I entered a kata competition on Saturday - the Northern Open Classic, and came home feeling very deflated and disappointed. This wasn't because I didn't win my category, I didn't particularly expect to. I think the reasons are more complex than that. Firstly, it was nearly a two hour drive each way to get to/from the competition so I was pretty keen to do it and therefore had fairly high expectations of myself to put in a good performance. After registering (a tedious half hour stand in a queue just to get your name ticked off on a list) I was keen to warm up and practice my katas. It was about another 2 hours before my category was called and I was managing to stay pretty focused and warmed up in that time.
However, when my category was called and asked to report to area 3 I was quite phased by the fact that there were only 2 of us to compete. This was a category that covered women over 16yrs, 9th - 4th kyu grade and open to all styles! I started to lose my focus at this point as I realised I was going to get a medal for just turning up. I was selected to go first and it was all over before I barely realised what was going on. I then watched my opponent who, though very young (no more than 18 or 20), remained poised and focused whilst she executed her kata with accuracy, style and precision. She was a deserving winner. Even if I had done my kata as well as I could have, I would not have beaten her.
My disappointment therefore relates mainly to the fact that despite all my preparation and enthusiasm, when it came to my performance I allowed myself to lose focus and all energy out of my kata simply because I was distracted by my dismay at there only being 2 of us to compete. I had 'too many minds' as they say in The Last Samurai. I should have taken time to re-focus, regained my poise, taken a few deep breaths, been patient - whatever it took to be able to concentrate properly again. Had I performed the kata to the best of my ability I would probably have felt quite proud to take the silver medal home but performing it without full concentration and effort (I was lucky not to have made any mistakes - it just lacked energy) I don't feel I deserved the medal at all.
So what have I learnt about myself from this? Well, I've learnt that I value my performance more than I value the medal which I think is a good thing. I've learnt that I have a way to go before I have developed the mental discipline and attitude needed to consistently do my best. I have also learnt that I am not as physically good at kata as I would like to be for the stage that I am at (or as good as I sometimes think I am if I'm totally honest). I've also started to feel for the first time that maybe, just maybe, age is ever so slightly against me here - not something I've liked to admit to before! I was more than twice the age of my opponent and I think it showed. She was able to execute her moves much more crisply and quicker than I can (even at my best). I'm starting to think that older limbs just can't move as quickly as younger ones - or maybe it just takes longer to get them up to speed? If you have any tips or training exercises to help speed up muscle reactions please let me know.
Where do I go from here? There is no doubt that my self-confidence has been dented a little by this self-disappointment and I'm feeling a little negative at the moment. However, I will get over myself fairly quickly and think about what I need to do to improve. I certainly need to focus on both the physical and mental aspects of karate and perhaps have more realistic expectations about what someone of my age (mid forties) can achieve. So if anyone has any useful advice or can point me in the direction of any good books I will be very grateful.
Thanks for listening.