“The Karate Tournament,” a Microcosm of Life

“The Karate Tournament,” a Microcosm of Life

By Ray Hughes


Many people, and unfortunately some martial artists, think karate tournaments are about winning medals.  To the true martial artist, there is nothing further from the truth.

The true martial artist is primarily concerned about the battle within; defeating ego, managing emotions and stress, and overcoming the 7 deadly sins of mankind (Pride, Envy, Anger, Gluttony, Lust, Sloth and Greed.)  The skills developed from battling these challenges help the martial artist successfully pilot through the difficulties of life; in other words, to be successful, happy, and to contribute something to mankind.  This is the priority of a true martial artist and not the materialistic goal of a medal.

The best way to develop these skills is by immersing oneself into these above mentioned battles.  By experiencing these challenges in small doses along with proper mentor ship, skills can be developed that can be applied to future struggles.

The karate tournament is an ideal place to practice managing these challenges.  This is because the karate tournament is a microcosm of life. 

Competition is a mirror reflection of life.  Like life, karate competition includes stress, emotions, injustice (both real and perceived), regulations, authority, failure, success, human error, conflict of perceptions, protocols, interaction with diversified personalities and numerous other imperfections of the human condition.  It is a scaled down version of life.

The karate tournament must be looked at as a training ground for developing life skills.  With proper mentor ship, students (which are primarily the young) can develop skills in a relatively safe and harmless environment.  Life skill mistakes made at a tournament (loss of discipline, emotional breakdowns, and insecurity issues to name a few) are not nearly as devastating as making these mistakes in the real world.  It is better to learn these skills at the tournament level versus trial and error in real life.  Also, it requires repeated competition over a long period of time to develop these skills.

The key is to use tournaments as training tools and to insure proper mentoring is available to the young competitor.

Who are the mentors of the young at these tournaments?  Everyone!  Instructors, referees, coaches, administrators, staff, parents and older competitors all need to contribute in this mentoring process.  Everyone must take ownership in developing life skills within our young.  We must take every situation and make it a teaching moment.

Are there medals involved?  Of course.  As in life, there are goals and accomplishments.  Skills need to be developed for both effective strategic planning and how to receive awards or accolades when goals are accomplished.  This is real life.  How many times have we seen people handle success poorly?  Like everything else, this must be practiced and rehearsed.

Though this may seem like a daunting challenge, it must be embraced.   What could be more important in life than helping our youth learn skills to manage future challenges?

A final thought.  We mentors must handle ourselves professionally at all times and be role models to the young.  How can we be effective mentors when we scream at referees or yell at our students for poor performances?  We cannot afford to act improperly.  The karate tournament after all is a classroom where great knowledge can be taught.  The awarding of medals is a very small part of the experience.