Performing Your Best Kata When It Counts
“I know some people do not think too highly of tournaments and that is fine. Yet for me, apart from the enjoyment I get, tournament kata is an essential part of developing yourself as a martial artist. I say this because it is the truest test of your ability to control your emotions and thoughts. Stepping out in front of a huge crowd and to be judged is the ultimate test of courage and focus. You cannot get such a challenging environment in the dojo or during home training and I admire anyone who enters a tournament, irrespective of the result.”
Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance
Always warm up well before your division is called and continue until you’re happy with the level of your flexibility. Work on various combinations in the kata and go through the entire kata at least once. In warming up, don’t worry about making any last minute fixes because you will end up concentrating on the area you need to fix, instead of performing all moves perfectly.
It’s The Practitioner, Not The Kata That Wins
Only perform the kata you know very well. It is better to do a lower grade kata skilfully than an average higher grade kata. Basically, perform the best kata you know. This will ensure that you have correct technique and you are comfortable with the rhythm of the kata. If you don’t know which is your best kata, ask your instructor before or after class. Usually it’s the kata you can do with your eyes closed, in reverse, at a strange angle or on any surface. Never ever change kata in the midst of competition, for instance, if you’re in a tiebreaker at the finals and your competitor does the same kata as the one you planned to do. A lot of titles have been lost by changing kata at this time. It’s best to perform the kata you planned to do because you are more comfortable with it. Instead of looking at the situation as a problem, look at it as an opportunity to show the judges how much better your version of the same kata is. In GKR competitions, judging is mostly dependant on technique, especially at the beginner to intermediate levels. In the Opens, technique is expected, so judges tend to score you severely for any incorrect technique. They will also look for the power behind your techniques, your ability to be both sharp and smooth, your focus, balance, understanding and most importantly the finesse with which you perform the kata.
Don’t Make It More Than What It Is
Some people focus on everything around them on the day; the crowd; the judges; the occasion etc. Let it go! It really is quite simple. You have been practising your kata for some time. So warm up, and then go in the ring and execute all those fast moves the fastest, sharpest and snappiest that you can. And as for the slow moves, just perform them slowly, smoothly and with grace. And always, always, be relaxed in between moves. It really is no different to training, except for the tricks your mind plays on you because of the atmosphere in which you are performing. But at the end of the day, it’s just another day of you performing your kata the best way you can and to your best interpretation.
The Person Who Goes First Never Comes First
Does it really matter if you are first up, last, or if you’re just after someone who always does well in kata? Will it help you do a great kata? No! Your mind will be focusing on worrying about the performance of the people before or after you, which is miles away from what you should be thinking. At the end of the day, the person to walk away with the gold will be the person who managed to best focus on their kata and then perform it to their best. So do not allow the situation to determine whether or not you’re going to win your division.
Get In The ‘Zone’ And Deal With Nervousness
Focus on the kata. Never focus on a negative end result. Simply focus on the kata and be in the moment. Take control of your emotions. It is okay to be nervous, everyone gets nervous. Accept the feeling and let it go. Tell yourself, “My thoughts and feelings do not reflect reality”. Your thoughts and feelings are your own interpretation of the situation. It has nothing to do with reality. Close your eyes and take long deep breaths while waiting for your name to be called. This will make you feel more grounded and in control. The more you practise this when performing your kata in class, the easier performing in competition will be. What I’ve noticed in the last couple of years is it doesn’t really matter who the judges are, who you’re competing against and in what order you have to perform. Besides the fact that it is too stressful to try to control every situation, in the end all you really have complete control over is yourself. So simply take control of your mind, focus and expect the best!