Tourney or Gurney

A little more than a year ago, I received something that I had once thought impossible to obtain: my first-degree black belt in Okinawan Shorin-ryu karate. After more than six years of training, I had finally reached full instructor status, and I was no longer simply a student. It’s a common misconception, however, that my new belt makes me a “master” of the art.

I learned that lesson firsthand a little more recently, when I entered my first tournament since being promoted. I had been in a few tournaments before, but I now knew that I’d be in an entirely different league. I was to be placed in the 17-34 age bracket, since I just turned seventeen the month before. Most of the people that I’d be up against were almost twice my age, and had twice my number of years of training to show for it.

Shortly after my proud parents and I sat on the bleachers to await the events I was to participate in, we were given a grim reminder of what could happen: a paramedic walked by us with a stretcher. No one was on it, but it wasn’t hard to imagine being on it myself. Luckily, serious injuries are rare in these kinds of events. There are rules in place to prevent excessive contact, and for that reason, emergency personnel seldom see any action here.

The first event to take place was weapons kata. In this event, participants perform forms with their weapon of choice. I wasn’t one of those participants, so I took the opportunity to check out the competition. There was a bald kung-fu practitioner with swords the size of meat cleavers, and two men with machete-like weapons that looked like something Death would carry over his shoulder. After seeing how skilled these men were with their respective weapons, I didn’t regret my absence from that event.

Next was empty-handed kata. This was my first event, and I was confident, since it was the one that we train the most for at my dojo, unlike others that train primarily for sparring. I performed a kata called kusanku-sho, one that I had known for some time and that I was fairly proficient at. However, when the event was over, I hadn’t placed, though I had received respectable scores, as well as the respect of my fellow participants.

The final event for my division was sparring, the closest thing we could do to actual fighting. It’s based on a point system instead of knockouts. At first, I was going to be paired with a huge contender, whose belt was frayed from years of practice, and who would have crushed me in an instant. Luckily that changed, but my new opponent, who was much closer to my size, only allowed me a single point before handily defeating me. I had been eliminated in the first round.

In the end, in a case like this, all you can really do is your best, and never let other’s strengths discourage you. That lesson is what I took away from this experience. The result of my efforts wasn’t a trophy or a medal, but something much more valuable: experience. That alone is reason enough for me to participate again next year. Perhaps then I’ll be more of a contender, and walk away with more to show than just some bumps, bruises, and another lesson in defeat.

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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

hunter said...
Jan. 15, 2015 at 2:57 pm
Tae Kwon Is an art. Many people don't understand that. I received a black belt in a class last week. It is a lot harder than most people think. But I love the Physical stress that it helps me release
moonpetal said...
Jul. 15, 2010 at 6:52 pm
I take Tae Kwon Do wich is some what like what you take. I respect that you didn't think your belt made you "all that" people who r like that do not know the real meaning of martail arts. I like how you wrote the artical it flowed nicely to the next point. Way to go! Hope you win next go around but like you said- experience. Thats what everything seems to boil down to in life some times. Learning things.
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