Tournament Weekend – Part One of Two

I had a very busy weekend a couple of weeks ago (7th and 8th of February).  I attended a seminar, did some volunteer work, and competed in a tournament.  I learned and experienced so much!  The seminar and judges’ certification workshop was on Saturday, the tournament itself was on Sunday.  I’ll write about Sunday in Part Two next week.

The seminar consisted of about a dozen of us from three different styles of Karate, the instructor represented a fourth style .  A Sensei and another student from sister dojos within our organization were present, it was good to see them again.  One of my classmates was a little 9 year old girl who wears the same color belt as me but is from a different style.  She and I were definitely trying to figure each other out – she was thinking, “Why does that lady look like a beginner?” and I was thinking, “How is it she’s doing that advanced kata so well?”  Everything was much more clear after I asked her how many promotions she’d been through.  She’d tested twice as many times as I have 🙂  I absolutely loved it that there were so few of us  because we got plenty of individual attention and there was enough room for everyone to move freely.

The seminar ran three and a half hours – emphasis on goals, athletic mindset, drills for conditioning the body for changes of direction and speed, giving feedback to people and to ourselves, and we got feedback on our katas.  Afterward, I wrote down plenty of tips and drills in my training notebook.  Some of the drills required a bit more athleticism than I thought I had.  I was wrong about that – I did just fine.  We were all so “into” what we were doing we forgot lunch, so we ate it after the seminar.

I had some time to kill between lunch and setting up for the tournament, so I moseyed into the gym, where I knew black belts from all around the region were earning or renewing their tournament judging certifications.  I knew a young black belt, a young brown belt, and a man who is at my own lowly rank were going to do a bit of sparring so the black belts could be tested on their judging skills.  I was looking forward to seeing the young black belt in action, as I’ve watched him in tournaments and he’s quite an accomplished young man.

In for a penny, in for a pound.  I was still in my gi, so I was put to work.  I tell you I was scared at the prospect of sparring the young Sensei, but I didn’t have to be scared.  I sparred the same two people over and over – the guy my rank and the brown belt.  I’d fight the brown belt, then I’d fight the guy my rank.  I’d get a break while the black belt fought the brown belt, then I was up again to fight the brown belt, then the guy my rank.  I don’t know how many fights I was in.  I’m guessing ten – two minutes or eight points, whichever came first.   This required a good bit of stamina, but the Sensei who roped me into this situation in the first place knew I’d kept up all right at Gasshuku (extended training) last summer.

From fighting round after round, I finally got the sense of what I needed to do with each man.  When I sparred the guy my rank, I absolutely had to control the fight because he hits hard – if I stopped manipulating him, I was toast.  With the brown belt, I ran through my bag of tricks and made up more – actually did score a couple points here and there.  Because the brown belt really outclassed me, I had to stay loose, I had to keep in mind the objective was to train the judges.  I had to let go of scared and embrace fun – even mischief.

When the black belt and the brown belt were sparring each other, they deliberately threw in a few things in order to get the judges to call fouls and warnings.  That was fun to see.    I was on the receiving end of mischief myself.  During our last two fights together, the brown belt deliberately danced away from me in order to get the judges to call “delay of fight” and to annoy/baffle me.  He also grappled me just to get the judge to stop the fight quickly and called a foul (holding with both hands is illegal).   I have no doubt he could’ve thrown me, but I sure as heck buckled down so as to make it difficult.

The second time the brown belt grappled me, my adrenaline got the better of me and I managed a strike to his neck – totally illegal. Fortunately, mid-strike, I realized what I was doing and was able to slow myself down a little bit.  I’m very surprised that I didn’t have a foul called on me – I thought I was in serious trouble (a million pushups for sure), but no one said anything about it, except the brown belt was forgiving when I apologized.  On one level, this action was very bad – we were only playing a game for the benefit of training new judges and I should’ve remained in control – I was firmly planted and even if I’d been thrown, I know how to fall safely.  On another level, this action was good because now I know I have what it takes to fight back in a serious situation.

After all was said and done the brown belt was really nice to me and showed me how to shut down the “dancing away” gambit when I asked him to.  He was very forgiving about the neck strike.  I definitely need and want to learn more about grappling – it is part of our heritage but it’s illegal in tournament.

