of ego, arrogance and goes completely against the principles and morals of Karate-Do.

Asai Sensei oi zuki
Asai Sensei oi zuki

Fear of getting injured - Again, this is a very understandable reason, but is more than somewhat common. Kumite (and not only Jiyu Kumite, but also in chronological order Gohon Kumite, Sanbon Kumite, Kihon Ippon Kumite, Jiyu-Ippon Kumite as well as each of their respective, various possibilities) is an area of training which is cumulative, progressive and constantly evolving throughout one’s never-ending Karate journey, just as one evolves in Kihon and Kata, the difference being that in Kumite one interacts with a live opponent who will attack and defend and there is certainly the

1st All Japan Karate Championship, 1957

possibility of injury. Therefore, Kumite is an integral and necessary part of Karate training, but need not be participated in while participating in a tournament. As for Jiyu Kumite (free sparring), Mikami Sensei once said in an interview, “free sparring is over emphasized. Many often fail to understand the importance of Kata.”- 1 And should one not have the desire to participate in Kumite, one may participate exclusively in Kata.

Fear of losing/obsession with winning - Naturally, it is desirable to do one’s absolute best and to achieve the highest result possible when being evaluated and judged in any type of competitive activity. As regards Karate tournament participation, this is of course desirable in Kata, Kumite and team events (Team Kata and Team Kumite). However, unlike some activities which clearly have a winner and a loser, in Karate tournament participation, this is not so. Instead, the three highest scoring competitors are awarded 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. It must be emphasized that none of these rated competitors are THE BEST. The reality is that in that particular event, with that specific group of competitors, on

that particular day, at that particular time, judged by those particular judges, that the results were fairly and squarely conclusive. At another event, with a different group, or different group of competitors, on a different day, at a different time, judgements and decisions made by completely (or even somewhat) different judges, that the results may have been somewhat, or even completely different. Obsession with winning, blaming judges, questioning judges’ calls and decisions all completely go against the spirit and philosophy of Karate-Do. “To be a victor, one must overcome one’s own self.” - 2 Master Gichin Funakoshi was known for several quotes. One which is the 12th precept of the Shoto Niju-Kun (20 precepts of Shoto), which states, “do not cling to the idea of winning; it is the idea of not losing that is necessary.” - 3

Sensei Hirokazu Kanazawa & Sensei Takayuki Mikami
Sensei Hirokazu Kanazawa & Sensei Takayuki Mikami

References - 1. Inside Karate magazine - January 1985. Mikami Sensei is on the cover and is the featured story and featured interview in the magazine. 2. Best Karate Vol. 1-11 -Masatoshi Nakayama, 1977-1989 3. Perfection of Character: Guiding Principles For The Martial Arts And Daily Life - Teruyuki Okazaki, 2008 Copyright 2022


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