I attended my first karate tournament today, and competed in kata (forms) and kumite (sparring). I came away with no noticeable injuries but some interesting bruises and sore muscles, and with a bronze medal!

We drove from Edmonton all the way out to Lloydminster on the Saskatchewan border (and we did just drive up the street and over the line into Saskatchewan, just to say we’d been there) in blowing snow, on roads covered with snow. That’s scary, particularly when you’re overtaking a big truck: they swirl up a heap of snow so you can’t see, and then you pull out into the unswept passing lane, where you really don’t know if the snow is hiding ice…

The tournament was in a high school gym (Sensei Steuart who is the head of Genbukai Shito-Ryu in Canada is a teacher there). The kata competition for yellow and orange belts only had 4 competitors – two fit-looking young guys, a girl named Christie from our dojo and me. I actually made a couple of mistakes early in my kata but then got into the rhythm of it and finished strong, but still ended up with the lowest raw score. But when they called the names for third place, it was mine that was called – Christie had been docked extra points because she began the wrong kata and had to start over. It was exciting to take something home from my first tournament, but it was hard to celebrate too much when she was so disappointed, and I would definitely prefer to have won it with a sparkling performance rather than by default.

For the kumite competition (also yellow-orange belt) there were 6 of us, and it was evenly split between guys like me in our early 40s and young guys in their early 20s. I drew one of the young guys for my first bout. I scored the first two points (the scoring is first to 6, or first to a 4 point lead, or 2 minutes, whichever comes first). If I’d been willing then to hang back a bit and run down the clock I could have won it, but I wasn’t aware enough to check the scoreboard and think strategically, so I kept going hard, and ended up losing 4-2, and that was that for my tournament (if I’d won the first match I would have proceeded to the second round).

So, a small token of success, but a huge day of learning. And I’ve caught the bug, and there’s another tournament here in Edmonton next month!