Tuesday, May 19, 2009

"Everyone Wins!" karate tournament

Back in my karate days--I think this was 1991 or early '92--I went to the one and only kata tournament I've ever attended.

What's kata? Basically, it's a specific sequence of techniques and stances intended to get you used to moving around in a proper stance. The link takes you to the North Austin Tae Kwon Do site for an MPEG demonstration of Heian Shodan, the first such kata (or "form") you learn in Shotokan karate (and maybe other Japanese/Okinawan tyles--but I only know Shotokan).

This was a local event assembled in a high school gym. There were maybe a dozen people from my class (local Junior College), lots of kids from Tae Kwon Do classes, a Shotokan club from the University of West Florida, maybe 100 participants total. Everyone got a T-shirt when they signed in and paid their fee.

The UWF Shotokan guys' stances and technique execution were subtly different from ours. One guy did the "spear-hand" strike (about 16 seconds into this kata (Heian Sandan)) at about a 45-degree angle downward rather than keeping his right arm horizontal. I've always wondered why, since it doesn't seem practical. With that strike, you're using the tips of your fingers--only good against a soft target like the base of the throat, below the sternum, or the eyes, for example. If he's going for a groin strike, there's a lot of stuff in the way that could earn him broken fingers.

So anyway, I was one of a mess of other orange belts from my club, and all of us were doing Heian Yondan. The idea was that each participant can do whichever kata they want, but it was recommended that they do their testing kata. There wasn't really anything making us stand apart as far as performance, so I ended up with a silver. I can't remember whether I messed up somewhere or not, but it could have been any little detail that scored against me. Or it could have been "not standing out" that did it.

I shoulda done this one (Heian Godan)--the next-higher one. And I knew that even before I started the one I did do.

That said, I didn't really give much thought to the "everyone's a winner!" approach of the tournament. I can understand the notion of wanting to protect the kids' ego and self-esteem, but it seems like an attempt to make life seem fair regardless of the effort one puts into it. I wonder if it's the right sort of message to be teaching various precious snowflakes.

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