Competition is a funny thing. American society fosters competition everywhere. Children compete in school for test grades, opportunities, and spots on the sports teams. As they grow, they compete for popularity, friends, and attention. When they are young adults competition becomes more serious as they compete for SAT and ACT scores, spots in colleges, GPA points, and various things that will determine the direction of their future lives. Competition is everywhere.
I was lucky enough to grow up at the USA Karate dojo, where a positive experience of competition could be found at our tournaments. Karate tournaments are a unique way of learning to deal with the stresses of competition, while still showing compassion towards other competitors. When I was young I was competing with my friends, against my friends, and at times, with and against my family. I learned how to do my best, and try to win, while also rejoicing in the success of my friends and family. Having everyone from my dojo there to support and encourage me made the tournaments fun and enriching. I couldn’t be upset about getting second place when my best friend got first, because my own disappointment wasn’t of a greater magnitude than my excitement for her. We were a team. We were all a team; the fellow students, the parents who were scorekeeping, our coach making sure we all had what we needed, and our black belts who ran rings and helped us feel at home. Everyone played an important part in making the tournament a positive and healthy environment for competition.
I treasure my experiences competing with karate because they have helped me prepare for competitions in other aspects of my life. The commitment, focus and determination I learned from training before tournaments allowed me to be a better student at school, to compete for grades and opportunities. The example that my parents showed from competing with me and volunteering led me to volunteer throughout high school and college. Overall the positive lessons I learned from karate tournaments have transitioned into all aspects of my life, and benefitted me in countless ways.