Saturday, April 19, 2008

Nervous? I am...

(A recent picture of a class at the dojo from Arakawa Sensei's blog.)

It's Lawrence and it's just past midnight. I'm doing some laundry rather late because tonight, we had a visitor from Chiba visit the dojo and I went to dinner with him, Arakawa Sensei, and Kikuchi Sensei. It dawned on me that I haven't written here in a while so I thought I'd throw something out there.

Arakawa Sensei just referred to him as "Y" Sensei.

Our visitor, a 29 year old father of two who looks much younger than his age, runs a sports store in Chiba as well as teaches at his own dojo. He was visiting Shiramizu tonight to get a feel for how the classes are run and how Arakawa Sensei deals with the business aspect of running a full-time dojo.

Over dinner, of course, was much discussion about karate and one topic that came up was competing. Arakawa Sensei said that although he's grown rather comfortable in the kumite ring, he still gets nervous when it comes to kata.

Nerves being such a huge factor in competition performance, I thought about what Arakawa Sensei said and, despite having little competition experience and having competed only a handful of times in Japan, I find I agree with it.

I suppose what it comes down to is that in a kumite match, there are endless number of ways a match can be played out. The entire match is about reacting and adapting to the situation and so there isn't much time to really ponder the small details, let alone ponder anything at all, which reduces the nerves. Thinking back, I do think that the nerves have come down more quickly in terms of kumite than in kata.

With kata, I would practice over and over and be reaching for a specific image of how I want it to look. Any deviation from it in the ring runs the risk of throwing my concentration because it can't be redone. This "point of no return" feeling is what I think keeps my nerves up for kata competition- that I only have one chance at it.

I suppose the solution to both is to practice it all. Which ties very nicely back to what Arakawa Sensei said at the end of tonight's practice.

He was telling the students that it's no good focussing on only one side of karate. Those who excel in kata should strive to improve their kumite and vice versa. However, he said that what one chooses to compete in is a different story. There's no harm in wanting to be a kata champion so long as, during practice, one trains equally hard at both.

Arakawa Sensei said that choosing kata competition over kumite competition because one is afraid of kumite is not a valid reason to be just a kata-only player. But, choosing kata over kumite because you aspire to be an excellent kata player is a fine reason.

We'll see how my nerves play out in my next match I guess... til then.

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