Story of a Fight

I've recently called it quits in tournament competitions as far as my Karate goes.  That isn't any sort of slam again tournaments.  I still love competing.  However, after a while there's a time when you need to step aside, let others have their fun and go on to helping judge these events.  I did go out on top as I won the forms grand championship at the last tournament I entered.  I stopped entering kumite competitions years ago as I've had my share of concussions and bruised ribs, which makes it hard for me to work.  

I'm a bird!
I'm considered the guy to beat in these tournaments in my division.  This isn't something that happened over night.  I haven't had some epic long reign as a champ.  I spent years and year and years competing and pushing myself to try to just make it into the top four.  Over time, I started to regularly make it into the top four.  Eventually, I started winning.  

I listened to judges when they gave me advice.  Some was good.  Some not so much.  I finally hit upon what worked for me and its something that helps my karate training even outside of competition.

Kata tells a story.  A story about a fight.  People like stories, and that includes judges.

I don't add theatrics to my forms.  I don't wear fancy dan outfits.  I do my form and perform it as if I was demonstrating what happened in a battle.  You have to make yourself the star of your own little movie in these competitions.  I do everything I can to breathe life into the form.

Well, that's great for showing off (which I like to do), but what about real training?

If you want to tell a story you have to know how to speak.  You need vocabulary.  You need context.  If you don't know what the words mean or how to use them properly you end up sounding like a dope.

Children learn to speak by listening to others.  They imitate what they hear.  Much like new karate students learn their basics by imitating their instructor.  They get the basic movements.

Later children learn what the words mean.  Usually they do so by asking, "What does ____ mean?"  That's the question many karateka fail to ask.  What does this move mean?  That's the start of bunkai, application of techniques.

You memorize every move of every kata.  You can perform every technique just fine, and still have mediocre or even awful kata.  Knowing what the move is doing, even if its the most basic application, taking out any tuite or kyusho jitsu, will improve that kata.

Not what you're going for.
Block means get that technique out there like your life depends on it.  Punch means drive that fist like you're needing to drop that person in front of you.  It doesn't mean flop your arms around like overboiled Top Ramen.

Then you work your way into context and putting together the moves in your forms like they were designed.  This gives you a better understanding over what you're doing.  Having a good sense of context let's you tell a better story.  There's nuance involved.  The applications and techniques get a lot more interesting and it shows.

Still, can have full command over your language and have an interesting story to tell, but still tell a boring story.  Its in the delivery.  You can tell a simple story in an interesting manner.  This gets into breating life into the kata.  Placing yourself in the middle of that imaginary battle and performing the techniques as if it was a matter of life and death.

Doing this takes effort.  If you haven't broken a sweat doing your form, then you didn't do it hard enough.  I'm not talking about a form you are still learning, but the ones you have a good handle on.  The stories that you know.  The stronger you do your kata, the more you tell your story, the more likely you'll be able to call up the details of your story should the need arises.

Yes, that was a reference to self defense.

Now, go tell your stories.

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