Karate Tournament Prep: How to Focus and Prepare to Win

Preparation is the key to any performance. Even a master like cellist Yo Yo Ma cites the need for constant practice before performing in front of a concert audience.

In a tournament, your audience is pretty big, with hundreds of onlookers lining the rings. But it’s the three Black Belt judges in the center that you have to impress. Their standards are high, exacting. They want to see your very best. And with all the noise and seeming chaos of the tournament arena, that can be tough to deliver.

How do you unrattle your nerves? Prepare. Preparation helps you cut through the confusion, to be clear as you present yourself, your form and your sparring skills. So what does a solid tournament prep routine cover?

First off, it’s crucial to know the foundation of what the judges expect:

  • Respond immediately when your name is called;
  • show confident poise and posture;
  • demonstrate respect (in your bow, for instance, and with constant eye contact);
  • and, of course, be loud, powerful and energetic in everything you say and perform

Every time you practice your presentation and form, keep these qualities in mind. (See an amazing demonstration of them here.)

Second, practice and perfect your basics. Stances, chambers, strikes, transitions. If you’re showing off even a relatively simple form like Chong-Ji, and your punches are floppy, your back leg’s bent when you down block, or your eyes on on your feet and not on your target, the judges will see it–and dock you some points. So focus on the details.

Finally, there are the enigmatics, the subjective, indefinable elements of a tournament performance that can’t be practiced, per se, but show up as the result of lots and lots of practice. Things like intensity and “flair.” The judges see these qualities like the glow produced by a light bulb. To get the highest score, you need to produce that glow, too.

In conclusion, prepare, prepare, prepare. Rehearse your presentation, not just the words but the walk and all the gestures. Practice your form with passion, over and over and over again. And see yourself performing with pride (if not perfection).

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