Soke's Corner

July 23, 2011

Karate-do and Competition

Dear TKFI members and friends,

The competition season is in full season and athletes from many organizations are actively participating in tournaments domestically as well as abroad. Some athletes return with medals, trophies and special certificates and with big smiles on their faces. It is a good feeling and parents beam with pride.

I have always been an advocate of competition, but always have had reservations as to how much emphasis should be placed on the sporting aspect of karate. It seems that karate has not yet come to a satisfactory place in governance of the sport throughout the world. Constant changes are being made and at the expense of thousands of athletes and more changes are soon to come. Each time that changes are made, clinics to educate officials and athletes on those changes take place at a price. Many are frustrated, yet they feel that they should comply and “fit in” less they be left out. They often times become victims of the very sport they have learned to enjoy.

If students and instructors continue to make their school a competition one, dojos and senseis as we know it, will be a thing of the past. World champions will be conducting clinics at sporting events and at competition schools and only teach things that win at tournaments. Ranks will be awarded by ones’ win - loss record, similar to sumo. Students will become unfamiliar with good old dojo training, and the soul of karate-do will be forever lost. You may already see the impact in your own dojos. How many students travel to tournaments rather than to a more comprehensive study of karate-do at a gasshuku?

If I had it my way on the international level, I would push for kata and bunkai/oyo for a sport in the Olympic Games. I would wager that the IOC would take a more favorable approach in admitting karate as an Olympic sport, if that would be an option for them to consider. Kumite could be pursued later.

Students should be pushed to be a better person in life. And although I agree that competition is a reality in everyone’s existence, I believe too, that competition can be presented in other ways other than sports. I have made mention to all the instructors in our organization, that TKFI is 20% competition; that is sport, and the other 80% in the budo art. How then can one implement competition other than in a sporting environment, you might ask. Quite easy. Each student has their own abilities. Some are gifted with natural physical abilities. Others have minds that are quite genius. Then there are many who have yet to uncovered their gifts. The sensei has to teach each student how to excel within their own abilities. They compete with themselves. This teaches the majority of students to focus on self improvement rather than finding satisfaction in gauging their success with the others in class. They begin to feel good about themselves which is one of the keys that opens the door to confidence. And remember there is no bad student, only a bad teacher. The competition then continues at home and in school. How can one beat their weaknesses and become a better brother or sister and a more obedient child. What techniques should they use to better their grades and be more focused in class. How can they remain strong and not give in to peer pressures that often pries at their values.

I firmly believe that strength begins at home. Our TKFI home can set the stage for many to emulate, both in the dojo and at our own championships. It may take awhile but the sooner we can all work together, the stronger we will become. Don’t lead your students and parents to naively think that there is always something greater and more attractive in the world before understanding what needs to be learned and polished right in our own backyard. Those who follow this exterior quest, often times become disallusioned, treated unfairly and are led by negative politics. Our TKFI family, on the other hand, will be more consistent and reliable and offer training that massages the soul and character of each participant.

True karate-do expounds on all areas. Training is for self improvement that subsequently leads to compassion and service; that is only through clarity of knowing oneself and walking through the summons of obstacles, enable one to be aware of the struggles of others so that they may assist them overcome their trials. Once this becomes an accepted and familiar practice, one is able to see the true prupose of karate-do. The mind, body and spirit converge as in a kiai, and the exhilaration of knowing that you have won by helping others win will keep you in practice for the rest of your life.

Defend yourself against your own weaknesses and evils with good karate-do practice. Win over yourself and assist others to willingly become gold medalists in life.

Del Saito Soke

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