Since both of us were competing (more on my day later), we talked about the importance of giving our best effort. He told me that I should visualize I'm kicking boards that have already been broken so all I would be doing was knocking them down from between the cinder blocks. I reminded him that he should think about kicking the chest of the person holding the board -- don't stop at the board when his foot made contact, but to kick through it. We gave each other pep talks and off we went.
The morning started off with the Black Belt competition. That was fun to watch. They did forms, weapons, sparring and breaking. It was quite the impressive group.
When they completed, the rest of the ranks had our opening ceremony. The Grandmaster of the Atlantic-Pacific Tang Soo Do Federation, Kwan Jang Nim, John St. James presided. He gave us reminders that today was about victory, not necessarily in the conventional sense. But it was a personal victory -- to train, have the courage to compete and try our best, as that brought us to that moment.
Once that was over, we were broken up into age and rank groupings. Selim started in a group of students nine years and younger, both beginning and intermediate ranks. However, even though they were sitting in the same area, they started with the beginning ranks and he sat patiently and watched them. After the white, yellow, and orange belts competed in forms, sparring and breaking, it was time for Selim's group. There were six of them in all. He would not be guaranteed a medal because they gave out gold, silver, bronze and a co-bronze.
For forms, Selim performed Pyung Ahn Cho Dan. He did pretty well, although half way through he had a moment when he couldn't remember what came next. But he worked his way through and finished. Then came sparring. The big thrill was getting a mouth guard. Once he learned others were wearing them, he wanted one too and was eager to spar. Point sparring is different than a self-defense kind of thing. The point target area is the chest, below the neck and above the belt. No head, groin, face or back contact. His first opponent kept his hands and forearms covering his chest completely and didn't move them. When Selim tried to kick or punch, the other kid kept his target area covered. I don't know how many points Selim got. He made some great kicks. But he was able to move onto the next round where the match was close. Selim got in two points and got beat by one. But it was a much better match. For his break, he did a front kick. He broke the board on the second try.
In the end, he received two bronze medals. He was happy for getting medals, but a bit disappointed because he wanted a gold. I was relieved that he won a medal at all because his competition was older and many at a higher rank. All in all, it was a successful first competition as a non pee-wee for him.
Warning, pity-party ahead. I had a different experience. I'm not certain that I can articulate why mine was so bad. I think it started when I realized that the beginning men and women would be competing in the same group, which I was not expecting. I had been led to believe that the women would be in one group and the men in the other. It shouldn't have psyched me out, but it got into my head. And then there is the power issue. I have not concentrated on power when I have done forms. I think about my spacial awareness of starting and stopping in the same place; trying not to stomp by landing as softly as I can; and the flow of moves together. I wish that somebody had told me that power is the only thing. What brings me joy in doing forms isn't important at all because those things are only a side bar to power.
There were seven of us, three women and four men. I watched the people before me. I could hear the swish of their uniforms as they performed with power. I could also hear the stomp stomping of their feet. I noticed that they started their forms in one place and finished over a foot away in a different section of the mat. They are getting scores ranging from 8.3 to 8.9. I go up and do my thing. I know all my moves; I don't get mixed up; I start and stop in the exact same place. I get 7.9, 7.8 and then I stopped listening. I wasn't even in the same universe and my competitors. Why didn't somebody clue me in before I signed up to participate in the tournament that I have been doing forms with the wrong attention? That I suck. And that I have no place on the same mat as every body else?
I had some time to regroup before breaking since I was not competing in sparring. Although if I had been willing to be humiliated there, at least I would have won a medal because only three women competed, the other two from my group plus a woman from the another section that they had to bring in to make three. Oh well.
Then came time for breaking. I was up first. I did an ax kick through three boards. It was the most boards I've broken with one kick, so I do have some satisfaction from that. My scores were OK. But they were not good enough for a medal. The other competitors did multiple breaks that were phenomenal. In the end, I was in the back with the two people who didn't break all their boards. I'm not saying that I deserved a medal because I didn't. The other breaks were awesome. But I did feel at a disadvantage going against four guys. Had I been competing against just other women, I think I would have stood a chance at a medal.
And really, the medal thing isn't what is bothering me so much. I knew going in that I might not get one. My ego can take watching other people perform better. But it is the lingering feeling that I'm not even practicing the same martial art as everybody else that is so disconcerting. It makes me wonder what rock I've been practicing under this past year? Why haven't I noticed that I'm that bad? I must be delusional.
I'm still fighting tears. My face is hot, my eyes sting and I've got a raging headache. I decided to skip the post tournament dinner at Newicks. I couldn't imagine there and being cheerful. I guess I will mope for a bit more and then get over it. If I'm still doing karate next year I will know better than to sign up for this experience again. No thank you. Once is more than enough.