Eldest and I are headed to Orlando this weekend to compete in the WKC World Karate Championship as members of Team Canada. Catherine is doing point sparring (girls 10 and under, -35KG). I'm doing traditional kata, point sparring (in two age divisions: 35+ and 42+, -65 KG) and team fighting. We're going to be busy.
It's our second time competing at Worlds. Last year we were in Dublin, where Catherine competed in classical kata and I did kata in two age divisions, along with point sparring in the same two divisions and team fighting (women, 35+, open weight). I came home with two silvers and a bronze, we had fun, we had Guinness, and we went right back to training.
We train a lot. Regular karate classes, point sparring training and for me, cardio-weights-kickboxing training. We train pretty much every day, on top of lots of running for me and swimming in the summer at the lake. If competition was decided by who trained most, we'd be champs. But it's not. At least, not entirely.
Competition isn't just about training, although training is very much necessary. Mindful training, especially. Where you're actually paying attention to the details of what you're working on. But also plain training: you need to practice skills through repetition, grow your muscles, and keep your fitness and endurance levels up. But you need something else, too.
You need to have trained your nervous system. You have to practice stress-training. And you do that by competing a lot. Every time you go to a tournament, you get nervous. And you have to work through those nerves and that awful pressure and perform as best you can no matter how you feel. There are days when I show up for a competition on not enough sleep. Most competition days, I'd say. What with traveling and everything, you rarely get to bed early. And even when you do, there are all sorts of things that conspire against your ZZZs. Like a bed that's not comfortable. Or hockey kids running up and down the hallway. You didn't eat well and your tummy hurts. Or there's a crowd of people partying above your head. Sometimes, you're sore from training. Or you have your period. Or something happened on the family front that's making you stress out.
Life is difficult sometimes. But when you're competing, you have to step up at the appointed time and perform. There. Then. NOW. And perform well. Whether you're nervous or not doesn't matter. The mat is there, and it's your turn. There is only do, and not do. And since not do won't do, you do. (You're following, yes?)
That kind of training is a lot harder than doing drills with your partner at the dojo. But without it you never develop the ability to rise past your internal struggles and shine like only you can.
I'm not saying I'm a pro at this - far from it. I get massive nerves before competitions. I usually don't sleep very well. I have real-life issues that clutter up my mind, and a very unsteady belly. But I'm coming up to the end of my second year of competition and that adds up to a lot of stress-straining. I am better at it than I used to be.
My plan is to get to Orlando and - when my turn comes to step on that mat - shut out everything that's in the way of me performing at my best.
And give it all I've got.