Before sparring one round, I got to play a trick on a black belt who was renewing her judging certification, and I didn’t have to do pushups afterward!  I was quietly asked to not wear my mouth guard into the ring and to smile real big at the judge.  She didn’t catch on at all, so I had to really ham it up and point to my mouth before the fight began.  The “Oh, no!” look on her face was priceless.  I grinned and winked at her, then shoved my mouth guard in.  Fun stuff!  I have an idea to put together a kit with men’s and women’s jewelry, a lanyard with a name tag, some hair ribbons, and oddly matched sparring gloves – all of the illegal things judges might encounter if the volunteers in staging aren’t screening the athletes closely enough.  There should also be a protocol in place so that nobody pulls a stunt like actually sparring while wearing a watch or sparring without a mouth guard.

Saturday night, there were so many hands to help set up for the tournament that I didn’t have much hard work at all.  I chatted with a Sensei from another style while we put together bundles of medals for each ringside table.  Pizza was provided, and boy did I need it.  I went home tired and slept like a rock.  A pre-dawn walk with my dog on Sunday morning loosened up some of the stiffness.

Next week – the tournament itself!

Author: Joelle White

I began training in Karate in June of 2014 after a 27 year hiatus.

19 thoughts on “Tournament Weekend – Part One of Two”

  1. Wow! I got tired just reading what you did! That seminar sounds like it was awesome. I attended only one seminar “back in the day” and it was held in our dojo. It was about an all day event as well. I enjoyed that, mainly because it was something new for me. Before this , I never experienced anything like that before so it was a whole new world. I was just curious on the sparring. Do you use protective gear for your head, hands and feet or is it just the “old school” sparring using what I call “punching mitts”, lack of a better word. I’ve seen videos on YouTube of both styles of sparring. As I said before, I’m leaning towards Kata more but I guess I would have to indulge into sparring at some time to expand my training horizons. Anyway as usual it was great reading. Looking forward to the next installment. Do you have any more tournaments coming later this year? If so, I’m always anxious to hear how you did. By the way I came across this on Facebook so if you ever come across any “haters” take this to heart: “Dear Haters, I couldn’t help but notice that “Awesome” ends with “me” and “Ugly” begins with “U”. Just some borrowed words of wisdom. 😎 Good luck with everything and have a great weekend ahead. All the best and full respect.

  2. Hi Steve, thanks for writing!

    I encase my daughter in armor for sparring. But me – I wear a mouth guard and fist pads. Silly me. Sparring definitely challenges you to get better, and the more variety of people you spar, the better. Yep, we have more tournaments coming up and I’ll keep you posted. I admit – I go to tournaments because it’s like broccoli – it’s good for me. My daughter really loves tournaments, so as long as she’s going, I’m going too 🙂 Stay tuned, and thanks again for stopping by!

  3. Happy Saturday! So you are “old school” sparring. Nice. I’m sort of a traditionalist and always thought that sparring in Karate should be done as it was “back in the day”. Of course that should mostly apply for adults and maybe intermediate ranks. But safety is always the main priority. As always I wish you and your daughter the best of luck with the tournaments. I have to say that you both have more “guts”, again lack of a better word, for going out in front of people. It would probably take a few shots for me to go out in public and hope not to make a fool of myself. Self confidence have been a problem for me at times. Anyway I hope you have a quiet weekend this time. 😎 Take care. All the best and full respect. PS: for the record, I love broccoli. 😉

  4. Hi Steve,
    Well, more like I’m too cheap to buy myself armor and too lazy to bring it to class and get used to fighting in it. Back in my day we only had these pathetic little things that barely padded our knuckles. But I spare no expense for my precious baby!

    By the time my division is called, most everyone has left the tournament. The vast majority of people are there for their kids. Those divisions are done by lunch. So there really isn’t much “public” left to watch me by the time I go up in the early evaning 🙂

  5. Like Steve, I like my broccoli…….I also like grappling. This is pretty big considering I broke my toe last training when my partner’s sweep caught it….may not be doing more of it or kumite for a couple of months…..:-( I kept training for an hour after I taped it hoping it wasn’t broken…..

    I am the most impatient patient I have ever had to deal with. I am skipping kumite class tomorrow probably but will go to a kata class on Thurs and prob a weapons class on watch at least then my home dojo on Sunday…… I asked my main sensei about how long I NEED to be off training and his response was I would be better of coming and training even 5% than not training at all… would not believe how relieved I was to hear that news.

    I don’t seem to be getting alerts to your posts anymore….. Not sure what I did…..need to check I think…..but glad to see you are still blogging.

