Tournaments - - - Self Defense - - - Personal Growth

A Purpose Within a Purpose Within a Purpose Within...

From time to time students and parents ask me how I feel about karate tournaments. They often wonder whether or not it is necessary to compete to progress in karate. Let me do my best to offer some insight into the sport of Karate and how it relates to Martial Arts (Mu-Do-Kai).

The 2000 season has just begun and some students have started competing for the first time. Some are doing well and having fun, while others are less happy with their performance. Florida enjoys a very high standard in Martial Arts, and competitions often attract the best practitioners from the schools around the state. Not all events are well run and not all officials do a good job. Sometimes opponents are not well controlled. All of these possibilities lend an element of reality to tournament sparring in particular, that can make it more like a real fight than it is supposed to be.

In addition to the positive media attention that results from tournament success, the sport aspect of Martial Arts also serves to inspire some students in their training. Sometimes the goal of entering a competition in Forms or Sparring encourages a student to train harder and more frequently with the result that their practice improves. Motivation is a major factor in the training regimen of most students. If tournament performance inspires good training habits, it is obviously a plus.

While the UKC students, who choose to compete, generally do very well, the majority of those who train here never enter a tournament. Much of the training that we do for self-defense does not have a legal tournament application, being too dangerous to be permitted in a contest; and we are not specifically a tournament oriented school.

Beyond the sport and self-defense applications of Martial Arts principles, the deeper purpose of the Mu-Do-Kai style is in training for personal growth and development. To quote from the Tao Te Ching (Lao Tzu), "He who overcomes others has force he who overcomes himself is strong." The idea of learning to overcome or be in control of oneself through Martial Arts training, provides a major reason for students to continue practice beyond the Black Belt level, and for champions to continue to train after retirement from active competition.

When students first begin to practice Mu-Do-Kai, they learn strong physical techniques. By learning to control their own bodies they learn how to control the bodies of opponents. At the intermediate level, they learn to control their emotions, not by suppressing them, but by letting them go. When you can control your own emotions, it becomes possible to control the emotions of an opponent. Moving to the Black Belt level, the students begin to understand how to control their minds. This leads to the possibility of controlling the mind of an opponent. When there is no opponent, this level of complete self-control has the effect of developing a confidence and inner strength that leads to a state called Wa-No-Michi or the Way of Harmony (or Peace). This inner experience, which grows daily with practice, reflects the deeper purpose of Karate-do (the Way of the Empty Hand).

Tournaments and the acquisition of self-defense skills can offer the new pupil, or advanced student, goal-setting opportunities and effective motivational encouragement. Beyond the capacity to overcome others (either at tournaments or in self-defense), Mu-Do-Kai training offers the opportunity to overcome oneself and to aspire to Mu-Gen-Do (The Unlimited Way).

Sensei Robert Heale Mason (c 1989)

A Winner Never Quits

Allowing children to quit before they reach their goals, is a course of action that some parents unfortunately take these days. It seems a convenient way out for those parents who do not want to struggle with the challenging behavior of a child who does not want to follow through on what they started. Not all learning experiences in life are easy, and some children may rebel when they are required to confront what may seem to them to be a very challenging situation.

Unfortunately, what we teach children when we allow them to quit something that they have started, is that quitting is okay. We send a message that quitting is acceptable and that quitting is a viable option. This is not a good less lesson to teach.

In the movie Apollo 13 there is a scene where the Mission Control Coordinator has to figure out what to do in response to the Apollo capsule malfunctioning in a way that will prevent re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere. Unless the ground crew can accomplish what seem to be impossible tasks, and solve the problems that face them within a very limited time frame, all will be lost. What did the person in charge tell his anxious and flummoxed staff? To quote the movie, he said that "failure is not an option". This man was not a quitter.

Many years ago a junior student had been given three red stripes on his belt and was ready to test. The child was given his paperwork stating this and then a very strange thing happened, he told his mother that he had lost interest and that he wanted to quit karate. His mother let him quit. At the same time another student had also been given his third stripe and was ready to test. He also wanted to quit but his mother insisted that he finish what he started and even paid for a set of lessons that would take him through the testing date (his membership had expired one month before the date set for grading) so that she could support his following through to his goal, achieving the belt that he was ready to test for.

The different between these two similar situations is crucial to the development of each child’s character. In the first instance the mother allowed her child to quit before he completed the process of testing for next belt, thereby ensuring that quitting became an established habit. He subsequently carried this habit into his teenage years when he also quit high school.

In the second instance, the mother used her parental influence to insist that her child complete what he started, so that child not only took his belt test and passed it, but went on to train in karate for several more years, having faced the challenge before him with appropriate parental support and guidance.

Not everyone will necessarily train in karate throughout their life, though some students will. Most students however can achieve the goal of Black Belt. We are a Black Belt school. Aim for your goals and practice hard to realize them.

Sensei Robert Heale Mason c2000