The Karate Tournament Scene: What to Know If You’re New

Karate tournaments. They’re crazy, right? I mean isn’t that where you go to get crane-kicked in the face or swept in the leg? You leave battered and bruised and then head off to Okinawa to fight to the death…

Oh wait…

You’re not Daniel San, and tournaments aren’t brutal. They’re a super exciting, super social, high-octane blast of karate fun. And that’s true if you’re a 5th-dan Black Belt or if you’re just coming onto the karate scene. Tournaments are for everyone.

Here are three reasons why, as a white or gold belt (or parent of one!), you should look forward to your first tournament experience:

It’s essentially a big, multi-faceted martial arts seminar. Just stepping into this karate-steeped competitive arena teaches you something that you haven’t learned yet in the schools, no matter how many classes you’ve been to. Witness the presentations. Witness the intensity. Witness the big reveal of… [drumroll please…] those judges’ scores!!! 9.1. 9.0. 9.4. KUCHT-CHTAAA!!!!

Watching your teammates compete in forms and sparring gives you a taste of what martial arts competition is all about, and it’s invaluable. There’s an excitement there, a tingle, right down to your heels.You can’t define it. You just have to feel it. That’s the first step to putting yourself in the ring. You’ll see majestic, courageous karate feats. Weapons. Forms. Demo team. Get there early to see the Black Belt forms and sparring matches. Stay into the afternoon for the demos and Grand Championships. Shake hands with judges. Sit down with your friends as the competition fires up. (Check out some recent highlights here.)

You’re guaranteed to see some cool displays of karate prowess, amplified in the tournament environment. Again, that’s the first step to getting out there and performing those feats yourself. After all, Shakespeare saw plenty of plays before he wrote his own; Mozart heard plenty of concertos before he composed his first works; and all your martial arts heroes had heroes of their own.The tournament’s a chance to find a hero. You will be paraded in front of bleachers full of cheering hordes of people. Wait! That’s not as scary as it sounds. The crowds aren’t just there to see the reverse hook kicks and impossible box jumps. They’re there to see the new crop—you—show off how confident you can be in front when eyes are on you.

When you go home, you’ll feel good. You’ll feel a little closer to those White and Gold Belt creeds: Positive Self-Esteem, Positive Self-Awareness.

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