What Tournaments Teach You

Up until two weeks ago, I had not competed in four years. Now, three of those years I was at college, and had less time to train than I had hoped, which is a standard reason for taking a break from training and competition. However, I have been officially back at the dojo since last September, and for the past six months I have been convinced that I was not going to start competing again, at least not anytime soon.

Two weeks before the Yakima tournament, something hit me. I missed competing. My fear of disappointing myself had previously been stronger than my urge to compete again, but suddenly, that had changed. So I committed to the Yakima tournament before I had a chance to change my mind, and I am so glad that I did.

I did disappoint myself. I didn’t do as well as I had hoped, and my flaws were clearly illustrated to me. However, instead of coming back to the dojo frustrated and discouraged, I came back with renewed fire. As Shihan Joni always says, “you learn more when you lose,” and I definitely learned a lot. I learned exactly what my weaknesses are, and what I need to work on.

There are some things that you can get only from a tournament. Sometimes only a tournament can make things click for you, make you understand, from direct experience, exactly what Shihan, the Senseis, and Senpais have been telling you repeatedly in class. Shihan tells us that you won’t truly learn to block your face until you’ve been hit there several times, and you won’t truly learn to close your fist until you have sprained or broken your thumb. Like those two experiences, a tournament is a direct experience. It is where you apply what you know, and learn what works and what doesn’t. I came back from this tournament with a mental list of what I need to work on, and a renewed passion for training. What did you learn from your most recent tournament experience?

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