Yep, it’s time for another tournament blog post! In past tournaments I’ve been easily the best, I’ve been definitely the worst, I’ve won or lost by a hair, and I’ve been the dark horse. Heck, the tournament before this one I was injured and didn’t even compete –I just volunteered. I’ve learned from every single tournament experience. What happened this time? What did I learn? Read on!
Three days before the tournament (5/13/17) I was crawling around unhooking mats after class. I hadn’t performed all that well while sparring a few days before, and it was on my mind. Suddenly it hit me. Each mat is one square meter. Opponents start sparring from starting positions that are two meters apart. Two meters is not a big distance, especially if both opponents move towards each other at the same time. I realized I’d been treating two meters as if it were a much greater distance, hence my bad habit of moving in with, well… nothing.
It was one of those moments when I felt really foolish, but at the same time I was relieved. I had identified a problem, and that’s half the battle of fixing it. I felt even more foolish when I remembered all those drills in covering distance that we’d done in class. I quickly turned to more positive thinking – at least I had some tools in my toolbox. Three days before a tournament is not the time to try to fill an empty toolbox!
The tournament was so small we had only two rings and finished in about four hours. It was so small that all intermediate and advanced women aged 18 and older were in the same division. I knew my fellow competitors, so I knew I was most definitely the lowest ranked and the only Intermediate-level competitor. I’m always thrown in with Advanced, so I didn’t mind that. What threw me for a little bit of a loop was the tournament was so small that we were able to perform kata one competitor at a time instead of two competitors at the same time. I was grateful I was performing in the second round because I had never practiced making the formal entrance for solo performance – this is usually for advanced and elite divisions. I paid close attention to how this is done, and I’m pretty sure I did everything correctly even though I’d never entered the ring that way before.
I wish I could say my kata (form) was my best tournament performance to date, but alas, I stumbled. I never stumble in that particular part of the kata that I was performing, and I do practice on mats periodically. I didn’t feel particularly rattled by having to enter the ring in a different manner, so I don’t think I can blame it on that. General nervousness? I dunno – I’ve been to so many tournaments and belt tests that I’m not sure it bothers me anymore… Fatigue? After getting up ridiculously early and driving for three hours, I admit I was tired… No, I can’t say it was fatigue that made me stumble because my kumite (sparring) was good considering the circumstances and my rank.
Only three of us ladies opted for kumite. I was most definitely the lowest ranked. Still, I made a good showing in the first round against the second-highest ranked lady. I lost 8 to 6. I recently wrote
There are people who enjoy working on cars so much that they will take a car’s engine out, take it apart, clean it, replace everything that’s worn out, and put it back together again. That’s what I want to do with my sparring.
I think I’ve made some progress in that regard, but there’s still more work to do. This tournament, I was in love with the realization that two meters isn’t all that big a distance, so almost every time I came off the line, it was with guns blazing. Of course my opponent eventually figured out how to deal with me and came out on top. If I remember correctly all four corner judges were sensei (instructors, plural) from both College and Home dojos. Yes, feedback was given and bucket-loads of work will commence very soon. I don’t mind. Onward and upward! That said, I got some compliments that I will treasure.
When medals were awarded, I stood by the sidelines cheering until my name was called to receive my third place kumite medal (there were only three of us competing in kumite, LOL). As I stood in line with my fellow competitors, I was a little bit in awe of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with these ladies, all of whom are more highly ranked than I am. I train with two and am acquainted with the others, and I felt very privileged indeed to have competed with them.
After changing out of my sweaty, stinky gi (uniform) I sat in the stands to munch snacks and watch the rest of the tournament. I mostly watched the judging teams working together. Six days prior to the tournament I’d attended my third refereeing seminar, and one thing that was emphasized was the role of the Kansa (Match Supervisor). I watched closely, but I really didn’t see that any given kansa had to do anything. This is a good thing, it means the judging teams were working well together. I enjoyed watching them.
There is one group of competitors that really stood out for me – the beginner/novice men. Three guys – one maybe in his early 20’s, two maybe in their early 30’s. At least one was a daddy. While these three beginner men were practicing right before their division started, I had to resist the urge to go down to them. They didn’t need a senpai (senior student) telling them what to fix, they just needed to get warmed up and steady their nerves for what might have been their first tournament. As I laughed at myself I realized that I wanted these men to succeed. Adult students are precious to a dojo, and these guys had the guts to try something new at a time of life when most men and women start spending less time on physical fitness. I remembered some quote I can’t find now – something along the lines of “be the guy that other people want to see succeed, and you will succeed.” I for one want them to succeed, and something tells me they will. All they knew were their latest kata – one man performed the very first basic kata we learn. They were challenging and stretching themselves. One of my sensei pointed out (privately) to me that I could have challenged myself by performing the latest kata I’ve learned. I immediately thought of those three beginner men. Yes, there are things we can learn from our kohai (students who are lower-ranked than oneself).
OK, sure, I have only one third-place medal given to me because there were only three competitors in my division for kumite. Everyone knows I lost in both kata and kumite. But I gained a lot. As I jotted notes down and started the draft of this blog post, I realized that I am starting to learn more from each tournament. The days before and the days after a tournament are a part of the experience too, and those days influence future development. I also learned I am more capable than I thought even though I still have a lot of things to learn and improve on. Last but not least, I learned that our kohai can be good examples for us.
I am feeling less intimidated about testing for my next belt. No, I don’t know when I’m testing – I will test when my Dojo Sensei says I’m ready. This next test will be significantly harder than any belt test I have previously taken, but this tournament has shown me that I am making progress. It was a yardstick for me to measure myself with, and I am satisfied with the results. Now – back to the dojo. Back to sweat, back to hard work, and back to sore muscles. I have lots of things to work on!