  6. Hi, Rach!
    Thanks for reading and commenting. Ow – broken toe isn’t fun! Yeah, sit out the high-risk stuff and keep training in the rest. Is swimming an option for you? There seems to be a lot of strange things going on with my site, so I’ll see what I can do to get WordPress to fix ’em. Thanks for letting me know! All the best to you.

    1. lol….yep….amazing how uncomfortable one little toe can get. I broke the opposite one when I was a kid (it’s the pinky one on my right this time) though so I kind of knew what I was in for. It doesn’t seem so bad though……perhaps having had 2 kids might have something to do with that…..pain is all relative.

      I have not been able to walk much (mostly because the altered gait I need to assume hurts my knee!) and won’t be running for a while (feel like I am copping out driving the kids to school and kindy!!) but I have been modifying my exercise video work outs – it’s mostly standing on one leg that is an issue. I revisited a weights work out that I hadn’t done in 2 months expecting myself to be weak as…..however it was the opposite. I had been sceptical about just doing cardio / body resistance the last two months but it seems to have worked… upper body is stronger for it!

      I am not much of a swimmer (although when it’s hot I will be on the beach again) but I went cycling last night and that was fine. I am going to help out at a promotional event (to attract new members) for one of my clubs today and training (kumite class) is meant to be tonight…..I am undecided whether I go just to do what I can (no contact obviously) – will discuss with my Sensei and see what he thinks.

      1. Hi, Rach! Glad you’re finding a groove. Yep, once you’ve been through childbirth, your “ten” on your pain scale is pretty high up there, LOL. It’s good to keep your Senseis in the loop about injuries, health, etc. Hope tonight’s class was good for you.

  7. Actually worked really well since only one other person came. He is older than me by 15 plus years and we are same rank. Given that I had spent the arvo with the sensei he was pretty up with what I would likely be able to manage and we had made a game plan for what I could do when others were doing kumite. We ended up doing lot of stretching before and after class and just did kihon really, no kicks and then individual kata work. I barely had to modify and I walked out way better both physically and psychologically than I had hobbled in.

  8. Amazing week for me. On Sunday afternoon after my little accident I envisaged I would have to take time off training…….I have now trained twice since then and am going to my first kobudo class tomorrow…… With some trepidation re that though….nunchaku looks scary….. I asked to watch but kyoshi said I should give it a go……yikes…..worried I will give myself ahead injury…..hope I don’t as want to get to my normal class on Sunday.

    1. I had fun. My son came with to watch. Fortunately I got lent some foam covered nunchaku so when I inevitably hit myself in the head I was OK. We learned how to hold it, pick it up, put it down, hand it over, and then we learned how to block with it, swing it, change hands. We even learned a short kata with it. I hit myself a lot less than I thought I would and mostly kept up with everyone by the end…..except for kyoshi who looked like Bruce Lee! The best thing was that I kept my mind open to learning about weapons……not something I had really thought about. I will go to the one next month if I can. I joked with my husband that I am metamorphosising into a tnmt. Nunchaku in the morning and pizza for dinner……just need green paint and a half shell……hey that might protect against nanchaku induced head injury…….Broken toe….hasn’t put the kybosh on things…..opposite really…..yay…..

  9. I took a leaf out of your book and started a blog. It is mostly recipes at the moment but I have put up an article on my reflections on my toe experience. Will try and put the link here. Apologies if it doesn’t work. (my name on the thing is Sagiashidachi – see if you can work out why – actually there are a couple of reasons now!)

    Won’t let me but if you google sagiashidachi wordpress it seems to get you there.
    Osu and thanks for being one of the seed planters for my blogging!

  10. I took a leaf out of your book and started a blog. It is mostly recipes at the moment but I have put up an article on my reflections on my toe experience. Will try and put the link here. Apologies if it doesn’t work. (my name on the thing is Sagiashidachi – see if you can work out why – actually there are a couple of reasons now!)

    Osu and thanks for being one of the seed planters for my blogging!

  11. Wow. You sure had fun at the judge’s certification. Lol. Great to hear that you’ve gotten more experienced at “no rules” sparring. I find that many martial artists are so conditioned by tournament rules that they can’t deal with sudden “illegal” strikes in self-defence situations.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Logen! Great to see you here! It certainly was different being the object of mischief, and next year, I’ll probably have to stifle a laugh ’cause next year I’ll know what’s going on. I’m not skilled enough to horse around myself, but someday I might be 🙂

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