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Supotsu ( Sports ) Karate

The Dark Side of  Karate Shiai

As a former competitor, coach , referee and judge,  I have witness many great things in martial arts competitions.   Through the  years, I've seen regular athletes  become champions who carry themselves with great dignity,  grace and  sportsmanship.   Sadly, I've also seen few that  can’t accept being defeated and behave accordingly.     They drone about it constantly, protest the score, or blame the loss on referees, or anything other than themselves.

Unfortunately, few karate athletes have the fundamental comprehension of the concept of losing gracefully.  Getting defeated is a small but equally important component of Karate training.  Looking at football, soccer, or any other sport in the west, how many post interviews do you see on TV where "losers" point the blame everywhere else but themselves?   


 In Budo this kind of attitude is a shameful quality for those who profess to follow the way of Karate and Bugei.  Furthermore, this behavior and conduct is considered very unbecoming for a karate-ka.

In a strict traditional Japanese Koryu bugei such as Kyudo,  when a kyudoka misses his target, he does not blame his arrow and bow, or his sensei for faults. Instead, he looks within himself and discovers his own weakness for missing the target.  He seeks to practice twice as hard and polishes his technique with sincere effort.  Losing becomes a way to remind this kyudoka that more practice is needed.


Negative talk is very common amongst competitors' who lose at tournaments.  "I doubt I could ever be that good!" or "I hate tournaments because the judges suck!"  With this disparaging attitude a karate-ka has already been defeated in  the war before the battle has even begun. Once he plants a seed of negative attitude recovery is near impossible. 


Personally, I would not want a student or  sensei with this type of cowardice attitude.  Referees and judges are often the frontline of the competitors discontentment when it comes to losing the Karate shiai.  Excuse after excuse surfaces when one loses at the competition. 



BAD SPORTSMANSHIP:  Tae Kwondo athlete Angel Matos kicking a referee due to a call made.   Matos is banned from competing again. 

I hear comments such as "that green belt had a horrible kata but the judges gave him a higher score than my flawless kata!" or "that referee gave points to the yellow belt who can't seem to fight his way out of a wet paper bag!"  Not all judges and referees are perfect, but most important of all is that competitors should remember that they are not perfect themselves.  One of the most elusive lessons of shiai in bugei is the ability for practitioners of  karate-do to handle seemingly unfair evaluations. 

Karate athletes whose main focus is all sports often develop a type of personality that conflicts with the path of Budo.  They have become so absorb on winning only and nothing else or no one else matters.  They have developed  an Inflexible,  superiority complex and worst of all, a sense of  grandeur type of personality.    Students of Budo are required to learn  loyalty, honor, courage, benevolence, respect, sincerity, and self-control.   Without the virtues of budo,  you're just an  asurito or  karate player.  


Competitors are not the only one that acts up in tournaments.  I have seen unruly and out of control parents and karate coaches that seem to forget what sport they are in at the moment.    Students who participate in asurito (sports ) karate are always taught to accept the result and move on,  Sadly, some parents parents feel that their child was/were deprived of necessary training, and they will be adamant on telling the sensei their dissatisfaction and worst, put all blame on the coaching Team. If the coaching team were so bad, then why are the others performing well ?  Something to think about.

All competitors are coached, instructed and tasked during practice with their teammates about what to do and what not to do on the tatami.   Tournament day is an opportunity for all of them to put those lessons in play.   Parents must allow that child to fail or succeed.
Your child will learn more from their own actions than from a parent constant rough and unnecessary criticism about what to do.  

There will be days when a young karate competitor is outmatched or when they underperform. That’s part of the whole learning process in sports karate and get this,  its part of LIFE !

Perhaps as coaches as well as the rest of the promoters and dojo owners  who want to promote the spirit  true traditional karate shiai, We  should take a cue from the oldest national sports of Japan,  The art of Sumo.    This sport is bound by honor, tradition, rituals  and proper reishiki.    A sumotori is expected to act with proper decorum in their daily demeanor.    Anything less will bring dishonor and embarrassment to their sports as well as their Oyakata !

Shoshin Nagamine Sensei once said " Karate-do is definitely a martial way, and its identity lies in do or principles. Any martial art without proper training of the mind turns into beastly behavior".     He was right !


About the Author:  Prince Loeffler is the Shugyokan Shorin Ryu Dojo head instructor.    This article is copy righted and may not be copied or duplicated in any manner including printed or electronic media, regardless of whether for a fee or gratis without the prior written per mission of the author



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