I apologize for the length of time between posts. This Summer vacation has been particularly busy. In this post I would like to share with you something I experienced during this time.
I continue to learn so much from my experiences here in Japan, but now I am learning from people I never imagined I would when I first moved here in 2001. My 6 year old daughter continues to inspire, and amaze me (Pictured to the Left). Later in this post I will tell you something that she said that helped me put things into perspective.
One of the things I have been busy with this Year and in particularly this Summer has been preparing for the Chito-Ryu National Championships which was held on August 23rd in Kikuchi, Japan.
I began this year as many people do, by setting a new goal to pursue. Karate-do is a big part of my life and my involvement with the Ryu-ha and Bukatsudo keeps me very busy, but these past few years I have not had a personal goal to strive for. Therefore, I decided at the beginning of this year to compete in this tournament. Not to win, or beat anyone, or even prove myself to anyone, just to compete. These are perhaps the top three reasons why people compete in the beginning of a tournament career, but as we get older and gain more experience, inevitably, our reasons for competing change. This decision to compete was a very personal one and I considered my intentions to be pure and well placed. I simply wanted to live each day leading up to the tournament with purpose and in so doing get in better shape. Since I train everyday with the high school team I decided to focus on conditioning by running 3 kilometres as regularly as I could and spend more time stretching. As usual sometimes life got in the way and I had meetings that cut into my training time or I had to go and pick up the kids from daycare, but I was able to run almost every day, 3 days a week at the least. I felt my body change and the stretching after the run helped to reduce injury while training with the high school team. One thing I didn't do this time was focus on speed training in the last Month leading up to the competition. I will correct next time.
Now to the comment my daughter made while driving home from the Dojo the day before the competition. She asked me "what will change if I win and what will change if I loose?" This made me think. And the answer that I came up with made me laugh because the answer was obviously "nothing." Which I said to her. She then asked me to lose so that I could come home early to play with her in the park. This short conversation helped me to put things into perspective and brought a level of clarity to my training that had not been there previously. I had always felt like I needed to prove something to everyone when I competed, but really the only person I needed to prove anything to was myself. This time, with a different perspective I was able to do much better and learn a lot more. Nothing really changes with the win or the loss in the tournament itself, but rather with how we process that experience and deal with it. This time I knew that nothing would really change in my life either way; my children would still love and respect me for the man I am, my students would still be able to learn from me because I teach from my heart and I would grow as a result of the experience in a positive way because that is how I choose to process it. This lifted the pressure and burden from having to win and freed me from all the stress that comes with it.
The day of the competition I did not focus on winning at all, rather I put all of my attention toward warming up properly and giving the best performance I could give. my self talk was positive and I had confidence in my preparation knowing that all those days when I felt sore and tired but still ran the 3 K would pay off.
I competed in individual Kata and individual Kumite -75kg (Above is a photo of Kata competition). In Chito-Ryu competing in both Kata and Kumite puts the athlete in the running for the grand champion, 総合優勝 Sougo Yusho in Japanese. I had been so focused on this when I was competing in the past that it clouded my perspective and negatively influenced my performance. This time I had no expectations of winning at 37 years of age and after a 5 year absence from competition I somewhat expected to loose early and go home to play in the park with my daughter. The results however, were far better than I had expected. By taking my focus off winning or beating anyone I was able to internalize better and focus on what I needed to do to prepare and perform. Even though I was not completely content with my performance the results were a 1st place finish in Kata and a 3rd place finish in Kumite giving me the best overall record among the individual male competitors and the grand championship.
(14th All Japan Chito-Ryu Champioships Male and female Grand Champions)